The Green Program
East Lancashire Coachbuilders Limited were manufacturers of bus bodies and carriages, having been founded in 1934, they were situated in Blackburn, Lancashire.
In 1991, East Lancs (EL) were owned by the same group of companies as London & Country, the Drawlane Group. London & Country (L&C) hatched the idea of refurbishing, if not completely rebuilding, some of their fleet of Leyland Nationals, as they had a large number and because the integral body frames and sub frames were generally found to be very good.
L&C began a co-operative venture with EL. The engineering work was carried out by L&C at their Reigate (RG) garage. This called for an extensive overhaul of all existing rolling components, steering, brakes, suspension and transmission, whilst overhauling the engines was decided against. However, engine replacement required a change in manufacturer.
Leyland had ceased production of the National in 1985, but not before some of the later examples, had been produced with Gardner 6HLXB and 6HLXCT engines, as well as their own "510", the "0.680" and TL11 engines.
Volvo had bought Leyland Bus in 1988 and were still producing their successful B10Ms, with their own THD100 series engines, and had since 1978. The current THD102 would have been a very expensive option, which VOLVO may not have made available or would have seen the program, as competition for its own B10Ms. Maybe I'm unkind!
So, the only financially, viable re-engineered engine option, was the Gardner 6HLXB. Whilst the Gardner was no longer an engine that could be fitted new, due to European emission legislation, it could be fitted, once "re-manufactured" to non new buses, Nationals for instance.
The radiator was repositioned at the front of the bus, as were the batteries. Along with the removal of the roof pod, the transfer of the radiator, the coolant pipes and the batteries ahead of the rear axle, may have provided a steadier front end under braking, particularly lin the wet. Well, that's according to the only driver of both types in service, I've spoken to.
So, once the retro fitted Gardners were snuggling in the back, the mechanicals fully refurbed by the Reigate crew, off the Leyland Nationals went up the hill, to East Lancs. There, they were taken apart again, to emerge as National Greenways, with replacement new look bodies. East Lancs obviously thought that their experience of re-bodying Leyland Tigers with their EL2000 bodies, would benefit the project. I think they were right! I would, wouldn't I?
So, the National Greenway was born and by definition, retained original general shape of the donor Leyland National.
EL had utilised the the "over engineered" integral body frame, discarded the pressed steel panels and recovered the "new" bus in aluminium, in a more traditional manner.
All that was to remain from the original, was the roof. Out went the National windows, to be replaced with new distinctive side windows, now with square tops and rounded bottom corners. They were slightly deeper and provided more light inside. The majority of the Greenways, were fitted with new doors, with two instead of four leaves. However, the Red Arrows, for London General retained their four leaf twin doors, maybe a cheaper option.
On the roof, as referred to above, the National's original "pod", that had contained the heating and ventilation equipment, was dispensed with, as the Greenway was to have an East Lancs interior, including its contemporary and traditional heating equipment.
Two distinct designs of front end were fitted.
The "Mk 1" had a two-piece flat windscreen, two panes meeting in a slight point in the centre.
EL2000 styled headlights with separate indicators above and a flatter more vertical styled front panel, with a plainer bumper, was fitted.
The "Mk 2" still had a two-piece windscreen, but similar to other buses of the day, was given a "barrel" curved version, with the screens level across the top, a horizontal slatted grille matching the height and depth of the headlights, having the indicators built into the headlight surrounds and that famous or infamous pronounced bumper, "The Desperate Dan Chin!" Both Mk1 and Mk2 windscreen had quarterlights.
The Greenways could be delivered with one of two quite distinct rear panels. One was with a very high rear window, similar to that on the EL2000s.
The other style, used on London General's Red Arrows and some of the London & Country buses, including 359, utilised a lower window, that was substantially wider that that on the National, that was level with the side windows.
There was a space in the "bumper" for a registration plate and if the bus was to have a rear Route Number Box, the operator could have it placed under the window, or in an internal box inside the window, as was the case for 359.
As for the interior, generally the buses were fitted out as standee buses for London's Red Arrows, able to carry huge number as there was so much standing room, or as traditional buses, with conventional bus seats, was the case for 359. Others were dual purpose vehicles and others were coaches.
EL fitted their standard bus dashboard, I think to them all, but in the case of L&Cs buses, along with Treadmaster floors and beige vinyl side and ceiling panels. I know the standees had modern plastic backed seats and a totally different interior.
The L&C buses had a luggage rack was placed over the near side front wheel arch, behind the door. Standard heating and lighting brought a familiarity to the Greenway, whilst being different to a National. To finish the whole thing off, the new Moquette that London & Country had had designed was used.
Only the steering wheel, was "National", that and the step after the first 24 seats.
East Lancs were to make the project widespread, offering many other operators in the same situation as London & Country, the same options. Some Greenway even having second-hand Volvo units fitted.
The Greenway Program was to last around four years, as the final of the 176 Greenways entered service early in 1996.