Ulsterbus Mark IV Goldliners – a history
by Will Hughes, additional contributions John Montgomery, Paul Savage, Martin Young

It was to be 1994 before there were any further additions to the fleet of Goldline express vehicles. By now the fleet of Mark I Goldliners had accumulated huge mileages and were looking somewhat tired. In addition the company was keen to replace the Mark II Goldliners, which were in reality only stopgaps. The latter were simply downgraded to service vehicles and continued to operate for many years in Goldline livery but with the branding removed. The Mark I vehicles however were taken into Duncrue Street workshops where they were given extensive mid-life overhauls before being returned to Goldline duties, albeit on less demanding services.

By 1994, the Leyland Tiger was no longer available (either with or without a Volvo engine) so a replacement chassis had to be sourced. In the end the replacement was, perhaps, the obvious choice, the Volvo B10M-62. A change of policy also saw the body order going to Scarborough-based coachbuilder Plaxton, which fitted them with its 53-seat Premier 320 coach body.

The initial order was for fifty vehicles delivered in two batches, 1551 – 1573 (DAZ 1551 – 1573) and 1574 – 1600 (EAZ 2574 – 2600). The first to enter service were 1554 and 1562, both placed in service at Londonderry on 11/05/74. The remainder of the first batch were placed in service in May 1994 (1551-3/5/9/60/3/71), June 1994 (1556-8/61/4/6/8/70/2), July 1994 (1565/9/73) and September 1994 (1567). Initial allocations were AM – 1557/8; BM – 1564; CL – 1551/2/63; DG – 1559/60; DP – 1570; E – 1555/6; LD – 1553/4/61/2; LR – 1566; NC – 1571; NY – 1572/3 and V – 1565/7-9. The second batch followed on directly from the first batch with 1574-6 being placed in service in July 1994, 1577-9/81 in October 1994, 1585/7 in November 1994 and 1580/2-4/6/8-97 in December 1994. Although delivered in 1994, the final three did not enter service until April 1995 (1598) or May 1995 (1599, 1600). Initial allocations were AM – 1581/2; AT – 1588; BM – 1575; CG – 1591/8; CL – 1576/7/89/99; DG – 1583/4, 1600; DP – 1592, E – 1579/80; LD – 1585/6; LR – 1574/90; MF – 1587; NC – 1593; NY – 1594/5; OM – 1578 and V – 1596/7. With these vehicles came a revised interior trim specification, which became the standard for the Goldline fleet and was retrospectively applied to earlier vehicles.

A further batch of thirty similar vehicles were placed in service in 1996, 1601 – 1630 (JAZ 1601 – 1630). They were new in January 1996 (1601/2/4/11/3/4/6/7/9), February 1996 (1610/2/5/20/2-4/7), March 1996 (1603/5-9/18/21/5/6/8) or April 1996 (1629/30). Initial allocations were AM – 1617/8; AT – 1604; BM – 1608; CG – 1622; CL – 1605/6; DG – 1610/1; DP – 1628/9; E – 1619/20; LD – 1612-4/21; LR – 1607; MF – 1609; NA – 1630; NC – 1623/6/7; NY – 1624/5; OM – 1615/6 and V – 1601-3. There were minor differences between this and the previous two batches, the most noticeable being the smooth skirt panelling on the later batch.

In 1996, Citybus was looking for vehicles to replace the two Leyland Tiger/Alexander (Belfast) ‘Q’ types being used for coaching and private hire work. To this end 1572 and 1593 were transferred from Ulsterbus on 25/03/96, the latter on loan. On 03/06/96 it was returned to the Ulsterbus fleet, being replaced on a permanent basis by 1571. Both operated out of Short Strand depot until 07/10/02 (1572) or 04/11/02 (1571) when they were returned to Ulsterbus, having been replaced by more modern vehicles. Whilst with Citybus 1571/2 carried the red and white Citybus Tours livery with rainbow stripe Citybus Tours vinyls. On their return, both were fitted with front electronic destination displays and repainted into Goldline livery before resuming normal Goldline duties.

A number of these vehicles were destined to have short lives with 1581 being hijacked and destroyed at Cullaville on 04/07/95 and 1564 being destroyed in a firebomb attack at Ballymena depot on 08/08/95. Next to go was 1618 which was destroyed in a firebomb attack on Armagh depot on 11/07/96, 1554 which was hijacked and destroyed in Dungiven Main Street the following day with 1577 meeting a similar fate on 30/11/96 when it was hijacked and destroyed at Harryville, Ballymena. Of these the remains of 1554 were cut up at the back of Pennyburn depot in Londonderry, the other four passing to Beattie, Hillsborough for scrap.

Problems with the wiring looms in these vehicles saw a further three destroyed by electrical fires, 1597 on 31/03/00, 1552 on 26/05/03 and 1567 on 19/02/07. Of these 1552/97 went to Beattie, Hillsborough for scrap with 1567 being scrapped by Hamill, Ahoghill.

By 2006 many of these vehicles had been displaced from Goldline work by newer vehicles and the company were looking for the best way to deploy these vehicles on other duties. These vehicles had tended to suffer from serious body corrosion problems, the result of interaction between the steel body frame and the one piece stretched steel body panels. Remedial work was going to be both time consuming and expensive. In the end the company decided to sell off thirty five of these vehicles, all of which were to be taken from the first two batches. A deal was struck with mainland dealer Plaxton Bus & Coach, Anston and in September 2006 1555/6/68/71 departed for the mainland. They were followed the following month by 1558/61-3/6/72/5/8-80/4/5/7/8/90/5/6 with 1553/7/9/60/5/70/3/4/6/86/93 departing in November and 1594/8, 1600 in December. All were to find subsequent owners on the mainland and this will be the subject of a subsequent article in a future issue of Interchange.

It was decided that the remaining 37 vehicles would undergo a heavy overhaul at Duncrue Street works during which repairs to the frame and stress panels would be undertaken. In addition they would be stripped of their coach seats and fitted with 69 (3+2) bus seats for school bus work. 1569 was the vehicle chosen for the prototype conversion and when returned to service in 1/06. It was repainted in the standard blue and ivory fleet livery but all subsequent conversions received the stonewall grey/ocean blue/white service bus livery. Next to be done were 1551/83/91 in 11/06, 1610/2/3 in 12/06, 1603/15/7/28 in 1/07, 1604/14 in 2/07, 1582/99, 1606/9/14/6/22/30 in 3/07, 1589, 1611 in 4/07, 1592, 1605/7/19/20/9 in 5/07, 1621/4/5 in 6/07, 1602/27 in 7/07, 1608/23 in 8/07 and 1601/26 in 9/07. Of these 1582 had been out of service since 28/04/05 after suffering fire damage following an electrical fault. As part of this conversion 1569/99 and 1601-17/9-30 were fitted with seat belts and 1589/91/2 have since been retrofitted with seat belts. On conversion, 1604 also received a front electronic destination display and rear electronic number displays in addition to the wig-wag orange flashing lights as prototype features as part of the development of the specification for the forthcoming Volvo/Wright Eclipse Schoolruns.

1551 was not to survive long, being written off on 21/05/07 following serious accident damage. Its body was removed by Hamill, Ahoghill for scrapping in 8/07, the chassis being returned to Ulsterbus for apprentice training.

The electrical problems which have plagued these vehicles have since claimed another two victims, both Ballymena based. 1569 was destroyed on 19/07/07 to be followed by 1599 on 07/02/11, the remains of both passing to Hamill, Ahoghill for scrap. The shell of 1569 subsequently passed to Eamonn Rooney, Hilltown for spare parts.

Body corrosion has continued to be a problem with these vehicles. When consideration was being given to converting one of the Scania/Irizar InterCentury Goldline express coaches to a school bus, 1612 was taken out of service in February 2011 to provide a donor vehicle for seats. The 3+2 seating was then fitted to 1662 with the 53 coach seats from 1662 being fitted to 1612 which was then offered for sale. In September 2011 it was sold to Kearney {Glenferry}, Blarney for further use and has since been re-registered 96-C-23185. In June 2011 1601 was taken out of service to provide seats for a second such conversion. This time, however, the Scania’s seats were not fitted to 1601 and when an engine was required for another Volvo B10M, 1601 was stripped of its running gear. The shell of 1601 subsequently passed to Hamill, Ahoghill for scrap in October 2011. 1614 was also taken out of service in January 2012 and placed in reserve after corrosion was discovered in chassis members.

With no new vehicles expected until late in 2012, it is unlikely there will be any more school bus conversions for the foreseeable future. Given the corrosion problems with both the chassis and bodies on these vehicles, it is likely that they will be next in line for withdrawal once the remaining Volvo-engined Leyland Tiger/Alexander (Belfast) ‘Q’ types are finally taken out of service.


1551 (DAZ 1551) seen here at Great Victoria Street depot at the launch of the revamped Goldline service in April 1994. You will note that the vehicle is carrying the wrong registration.

1568 (DAZ 1568) was photographed in Royal Avenue when working from Newtownabbey depot.

1603 (JAZ 1603), one of the third batch to be delivered, seen here in Royal Avenue, Belfast in May 2005 whilst working the return leg of the 300 service to Belfast International Airport.

1571 (DAZ 1571), seen here at Castle Junction, Belfast in August 2001, close to the end of its stay with Citybus. During its stay with Citybus it carried the Citybus Tours coach livery with rainbow branding.

Front and rear shots of bus-seated 1583 (EAZ 2583), from the second batch, which was an unusual visitor to the Lisburn Road Citystopper service when photographed in Upper Queen Street on 10 April 2009.

1605 (JAZ 1604) is seen here following conversion to a 69-seat schoolbus. It is leaving Great Victoria Street in February 2011 on the 109b service to Antrim (via Crumlin).

Prior to the introduction by Northern Ireland Railways of the new 3000 class of CAF trains, Ulsterbus painted 1609 (JAZ 1609) in an experimental livery for these units in February 2003, normal Goldline livery being retained on the front and rear. The Magherafelt based vehicle is seen here at Great Victoria Street depot in June 2003. Following completion of the trial, 1609 reverted to standard Goldline livery.

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