Despite now being in the cut throat world of commercial operation - the buses were now a privately run affair and had to
make a viable profit - the outlook looked good for County, though local independent Harris Bus would provide healthy
competition ensuring County was kept on it’s toes!!
Lakeside shopping centre, the biggest in Europe it was claimed at the time, came along in 1990 and caused all the local
bus operators to review their services. Minibuses were the current ‘in thing’ and County was quite willing to pursue the
rest by introducing a fleet of Mercedes minibuses. There were no frequency increases to match the smaller vehicles,
and despite many complaints, County continued to pursue minibus use in spite of the obvious loss of passengers it
Also around 1990, Grays garage gained work for London Buses in the shape of routes 256 (Hornchurch - Noak Hill) and
346 (Upminster Station - Upminster Park Estate). Being the ‘in thing’, more Mercedes mini buses were used. It should
be noted that Grays garage still operates the 256 & 346 today - quite a feat in the fickle world of London Bus work
(and just look at County’s local rival, Harris Bus for proof that it can go horribly wrong...).
1997 saw a new owner for County Bus in the shape of the British Bus Group, which went on to be taken over by Cowie
group. The local Thameside name remained during this time. In 1998 Cowie was renamed Arriva and the national
company we now know was born. It took a little while, but in the end the Green & Cream livery gave way to the Arriva
Aquamarine Blue & Cotswold stone corporate livery - Thurrock’s largest bus company was nationalised again.