Ukraine’s armed forces have just taken delivery of one of the more unusual donations to date – three purple bendy buses from a UK airport.

Luton Airport is an international airport located 45 kilometers north of Central London. Until recently these purple buses ferried holidaymakers and their luggage to and from the airport to the mainline Luton Parkway train station.

In March the buses were replaced by a Direct Air-Rail Transit (DART) monorail and the buses faced being sold off or scrapped. Instead, the owners, the Go-Ahead bus group, decided to donate three of the 16.5-meter single-decker buses to the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership (SHAP).

A spokesperson for Go-Ahead said: “These vehicles have done years of duty shuttling holidaymakers and suitcases. They’re now retired from airport duty and we’re glad they can be put to good use – as a small contribution to Ukraine’s war effort.”


The shuttle bus at Luton Airport.Photo: Go-Ahead/SHAP 

SHAP, which is Wiltshire-based, was set up shortly after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to provide humanitarian support to Ukraine, having transferred over 1,300 tons of aid to eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict.

In May the group converted a bus, donated by Swindon’s bus company, into a mobile medical unit complete with beds, stretcher, heart monitor, running water, electricity etc.

Luton’s local news site, Bedfordshirelive reports that the purple buses have been fitted with shower and toilet facilities with two of them intended for use as rest areas for soldiers in Eastern Ukraine and to transport supplies for front-line troops.

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The other is likely to be made into a mobile exhibition to showcase the devastation in Ukraine caused by Russia’s invasion.

“The buses were driven from Swindon to Calais via Dover by SHAP volunteers, before being handed over to a Ukrainian team for the long drive across Europe.

The SHAP volunteers ready to set off.Photo: Go-Ahead / SHAP


The Chairman of SHAP, Mike Bowden, a retired corporate lawyer said that originally the intention had been to repaint the buses white and mark them with red crosses on the roof. They were persuaded not to because, as Mike explained:

“We have been specially asked not to repaint them so they look as close to public service buses as possible from the air and don’t stand out.

“This is because Russian forces are deliberately targeting hospitals and emergency workers.”

Inspired by the success of their bus-based initiatives, SHAP is looking for more buses and has begun fund-raising in case there are no more donations available.

It will be interesting to see what Ukrainians make of a Luton Airport bus passing them in the street.

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