Three cars (79971-3) were delivered to the LMR at Bedford MPD (79971/2 arrived in July '58) for use on the lines to Northampton and Hitchin. The depot sent two drivers and two fitters to the region's Diesel Training School at Derby and the works of Park Royal Vehicles Ltd. These men then taught the other Bedford staff, although all staff who would drive or maintain them were expected to eventually attend courses at Derby.
Operations began on Monday the 11th August '58 to existing steam timings. To mark the occasion one vehicle conveyed the Mayor of Bedford, Alderman A. A. Jones, and R. L. E. Lawrence, Divisional Traffic Manager, London Area LMR on a demonstration run between Bedford and Shefford. Other civic dignitaries, local industrialists and traders, and other railway officials were also carried.
At the introduction of the winter timetable the following month (September 15th) the services were increased and accelerated. Eight new services were introduced between Bedford and Northampton, bringing the daily total up to 18, 9 in each direction. Improved timings cut the overall journey time by 2-9 mins. On the Bedford - Hitchin branch services were increased from 4 to 7 each way, with timings saving 4-12 mins. The service re-organisation also affected the 'Saturday leave train' from Henlow, which had to run empty to Shefford and wait for the railbus to pass before proceeding back to Henlow, which now only had one platform with track in situ. In October '58 7,000 passengers were carried on these services, more than twice the amount carried in Oct. '58.
The image shows a Park Royal Railbus at Shefford on a demonstration run in August 58 before the introduction of services in the Bedford area.
Despite a great increase in traffic, especially on Saturdays (a Jan. '59 trip saw the 1.20pm from Hitchen full from Southhill and with standing passengers from Cardington, and on Saturdays the 12.40pm from Bedford was so well patronised that it reverted to regular seam haulage), their introduction was far from trouble free, and mechanical failures dogged the vehicles. They were also prone to slipping on frosty rails and in January '59 snow fall saw a complete reversion to steam.
They were replaced for long periods by steam push-and-pull trains (with a notable period in Nov. '58). On 28/4/59 two pairs of 101s arrived at Bedford, nominally to act as standby sets for the Northampton & Hitchin branches, but they saw steady use, although one disappeared about a month later. The railbuses were out of service in early July '59, with steam push and pull again in use, and in early Nov. '59 the 'buses departed to Wolverton. The local services to Hitchin and Northampton were then worked by new 108s as well as the steam push-pull. Possibly two of them returned temporarily from Wolverton, but wherever possible the diesel twins or steam was used.
Although they had gone from the Bedford - Northampton line, proposals in mid-'60 to withdraw the diesel service from the line, there was feelings that there was a lot of pontetial traffic lost due the teething troubles of the Park Royal Railbuses on the line.
From Wolverton they were sent to the ScR where they seemed to be more successful. Two of these (79972-3) returned to the LMR in Dec. 65 where they started on the Buxton to Millers Dale branch on the 3rd Jan. '66. Once again numerous difficulties were encountered and they spent much time out of use. They were replaced by German railbuses 79961/4.