Friday 19 April 2013

Hybrids to Heathrow

A Sign of the Times
fbb was greatly thrilled to find this notice in a roadside gents just outside Dorchester.
Particular highlights are:-
The firm cleans the loos "hygienically"; perhaps instead of using rotting sump oil or bird poo as a cleanser?

And then there is a number to ring ...
... if you experience difficulties. Well, there is this bit of constipation, probably the change of water; maybe "Just Cleaning Services" have the answer?
Back to our main story ...
Hail friendly buses come to Slough
These vehicles fit for humans now
Green as grass for grazing cow
Fresh like the heavens.

With diesel power to generate
Electric juice to accelerate
The Volvo bus'll invigorate
The Heathrow Sevens
So didn't John Betjeman write as he condemned Slough to death by a thousand bombs. But at least First Bus is redressing the balance a little with ten new (and ugly!) hybrids for its routes to Heathrow.

Sometimes, it is hard to remember how big Heathtow Airport has become. Its bus services back in 1958 were but a shadow of their present scope and complexity.

The 81B, which looks as if it might be a variant of the long-standing 81 from Slough to Hounslow, only attacks the airport from the east. The 81 still runs, but doesn't enter the airport complex.

Of course, back in the "good old days" when Heathrow was a few shacks clustered along the A4, it did!

Back in 1999, the great Great Britain Bus Timetable showed routes from Slough to Heathrow as running every 20 minutes ...
click on timetable to enlarge

... which seemed pretty impressive at the time. But now ...
 71  is the least attractive of the Heathrow 7s from Slough in that it takes "the long way round" via Windsor, Egham and Staines. Every 30 minutes with a running time of  1 hour and 7 minutes. Although 71s use Heathrow 7s branded vehicles at times ...
... it tends not to be included in the overall frequency, as we shall see. The "real" 7s are as follows:-

 77  provides the local service between Dedworth and Windsor continuing via Slough and the main London Road to Heathrow. Every 30 minutes with a running time of 25 minutes from Slough.

 78  local from Britwell to Slough then to Heathrow via the Trelawney Avenue estate. Every 30 minutes with a running time of 37 minutes from Slough.

 71    77  and  78  only run as far as Terminal 5. Regular Heathrow passengers will be aware that all internal travel between terminals by bus or train is absolutely FREE! So onward travel to the other terminals is easy-peasy; unless, of course, you have huge amounts of luggage; which you won't have 'cos it's too expensive to take anything other than a change of undies!

For terminals 1, 2 and 3 you need:-

 76  local from Cippenham to Slough then on to Heathrow via Langley. Every 30 minutes with a running time of 39 minutes from Slough.

 75  from Maidenhead to Slough then on to Heathrow via Langley. Every 30 minutes with a running time of 39 minutes from Slough.

Terminal 4 is not served from Slough but the free travel facility ensures getting there is not at all difficult.

The detail of routes in the Slough area is shown on the map extract below.
So that adds up to a Monday to Saturday daytime frequency of 8 buses an hour. OK, so some of their revenue comes from local passengers in Slough and Windsor where the 7s have progressively replaced former town routes. Even so, it's a pretty impressive service.
Some of the Mercs are creeping up to their 10th birthday, so "refreshment" would seem to be well overdue.

So yesterday, Minister Baker launched the first of 10 Volvo 9500 hybrid buses. Bearing a slightly revised Heathrow 7 livery (blog commentator "Neil" doesn't like the extra "electric zot" on the number 7), these magnificent/ugly vehicles are similar to the Edinburgh and Essex machines previously mentioned. See "Exciting Edinburgh Experiences [4]" (read again)
fbb is expecting some pictures of the launch and will publish these as soon as possible. Nothing's come yet!

The anticipation is almost unbearable.

 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 20th April 


  1. Ten years after your map the 81B was joined by the 81C from Slough to Heathrow Airport Central. It was a very modest operation and only lasted two years. The 81B had started in 1954 as a summer only weekend operation for sightseers.

    The growth in services is partly due to the enormous expansion in the (largely retail) workforce. Whilst airlines have replaced check-in desks with machines large numbers of people are required to sell you things once at the airport.

    Having services terminate at Terminal 5 will not suit those who like to have a through service. However, the resources required to extend a route through to the Central Area would be very substantial. There are lifts and trolleys for those who need to make a change.

  2. Remembering, of course, that BAA make a huge financial contribution to most bus routes serving LHR, including the free travel availability.
    I actually quite like the buses, and the 7-series branding is very clever (pure Stenning!).
    I also liked his earlier versions, which was something like "frequent and comfortable buses with air conditioning and warp drive (OK, maybe not warp drive!)" on the bonnet. That's the sort of comment that gets car drivers to look twice and maybe even think twice!