Tuesday 5 September 2023

Happy Or Horrific At Heathrow Part 1

Playing Catch-up

The airport people are keen for their passengers and staff to use public transport rather than their cars; and over the years have invested quite large sums of money to support new bus ventures and encourage train travel. But it all went a bit belly-up with Covid. Services were curtailed or cancelled "for the duration" and some have ony just fully returned plus a few new projets.

This blog takes a bit of a look around to see what has changed since fbb last observed the challenge of finding where Heathrow buses go and when. Some things are better, some are worse but much remains the mediocre same, as we shall see in due course.

Not Very Super Loop Appears
X140 to 'Arrer has been renumbered SL9 ...
...   and  the recently branded X26 ...
... is SL7. 
Pity about all the oodles of fare payers money that TfL has wasted on the new blue brand now summarily discarded! 

Here is part of the Superloop diagram to refresh your memory.
The SL7 has an increased frequency over the former X26, now running roughly every 15 minutes.
But Transport for London keeps such boring and unnecessary detail in dark and impenetrable secrecy.

Two Numbers : Two Timetables : Too Silly
Newbury Buses (That's Reading Buses in clever disguise!!) has just started two bus routes from Heathrow. 

Only they haven't! Here is the 730 Heathrow to Frimley ...
... and here is the 731 to Basingstoke.
Of course it is just one route running Heathrow - Frimley - Basingstoke.

Here's the map.
And here's the timetable.
Words fail fbb (of course they don't) as to the utter stupidity of this presentation. Please do not comment that it is a legal requirement under EU riles. IT ISN'T AND IT NEVER WAS.

Whilst there may be an obsolete requirement to publish a registration in two bits, there is no stipulation as to how a timetable must be presented to the public. AND THERE NEVER HAS BEEN.

THE only requirement is that a correct timetable must be "available" on the bus for a passenger to consult. Likewise a correct fare table. And when did your bus company last provide either?

The consequences of the bureaucratic insanity is that Traveline publishes a timetable for the 730 ...
... and a completely separate timetable for the 731 ...
...which means that journey planners require a change of bus!
2 RailAir 2 Is 1
In July 2019, fbb was privileged to have an invite to RailAir 2 started by First Bus between Guildford and Heathrow. It ran hourly ...
... and used posh coaches.
As a result of the Covid crisis this and National Express 925 from Heathrow to Woking (which used to be branded RailAir and operated by Speedlink/National Express) ...
... was withdrawn .,.
... never to re-appear. It was replaced when First RailAir RA2 from Guildford was diverted to call at Woking.
First must have spent a fortune on the redesign of its RA2 leaflet; here the original for the Guildford only route ...
... and here the revised design for journeys via Woking.
Impressive, eh?

Recently the route has been improved by the addition of extra journeys from Woking giving that town a half hourly service which it used to enjoy.
Much better!

Wat's New At Whatford?
The answer is another RailAir.
Running hourly from Watford Junction station, this RA3 service is very limited stop ...
... as it runs via the M25. It started, as did the improved RA2, on 23rd July. 

But First has caught a terrible disease which has led to some very silly timetable presentation on their own web site. This is best seen on the one RailAir that has not changed significantly.

Reading The Re(a)ding Timetable
Just look at this for the ridiculous.
Weird or weird?

Dubious About Dedworth
It appears to be a "demand responsive" service from Heathrow to a relatively small community near Windsor.

But, never mind, all will be explained on the Heathrow web site!

Won't it?

We will see tomorrow.

P.S. What 4 Eh? Of Course, A4!
fbb nearly forgot another dramatic change!
Just a renumbering. Why?

 Next Heathrow blog : Wednesday 6th September 


  1. Much of the public transport at Heathrow is aimed at staff, more than passengers. The latest number of staff I found was 76,000. They have their own information and bus passes.

  2. Route numbering: It seems to be a matter of management choice. There are many examples of a single number for all varients or different numbers/letters for all or some variations. They can be different routeings or just short/ extended journeys. You name it, that version exists.

  3. A read of the Traffic Commissioner's inquiry into Stagecoach Devon would show that the 50km issue is not a rule to be ignored. The way that the DfT advised operators to deal with it is summarised here: https://www.teignrail.co.uk/scouting/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Okehampton-by-bus-blind.pdf

  4. Heathrow paid for the temporary X26 branding.