To celebrate the 60th birthday of RT4779 this year, the bus
operated in service on routes 406 and 418 as part of the current
TfL service provided by Epsom Coaches. It was joined on the
406 by RT1700, another former Leatherhead bus. A former
Reigate bus, RT3148, ran photographers' specials on the 406A
Express. The timetable for the special operations is
This event page is retained for the 406 and 418 histories which
A brief history of route 406
In 1920, HR Richmond established the coach business now known as
Epsom Coaches in a yard off Epsom High Street, operating charabancs
on excursions and hires. In the same year, the East Surrey
Traction Co, founded in Reigate in 1911, started a bus service
between Redhill and Epsom via Tadworth and Epsom Downs. On 14
April 1922, the service was extended to Kingston via Tolworth,
creating a link that still exists. In December 1924 the route
was renumbered as 406. The buses used were open-top and ran
on solid tyres; one can try to imagine the experience of climbing
Reigate Hill or crossing the Downs on such a bus.
Already the East Surrey company had formed an alliance with the
London General Omnibus Co, leading to a full takeover in 1929. In
1933, when the LGOC became London Transport, the Reigate company
provided the base for the Country Area of LT, running green buses
in the country outside greater London. The 406 was then operated by
petrol-engined AEC Regents, the ST class, from Reigate and
Leatherhead garages (who continued to work the route until
The ST class were replaced by larger diesel-engined STLs in
1936. The Country Area STLs were built with draughty front-entrance
bodies, unlike the usual rear-entrance red buses. The STLs were in
their turn replaced by the famous RT-type (pictured above) in the
winter of 1949-50.
In May 1956, an Express service was introduced between Tattenham
Corner and Kingston, and a new variation served Merland Rise in
Tadworth, numbered 406A. Later that year, the Express buses were
extended to run as 406A. Both 406A and the Express buses ceased in
In the summer of 1957, the second prototype Routemaster ran
experimentally on the 406, alongside the RTs which otherwise
maintained their place on the 406 though until the early 1970s.
Although still appearing occasionally, they were replaced by
demoted RMC Routemaster coaches until one-man operated buses could
be introduced in 1978.
Meanwhile, the London Transport Country Area had been hived off
in 1970 to become part of the National Bus Company. Following the
privatisation of the bus network in 1986, the operation became part
of London Country South West and then London & Country. A
variety of double- and single-deck buses operated on the 406 during
this period. Also in 1986, Epsom Coaches entered the bus business
with the first of a network of routes in the Epsom area.
On 27 January 2001 the 406 became a tendered TfL route using red
buses, with London United's Hounslow garage taking over operation.
Upon being re-tendered in 2007, the route passed to today’s
operator, Epsom Coaches (‘Quality Line’), using Alexander Dennis
A brief history of route 418
As East Surrey’s route network increased, a 1921 offshoot of the
S6 to Guildford started as the S6B, later the 408. The 408S variant
of this route became the 418 in 1927, initially running between
Epsom and Effingham via Bookham. In 1928 the route was extended to
West Ewell, in 1930 to Tolworth and in 1934 to Kingston via King
The 1927 ADC416 single-deckers were replaced in 1935 by
side-engined Q-class single-deckers and then, in 1946,
double-decked with red STs. These veterans were in turn replaced in
summer 1948 by Leatherhead’s first RTs. Of many detailed changes to
the route during and after the second world war, notable was the
re-routing in 1947 to serve Berrylands near Surbiton.
RTs continued to operate the route until in 1969 (Sundays, using
elderly RFs) and 1970 (daily, using new AEC Swifts) the route was
converted to single-deck one-man operation. In this form, the route
continued until withdrawn in 1978. The Berrylands section is now
covered by the K2.
A number of replacement routes ran under various operators
until, in 2001, Arriva reintroduced the 418, largely running along
the traditional route via West Ewell to Epsom and on to Guildford.
This was replaced the following year when TfL absorbed the route
into the red bus network, running only as far as Epsom.
In 2007, the joint 406/418 operation was awarded to Epsom
Coaches using new double-deck Enviro400s.
In June 1972, RF665 is still needed to help
out the troublesome Swifts, an example of which follows the
RF. They are seen in Leatherhead town centre. These
days with partial pedestrianisation, there is no need for the
Photo © John Parkin