Routes 406 and 418 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Page last updated 7 November 2014


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 here


This event page is retained for the 406 and 418 histories which folow.


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 privatisation).


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 1970.


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 Enviro400 buses.


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 Charles Road.


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 traffic lights.
Photo © John Parkin