Dating from 1950, RT1700
heads through Ewell on our previous route 406 day in 2014.
We are delighted that by agreement with TfL and the current
operator Epsom Coaches, a free heritage bus service will
operate on route 406 on Sunday 18 June. The service will
feature a number of types of bus which have operated the route over
the last 65 years. The free service will operate from
Kingston Cromwell Road Bus Station to Epsom, with some
journeys extended over the former route across Epsom Downs to
Tadworth. A feeder service will operate from Redhill in the
morning and back at the end of the day.
Among the buses in service will be RM2, the second prototype
Routemaster that was trialled on the route 60 years ago.
Since we planned this event, we have learned of the surprise
decision of RATP, Epsom Coaches' owners, to close the coach
business which has served Epsom for 97 years, with effect from 25
June. The bus service part of the business will continue
under the trading name of Quality Line and be managed from London
United at Fulwell. This event will therefore be dedicated to
the team at Epsom Coaches.
The timetable for the special operation will be posted here
nearer the time.
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 basis 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 then 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