Route 406 running day

Sunday 18 June 2017

Page last updated 10 June 2017

Dating from 1950, RT1700 heads through Ewell on our previous route 406 day in 2014.

Photo © Richard Jones


Event page retained for reference


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.  It is scheduled to operate journeys from Kingston departing 1020, 1330 and 1530 and departing Epsom at 1230 and 1430 (see link to timetable below).  At about 1120, it will arrive at Tattenham Corner for a recreation of the well-known LT photo taken 60 years ago in June 1957.


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 is available here, including some amendments to the draft published earlier.  This version also includes running numbers, allocated as set out below - usual caveats apply regarding availability of vehicles on the day.


Included on the service will be an Epsom Coaches Setra coach - one of the last opportunities to ride on an Epsom coach before the business closes.  The Setra will operate the 0950 and 1150 from Epsom and the 1050 and 1250 from Kingston, marked EC on the timetable.


Other workings are allocated as follows:













   RLH48    (substituting for Leatherhead's first RMC, 1461, which is unfortunately not available)




In addition, free tours of the area will be provided by preserved ex-Epsom Coaches 1951 Bedford SB PPH698, departing Epsom Clock Tower at 1015, 1130, 1315, 1430, 1545.  The tour will pass the Epsom Coaches depot in Ewell.


The usual picture gallery will be included here after the event - contributions from photographers are always greatly appreciated.  Please e-mail us. 


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 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 1948-49.


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 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 Enviro400 buses.