The far westRed RF routes

Route 203

Page last updated 20 December 2014
The Sunday bus service between Stanwell and Staines was numbered 203 from 1956, initially RT-worked but with OMO RFs from 1965 until it was withdrawn in 1969.  From 1932 to 1948, this section was single-deck operated by the 224 (and briefly the 223), at times also one-man operated.  This was the first OMO conversion of a double-deck route in the Central area.
Officially known to LT as Staines Moor Lane, the background of this shot is the well-known RF location of Staines West Station.  RF419 works duty FW1.
Photo © Robert Duke, Peter Gomm collection
Dates of RF operation
4 Jul 65 to 13 Jul 69
(total 4 years, 0 months, all OMO)

STAINES Moor Lane and STANWELL War Memorial (Sundays) [crew operated Staines to Twickenham, Mondays to Saturdays]


RF Garages

AV    Hounslow (until 18 Dec 66, no service Christmas Day)
FW   Fulwell (from 1 Jan 67)
Reason for single-deck operation
At the time of conversion, only RFs were available for OMO operation.
Route history
Of interest to some of us, route number 203 was used during the war for a summer-only route between Epsom and Chessington Zoo, not via the Country 468 route, but via Malden Rushett.  However, the Stanwell 203 was a post-war invention.
To provide Stanwell with a bus service on Sundays, a service into Staines had been operated since October 1934, when Monday to Saturday route 506 was renumbered 224 and introduced on Sundays.  Apart from a short spell during the war when renumbered 223, the service continued as the 224 until March 1948, when new double-deck route 162, running solely between Stanwell and Staines, took over daily.  The route had thus gone from OMO Darts and Cubs, via crew-operated Ts, to double-deck ST and RT-types.
Lurk, lurkMeanwhile, the 203 was introduced in February 1951 with STLs to serve new roads between Hounslow and Hanworth via Whitton.  Within six months, the western end had been extended to Hatton Cross and the eastern end diverted to Twickenham.  No doubt the growing importance of Heathrow Airport was a factor; at the end of 1952, peak hour journeys were extended along the south side of the airport to East Bedfont.  RTs replaced the STLs between 1951 and 1954, in which year the Sunday service was withdrawn.
Twickenham Station Yard in the early 1950s, when this was the eastern terminus of this rather tortuous route.  RT2141 is laying-over on the 203 prior to running back to its home garage.  RT3690 and (oh yes!) RF486 are perhaps on a Railway Emergency Service?  The railway buildings are long gone, but the Albany is still there.
Photo Peter Osborn collection
In 1955, the Monday to Friday peak Bedfont journeys were extended to Staines, along the main road.  This was the precursor to the wholesale extension to Staines, but now via West Bedfont and Stanwell, from 27 Jun 56.  This routing runs parallel to the modern road from Terminal 4 to the Cargo Area, just on the far side of the Duke of Northumberland's River.  A Sunday service was re-introduced, but covering only the Stanwell to Staines section and allowing complete withdrawal of the 162.  November 1959 saw the introduction of Monday to Friday route 203A, taking a different route through Stanwell, running to Ashford instead of Staines and sharing the 203 allocation.
OMO working had been reintroduced into the Central Area by the conversion of four routes in 1964, with a further two (237 and 251) in January 1965, but thus far only by conversion of existing RF routes.  A precedent was therefore set on 4 Jul 65 when the Sunday 203 operation was converted from RT to OMO RF. 
This 17 minute service had required only one bus since 1952, the timetable showing no evidence of the garage working running in service.  The service was worked from Hounslow Garage, as the Stanwell Sunday service had been since 1934 (except for a period when Uxbridge took over during the war) and would have used an RF spare from the 237.  What the timetable does show (4 Jul 65 panels westbound and eastbound) is the meal break on each of the two driver duties being taken in Staines Garage, which was of course part of the Country Bus & Coach department.  The driver change in the afternoon would have involved a journey down on the 116.
For no obvious reason, New Year's Day 1967 saw a change of garage (of the Sunday service only) to Fulwell, no further away but less easy to get to.  As a result, there was a gap in the afternoon service while the bus returned to Fulwell at the time of the driver change, all four garage journeys now being shown on the timetable (1 Jan 67 panels westbound and eastbound).  The garage journeys from Fulwell operated over the 285 route as far as Hatton Cross and then followed the weekday 203 route along the Great South West Road through to Stanwell. 
Two buses had to be used by Fulwell because the early bus was only part way back to Fulwell when it passed the late bus on its outward journey. (Paul Wheeler was a user of this working and confirms seeing them pass one another).  So the change of garage resulted not only in the loss of one afternoon journey compared to the Hounslow operation, but the need for two buses rather than one.  It is possible that this requirement may not have been foreseen, as it appears that the first allocation book after the change shows 1 bus. Staines Garage was still used for meal breaks, but now one journey at each break ran dead between Staines and the garage. 
But obviously the Sunday traffic continued to reduce, and the Sunday service was withdrawn without replacement on 13 Jul 69.
Meanwhile, although the weekday RT service between Twickenham and Staines continued to be operated by Hounslow Garage, RFs still had a part to play in the 203 story.  In September 1970, the Hounslow to Twickenham section was replaced on Monday to Friday by new Hounslow RT route 202, which was duly converted to OMO RF in September 1971.  The Saturday service meanwhile was extended beyond Twickenham to Richmond Dee Road, until in March 1972 the Hounslow to Richmond section was transferred to the 202 which was working the identical route on Monday to Friday. 
Whilst the 202 was OMO RF-operated, the March 1972 changes saw the 203 and 203A (which took on the off-peak workings) converted to SMS operation, with the 203 diverted away from the High Street in Stanwell to follow the alternative 203A routing along Clare Road.  Perhaps the new buses would not fit?
Sunday service highlighted
The distinction between the 203 and 203A was lost in 1976 with the introduction of Leyland Nationals, whose three-track blind displays could not display suffixes.  Between 1978 and 1991, the route was extended eastwards to Brentford.  In 1996, Sunday working was reintroduced, giving Stanwell (but not its High Street) a Sunday service again.  The route continues to operate daily between Staines and Hounslow.
1964 bus map © London Transport
RF route in detail, with timing points

STANWELL War Memorial, High Street Stanwell, Town Lane, Stanwell Bulldog, London Road, High Street Staines, Bridge Street, STAINES Moor Lane



Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1965 [RT] [RT] 46 mins
1967 [RT] [RT] 45 mins
The route took 15-17 minutes from Staines to Stanwell.  The July 1967 timetable from the red book is here.  From before the transfer from Hounslow to Fulwell are July 1965 panel timetables westbound and eastbound; from after, January 1967 panels westbound and eastbound


RF allocation

PVR 1965 (Jul): Mon-Fri [12RT], Sat [7RT], Sun 1
PVR 1966 (Dec): Mon-Fri [10RT, AV], Sat [7RT, AV], Sun 2 (FW, see notes)


Thanks to Paul Wheeler for corrections and extra detail.