Red RF routes

Route 20B

Page last updated 12 November 2020
Introduction of the 20B marked the first weekday replacement of a section of a double-deck route by single-deck OMO in London (the 203 had already converted on Sundays).  The northern part of RT-operated 20 was replaced (except on Saturdays) by the OMO RF-operated 20B in October 1965.  This was the first occasion on which the allocation of single-deck routes in the 200-series (introduced in 1934) had been abandoned.
On that first day, 3 Oct 65, RF509 has been newly transferred from Kingston for the new route.  Some discussion takes place on a deserted Loughton Station forecourt.
Photo © Rob Sheen
Dates of RF operation

3 Oct 65 to 13 Jun 69

(total 3 years 8 months, all OMO)



LOUGHTON STATION and EPPING TOWN (Mon-Fri, Sun, also RT-operated on Sats from 31 Dec 66)

LOUGHTON STATION and EPPING St Margaret’s Hospital (Mon-Fri afternoons and evenings, Sun afternoons)



RF517 to Epping TownRF Garages

L   Loughton


Evening light follows RF517 to Epping Town. 
Photo: Peter Gomm collection


Reason for single-deck operation
At the time of conversion, only RFs were available for OMO operation.
Route history
The Epping to Loughton route has a long history.  According to the Essex Countryside magazine (January 1967) 'three famous old Epping horses with just one eye between them proudly drew the coach driven by Joe Wilks of Tidy's Lane from the Cock Hotel to meet the trains at Loughton station when the railway first reached there in 1867'.  The General covered the road periodically from 1915, when the 10B between Epping and Elephant & Castle started operation on Sundays in July.  In October 1921, the route became daily as 10A - renumbered (under the Bassom system) 100 and 100A between 1924 and 1934 - all a variation of the famous 10 to Abridge.  In November 1939, the route was shortened to run between Epping and Leytonstone.  It was double-deck operated throughout, with K, S, NS, ST, LT and finally STD-types.  On 30 Jun 48, the 10A was renumbered 20, and in March 1955, Loughton's STDs were replaced with RTs. 
The 20 offered journeys extended to Epping St Margaret's Hospital on Sundays from 1954 and daily from 1963.  Here, Loughton's Saunders-bodied RT1837 arrives in Epping.
Photo © Paul Redmond
When one-man operation was finally introduced in the Central Area in 1964, following the Phelps Brown report, it was permitted only on single-deck buses.  Whereas ten years before, it had been London Transport policy to double-deck all Central Area routes where physically possible, it became inevitable that the reverse would happen on lightly-used routes.  The 20 was the first.
The busy Saturday service (Epping and Leytonstone) was left untouched initially, but other days of the week were replaced on 3 October 1965 by new OMO route 20B over the Loughton to Epping section of the 20, with the southern part covered by the RT-operated 20A (Leytonstone to Debden).  The creation of the 20B broke the rule of over 40 years that all single-deck routes were numbered in the 200-series, and occured simultaneously with the OMO-conversion of Loughton's existing RF route, the 254, and the creation the next day of the 291 out of part of Barking's RT-operated 129.
The remaining Saturday operation on the 20 ended on 24 Dec 66, being shortened and renumbered 20B on the following Saturday, still with RTs.  This led to the situation where the 20A and 20B were variants of a route that no longer existed, and the OMO 20B was crew operated on Saturdays. 
A new RT route 20 from Loughton was introduced on 7 Sep 68 as part of the huge revisions resulting from the opening of the first stage of the Victoria Line and the Bus Reshaping Plan. It took a different routing south of Woodford to Leyton and Walthamstow from the old 20, and replaced much of the 38A.  Six months later this was converted to OMO MB operation and extended to Epping to absorb the 20B.  Meanwhile the 20A continued with RTs until 1976, when it swapped the Loughton to Epping section with the 20 and became DMS operated over the original 20 route, lasting until 1982.  Falling entirely outside Greater London, the 20B roads are no longer served by TfL.
RF route in detail, with timing points
EPPING St Margaret’s Hospital (mid-afternoons Mon-Fri & Sun, evenings Mon-Fri, also RT Sat mid-afternoons from 31 Dec 66), The Plain (Ongar Road), Palmers Hill, EPPING TOWN Grove Lane (northbound described as EPPING TOWN Cock) (RF Mon-Fri and Suns, also RT Sats from 31 Dec 66), Epping High Street, Epping (New) Rd, Epping Forest Wake Arms, Goldings Hill, Church Hill, Loughton Garage, High Road Loughton, Old Station Road, LOUGHTON STATION, extended Mon-Fri peaks Alderton Hill, Roding Road, Valley Hill, Loughton Way, BUCKHURST HILL STATION
Terminal working at Epping Town: clockwise from High Street to Hemnall Street, Grove Lane to stand, exit to High Street.
Frequency between Epping Town and Loughton
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1966 20-30 mins n/a 21-30 mins
1967 20-30 mins 30 mins [RT] 60 mins
1969 20-30 mins 30 mins [RT] 60 mins
From Epping Town, the route took about 24 minutes to Loughton Station and a further 9 minutes to Buckhurst Hill.  The July 1967 timetable is here.
1968 bus map © London Transport.  20A and 20B but no 20.
RF allocation
PVR Oct 1965: Mon-Fri 4+, Sat -, Sun 4
PVR Dec 1966: Mon-Fri 4, Sat [3 RT], Sun 3
PVR Feb 1969: Mon-Fri 4+, Sat [3 RT], Sun 2
+ plus 1RF ex 254


RFs worked the 20B at the 2007 Loughton Running Day.


RF486 outside the former Cock Hotel, Epping, recreating the 20B through Epping Forest.  The tower is one of three in Epping and is part of the District Council offices.

Photo © Peter Osborn