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Route 459 revisited three months on

Tuesday 11th February 2020

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New route 459 linking the small community of Iver in Buckinghamshire (just over the Greater London border) with Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 entered its third and final phase of introduction at the beginning of this month so I thought I’d follow up my previous visit in November with another ride around and see how it’s doing three months on.

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Phase 1 began on 4th November last year with Reading Buses running an Optare demonstrator electric bus (photographed above) running just five hourly off-peak journeys and not a lot of custom despite the service running on a free fares basis – you can read about my visit here. Phase 2 followed during the month of January still with free fares, still off-peak only but using a gas bus instead of the electric.

Now Phase 3 has begun involving the full timetable running hourly across 21 hours of the day (from just after 03:00 to just after midnight) with fares now being charged. The service is now run by Reading Buses subsidiary Thames Valley Buses (the brand now also used for the former Courtney Buses) with an Optare Solo diesel bus with dedicated bespoke 459 route branding.

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I worked out this particular bus was formerly used over in Newbury under the Konnections brand used by Reading Buses – it wasn’t too hard thanks to the interior display ….

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…. but those much more in the know about these things advised me on Twitter that the posh colourful leather edged moquette seats indicate the bus was once used on the extensive contract for Vodafone which Reading Buses subsidiary Newbury & District runs. They were certainly comfy and look very smart.

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As explained last time, route 459 is one of a number of services financially underwritten by Heathrow Airport as part of its commitment to raise the proportion of airport and airline staff and passengers travelling by public transport. Hence the extensive operating hours.

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As well as Iver, the ‘almost circular’ route serves Langley (including off peak journeys running twice around part of the estate – bottom left in blue). It also runs through the ‘village’ of Colnbrook (along the bottom of the map above) rather than using the by-pass which First Berkshire’s route 7 (which also serves Langley) does.

Here’s the new ‘extended’ timetable …

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As I explained last time adding the hourly route 459 into Langley does seem a bit odd bearing in mind First Berkshire’s route 7 runs from the same 03:00 ish start and through until after midnight too and during the day (from around 04:30) runs every fifteen minutes. From December route 7 was combined with route 1 and now extends west of Slough to Britwell (by Manor Park) – see map and timetable below)  …

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I caught the 459 from Iver, halfway around the route, at 12:03 this morning. The bus arrived about five minutes late with no-one on board. We did the circuit through Langley where it was noticeable people waiting at the bus stops let us go by in favour of a following bus on First Berkshire’s route 7 except at one stop where a lady travelling to Terminal 5 boarded. I took another ride on the following journey an hour later, but this time boarded in Langley for Terminal 5 and again there was just one passenger going to work there already on board.

I also took a ride on a First Berkshire route 7 which was much busier.

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It was good to see bus stops have been updated with Buckinghamshire County Council departure time displays and bus stop flags now including route 459.

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There was also a bus company produced flyer posted at many stops through Langley presumably in an effort to draw trade away from route 7. I suspect fares on the 459 may be cheaper than First Berkshire charge, but for now, First’s higher frequency not surprisingly seems to be maintaining its market share.

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Two major disappointments were firstly nothing has been done, three months on, to include any information at all about route 459 in the wind tunnel that is Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 bus station.

The departure stop is both devoid of a 459 route number …

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… and timetable. You’d never know it existed or where it runs from if you didn’t already know it existed and where it runs from.

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Meanwhile at all the bus stops controlled by TfL through Colnbrook, where route 459 provides a handy new direct link to Terminal 5 with a connection to the rest of the Airport (route 7 uses the Colnbrook by-pass, and TfL route 81 avoids Heathrow running direct to Hounslow) there’s also no reference either on the bus stop flags …

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…or timetable cases …

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….after three months. Goodness knows how Colnbrook residents are supposed to know about their new bus link running 21 hours a day!

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As the Government falls over itself this week to make announcement after announcement with much welcome millions, and even billions towards buses, including “reinstating withdrawn rural bus routes” one can only hope the money isn’t spaffed up the wall on crazy routes like this one.

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Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train.

7 thoughts on “Route 459 revisited three months on Leave a comment

  1. Very reminiscent of twenty years ago when the Blair regime “threw” £50million into a Rural Bus Fund merely to be seen as “doing something” but not quite sure what. Much was totally wasted while Councils had to think up “fresh-air” routes which were soon withdrawn, and as has been aired in this column before, the 459 is clearly the result of the Heathrow authorities doing much the same thing. However, at least it is an attempt to get both Staff and Passengers to use public transport, even if a 0319 departure from Richings Park may be overly optimistic! The Residents there would much prefer more buses to Uxbridge than the three a day they now have. And together with the Iver area, would not be the first place I would consider to have too many Heathrow workers living. But, Someone at Heathrow has seen a gap on the map……..and we now have a 459! What a great pity some of the Heathrow money couldn’t be used to plug the gaping hole that now exists between Datchet and Slough since desiring better links to Windsor and the Dedworth estate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even the network map published by Thames Valley on Langley area does not include 459, how can we expect there is good publicity to get the awareness except for us, the enthusiast…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have no doubt that Heathrow will have done their homework with regard to the number of employee living around Richings Park and Iver (which have a combined population over 12,000) but this looks like a route designed by committee. Big circle = big putoff, when it means that a 15 minute car journey from Richings Park will take 35 minutes one way by bus – on top of the fact that the service is only hourly – so anyone starting work at 0800 must leave home in Richings Park before 0650? Dream on. An hourly serive from High Wycombe is one thing, but from next door to the airport? No way.

    It’s a brave effort but hardly a good use of resources. I give it a year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “G”, the reprinted Slough & Windsor booklets do have the 459 information and route map in them, several thousand printed and at distribution points across the area. Enthusiasts living outside the area may not be aware of this.

    Like

  5. Thanks for Simon’s information, I would suggest Thames Valley to update their online network map then, not to waste the effort in producing the booklet.

    Like

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