Tuesday 11th February 2020
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.
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.
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 ….
…. 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.
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.
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 …
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) …
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.
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.
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.
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 …
… 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.
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 …
…or timetable cases …
….after three months. Goodness knows how Colnbrook residents are supposed to know about their new bus link running 21 hours a day!
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.