Monday 12th October 2020
Woking lies five and a half miles north of Guildford. You’re spoilt for choice when travelling by public transport between the towns – there are seven different routes to choose from. Over the last week I’ve tried out all seven to see how they compare.
The quickest and most direct bus route, directly following the A320, is operated by Stagecoach South. Service 33 takes just 27 minutes to complete the journey.
But you’ll be lucky to catch it. I was. One of only four return journeys on Saturdays leaving Guildford at 10:35 was timed perfectly for my travel plans that day.
I wouldn’t have been so well served if I’d wanted to travel from Woking back to Guildford on a schoolday as the first journey isn’t until 17:10 in one of the most bizarre timetables you’ll come across. Hardly a frequent or convenient service.
Perhaps it wasn’t surprising only one other passenger travelled from Guildford and alighted on the outskirts of Woking. He was certainly surprised as he boarded in the bus station telling me he didn’t realise the route ran on a Saturday – yet that’s the best day of the week for frequency.
He’d been waiting for either the second and third of the seven route selection, namely Arriva Surrey’s routes 34 and 35 which take a semi-direct trajectory between the towns with each route meandering off the A320 to serve different communities – the 35 taking less of a meander than the 34.
The 34 and 35 timetable is coordinated to run every 20 minutes with both routes continuing westwards beyond Woking for another 52 or 59 minutes (the 35 deviates in Lightwater, hence the extra time) to Camberley.
Between Guildford and Woking the 35 runs once an hour and takes 32 minutes while the 34 runs twice an hour (on a 20/40) frequency taking 38 minutes.
The 35 follows the A320 like Stagecoach’s 33 but includes a small deviation in the rather attractive village of Mayford as well as another diversion in the Mount Vernon area of Woking to serve Wych Hill Lane and York Road.
My journey this morning at 11:28 from Guildford had six passengers on board as we left the bus station but five had alighted by Slyfield Green in north Guildford with just me and the other passenger travelling to Woking. Not a particularly busy journey.
The 34 takes a route to the east of the A320 serving Jacobs Well, Sutton Green and Westfield – not the London shopping centre of that name but an area near Old Woking journey just south of Woking town centre. It’s a lovely route and on my late Saturday morning southbound journey we took four from Woking two of whom alighted in Westfield and two travelled to Guildford; we picked up two more in Jacobs Well and another two approaching Guildford who all travelled to the Friary bus station. So not a particularly busy journey.
Routes 34 and 35 used to be branded by Arriva as MAX with appropriately liveried vehicles, but sadly that initiative has now been abandoned in favour of anonymous branded buses from a variety of manufacturers as you can see from the photographs above.
Although my bus on the 35 this morning was called Kursal Flyers – I have no idea why.
The fourth option connecting Guildford and Woking is Falcon Buses route 28. Falcon picked this route up when previous operator, Buses Excetera, ceased trading in March 2019 – although I see its website still gives the impression it’s business as usual!
Route 28 runs hourly on Mondays to Saturdays with an end-to-end journey time of 53 minutes.
The route wanders to the west of the A320 serving the villages of Worplesdon (A mile from the station that takes its name) and Pirbright then passing through Brockwood (by its station) and then a circuitous route through Knaphill to the west of Woking.
On Sundays Arriva Surrey’s route 91 which on weekdays provides a local service between Woking and Knaphill is extended to Guildford via the 28 route.
I caught the 09:00 from Guildford on Saturday and just two other passengers boarded in Knaphill travelling into Woking – so (another) not a particularly busy journey. A pleasant ride nonetheless especially through Worplesdon and Pirbright.
The fifth and sixth bus route options are White Bus operated routes 462 and 463 which take a route to the east of the A320 and like route 28 both also take 53 minutes.
The Monday to Saturday timetable (there’s no Sunday service) provides for a combined hourly frequency between the two routes with a gap in the afternoon at school times.
The 462 heads out of Guildford via Burpham to the A3 then diving off on the “old A3” to serve Burntcommon and Ripley along which it continues to where it rejoins the A3 except the bus turns back on itself retracing the route for over a mile back through Ripley before turning off via Send Marsh and Send and then taking a circuitous route through Old Woking before arriving in Woking. Serving Ripley adds almost ten minutes to the journey time.
The journey I travelled on last Tuesday at 10:40 from Guildford on route 462 carried about half a dozen passengers in total including boarders in Ripley and Send and two who boarded at the extreme end of the circuitous route through Old Woking, which always makes such deviations worthwhile.
The 463 follows a different route out of Guildford on the A25 through Merrow, instead of Burpham served by the 462, before heading north via West Clandon (passing Clandon station) and then follows the same route as the 462 from Burntcommon and Ripley via Send and Old Woking.
I caught the 10:50 from Woking this morning and two passengers joined me as far as Old Woking then it was just me until Burntcommon where we picked up one and two boarded as we passed through Merrow, all three travelling to Guildford. Another quiet journey; and another pleasant ride especially through Chandon.
It was also nice to travel on one of White Bus’s brand new Enviro200s – I understand it was it’s very first day in service today.
Like the similar bus I travelled on with Falcon last Tuesday it gave a very comfortable ride with nice padded seats.
It’s good to see White Bus provide timetable leaflets on board – the passenger who boarded in Clandon picked one up and studied it during the journey which just goes to show their value.
I’m not sure what the white board thing hanging down on the nearside is for but the driver had the perfect solution to afix during the journey to stop it rattling.
As I mentioned in my previous blog about Staines, Surrey County Council do an excellent job of roadside publicity including placing timetables at every bus stop and very copious displays at the stands alongside Woking Station ….
…. as well as providing reassuring real time signs.
Guildford’s Friary bus station is very functional if looking a little tired but it doesn’t stop the County Council ensuring displays are up to date and clear to see.
It was nostalgic to spot a piece of authentic NBC corporate signage still on display, if in need of a bit of a clean.
There’s constant talk of relocating and resizing (downwards) the bus station so the ‘Friary’ area can be redeveloped. This would be a tragedy as the bus station is in an ideal location and is a busy one too.
It’s a shame the Arriva travel shop is still closed due to Covid.
Those are the six bus route options between Guildford and Woking. But there is a seventh way to travel between the two towns.
And it’s by far the quickest, but most expensive, option and that of course is South Western Railway. Three journeys operate each hour taking just seven minutes
The three-an-hour journeys are not on an even 20 minutes headway. From Woking departures are at 13, 43 and 55 and from Guildford 04, 34 and 49. The 13 and 34 are Worplesdon stoppers and take an extra 3-4 minutes.
It’s a good service as I found out.
Seven minutes soon passes, compared to 32 or 53 minutes.
Perhaps it’s not suprising there isn’t a frequent direct bus route. The train serves the end to end market well.