Friday 23rd October 2020
Continuing my exploration of the former red and green bus territorial boundary around London to mark this year’s fiftieth anniversary of London Country’s formation brings me to the Borough of Epsom & Ewell.
That’s pointedly NOT the London Borough of Epsom & Ewell as residents, and more notably their representatives, resisted being included in ‘London’ when the GLC was created in 1965 preferring to remain part of Surrey. That’s why a map of Greater London has a long finger like protrusion in its south west quadrant where the London Borough of Kingston extends beyond Chessington along the A243 but between there and the London Borough of Sutton to the east marks out solidly staunch Surrey territory.
It’s virtually impossible to determine where London ends and Epsom & Ewell begins in the continuous urban development, albeit, a well-heeled, leafy-avenue, continuous urban development of this part of the metropolis. Only the road name signs which all include the full Borough name give the clue to where the boundary lies.
Talking of the metropolis, apparently this area was policed by the Metropolitan Police until it was transferred to Surrey constabulary as recently as 2000. Conversely TfL’s influence extends through the Borough with London style bus stops right to the edge of Epsom town centre where Surrey County Council takes over. Both Ewell East and Ewell West stations are in TfL’s Zone 6 with the obvious price benefits that brings, whereas the next station along, where both the Southern and South Western Railway lines meet, at Epsom, falls outside – it doesn’t even warrant a Zone 7.
MP for Epsom & Ewell is of course renowned former Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling.
Stand at Epsom’s famous Clock Tower and the ‘over the border’ street scape is anomalously dominated by TfL buses with two routes to Kingston (the 406 via Ewell and Stoneleigh and 418 via West Ewell), route 293 to Morden, route 470 to Sutton and Colliers Wood and route 166 to Banstead and Croydon. They’re not the most frequent of TfL’s routes but all told on a weekday daytime you’ll see 12 buses each hour passing by on these five routes. Routes 166 and 293 extend the short distance to Epsom Hospital.
Back in pre 1970 days London Transport red bus route 93 reached Epsom from Morden and as far as Putney and route 164 linked the town with Sutton and Morden but it was green buses from the Country Bus department which provided the frequent link to Kingston which in a coincidental piece of continuity were numbered 406 and 418 taking the same routes as today before continuing south as far as Reigate and Redhill (406) and Leatherhead and Bookham (418).
You’d also see green buses heading to Sutton and Croydon (via Ewell) on routes 408 and 470 which both continued to Warlingham having originated in Guildford or Dorking. There was also a 472 from Leatherhead to Sutton, Coulsdon and Hooley which came through Epsom.
Today there are two bus routes which link Epsom with Banstead to the east; one being TfL’s route 166 (currently contracted to Arriva) (red), and the other is Metrobus operated route 318 (blue).
They take slightly different routes with only a short overlap, which is probably just as well as it costs TfL’s flat rate £1.50 on the 166 from Banstead Woolpack to Epsom but £4.10 on the 318. Not surprisingly most passengers making an end-to-end journey opt for the 166.
Unlike TfL’s slavish practice to always schedule every journey from one end of a route to another with no short workings, route 166 is an exception with three buses an hour scheduled from West Croydon as far as Banstead and just one journey an hour of the three extended on to Epsom on Mondays to Saturdays. There’s no late evening or Sunday service west of Banstead to Epsom.
Route 318 runs less frequently than hourly on Mondays to Fridays and takes in two different routes between Great Burgh and Banstead. After a morning schoolday only journey into Epsom there are five return journeys to Banstead three of which operate eastbound via Nork Way and two via Burgh Heath and vice versa in the westbound direction.
I took a ride from Epsom to Banstead on the 318 and back again on the 166.
Both are pleasant routes with the 318 running close to Epsom race course for added interest …
… as well as Tattenham Corner railway station, whereas the 166 diverts off its otherwise pretty much direct route to pass close to Epsom Downs railway station.
There weren’t too many passengers on either journey. One passenger travelled a short distance out of Epsom on the 318 and we picked up a couple more as we passed along Nork Way into Banstead while on the 166, there were six on board when I got on in Banstead and we picked up one more near Epsom Downs and dropped a couple off along the way too.
Another interesting route venturing into TfL territory is Falcon Buses route E16 which provides a link from Epsom to Worcester Park, over the border, via two different routes through a very pleasant residential area between Stoneleigh and Worcester Park and what looked like a thriving neighbourhood shopping area close to Stoneleigh railway station.
Route E16 is operated by one bus between 07:20 and 18:40 providing pretty much an hourly frequency on what is effectively a circular route without taking ‘stand time’ at Worcester Park. One hour it operates clockwise and the next, anti-clockwise.
I caught the clockwise midday departure from Epsom Clock Tower and we took three passengers home with two alighting in Stoneleigh before we got to Worcester Park while the third continued round for almost 40 minutes of the 55 minute round trip time until she reached her bus stop. She’d only had a 16 minute trip into Epsom assuming she caught the clockwise trip two hours earlier. We also took two passengers into Worcester Park, but that was it, so not particularly busy.
The route was one of those tendered routes given up by Epsom Buses earlier this year when that RATP owned company decided to concentrate on its TfL contracts and the H1 hospital contract between Epsom and St Helier hospitals.
I’d travelled to Epsom via Sutton by taking Metrobus route 420 from Redhill to Sutton. Metrobus also operate a sister route 460 from Crawley and Redhill to Epsom. Both routes run hourly and follow a similar route via Reigate, Lower Kingswood and Tadworth pretty much coordinated to be half-hourly on the common section. Route 460 also takes in Walton-on-the-Hill.
Between Reigate and Sutton, the 420 follows a similar route to the former (and long time withdrawn) Green Line route 711 although that didn’t include Tadworth or Walton-on-the-Hill which was served by red bus route 80A, while Lower Kingswood had route 80 at its southern terminus.
My northbound journey on route 420 was another fairly quiet one with just one other passenger boarding in Redhill making a journey towards Reigate then another eight boarded with four travelling to Banstead and four more on to Sutton.
Buses use the A217 heading north out of Reigate towards the M25 junction. This major road is currently closed southbound for a fourteen week period for repairs to the barriers down the steep hill necessitating a long diversion via the A25 for Redhill bound buses.
I’ll finish this blogpost with some words of praise for Metrobus and Surrey County Council for their involvement in Redhill bus station.
It’s conveniently located opposite the town’s railway station and adjacent to the Harlequin Theatre and shopping area.
There are four departure stands around an arc clearly labelled with route numbers on the flags and timetables at each stop.
Although there are no shelters at the stops there’s a closed in waiting area with seats and a large screen showing real time departures.
There’s a comprehensive timetable display under that same covered area including a handy Where To Catch Your Bus poster.
There’s also a manned ‘Ticket Office’ with a helpful Metrobus employee on hand.
The building also includes a small facility for drivers on their layover time, although buses on an extended layover go off to park in a nearby lay-by.
Metrobus routes dominate the scene but TfL’s route 405 from Croydon terminates as do routes operated by Compass Bus and Southdown.
Timetables are displayed in Surrey County Council format showing departures for each route alongside each hour of the day, but ironically TfL route 405 is shown in full timetable format – something I noticed as also Surrey’s policy for TfL’s routes in Epsom.
It’s a great example of good practice bus station provision, although it’s a shame there’s not more covered waiting area especially for today’s socially distanced bus waiting experience during the forthcoming winter season.
Rad about my last trip to Epsom in February 2020 here.