Is THIS Britain’s Shortest Bus Route?

Thursday 11th August 2022

A couple of years ago I blogged about Rosso’s hourly route 13 that runs from Rawtenstall bus station to New Hall Hey taking just six minutes for the full circular round trip and at that time claimed it must be Britain’s Shortest Bus Route.

That led to a number of other suggestions in the comments including Eifion’s Coaches’ route 48 on Anglesey which shows a timetabled circular journey taking just five minutes at 10:20 from Llangefni via Ty’n Coed and back to Llangefn although it’s operationally linked to the previous journey with the same route number to Ty Hen and Yagol Corn Hir making for a 15 minute ride from one end of the 48 to the other, so I’ve kind of discounted that one.

Other suggested contenders included Cardiff Bus route H59 between Heath Hospital and a nearby Park & Ride site that takes seven minutes; Henley Hopper route 153 taking nine minutes; and as highlighted in the recent Oswestry blog one of that town’s routes, route 404, does a circuit in ten minutes. TfL’s route 389 in Barnet takes 10 minutes to reach The Spires from its Western Way terminus but 12 minutes in the other direction as it runs around a loop at the Western Way end.

This subject has come to the fore again following my oblique reference to Britain’s Shortest Bus Route in last week’s Oswestry blog. I received a message from Adam at Vectare drawing my attention to a new route that company introduced to its North West Essex network in January with an end to end journey time of just four minutes.

This intrigued me especially as it wasn’t a loop service, just a traditional one terminus to another terminus taking a straight four minutes so I headed over to Epping on Monday to check it out, as on the face of it this could indeed be Britain’s Shortest Bus Route.

It’s route 30 and operates five return journeys every two-hours between Epping St Margaret’s Hospital and the nearby village of Coopersale.

Vectare have even published a route map in their splendid timetable book which includes all its routes in the Epping, Harlow and Waltham Abbey/Cross areas as well as all the details being available online.

There’s one intermediate bus stop on the route at Coopersale Epping Road which is shown as a fare stage in the fare-table and even includes a weekly ticket facility for any passengers travelling just one stop.

In reality route 30 is operationally linked to the much longer route 31 which also runs two-hourly from Harlow via Roydon, Broadley Common, Epping Green and Epping then via Fiddlers Hamlet to Coopersale. That timetable includes two later journeys after route 30 has packed up mid afternoon where the bus turns round at Coopersale.

On the other journeys between 07:40 and 15:37, when the bus arrives at the Coopersale terminus the blind is changed from 31 Coopersale to 30 Epping St Margaret’s Hospital and after a couple of minutes stand time it sets off.

I travelled on route 30 on the 11:37 journey from the Coopersale terminus the bus having arrived on the 11:35 arrival on route 31.

It was all over very quickly after we set off. No one else joined Lee, the driver (who’d just joined Vectare from First Essex in Chelmsford), and myself on the journey although a lady from the route 31 journey asked if she could be dropped off by the pub just a short distance from the Coopersale terminus bus stop as her bags were heavy to carry. Naturally Lee obliged and then we were off.

Coopersale Village terminus

Three minutes later passing through part of Epping Forest on the Epping to North Weald road…

…. we arrived at the St Margaret’s Hospital terminus – slashing the scheduled time by 25%.

Lee set the blind for Coopersale Village for the return journey at 11:55 which would be driven by a relief driver as he was off on his break.

You might wonder why Vectare don’t just cover this new link between Coopersale and the hospital by extending route 31 rather than structuring it as a separate route.

Aside from not being able to have the accolade of Britain’s Shortest Bus Route that would throw up administrative complications as route 31 is an Essex County Council tendered service but the new section of route to the hospital has been added as a commercial venture (or more likely a handy place to arrange driver handovers at break times!).

Nevertheless I think we can call it a genuine route in its own right and, unless anyone knows a route that leaves its terminus and reaches the next* in less than four minutes, Epping’s route 30 must be Britain’s Shortest Bus Route.

* I express it like this as a circular route has to be considered as one route since it is serving new bus stops throughout the circuit (as in Rosso’s route 13).

Congratulations to Vectare for this achievement and also the excellent timetable booklet the company has produced and making it available on board buses.

It’s also very encouraging to see investment in new buses now being deployed on its tendered network including route 13 between Epping and Waltham Cross via Upshire.

I was also pleased to see Central Connect are running a new bus on their recently gained tendered route 418 (Epping to Loughton) from Stephenson’s which during their tenure had been running a smart new bus as I blogged about last November.

Things are definitely looking up in this corner of Essex.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

21 thoughts on “Is THIS Britain’s Shortest Bus Route?

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  1. I can’t beat Vectare’s 30 but a very short London route, which succumbed in the cuts following the 1958 strike, the 235 from Richmond station to the top of Richmond Hill.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Over the decades just about everyone else has had a bash at the public transport nomansland that lies immediately to the north of the metropolis, and up and spreads out from the Lea Valley. A (usually false) dawn is promised every few years, so at last hopefully last man standing TrustyBus (resurrected as Central Connect, with a new modern base in the bus desert near Stortford) and Vectare can at last make something of it. One thing we can be sure of is the longstanding dinosaurs, Wirst and Arriva, dancing (if that’s the word, more like hobbling) around each other, won’t.

    I’m afraid my best guess is if everyone stays around, they tread water, at best. Where’s the business coming from? Essex CC seem at last to have found a few pennies down the back of the sofa to throw into the pot at least, but for how long? An extra evening bus. A nice idea, looks good, but why? Will anyone notice, let alone bother?

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  3. Probably what was the shortest bus route was the Victoria Rail Station to Victoria Coach station shuttle
    At a quick search I could find no trace of it now so it may no longer run

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  4. I’ve forgotten how many times people in the industry have told me that things in public transport are definitely looking up in Essex. They believe it, no doubt.
    Now I know the exception proves the rule; but what proportion of us Essex residents have a better bus service than two, five, ten, or even twenty years ago. So how are things DEFINITELY getting better? The Government at least will be pleased to hear!

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    1. I can’t comment on which people “in the industry” you’ve been speaking to. However, Roger has undertaken a number of visits to Essex in which he has highlighted in this blog, and has been fair in his condemnation of the failings of the major operators and indeed, of Essex CC/TfL. I recall his withering reviews of both Harlow bus station and its environs, the experience of travelling in the badlands where London meets Essex, and also the missed opportunity of the new fleet from First Essex on the X30.

      However, Roger is also quick to recognise the positive impact of operators such as Stephensons, Ensignbus and Vectare. That’s not to say that, on balance, things are better as they are clearly not.

      As for counties whose residents have a better bus service that two, five, ten or twenty years ago… they’re rather conspicuous by their absence.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am certain the Vectare 30 does qualify for the shortest route length, although there are certain services that have even shorter two minute garage journeys, but obviously on much longer routes. It is a pity Essex County Council do not come on board, as there is a possible chance to restructure the service into a “frying-pan” type, with both linking the whole service to the Hospital and stand time taken at Harlow. Although of course it would need to operate both ways round, but would give Coopersale residents a quicker journey into the High Street and access to the Hospital from the entire route.

    This was once London Transport’s 399, and one Saturday morning shortly after conversion to Crew RF, the bus duly arrived at Epping Church, the Conductor alighting first. Over 45 passengers alighted from this 41 seater, and I was astonished to find at least another fifteen seated en route to Hertford. I often wondered how the former “T” class had coped.

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  6. I see from the map that there’s also a public footpath that links the two terminals directly.

    In many parts of the country, folk would be glad of such a path to link them to any bus stop !

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  7. There are plans to try to Extend the Epping to Ongar railway to Epping Station. Currently it terminated a 100 Metres away from the station although you cannot get off there

    The main issue seems to be it needs another platform at Epping Station

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    1. Sort of related as ‘Epping Forest’ halt is close to Coopersale. A central line driver told us that a couple of years ago at Epping. With TfL short of money and one option requiring building a terminal platform on the car park costing TfL both in terms of capital and revenue I can’t see it happening. Best option would be an East Grinsted style adjacent station but wouldn’t hold your breath!

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  8. Weardale use to do a town service around Stanhope twice a week,I think on Wednesday and Saturday,which can’t have taken very long as Stanhope is tiny and I think officially a town rather than village.There use to be a bus linking the three central Birmingham stations too which I guessing was under 10 minutes.I don’t know if either of these still run? There’s one in Middlesbrough run by Compass Royston from Middlesbrough College to the bus station and is free although I haven’t been on it it’s covering a distance you could walk in 10 minutes

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  9. Back in the day Crosville had a route, F25 Heswall-Banks Road, journey time was 5 minutes one way, 10 minutes return journey, even though the return journey used the same roads, this is because the route went down a steep hill, almost all the way, F25 later became the 78 which then took 7 minutes both ways for the same route.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello Roger,
    I suspect that the shortest bus route at least in terms of distance will
    be the service 200 in Chester which operates every 15 minutes between
    the new bus station and the old bus station by the market.

    https://bustimes.org/services/200-chester-new-interchange-chester-princess-st

    As you can see it takes a very generous 4 minutes outbound and 5 minutes
    return and the distance is 0.4 miles outbound and 0.7 miles on the
    return. There is only one stop in each direction other than the termini.

    It was provided by Cheshire West and Chester Council when market traders
    complained about the likely fall in revenue.

    Recently it has been on a diversion which took it through the
    pedestrianised area under the famous clock tower. – photo by Stephen
    Meredith (Was their not a senior Crosville or NBC person named Meredith
    ?) on facebook attached- it is in facebook as being shareable.
    May be an image of 12 people and outdoors

    Regards
    Chris Fenner
    former Commercial Officer, Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I note that, on this 4-minute route, the company advises intending passengers to be at the stop 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled time!

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  12. Interesting blog post. The 30 seems like an interesting quirky route. It would be very interesting to measure the routes as well and see what are the shortest routes in mileage rather than time. I wonder if the 30 would still win or one of the others may be slightly shorter i think.

    Although they do not beat the 30 you found there is also these two bus routes which probably hold a place in the top five shortest bus routes.

    • 898 – Go Ahead More Bus – Poole Bus Station to Poole Asda – This bus route is a traditional end to end route with two terminus and takes exactly five minutes in either direction.

    • 900 – Compass Bus – Crawley Bus Station to Crawley Asda – This bus route is a circular bus route with one terminus and takes exactly seven minutes to do one circuit of the route.

    Both of these routes were previously the Asda Free Bus routes but since Asda cancelled the contracts they are now run as commercial services so you have to pay a fare on them unless you have an ENCTS pass.

    Also you might remember the 8 that Brighton & Hove ran during your time there? I think it just went from the back of Brighton Railway Station near the car park to London Road Shops and back again? I will see if i can find my old timetable books somewhere but i think it must have only taken a few minutes (with the terrible traffic during peak hours in that area it was often far quicker to walk though) as it was an extremely short route?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Brian – interesting re routes 898 and 900. I’d forgotten about B&H’s route 8 – you’re right about it running from London Road shops to the rear of the station – in 2007/08; and snigger incarnation ran from the station to Palace Pier via West Street in 1986. Both must have been very short time wise.

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  13. Considering the fact that about 5 years have passed since S&M/Townlink/Roadrunner died and about 3 years since Regal Busways died. This part of Essex is doing well.

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  14. How about TLC Travel service T2 from Todmorden Bus Station to Longfield Estate. Running time is six minutes going, mostly up a steep hill, and four minutes coming back. Because of the geography, most users just ride in one direction.

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