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.
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.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu