End of the road for Britain’s second shortest bus route

Thursday 29th December 2022

I wrote about my journey on Britain’s shortest bus route back in August.

That was Vectare’s route 30 introduced in January 2022 between St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping and Coopersale with a four minute end-to-end journey time.

At that time a number of blog readers kindly suggested more contenders for a top 10 of Britain’s shortest bus routes including Laurie who highlighted Thames Travel’s route 90 running every 20 minutes between Didcot’s Orchard Centre and the nearby Tesco.

That also has a four minute journey time for the outward trip but is timetabled for a slightly longer seven minutes for the return journey, making it not quite as short as Epping’s route 13.

News of the route’s upcoming demise after 7th January gave me the excuse I needed to head over to Didcot a couple of Saturdays ago to have a ride while I could.

The route is interworked with the much longer route X2 between Oxford, Abingdon and Didcot.

When the bus arrives from Oxford at the Orchard Centre in Didcot it turns into a 90 and heads off to Tesco, with the same transition applying in the reverse direction.

Pre Christmas Saturday traffic was not being kind to Didcot on my visit and the incoming X2 I was travelling on was already more than ten minutes late when I boarded it in Abingdon.

By the time we arrived into Didcot having battled through slow moving traffic queues we’d already gone past the time for departure back to Oxford even without a round trip on the 90 and the driver sensibly abandoned that journey.

I waited for a while at the Orchard Centre bus stop but it was a forlorn hope any departures were going to happen any time soon.

A tweet from Thames Travel at 14:44 confirmed a shuttle bus was running on the 90 …

… but there was no evidence of this when I arrived around 13:20 and waited until 1357 when a bus appeared and I hopped aboard.

It took us six minutes to reach Tesco, which wasn’t bad considering the traffic…

…. where we spent a couple of minutes changing drivers, leaving at 14:05 …..

….. and arriving back at the Orchard Centre at 14:10 from where the bus continued on to Didcot Station arriving there at 14:13. I’m not sure why the bus went on to Didcot rail station as technically it’s not on the route of the 90, but I guess it’s because passengers can travel through on to the X2 which does serve the station and it’s somewhere to park the bus between shuttles.

No other passengers boarded on the outward or return journey and it’s no surprise the route is being culled in a couple of weeks and will no longer be Britain’s Second Shortest Bus Route.

Which means the top ten shortest bus routes now looks like….

  1. Vectare 30 Epping St Margaret’s Hospital to Coopersale. Journey time 4 minutes each way.
  2. Stagecoach 200 Chester bus interchange to Hunter Street. Journey time 4 minutes out and 5 minutes back.
  3. morebus 898 Poole bus station to Poole Asda. Journey time 5 minutes each way.
  4. Rosso 13 Rawtenstall – New Hall Hey – Rawtenstall. Circular journey time 6 minutes.
  5. Compass Bus 900 Crawley bus station – Asda – Crawley bus station. Circular journey time 7 minutes.
  6. Cardiff Bus H59 Heath Hospital to Park & Ride site. Journey time 7 minutes each way.
  7. TK Travel 153 Henley-on-Thames – Abrahams Road – Henley-on-Thames. Circular journey time 9 minutes.
  8. TLC Travel T2 Todmorden – Longfield – Todmorden. Circular journey time 10 minutes.
  9. Tanat Valley Coaches 404 Oswestry town route. Circular journey time 10 minutes.
  10. TfL 388 Barnet The Spires to Western Way. Journey time 12 minutes out and 10 minutes back … and then there’s…
  11. Eifion’s Coaches 48 Llangefni – Ty Hen – Llangefni – Ty’n Coed Terminus – Llangefni. Journey time 10 minutes and 5 minutes for what is effectively a cross village route taking a round trip time of 10 minutes for one half and 5 minutes for the other, but both are numbered 48.

… unless anyone can suggest any other contenders?

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

36 thoughts on “End of the road for Britain’s second shortest bus route

Add yours

  1. Not quite in the top 10, Brighton & Hove’s 18 as I’m sure you’re aware is a short route taking only 15 minutes to Brighton Station from Stonehurst Court (Queens Park) and 16 minutes back in the early mornings. More time is added during the day. I could imagine how boring these top 10 short routes must be duty wise though.

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  2. Another contender is Go Ahead London 888 luton Airport to Luton Airport Parkway station via Holiday Inn which has a running time of 6 minutes each way. This will be withdrawn when the maglev commences during 2023.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Bixter to Aith Feeders (12C and 12F) on the Shetlands are 8 minutes either way. Uno’s Shuttle is ten minutes for South Hatfield to the Campus and nine minutes for the return trip. Lloyds Coaches 99 in Porthmadog is a 15 minute loop.

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  4. If you are looking for themes for 2023 yet, how about bus routes connecting local areas to the Eliabeth line? – you mentioned to poor state of information for services between Abbey Wood station and Thamesmead when you covered the line’s opening. A new 8-trains per-hour service to central London surely should be inspiring some better bus links … and if it isn’t, why not?

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  5. There’s the weird council contracted routes (I feel like those two things always seem to go together but that’s another story) in Saffron Walden, the 59/590 which run peak journeys to the station. The 59 is 10 minutes in each direction.
    As someone else has already said, there’s the M5 in Ware, too.
    Also from Vectare is their limited service 20 in Harlow. 7 minutes in and 5 minutes out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Back in 2019, the temporary (due tp road closure) 2B in Cambridge must’ve unknowingly been a contender for title, running between the current ‘The Broadway’ and ‘Saimsburys’ stops on the present 2 route.

    Current trip scheduled at about 5-6 minutes each way.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Roger – many thanks for your excellent posts throughout the year. Just a minor correction to no 10 in your list of shortest routes – it is the 389 and to be pedantic it is 12 mins out and 10 back. Its ‘partner’, the 399 runs from Barnet to Hadley Wood Station, 18 mins out and 8 back.

    Happy New Year!

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  8. Not sure it counts… but in Winchester you have the 4 which only runs to Highcliffe on Sundays (11 mins circular).

    It used to be a standalone service (route 11) but got merged with the 4 to Teg Down a few years ago to form a 1 vehicle working Mondays to Saturdays.

    Then there’s the Alton route 9 which is a 15 min round trip to Manor Estate.

    Andover’s town network has a few routes that are 20 min circulars too – possibly one of those could contend?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s a bus in Middlesbrough run by Compass Royston from the town to Middlesbrough College which takes about 10 minutes and it’s free.It goes from stop Z which is near the bus station.I haven’t been on it but anyone can use it not just college pupils.

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  10. Cheating a bit, but back in the 60s, Eastern Counties service 31 in the peak summer timetable had some short workings from Heacham Beach to Heacham Station which took precisely one minute. The main timetable on the 31 would also win awards for the maximum number of codes in a timetable (days, ‘not’ days, stars, daggers, crosses, letters – you name it) but that’s another topic entirely!

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    1. Perhaps ECOC employed someone who’d taken lessons from SNCF.

      I recall looking at the Paris-Mulhouse timetable back in the 1990s and finding one particular working out of Paris Est which was listed no fewer than *14* times because of variations to the intermediate times during the timetable validity period. It didn’t even have any changes to the stops, just the times!

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  11. There’s the Adventure Travel 900 which is allowed 5m from Blackwood Interchange to Aldi and 7m for the return journey. I believe it’s a commercial route operated between journeys on the tendered run to/from Ystrad Mynach station.

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  12. The R9 circular from Orpington is scheduled to take between 17 and 33 minutes for the round trip, so at 8.5 minutes for the out journey may help it qualify in your list.

    As an aside, does it hold the record for the greatest difference between peak and off peak times, at something just shy of 100% difference? Could this search be the subject of your next series of adventures?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Glasgow Citybus 398 must have one of the shortest routes in distance, if not time. I think it has replaced the Central – Queen St rail shuttle and now extends to Killermont St for Buchanan Bus Station in a circular route. 10 minutes from Central to Killermont Street, via Queen St, and 7 mins direct from Killermont Street to Central.

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  14. If we’re looking at historical routes then LT’s 235 used 1 RTL to do the run of three quarters of a mile from Richmond Station to the top of Richmond Hill. It was a victim of the 1959 bus cuts following the 1958 london bus strike. The route was then taken up for a while by a local operator using ex LT vehicles.

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  15. Going Forward Buses run a few contenders albeit only on certain days with very few journeys too. They run the D2 from the aforementioned Didcot Tesco to Didcot Parkway in 7 minutes and their 138A, 147 and 148 seem to take no more than 7 minutes each way on the very few journeys they make. Also whilst seasonal Royal Buses 2 and 2A in St Ives Cornwall are 4-5 minutes each way.

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  16. Appreciate I have an interest, but as Rosso’s 13 is a round trip at 6 minutes, surely its shorter than any of the others 🙂

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  17. If you’re looking at historic routes, in the 70’s London Transport operated a route 511 between Victoria rail and coach stations. While a useful route, it couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes each way (perhaps a bit longer from the coach station because of the one-way system before the bus lane).

    Also, I worked in Barnet in the 90s, and never saw the point of the 399. Hadley Wood is an affluent area where even the nannies have second cars, The route passed my office, and the only passengers I ever saw on it were a couple of nuns!

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  18. It seems like the correct way to record these is to count the round-trip time and quote that (or half it?) because a 6 minute circular is surely shorter than a 4 minutes out and back. One to argue about pedantry 😁

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  19. Stagecoach East Midlands 75 ‘Clowne Town Service’ is a 15 minute circular run so up there.

    Hulleys used to run the 178 Bakewell town service which was 5 minutes each way, but which has since been integrated with the 170 and tweaked a bit.

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  20. Here in Stafford, the 12 to Doxey only takes about 10 minutes from Wilkos to the end. It’s timed for longer but just whizzes round and waits at the end

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  21. How about First Cymru’s 7 Swansea – Marina. 9 mins each way despite it taking a slightly different route on the return

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  22. In West Sussex Crawley. Compass travel route 900. Takes 2 minutes from Crawley bus station to ASDA’s. Then ASDA’s to bus station is 5 minutes. As it’s a circular the whole journey totals to 7 minutes

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