AEC Swift BPH 106H
A SWIFT Diversion
AEC Swift

There was a technician in the little company where I work who used to live at Bookham. What a small world...... When I asked her if she could by any chance recognise the location of the photograph overleaf she replied that she thought she could. Some six months later, she returned from a visit to her mother with photograph for me, taken from the same spot about 30 years after the one which shows SM106 passing. Some places change very little........trees growing, fence posts rotting........

Bridge Street, Leatherhead 2004 © Liz Dyke

Bridge Street, Leatherhead 2004. Photo by Liz Dyke

SM106 at Leatherhead © Peter Graves

Leatherhead Bus Garage was just a bit further down this road, over the river and under the railway. The proximity to the river led to flooding on occasion, and in September 1968 there was a serious incident that resulted in the majority of the buses being rendered inoperable. Red buses were drafted in en-masse to get services moving again. Such buses were commonplace however in Leatherhead as 'red' route 71 terminated at the town well into London Country days. The bus garage was demolished in April 1999 and redeveloped as office accommodation.

The other photo was more difficult to place - but a hunch suggested that it was Epsom, as there were few other locations on the 406 route which would warrant lettered stop poles (just visible above the roof at the rear of the bus). Eventually, I hit upon the (obvious) solution of searching for PICTURES of bus+epsom with Google. The second offering was a reference to Matt Wharmby's LONDON BUSPAGE, and a story relating to the woes of the 293 route - which was operated by London & Country from Leatherhead in earlier times. A request to Matt brought a decent-sized image by email, and we had a definite match on the location, which is to the North side of the famous Clock Tower.

Town Centre, Epsom, 2003 © Matt Wharmby

Epsom Town Centre, 2003. © Matt Wharmby

SM106 at Epsom © Peter Graves

Although the hairdresser's shop has changed very little, a new shopping centre has been built in the left background. It is good to see that little architectural gems such as this can survive and endure as markers for future historians. There is still a stop pole in almost exactly the same place (behind the Mercedes), but now it is lettered C. It could be the same tree, too!

Another point for the Surrey transport historian is the amusing fact that both the 406 and 418 routes still exist in a recognisable form today, albeit truncated. From October 1978 the 418 metamorphosed into a group of routes called 476/8/9 which incorporated the 481 and 419 and cut out the long and tedious diversion via Berrylands, giving better journey times to Kingston. A 20 minute service on the 406 combined to make a 10 minute interval service from Epsom to Kingston, which was always interworked in this way - although the 406 was more frequent than the 418 and half the 406 journeys only ran as far as Tadworth. The early 1980's saw many instances of peripheral 'red' routes being operated by London Country under tender because they were cheaper than equivalent London Transport provision. It is also shocking to realise that the busy 418 route did not manage to cover even 75% of its operating costs in 1976/77. Despite the progressive loss of the LCBS legacy services over the years, a tendered service numbered 406 still runs from Epsom to Kingston via Ewell, and a 418 via West Ewell, initially operated by London United for TfL and giving four journeys per hour combined on weekdays. The contract switched to Epsom Coaches' Quality Line brand in 2007, for which they purchased their first double-deck buses. Now, however, Epsom Coaches are owned by RATP. How ironic that the routes are not only firmly established as 'red' routes after all these years on the green fringes of London's country, but as an offshoot of the state-owned public transport proviser to PARIS! The other remarkable fact is that a combined 10 minute interval service is still maintained by the combined routes from 05:00h until 18:15h, and 15 minute interval until midnight. Even Sunday sees a 15 minute interval service! Berrylands is now served by the ten-minute interval K2 local service between Hook and Kingston operated by London United.

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