London Buses route 81

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
London United ADE24 (Route 81), First Beeline 63191 (Route 7), Slough (cropped).jpg
Operator London United
Garage Hounslow (AV)
Vehicle Alexander Dennis Enviro400 10.2m
Peak vehicle requirement 13
Night-time Night Bus N9
Start Hounslow bus station
Via Hounslow West
Harlington Corner
Heathrow North
End Slough station
Length 12 miles (19 km)
Level Daily
Frequency 12–20 minutes
Journey time 39–73 minutes
Operates 04:48 until 00:35

London Buses route 81 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Hounslow and Slough, it is operated by London United.


London United Leyland Lynx in September 1998

The first regular motor bus service between Hounslow and Slough was introduced on Sunday, 14 July 1912, by the London General Omnibus Company as their route 62. It ran between Hounslow, the Bell, and Windsor Castle, via Bath Road, Colnbrook High Street, London Road, Slough High Street, Windsor Road, Eton High Street, Windsor Bridge and Thames Street. It ran hourly on Sundays only, and was operated from Turnham Green Garage (code V) with B-type buses, which carried 16 passengers inside and 18 on top, at a maximum speed of 12 miles an hour. The first bus was B214, which survived to the 1980s. Passengers were carried on garage journeys between Turnham Green and Hounslow.

The route was an immediate success, and was soon increased in frequency. In August 1912 it stated running daily and was renumbered as route 81, the number it still carries over 100 years later. When Hounslow Garage (code AV) was opened in December 1913 operation was transferred there and it became the route's eastern terminus. The Great War caused shortages of manpower and fuel, and in January 1915 Hounslow Garage was closed and route 81 was suspended. It was reintroduced on Sundays from 2 April 1915, operated with buses from Turnham Green. Wartime conditions led to it being withdrawn again on 24 July 1916.

On 13 April 1919 the route was reintroduced on Sundays, operated now from Mortlake Garage (code M), with garage journeys via Richmond and Isleworth. Operation was transferred to Hounslow Garage when that reopened in July 1919. In June 1920 daily operation restarted.

In 1921 the route was extended from Hounslow via Isleworth, Richmond, and Barnes Common to Hammersmith Broadway. This ran daily until 3 January 1922, when it was cut back to terminate at Hounslow once more.

In 1924 the B-type buses for replaced by open-top NS vehicles.

For the summer of 1926 the route was extended from Hounslow via the newly built Great West Road and South Ealing Road to Ealing Broadway. This was not repeated in subsequent years.

The open-top NS-type buses were replaced by covered-top NS buses in February 1931, and by modern ST vehicles in October of the same year.

Under the London Passenger Transport Act 1933, the London General Omnibus Company was subsumed into the new London Transport on 1 July 1933, and route 81 became part of its Central Buses division.

On 30 October 1935 additional journeys were introduced on weekdays between Hounslow Garage and Cranford, Queen's Head, via Cranford High Street. These supplemented the service on route 91, for which the Queen's Head was the western terminus.

Hanwell Garage (code HW) took over Sunday operation with STLs on 8 April 1936, but Hounslow's STs were back on 12 October 1938. On 3 May 1939, HW's STLs took over on Sundays once more, and on 7 June that year the route was withdrawn between Slough and Windsor on Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings, and Hanwell Garage became responsible for operating the route throughout the week.

The weekend evening journeys between Slough and Windsor were withdrawn on 6 December 1939. On 20 March 1940 the service to Windsor on Sunday evenings was reinstated and Hounslow took over all the Sunday workings, with 5 STs. On 15 May 1940 the Saturday evening service to Windsor was reinstated. On 24 November 1940 some Sunday evening journeys were introduced between Hounslow and Cranford, Queen's Head.

The daytime service to Cranford, Queen's Head was withdrawn on 11 June 1941. From the same date the service was operated with Hounslow STs instead of Hanwell STLs. The allocation was 7 buses on Monday to Friday, 10 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. The Sunday evening service to and from Windsor was withdrawn of the winter between 29 October 1941 and 29 March 1942, between 18 November 1942 and 21 March 1943, between 27 October 1943 and 23 April 1944, and between 29 October 1944 and 6 May 1945.

The remaining Cranford Queen's Head journeys were withdrawn on 30 December 1942. From 5 May 1943 to 15 July 1945 the Sunday morning service ran between Hounslow Garage and Harmondswoth, Peggy Bedford only, as part of a wartime withdrawal of non-essential services.

On 27 October 1943 some of the journeys that terminated at Colnbrook, Plough, in Monday to Friday peak hours were renumbered as 81A and extended along Sutton Lane to the Hawker Aircraft Company's factory, where they made Hurricane fighters. On 19 April 1944 some Saturday journeys were introduced on route 81A. From 12 November 1947 the 81A ran via Colnbrook By-Pass instead of Colnbrook Village.The Saturday journeys were withdrawn from 1 May 1957, and on 29 January 1964 route 81A reverted to serving Colnbrook Village. By now the factory was owned by Ford and making commercial vehicles. The route was finally withdrawn on 22 August 1969. Throughout its operation route 81A used buses from the allocation to route 81.

Between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s the route changed from an infrequent service that took people on leisure outings, to a frequent service that took people to work and the shops. In the Summer of 1936 the route ran once an hour between Hounslow Garage and Windsor on Monday to Friday, and every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday. Only on Saturday afternoon and evening was there anything approaching a frequent service, with additional buses every 30 minutes between Hounslow and Harmondsworth, Peggy Bedford, and also a service every 18 minutes between Hounslow and Cranford, Queen's Head. The fare was 7d from Hounslow to Colnbrook, and 5d from Colnbrook to Windsor.

By 1947 several factories had been built along the Bath Road at Harmondsworth. The service on Monday to Friday ran every 15 minutes between Hounslow Garage and Slough, with an additional service every 15 minutes between Hounslow and Harmondsworth, and a further 15-minute service in the peak hours between Hounslow and Colnbrook, Plough. On Saturday afternoon and evening the route ran every 30 minutes between Hounslow and Windsor, an additional four buses an hour ran between Hounslow and Slough all day, and a further four buses an hour ran between Hounslow and Harmonsdsworth. On Sunday morning there was a bus every 20 minutes between Hounslow and Windsor. In the afternoon and evening there was a 15-minute service to and from Windsor, and a further four buses an hour between Hounslow and Slough.

The ST buses that had operated the route since 1931 (and continuously since 1941) were replaced with new RTs in 1948. In October and November 37 RTs were allocated to Hounslow Garage for routes 81/81A, 116 and 117. They were RTs 832, 834 to 841, 851 to 859, and 878 to 896. Registration numbers were JXN210 onwards. They all had bodies built by Park Royal, numbered 2111 onwards. The first ten, RTs 832 to 851, were type 3RT10, with roof route number boxes at the front. RT852 was the first RT without a roof route number box, and it and the remainder of the batch were designated 3RT3/1.

In 1946 a new civil airport was opened south of the Bath Road at Harmondsworth, and officially named London Airport. Temporary terminal buildings were erected opposite the junction with Sipson Road. At first the airport had little effect on route 81—airline passengers were transported by airline coach to and from terminals in central London. By 1954, however, there were large numbers of "spectators" coming to view the aeroplanes from a public enclosure above the southern portal of a new pedestrian and traffic tunnel under the east-west runway that was close to and parallel with the Bath Road. To cater for these sightseers, on 19 May 1954 new route 81B was introduced at weekends between Hounslow Garage and what was called London Airport Central. It was withdrawn on 16 October 1954. When it was reintroduced on 13 April 1955 it ran every day, although Sunday was its busiest day of the week, with eight buses an hour in the afternoon. By the summer of 1956 the Monday to Friday service ran every 15 minutes between London Airport Central and Hounslow West only, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons there were eight buses an hour between the airport and Hounslow Garage. By the summer of 1959 on Monday to Friday there were four buses an hour between London Airport Central and Hounslow Garage, and a further four an hour to Hounslow West. On Saturday there was a fifteen-minute service between the airport and Hounslow Garage. On Sunday afternoon there were six buses an hour between London Airport Central and Houslow Garage, and a further ten an hour between the airport and Hounslow West, worked by a total of 13 Hounslow RTs.

On 13 May 1962 route 81B was extended on Sunday from Hounslow Garage (by now called Hounslow Bus Station) to Shepherds Bush Green, as the Sunday replacement of trolleybus route 657 (Hounslow and Shepherds Bush via Brentford and Chiswick).

In 1966 Route 81 was extended on Sundays to Shepherd's Bush Green, via Isleworth, although this only lasted until August 1969.

On 18 April 1970, the route was converted from AEC Routemaster crew operation, to single decker one person operation with AEC Swifts. From 1976 Leyland Nationals took over.[citation needed]

There were three variations of route 81. These were the 81A which operated Mon-Fri peak hours from Hounslow to Langley; the 81B, a daily service from Hounslow to Heathrow Airport Central bus station; and the 81C, a short lived service between Heathrow Central and Slough.[citation needed]

The 1980s saw the introduction by London Regional Transport of route tenders, with route 81 the first route to be put out to tender. The contract for the route was awarded to Len Wright Travel, which later became London Buslines, and passed to them from London Buses on 13 July 1985.[1][2]

Tendering saw the route move from Hounslow garage to Lampton (later Isleworth, then Southall) and revert to double deck, using yellow Daimler Fleetlines. These were replaced in 1987 by Leyland Lynxes.[3] On 29 July 1995 the route was lost to Westlink and moved to Hounslow Heath garage using Optare Deltas.[4]

Route 81 was included in the September 1995 sale of Westlink to London United, and by 2000 the full allocation had moved back to Hounslow garage, subsequently being converted to low floor operation. Contract re-tendering in July 2005 saw the route retained by Transdev London with Dennis Dart SLFs.

In April 2008, a Muslim bus driver on route 81 was reported to have stopped a bus at Langley to pray. London United stated that he was in fact on a 10-minute break having been told to terminate the bus in Langley owing to late running.[5]

In October 2009, the route was converted to double deck operation.[citation needed]

Upon being re-tendered and retained by London United, on 28 July 2012 a new contract commenced with new Alexander Dennis Enviro400s.[citation needed]

Current route[edit]


  1. ^ McLachlan, Tom (1995). London Buses 1985–1995: Managing The Change. Venture Publications. p. 27. ISBN 1-898432-74-0. 
  2. ^ Wolmar, Christian (14 September 1992). "Hold tight on the Clapham omnibus: Next stop, privatisation". The Independent. 
  3. ^ McLachlan p.84
  4. ^ McLachlan p.109
  5. ^ "Bosses defend Muslim driver who stopped bus to pray". Slough & Windsor Observer. 6 April 2008.  Also available online at

External links[edit]