London commuter routes 781 and 784
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|781 and 784|
|Garage||Chalkwell Garage, Sittingbourne|
|Vehicle||DAF SB3000/Plaxton Prima|
|Night-time||No night service|
|Length||30 miles (48 km)|
|Level||Monday - Friday|
Peak hours only
To London am
To Maidstone pm
|Journey time||Around 2 hours 35 minutes full route length|
|Operates||05:48 - 09:21 to London
16:08 - 19:40 to Maidstone
|See also Green Line Coaches|
Commuter services from Maidstone began in the 1980s under the Invictaway banner - a trade name for Maidstone & District Motor Services, then part of the National Bus Company. These services were originally numbered from 978 to 990 and linked towns as far as Tenterden to the Colonnades in Victoria. Over the years, the service had been scaled down due to lack of use, resulting in the Tenterden connection being dropped.
In 1995, the Invictaway services were re-branded into the Green Line network, with coaches initially bearing a white horse of Kent logo and route branding. With a switch to air conditioned Plaxton coaches, the horse was subsequently dropped, but route branding remained. Services from Maidstone were principally numbered from 980 to 985. Again, passenger numbers had gradually fallen, hence the services started to lose journeys and eventually lost the weekend service altogether.
In September 2004 the services were renumbered 780 to 785, after a call from Transport for London to bring the services in line with other express coaches from London which all have 7xx prefixes.
In August 2005, Green Line dropped the services as usage was down to its lowest for years. New Enterprise took over the commuter journeys on Services 781 and 784, running five coaches up from Maidstone and six back from London. The move seems to have improved the service as more passengers started to use the service, which prompted an additional journey up to London to be included in January 2006.
In January 2009, New Enterprise Coaches ceased operation of routes 781 and 784, ending more than 25 years of commuter service within Arriva and its predecessors in Maidstone and the Medway Towns. After which, Chalkwell Coaches introduced an alternative commuter service to the previous ones, only running for coaches from a new terminus at Vinters Park in Maidstone, then following the existing route up to Wrotham. After which the route is diverted away from the A20 corridor onto the A2 and Blackwall Tunnel to serve Canary Wharf. The only exception is the 784 which starts from its original terminus from the Green Line days at Downswood, then from the Running Horse is diverted up Blue Bell Hill towards Bridgewood Car Park before joining the M2 motorway towards London.
The service operates Mondays to Fridays only; mornings from Maidstone, and evenings from London.
There are currently 4 journeys each way. 3 journeys on service 781, running 30 mins between each other, and 1 journey on service 784 towards London. On journeys back to Maidstone, 3 journeys on 781 run every 35 mins and 1 journey operates on 784. A final coach from London leaves at 17:48 as route 731 (E7) to Bridgewood, where feeder coaches are available for passengers requiring them. A feeder coach is also available from Vinters Park for commuters returning on the first coach and living in Grove Green, Willington Street and Downswood.
- † Route 784 only.