Southend Transport
The X1 Story - Diary of Events
This diary was first published by Richard Delahoy in October 2000 to mark the 20th anniversary of the service starting. The subsequent history - leading up to First Thamesway withdrawing their timings in October 2001 and then Arriva abandoning the service completely from February 17, 2002 (with Stephensons of Essex starting a replacement X1 the following day) - will be added here when time permits.
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October 6, 1980 The Transport Act 1980 takes effect - coach services deregulated - X1 starts, every two hours, Southend to Reading via Basildon, Socketts Heath, Rainham, Dagenham, East Ham, Canning Town, Aldgate, Embankment, Piccadilly, Kensington, Hammersmith, Heathrow, Slough, Maidenhead and Twyford. Jointly operated by Southend Transport and Reading Transport.
Southend mainly use the 4 recently delivered DP Leopards, 205-8; Reading provide bus seated Metrobuses and Metropolitans.
Feb 16, 1981 Road service licence granted for Southend to Hammersmith section of route. Reading temporarily withdraw in a dispute with their crews - Southend operate to Heathrow only but the timetable is reduced from 8 journeys a day to 6, until restored from May 23rd.
Feb 29, 1981 Reading resume operation; some journeys now run express via M4. Further road service licence granted.
June 1981 Reading strike again for 12 days; Southend operate full service to Heathrow, one driver sleeping overnight there!
Jan 16, 1982 More local traffic can be carried following the granting of a London Bus Agreement with LT.
Jan & Feb, 1982 A series of rail strikes bring much additional traffic. Southend operate up to 11 Fleetline duplicates each day; Reading’s response is more muted but in February some limited duplication introduced.
May 16, 1982 Last day of joint operation. Differences of opinion over revenue allocation and the development of the service cause the operators to split up. Reading now operate from Reading to Aldgate, ST from Southend to Heathrow, both still numbered X1.
The remainder of this chronology will concentrate on the ST operations.
May 17, 1982 Basic ST service is every two hours to Heathrow, with two shorts to Green Park. One journey omits Basildon.
June & July, 1982 Further rail strikes result in up to 17 double deck duplicates in use, a few provided by Ensign Bus.
July 29, 1982 A Neoplan double deck coach, EFW855X, is tried on X1 for a day; a Bova single deck coach is similarly used on August 18th. Despite these demonstrators, an order is placed for 3 Van Hool Astromega double deck coaches costing £112,000 each.
November 28, 1982 Season tickets (Expresscards) introduced - previously there were only singles, day and period returns.
December 25, 1982 X1 runs on Christmas Day for the first time. It was to operate continuously, 365/6 days a year, until December 24, 1999 (6,209 days without a break!).
April 26, 1983 The first Astromega, 244, enters service - possibly the most exotic municipal "bus" ever. It offers 84 seats in a 12m, 3 axle layout.
May 3, 1983 The first short term hired coach - Colchester Leopard 102 - enters service, due to increasing traffic. It is joined by further hired coaches from Leicester (June onwards), Bournemouth and Burnley (both October), Fylde (November) and Lancaster & Derby (December - the latter providing AEC Reliance’s rather than Leopards). These short term hires peaked in December, when at one point there were 13 coaches on hire at the same time.
May 9, 1983 Peak hours only X21 introduced, Shoebury to Green Park via Thorpe Bay, Prittlewell and the A127.
June 1983 Two ex Midland Red Willowbrook DP bodied Leopards, 211/2, enter service on loan from Ensign but are soon demoted to local bus work.
August 15, 1983 The basic service is increased to hourly M-S and X21 is enhanced.
1983/4 Progressive increases in frequency and continued duplication required as traffic continues to grow dramatically.
Jan 1984 The short term hired coaches start to be replaced by long term hires, numbered 321 upwards. The coach fleet now reaches 20 vehicles. Parcels service started.
April 15, 1984 Major timetable revision, with fewer Heathrow journeys but more peak services. Sunday service upped to hourly. Journeys not via Basildon now numbered X11. Coach fleet reaches 32 vehicles.
May to Sept, 1984 Certain journeys extended on summer Sundays to Thorpe Park or Windsor. Similar extensions operated in 1985.
June 18, 1984 X31, Canvey to Green Park starts with 4 return journeys. Coach fleet reaches 41 vehicles.
October 9, 1984 X31 increased to 7 times a day, M-F; fleet reaches 50.
Jan 14, 1985 The last short term hired coach, Burnley 13, returns home after a long period out of use with accident damage.
Jan 25, 1985 With the delivery of 351, the coach fleet reaches 60, plus 6 more on order; the bus fleet is only 63 vehicles.
April 1, 1985 Another peak hour variant, X41 starts, Prittlewell to Green Park via Rochford, Ashingdon and Rayleigh. X31 increased to 9 peak hour journeys and a Saturday trip introduced.
July 22, 1985 Numbers X10 and X30 introduced for peak hour journeys running fast from Corringham to Purfleet via the newly opened A13 Socketts Heath by pass.
April 12, 1986 Heathrow journeys extended to the newly opened Terminal 4.
June 1, 1986 A significant relaxation in the licencing allows local traffic to be carried between Southend and Basildon for the first time, but some restrictions remain.
Sept 22, 1986 X31 increased to an hourly service M-F and doubled to 2 trips on Saturdays.
Four days later, Cardiff DP seated Olympian 559 was taken on long term hire. 5 more followed in Spring 1987.
October 26, 1986 Bus deregulation day sees the lifting of the remaining travel restrictions outside London, although minimum fares continue to deter short distance traffic.
Winter 1986/7 The service reaches its peak, with services X1, X10, X11, X21, X30, X31 & X41 providing a total of 64 journeys a day, Mondays to Fridays, from the 0430 departure to the 0245 arrival (which could be later, as last coaches extended on request through to Shoebury). In the peak, coaches run every 2½ minutes on average. Six journeys serve Heathrow.
The Saturday service provides 20 journeys, with 18 on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The coach fleet stands at 66, exceeding the size of the bus fleet. This proved to be a real case of the tail wagging the dog, unfortunately.
November 24, 1986 An off peak London service X23 introduced, East Beckton to Green Park. It does not last long, being withdrawn in July 1987!
April 1, 1987 In an attempt to find work for idle commuter coaches, Southend acquire the Culturebus London sightseeing service from Ensign Bus, numbered route 614, running every 30 minutes. It is mainly run by the Astromegas and the Cardiff Olympians, some painted and lettered for the service.
Summer 1987 ST is hit by a financial crisis, with heavy losses. The over expansion of the coach operation is largely to blame, with too many commuter passengers at fares that do not cover the costs involved. Drastic action is needed to avoid bankruptcy.
November 1987 Culturebus is reduced to hourly and then . . .
December 19, 1987 Culturebus is withdrawn and sold back to Ensign.
Dec 21, 1987 Cutbacks see the off peak service on X31 withdrawn, although the Saturday journeys remain (until March 1988) and the Heathrow service reduced to just 2 journeys.
April 3, 1988 X31 drastically cut, to only 4/5 peak journeys. X41 also reduced and X21 & X30 withdrawn altogether.
The Heathrow section is withdrawn altogether (but reinstated from October - see below), coaches terminating at Green Park. The overall service now comprises 32/3 journeys each way, still significant but only half of its peak.
April/May, 1988 Many of the hired coaches are returned, along with the Cardiff Olympians, the Berkhof rebodies are hired out and two Duple 320 bodied DAFs in build are cancelled (one was in fact delivered to ST in white but went to Metrobus; the second went direct to Davies of Rye).
October 2, 1988 A limited Heathrow service reintroduced, twice daily M-F only. It now runs via Victoria Coach Station then Earls Court and non stop to Heathrow, rather than by the "traditional" stopping route through Hammersmith.
Five morning peak journeys are diverted from the Embankment to Westminster, Victoria Street instead of Green Park; the afternoon journeys start from Embankment, however. The main service also extended the short distance from Green Park to Hyde Park Corner. Sunday service reduced to every 2 hours.
In a measure of how curtailed the peak operations have become, the timetable leaflet now combines M-F and Saturday times into one table. One minor extension sees the morning Westminster journeys extended to Victoria Station .
October 1989 "London Coachlink" branding introduced. The first vehicle is reliveried in this style in February 1990.
October 8th, 1989 Residual Canvey service finally withdrawn but Heathrow service increased to 3 journeys, including Saturdays.
May 14, 1990 The last of the "off route" peak hour variants, X41, is withdrawn. The X1 peak journeys which operate via Homesteads and Stanford Le Hope (a variation introduced to replace the X31/X41 through there) are given a separate number, X2, which also denotes coaches making a detour via Pitsea Broadway.
1990 All 6 Astromegas are withdrawn during the course of the year, and only 1 Leopard remains at the year end. New in are a series of A & B registered Plaxton Paramount bodied Tigers.
October 28, 1990 Some off peak journeys diverted into the new Lakeside Shopping Centre.
Summer 1991 With the sale of the 2 DAF/Duple Lasers and the last Leopard (521), the coach fleet has now dropped to just 17 vehicles, all Tigers and the service is now branded as a Green Line service (but the Green Line livery is not adopted until 1995).
August 25, 1991 Further increase in the number of off peak journeys extended beyond Hyde Park Corner to Victoria, now 4 in addition to the 3 Heathrow trips. Victoria terminus now in the Green Line Coach Station, rather than Semley Place.
April 19, 1992 Yet more journeys extended to Victoria, and more still the following year until almost the whole off peak service goes there.
July 5, 1992 In a major blow to the X1, Thamesway start up a competing CitySaver service, mainly running just in front of the X1 and with much cheaper season tickets.
"Winter" 1994 More journeys run non stop as X10 or X11 and more off peak journeys divert into Lakeside, including Sundays for the first time. Number X3 introduced for journeys which serve both Homesteads and Lakeside. Evening peak journeys now avoid Aldgate Bus Station, stopping in Mansell Street instead to avoid the congestion.
A separate table is needed again for Saturday times, as the M-F peak service is quite complex and different to Sats.
April 1, 1995 The first leaflet in Green Line house style appears - by far the most glossy X1 issue in 15 years! In a sign of things to come, the Sunday service is re-routed to run direct from Embankment to Victoria, no longer serving Piccadilly.
Spring 1995 The fleet is partially upgraded, 8 secondhand Volvo B10Ms replacing some of the Tigers. They introduce the Green Line livery to the fleet and the Tigers follow suit.
September 2, 1996 Some morning peak journeys now advertised as running non stop via the new Limehouse Link instead of the A13.
May 4, 1997 The Heathrow service is withdrawn again, this time for good. In a minor reincarnation of the old X21 and X41, one morning journey starts at Ashingdon and runs into Southend as a 7, then on to London, and another from Shoebury as an 8. There are no corresponding return workings, but the last coach at night still extends through to Shoebury on request.
September 7, 1997 Route number X4 appears for two morning journeys ex London, denoting that they don’t serve Basildon.
September 6, 1998 Some of the gloss is lost from the leaflets, no longer carrying a colour picture of a coach and now with Arriva Southend names in place of Southend Transport. The X4 variant has disappeared again and the Piccadilly routing is only served between the peaks M-F, not at all weekends. The last late evening journey is withdrawn and with it, the extension on demand to Shoebury.
October 10, 1999 After many years of competition, Thamesway and Arriva agree to co-operate with a joint service, Green Line branded. The basic service is renumbered 721 (equivalent to the X3/S1, with peak hour variants 722 and 723, plus 720 (Canvey, = CitySaver S5). The Piccadilly section of route no longer served at all.
Basic off peak service every 30 minutes M-S; on Sundays Arriva operate alone, on a 2 hourly headway. No late evening service is offered on any day. Both operators provide 8 coaches and Thamesway adopt Green Line colours. Interestingly, each operator has separately registered their own timings.
December 1999 More fleet variety with the acquisition of 4 secondhand Van Hool bodied Scanias, Southend’s first air conditioned coaches.
January 17, 2000 Revisions to the peak services following numerous complaints. Further variants - 709/10 - introduced, to provide faster peak journeys.
August 2000 Yet more variety, as 2 DAF SB300s are cascaded to Southend from Arriva The Shires, after use on the 757.
Autumn 2000 What is the future for X1 (now 721)? Passenger numbers are not particularly strong, traffic congestion is worsening, the railway has fought back with discounted season tickets. Does the service have a secure future? Only time will tell!
This diary was first published in October 2000 to mark the 20th anniversary of the service starting. The subsequent history - leading up to First Thamesway withdrawing their timings in October 2001 and then Arriva abandoning the service completely from February 17, 2002 (with Stephensons of Essex starting a replacement X1 the following day) - will be added here when time permits.

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Page last updated Saturday 15 November 2003