Reading Buses

Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 on route Purple 17 in December 2013
Parent Reading Borough Council
Founded 31 October 1901
Headquarters Reading
Service area Berkshire
Service type Bus services
Routes 92
Destinations Reading
Fleet 192 (September 2016)
Fuel type Diesel
Natural Gas
Chief executive Martijn Gilbert

Reading Buses is a bus operator serving the towns of Reading, Bracknell, Newbury and the surrounding area in the county of Berkshire, England. The operating company is officially known as Reading Transport Limited,[1] and is owned by Reading Borough Council.


Previous Logo

Horse tram era

The origins of Reading Transport can be traced back to 1878, when the privately owned Reading Tramways Company (part of the Imperial Tramways Company) was formed. They were initially authorised to construct and operate a horse tram route on an east–west alignment from Oxford Road through Broad Street in the town centre to Cemetery Junction. Significantly, this route formed the core of what became known as the main line of the tram and trolleybus network.[2]

Construction started in January 1879, with the entire line being open by May. A fleet of six single-decked cars were initially used, with 31 horses, providing a 20-minute frequency. The cars operated from a depot on the south side of the Oxford Road, immediately to the east of Reading West railway station. By the 1890s the whole fleet had been replaced by double-decked cars operating at a 10-minute frequency. The company made several proposals to extend the system, add routes and electrify the system. But none of these came to anything, and in 1899 the borough corporation decided to purchase the system.[2]

The purchase deal was completed on 31 October 1901, and the Reading Corporation Tramways came into being. The corporation set out about first extending, and then electrifying the system. The extensions were completed by December 1902, and the last horse cars ran in July of the following year.[2]

Electric tram era

Reading Corporation Tramways opening ceremony on 22 July 1903

The new electric trams started operating in July 1903. Extensions were constructed to the Wokingham Road and London Road (both from Cemetery Junction), and new routes added to Whitley, Caversham Road, Erleigh Road and Bath Road. The trams operated from a new depot in Mill Lane, a site that was to remain Reading Transport's main depot until it was demolished to make way for The Oracle shopping mall in 1998.[3]

The electric tram services were originally operated by 30 four-wheeled double decked cars supplied by Dick, Kerr & Co. In 1904, six bogie cars and a water car (used for keeping down the dust on the streets) were added to the fleet, also from Dick, Kerr & Co. No further trams were acquired, and a planned extension from the Caversham Road terminus across Caversham Bridge to Caversham itself was abandoned because of the outbreak of World War I. The war also led to a significant maintenance backlog.[3]

In 1919, Reading Corporation started operating its first motor buses. These ran from Caversham Heights to Tilehurst, running over the tram lines and beyond the tram termini. Because of the state of the track, the Bath Road tram route was abandoned in 1930, followed by the Erleigh Road route in 1932. Eventually it was decided that the tramways should be abandoned and replaced by trolleybuses, operating over extended routes. The last tram ran on the Caversham Road to Whitley route in July 1936, and last car on the main line ran in May 1939.[3]

Trolleybus era

The first trolleybus wiring erected was a training loop on Erleigh Road, which opened in early 1936. This loop was never used in public service, and was subsequently dismantled. Public service commenced on 18 July 1936,[4] on a route replacing the tram route from Caversham Road to Whitley Street. In May 1939, the remaining tram routes from Oxford Road to Wokingham Road and London Road were converted to trolleybus operation, with a short extension from Wokingham Road to the Three Tuns, and a much longer extension from the Oxford Road through the centre of Tilehurst to the Bear Inn. The extended main line from the Three Tuns to the Bear, still exists today as bus route 17, the town's busiest and most frequent route, and the first to be designated a premier route.[4]

During World War II a trolleybus branch was constructed from the Oxford Road to Kentwood Hill, enabling trolleybuses to replace motor buses with a consequential saving in precious oil based fuel. In 1949 the Whitley Street line was extended to Whitley Wood and Northumberland Avenue and a short branch was built to Reading General station. Subsequent short extensions took the system to its full extent, with the Kentwood route running to Armour Hill and the Northumberland Avenue line running to the junction with Whitley Wood Road.[4]

By 1965, most UK trolleybus systems had closed, and the manufacturers of the overhead equipment gave notice that they would cease production. At the same time the trolleybuses came in for some bad publicity in the local press because they cost more to operate compared to motor buses and they were inflexible, even though the trolleybuses were profitable (Reading's motor buses made a loss), faster and less polluting. Reading Corporation decided to abandon the trolleybus system, and the routes were phased out between January 1967 and November 1968.[4]

The UK's first contra-flow bus lane was instigated along Kings Road, when that road was made one-way in the early 1960s. The trolleybuses continued to operate two-way, as it was considered uneconomic to erect wiring on the new inbound route, London Road. The concept of the contra-flow bus lane was proved successful, and adopted in other places for motor buses.

Expansion and competition

Reading Transport offices in 1985 now The Oracle shopping centre

The Transport Act 1980 deregulated long distance bus services. Reading Transport took advantage of this new freedom to start a service from Reading through London to Southend. The service was numbered X1 and was run jointly with Southend Transport.[5] In 1982 the X1 was shortened to run from Reading to Aldgate in East London, under the "Gold Line" brand, and joint operation ceased.

As a result of the legislation that accompanied the deregulation of local bus services in 1986, the operations of Reading Transport were transferred to Reading Transport Ltd, an "arms length" company whose shares were held by Reading Borough Council. Bus deregulation also meant that the local council no longer had any power to regulate the routes and fares of Reading Transport, nor could they prevent other operators from starting competitive services within the borough.

In 1992 Reading Transport acquired the Reading and Newbury operations of BeeLine, one of the privatised successors to the state-owned Alder Valley. These acquisitions led to Reading Transport operating buses in Newbury, and in the rural areas around Reading and Newbury, for the first time. Additionally, BeeLine had operated a Reading to London service under the LondonLink name, and that was merged into the Gold Line service and the resulting service renamed London Line. The Gold Line name was retained for use by Reading Transport's non-scheduled service business. The London Line service ceased in 2000.

Reading Transport faced competition on Reading urban routes from 1994, when Reading Mainline, an independent company, started operations with AEC Routemasters acquired from Transport for London. Labour shortages created problems for the competitor, and Reading Transport acquired Reading Mainline in 1998. Reading Transport continued to operate the Routemasters under the Reading Mainline brand until they were finally withdrawn in July 2000.[6]

Premier and vitality routes

Optare Excel LowRider in 1999 in a variant of the livery used until the introduction of premier routes

Since 2004, Reading Buses and Reading Borough Council have made a significant investment in upgrading the quality of Reading's main urban bus routes. In autumn of that year, Reading Buses introduced its first branded Premier Route in the form of the number 17, running between the Three Tuns on Wokingham Road and the Bear Inn at Tilehurst via the town centre and Oxford Road, and the linear descendent of the old main line. This was intended as the first in a series of such routes, each providing a weekday daytime frequency of between 3 and 8 buses per hour. Each premier route, or group of routes, would be allocated a distinctive colour, to be used on the buses on that route, and also on maps and other publicity.[7]

Since then the premier route concept has been rolled out on most of Reading's urban routes. In April 2009, a similar concept was introduced to some of Reading Buses' longer distance rural routes. These were rebranded as Vitality Routes, using specially branded green and silver or red and silver buses.[7][8] In 2014, these too were changed to a colour brand, becoming 'Lime Routes'.

Current operations

Reading Buses

Reading Transport operates public service buses under the Reading Buses brand throughout the town of Reading, and to a lesser extent in the rural area around Reading. Most of the urban routes have been branded as Premier Routes, with each route or group of routes allocated a distinctive colour. These colours are used on the buses used on that route, and also on maps and other publicity. Premier routes provide a weekday daytime frequency of between 2 and 8 buses per hour, depending on the route.[7]

Other routes, including some rural routes and non-premier urban routes, operate at lower frequency, varying from several buses a day to two buses an hour. They are allocated a grey colour in maps and publicity, and are currently operated by a mixture of vehicles in a new silver based fleet colour scheme similar to that used on the premier routes, together with vehicles in various previous colour schemes.

Reading Buses also operates the NightTrack network under contract to Reading Borough Council. These services run on their own routes from 23:45 until late into the night. Premier route 17 also operates at these times, but all other routes finish by then.[9]


Following a contract win from West Berkshire Council, Reading Buses will be operating a new brand bus brand called Kennections in the Newbury area from September 5 2016. These routes were previously run by Newbury & District, the bus service trading name for Weavaway Travel, who in turn took them over from Reading Buses now defunct Newbury Buses brand. All drivers will be TUPEd to Reading Buses.

Obsolete Brands

Newbury Buses

Newbury Buses Dennis Dart, pre "Newbury & District" competition

Reading Transport operated public service buses in the town of Newbury until August 2011 and the surrounding rural area under the "Newbury Buses" brand. Two routes were branded using the same Vitality Route brand that was used by Reading Buses, and provide weekday daytime frequencies of 2 buses per hour. Another longer distance route, to Basingstoke, was jointly operated with Stagecoach in Hampshire and branded as The Link.

When Reading withdrew from all commercial and tendered work in the Newbury area the majority of work passed to Newbury & District. The Link is now operated by Stagecoach in Hampshire on a revised timetable to reflect the Stagecoach depot being in Basingstoke.

Jet Black 1 was subcontracted to Weavaway Travel in 2011, using several Alexander Dennis Enviro400s, which are owned by Weavaway but are in a route branded version of Reading Buses livery and are on the Reading fleet system. Additional Enviro400s owned by Weavaway in an allover black livery are also able to be used on the route.

Goldline Travel

Goldline logo

Reading Buses used the Goldline Travel as the umbrella name for its non-public service bus operations, including services operated under contract for various local employers. Goldline Travel was also responsible for the operation of Fastrack and Daytrack park and ride services and "Nighttrack" night bus services, all of which are operated under contract to Reading Borough Council. The private hire section has now ceased.

Goldline Travel had a two-tone green colour scheme. However most Goldline Travel services were operated by vehicles in colour schemes specified by the contracting organisation, and are therefore not easily identified as such. These include Fastrack park and ride services.

Unlike bus services run by Reading Buses, Goldine gave change on their routes. This is mainly for the benefit of visitors who are more likely to use routes such as park and ride than city routes.

In May 2008, Goldline won the contract to operate route 142 from Checkendon, Woodcote and Purley to Reading, the route was previously operated by Thames Travel. However when the route was next tendered, in May 2012, the contract reverted to Thames Travel.[10]

In February 2009, the private hire services run by Goldline ceased, and the coaches were all sold.[11]

Loddon Bridge Park & Ride

In 2015, Loddon Bridge Park & Ride route 500 ceased and the site was closed, having been superseded by Winnersh Triangle Park & Ride, following the completion of the new site by Reading and Wokingham Borough Councils.


As at May 2013 the fleet consisted of 165 buses.[12] The fleet livery is silver and cream, although most buses are painted in colour schemes for individual routes. New "Emerald" buses for South Reading routes 5 and 6 were introduced in May 2015. These have Euro VI compliant diesel engines but are not electric hybrids. The new buses are equipped with USB charging ports and 4G Wi-Fi.[13]


Ethanol fueled Scania OmniCity in May 2008 in the livery it carried when used on the 17

Reading Buses has a history of experimenting with biofuels, including biodiesel and alcohol fuel. By 2008, all but one of Reading's bus fleet was fuelled by a mix of 5% biodiesel and 95% conventional diesel.[14][15][16]

In late 2007, Reading Buses placed an order with Scania for 14 ethanol fuelled double decker buses to replace the existing fleet of biodiesel powered vehicles operating premier route 17. At the time the order was placed, this was the largest order for ethanol fuelled buses in the UK. These buses started work on 26 May 2008.[17][18][19]

In October 2009, it was discovered that instead of the bio-ethanol fuel having been sourced from sugar beet grown in the English county of Norfolk (as had been advertised), it was actually made from wood pulp imported from Sweden. On learning this Reading Borough councillors launched an investigation into how they and the Reading Transport Board could have been deceived. All the ethanol-powered buses have since been converted to run on the same bio-diesel mix as the rest of the fleet.[20]

Reading Buses has 31 hybrid (diesel-battery-electric) buses which are used on routes Lion 4/X4, Purple 17 and Yellow 26.[21][22][23]

In May 2013, 20 buses powered by compressed natural gas were introduced. These are used on the Greenwave routes,[24] on Scarlet 9 and on Bronze 11. These buses have also been introduced on Lime 2, The Leopard 3 and Pink routes 22 and 25.[25][26]


  1. "Companies House extract company no 2004963". Companies House. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 "Reading Horse Tramways". Bus Zone. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 "Reading Corporation Tramways / Transport". Bus Zone. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Reading Corporation Transport – Trolleybuses". Bus Zone. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  5. "The X1 Story". SCT61 and Richard Delahoy. April 2003. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  6. "Reading Mainline". Bus Zone. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  7. 1 2 3 "Reading Buses – Premier routes". Reading Transport Ltd. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
  8. "Bus in the Countryside 2009". The Bus Industry Awards Limited. Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  9. "NightTrack". Reading Borough Council. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  10. Crossley, William (31 May 2012). "Customer feedback fuels bus shake-up". Oxford Mail. Newsquest (Oxfordshire & Wiltshire) Ltd. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  11. Bus Zone – Updates May 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008
  12. Fleet List Reading Buses May 2013
  14. "All aboard the bio-diesel buses". Reading Evening Post. 8 March 2007. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
  15. Thorne, Lucy (1 May 2008). "Bus fare hike looms as fuel prices rocket". Reading Chronicle. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  16. "Public Meeting on Climate Change". Friends of the Earth. 23 October 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  17. "Reading Transport places UK's largest ever order for ethanol-powered buses". Scania. Retrieved 11 February 2008.
  18. Mbubaegbu, Chine (22 May 2008). "New 24-hour green bus service on road". Reading Evening Post. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  19. "Reading Buses – Route 17". Reading Transport. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  20. "Red light for 'green' bio-ethanol buses". local newspaper. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  21. "One Third Hybrid". Reading Buses. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  22. "Hybrid buses to hit the streets / Reading Chronicle / News / Reading". 30 November 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  23. "Hybrid buses for route 17 – Business – getreading – Reading Post". getreading. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  24. "greenwave". Reading Buses. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  25. "Lime routes". Reading Buses. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  26. "New gas buses". Reading Buses. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
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