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Route 111
11 June 2010

The 111 is quite a complicated route, which, despite its length, mostly serves residential areas. This is particularly unusual for a route that is double deck. It also serves a lot of places beginning with H – from Kingston, via Hampton, Hanworth, Hounslow, Heston, Cranford and Harlington Corner to Heathrow! (Frivolous aside – a plain digit 1 three times can be re-arranged into an H.) Not only that, but it runs along two different Hanworth Roads! In fact there are four Hanworth Roads, all approaching Hanworth – one from the south west (Sunbury Cross), one from the north west (Feltham), one from the north north east (Hounslow) and one from the south east (Hampton). The 111 is the only route to serve more than one of these, but suppose you asked the driver for a ticket to “Hanworth Road” ...

Contract renewal from 1 May 2010 called for new buses to replace the early centre staircase model previously used. They are standard issue SP class Scania Omnicitys, and SP178 (YT10 XCB) pulls out of Kingston's Cromwell Road Bus Station for the long slog to Heathrow on Tuesday 11 May 2010.

Photo © Brian Creasey.

This bus station was the first of the saw-tooth type in London, and is still unique in that passengers board the bus before it reverses off the stand. Heathrow has since followed with the saw-tooth design for the parking area, but the boarding points are located elsewhere. Although a very practical layout, the design causes problems with London's dual door buses, where wheelchair access to the vehicle is by the rear doors, which do not stop adjacent to the footway. At Kingston, a special stop has had to be added – near where this bus was photographed – to allow wheelchairs to board. This was not an issue when the bus station was built, as the only low floor buses around then were single door.

The route takes a bit of learning; in the Hanworth area buses go along some most unlikely roads. It is not, however, as confusing now as it was to begin with. The number was inspired by the 110 which it paralleled between Hanworth and Hounslow, but it also replaced a circular Hounslow local route numbered 50. Buses therefore ran from Hounslow (Garage) via Hounslow West, Heston and Hounslow Garage again to Hanworth (Brown Bear)! Fortunately, none of the stops in Hounslow were served by both "legs" of the route.

Moreover, on Sundays there was an extension from Hanworth to Twickenham, Richmond, Chiswick and Hammersmith – very strange, as not only was this not a “Sunday version” of some Monday to Saturday route, but at that time there was no bus service at all on Mondays to Saturdays along the roads between Richmond and Stamford Brook! This was said to be in order to provide a service to the cemetery opposite Clifford's Corner, although there must have been more traffic than just that. In any case it was cut back to Twickenham before it was withdrawn completely, but it now ran to Richmond on Saturdays as well.

After the war the south east Hanworth Road area started to be built up, and during the 1950s development progressed towards what is now often called Nurserylands, the area around Oak Avenue, Percy Road etc. Falcon Coaches introduced a service to this area, running in a circle from Hampton Station via Percy Road, Oak Avenue, Swan Road, Hanworth Road, Broad Lane and Wensleydale Road back to Hampton Station. This route therefore did not meet up with the regular London Transport network at any point on its length! The route also had no evening or weekend service. However, the area would soon be served by London Transport itself.

Meanwhile, changes were occurring to the 111. The section between Hounslow and Heston was unravelled, with new route 232 taking over the service via Hounslow West and Vicarage Farm Road, and the 111 instead unfurling to run to Cranford through more developing territory off Cranford Lane. At peak hours buses continued further to Heathrow Airport, or London Airport as it was then still called. The Sunday extension to Twickenham was also dropped.

Then more changes took place involving its associated route 110, which continued to share the service along the Hanworth Road between Hounslow and Powder Mill Lane. The Saturday extension to Richmond on route 111 was stopped, so that buses terminated at Hanworth on all days. Meanwhile the Monday to Saturday only 110 took over the main service between Hounslow and Cranford. The 111 thus became a very short route, just running from Hanworth Brown Bear to Hounslow for most of the week, which would not have taken much more than 15 minutes, although during Monday to Friday peak hours, and on Sundays when the 110 did not run, buses did continue to Cranford. Strangely, Heathrow was not served by either route any longer.

Subsequently came the extension to Nurserylands and Hampton via Hanworth Road, Nightingale Road, Broad Lane and Percy Road. This saw the end of the infrequent Falcon Coaches route, but was a good bit less comprehensive; much more recently the R70 has restored a service to Broad Lane and Oak Avenue. There was no evening or Sunday service, but on Saturdays buses continued beyond Hampton to Hampton Court and Kingston. The Hounslow - Hampton section later transferred to new route 211 when the 111 was converted to on-board fare machines, which wouldn't stretch that far (Cranford to Hampton would have cost too much for the machine to cope with!).

Later the 111 took back the Cranford service from the 110 and was restored to Heathrow, although until relatively recently the 110 continued to run to Cranford at Monday to Friday peaks and Saturday shopping hours. (Indeed at the last re-tendering in 2003 it was proposed to switch the Hounslow - Heathrow section back to the 110, but this would have been very inefficient as well as breaking some popular links and the scheme was dropped.) The 211 was absorbed into the 111, and the Kingston extension became a daily feature; indeed now it is hard to imagine the route without it. Buses also got diverted via The Avenue in Nurserylands in 1982.

The frequency has been improved quite substantially in recent times at the behest of BAA Heathrow. Buses had been running every 15 minutes from Kingston to Cranford, alternate buses continuing to Heathrow; unusually this also applied on Sundays, when the route was Dart operated. The first improvement was for all buses to run to Heathrow. Later the route was further improved throughout to every 12 minutes, and from 2003 operates to 10 minutes, and the peak service was further increased to every 8-9 minutes from May 2010! The improved service is just as well, as the 111 is now the only direct route between Heathrow Central and nearby Hounslow, even if it does not go the most direct way – however, this route does provide a useful counter-example to the often repeated argument that the only way to deliver big frequency increases is to use smaller buses.

See also routes 110, H32, H28, R70

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