London Transport Country Area Routes 400–403 (South of the Thames)

London Transport
Country Area Routes 400–403

South of the Thames

Last updated 18-1-10.

Route 400 was introduced on 14th May 1958 as a limited stop service running on Sundays-only between New Addington (Park Way) and Warlingham Park Hospital via Central Parade, Arnhem Drive, King Henry’s Drive, Fairchildes, Park Road (Fickleshole), Fairchildes Road, Church Lane, Common Road and Chelsham Road using one GS vehicle. The route had the misfortune to be scheduled to start operation in the midst of the 1958 bus strike. It ran on only 17 occasions before being withdrawn after Sunday 12th October.

There were very few Sunday-only Country Area routes. This “E” plate is of outstanding interest, and is in superb condiition owing to its extremely limited life. A remarkable route and a rare survivor.



The number 400 was later used for the former 457B service between Slough Station and Wexham Court Farm Estate via Slough (The Crown) and Upton Lea, running both ways around the Wexham Court Farm Estate loop. It was also (but not necessarily simultaneously) diverted at The Crown and extended to Britwell (Wentworth Avenue) via Salt Hill and Farnham Road.

Plates for route 400 do not seem to appear very often, perhaps because it is a very sought-after number.

Route 400 map

Selkent’s coach-seated Olympian L262 [VLT 14, but originally D262FUL] pulls around past Cityrama’s open-topper number 39 [KUC939P] (ex-London Transport DMS1939) in Trafalgar Square on 30 July, 1988. The Daimler was scrapped five years later, but the Leyland was still soldiering on a decade later. The green-on-yellow “Tourist Route” sticker (partially visible in the enlargement) is a combined one for the 24 and 29.
Andrew Colebourne photo.
24 - 29

In 1988 a new route 400 ran to Greenwich for the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition celebrating the quadricentennial of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Although the route was an express service and and the buses used displayed white on blue blinds, the “E” stickers were white on red and worded 400 ARMADA.


401 401

Route 401 has its origins in a Dartford to Farningham service via Wilmington, Hawley and Sutton-at-Home, operated by Farningham & District beginning on 19 July 1913, and extended to Sevenoaks via Eynsford, Shoreham Station and Otford at the beginning of 1917. It became East Surry route S1 in September 1922. It was extended from Dartford to Bexley (War Memorial) in May 1924, then to Bexleyheath (Clock Tower) in September of the same year. The service became London General route 401 under the Bassom scheme. From May 1934 through November 1935 the route was diverted at Dartford to run to Gravesend (Denton) instead of Bexleyheath. In 1946 the 401 reached its maximum length, being extended from Bexleyheath to Upper (and later also Lower) Belvedere. In 1978 the 401 was withdrawn between Dartford (Shepherds Lane) and Sevenoaks, with just a handful of journeys running to Eynsford or Swanley. The Sunday service between Sevenoaks and Dartford was provided by a new, short-lived route 456. In 1983 the route was extended from Belvedere to Thamesmead.

A more detailed history of route 401 can be found in Kenneth Warren’s book, The Motorbus in London Country (Ian Allan, 1984; ISBN 0 7110 1360 8).

Route 401A ran between Bexleyheath and Dartford via Bexley, Joydens Wood Estate and Dartford Heath. Most journeys terminated at Joydens Wood and did not run through.

A more detailed history of route 401A can be found in Kenneth Warren’s book, The Motorbus in London Country (Ian Allan, 1984; ISBN 0 7110 1360 8).


An “E” plate with wording this specific may have been produced for just a single stop.
Tonbridge fare notice
This double-height “E2” plate was surely from a stop in the now long-gone Sevenoaks Bus Station. The points listed on the plate show it is from a southbound stop, with the 402 heading away from town towards its southern destination. In terms or rarity, there were only two examples of this plate made. ▶
◀ An interesting fare notice from June, 1967, for the Tonbridge routes (402, 403, 454 & 454A).

Route 402 must be considered something of a stalwart. In 2006 few former London Transport Country Area routes still operate over an almost identical routeing—continuously since the birth of London Transport in 1933, when East Surrey’s route S2 from Bromley North Station to Sevenoaks became LT route 402 via Bromley Common, Farnborough, Green St. Green, Knockholt Station, Polhill, Dunton Green and Riverhead. Over the years there were extensions via Hildenborough to Tonbridge and today to Tunbridge Wells. Apart from a short period when the Kentish Bus renumbering scheme rechristened the route 22, the number 402 has been carried throughout.

A more detailed history of route 402 can be found in Kenneth Warren’s book, The Motorbus in London Country (Ian Allan, 1984; ISBN 0 7110 1360 8).

Probably one of the most well known Country Area routes, the 403 was by far one of the busiest, especially on the south side of the Thames. It is also one of the best loved and talked about, and really put its home garage of Chelsham [CM] on the map. Part of the reason is without doubt because London Country Bus Services operated their last RTs on it, some of which even received the NBC green livery. (RT 604—now preserved—springs to mind.) The route began running on 16 August 1921 as London General Country Services’ route S3 between West Croydon and Sevenoaks via South Croydon, Sanderstead, Hamsey Green, Warlingham, Chelsham, Botley Hill, Tatsfield, Westerham, Brasted, Sundridge, Bessels Green and Riverhead. The S3 was renumbered 403 on 1 December 1924 as part of the Bassom scheme. In 1935 the purchase of Redcar from Maidstone & District extended the 403 on 31 July from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge Station via Hildenborough. On 2 September 1936 it was extended westward via Waddon and Beddington to Wallington Station. During the “glory days” of London Transport the 403 ran daily between West Croydon (Bus Station) and Sevenoaks (Bus Station), and was extended on Mondays to Saturdays from West Croydon to Wallington Station via Waddon and Beddington, and also from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge Station via Hildenborough. In 1971 the 403 was withdrawn beyond Chelsham, the through service from West Croydon to Sevenoaks being renumbered 403A. Both routes were also converted to one-man operation at the same time. In later years the Service between Croydon and Tonbridge was renumbered 483, leaving the 403 between Wallington and Chelsham, with an extension to Warlingham Park Hospital. The route now forms part of the main London Buses network and runs daily between West Croydon and Warlingham (Sainsburys), which was built on the site of Chelsham Bus Garage. For years the route gave Chelsham Garage its biggest allocation, and if it wasn’t for a few LRT tendered routes towards the end, Chelsham would have just ran the 403. The garage closed when Beddington Farm opened and that part of London Country fell into Arriva ownership. The sight of red 403s looked very odd at first—and still does today.

Route 483 was the new number for the old 403A service which was renumbered in 1974 to avoid the use of suffix letters on the new Leyland Nationals which had individual blinds for each of the three digits of the route number. It ran between West Croydon and Tonbridge Station via Chelsham, Tatsfield, Westerham, Brasted, Sundridge, Riverhead, Sevenoaks and Hildenborough. In the 1950s route 483 was a Crawley local service from Crawley Bus Station into Northgate. The route ran on weekdays only and was discontinued about 1958.

A more detailed history of route 403 and its branches can be found in Kenneth Warren’s book, The Motorbus in London Country (Ian Allan, 1984; ISBN 0 7110 1360 8).

1936 timetable booklet 1936 timetable booklet
A pair of 24-page 1936 timetable books for routes 403, 408 and 415 originating at West Croydon. A major route revision ocurred on 2nd September of that year when the 403 was extended to Wallington and the 408 to Wallingham and Chelsham, but I don’t know why it was necessary to issue new timetables only a month later (effective 7th October), and why route 409 was replaced by the 403A in that short time.
This is an especially interesting “E” plate having a destination shown, and I would guess that it came from West Croydon Bus Station where buses ran through in both directions. (But see the note for the destinated route 405 plate.) It sold on ebay for £533 in February 2008.
403 - 403 EXPRESS
The 403 was so busy that express journeys were run. To be fair, part of the reason for the route being so busy was that it was a very central one, just like any other that served Croydon town centre. Judging by the irregularities in the figures, this plate may have been hand lettered. In any case, “E” plates with two-colour backgrounds are extremely rare.
403 MON.-SAT. - 483
These two “E” plates would have come from the common section of routes 403 and 483, between West Croydon and Chelsham.
403 MON.-SAT. - 483

This plate could have been made for either incarnation of the route, as it was obtained in 1974 on the renumbering of the route to 483.
This “E” plate is from the 1971–1973 version of route 403, and may have come from the Sevenoaks bus station.

Route 403A began running on 2 September 1936 between West Croydon and the Croydon Mental Hospital via South Croydon, Sanderstead, Hamsey Green, Warlingham Green and Chelsham Garage. On the 1st of January the following year the Croydon Mental Hospital was renamed Warlingham Park Hospital. On 12 October 1938 the route was extended from West Croydon to Wallington via Waddon and Beddington. On 3 July 1971 the numbering of 403 group of routes was changed with the 403 replacing the 403A and 403B between Wallington Station and Warlingham Park Hospital and Farleigh respectively, and 403A being used for the major West Croydon to Tonbridge service via Westerham, Brasted, Riverhead, Sevenoaks and Hildenborough, replacing the section of the 403 running to Sevenoaks. Some of the Warlingham Park Hospital journeys became part of the route 410 service. On 7 July 1973 the route was renumbered 483 to eliminate the use of suffix letters on the new Leyland Nationals which had individual blinds for each of the three digits of the route number.

Route 403A map

Map of route 403A prior to 3 July 1971.

Route 403B map

In the mid-sixties route 403B provided just a few Monday to Friday rush hour and Saturday early and late journeys between Farleigh and Wallington via Chelsham, Warlingham, Hamsey Green, Sanderstead, Croydon, Waddon and Beddington. The main service to Farleigh was provided by the 408 and 470 routes. The 403B was withdrawn on 2 July 1971.

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