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Route 117
2 July 2012

The 117 was one of a number of routes that served the country bus area, yet were worked by Central Area red buses using a route number below 300, Hounslow performing the honours in this case. During the 1930s, buses ran half hourly from Hounslow to Egham via Feltham, Ashford and Staines, with hourly projections to Virginia Water.

On Saturdays, however, and in common with the 116, there was a greatly enhanced service, every 6 minutes as far as Feltham, and every 12 minutes on to Egham during the afternoon! Indeed, at its peak in the early 1950s, there were 18 buses an hour between Hounslow and Staines, with 6 going on to Egham. Staines was a big attraction for leisure journeys; the whole family would go for a walk along the river. It was also as good a shopping centre as Hounslow, and everyone living along the 116 or 117 would go to one or the other on a Saturday afternoon.

The extra Saturday buses were found by reducing Hounslow's allocation to shared routes 33 and 98. Even then, it meant every vehicle at the garage was on the road, no engineering work was done on a Saturday and a stand-by vehicle was borrowed from Stamford Brook. But then, the RT was much more reliable than subsequent types!

The section between Egham and Virginia Water ended in 1933, and the Sunday service was diverted to Windsor Castle. (Readers may be interested in the following Forum Thread, depicting a 117 in this period with interesting historical comments.) Nothing much happened thereafter, until the withdrawal of trolleybus route 657 (Hounslow Heath to Shepherd's Bush) in 1961. This really was the 117’s moment of fame, as it was duly extended to Shepherd's Bush on Mondays to Saturdays, doubling its length. (The replacement on Sundays was initially route 81B.)

However, the route has subsequently been whittled down again. Egham – Staines was withdrawn on Sundays, and then completely in 1975, and Brentford – Shepherd’s Bush was transferred to a translated 237 in January 1978, the 117 also being converted to one person operation on this date. Hounslow – Isleworth no longer ran evenings or weekends.

Competitive tendering brought forth some interesting operators. First was Westlink from 1987, then Tellings-Golden Miller from 1991, using an exceptionally down-at-heel fleet of ex-Midland Fox long Leyland Nationals. T-GM pulled out of bus operations rather quickly, the 117 (and 116) passing to London & Country on 23 February 1992.

Then it was the turn of Armchair from 1996, using new Darts, and further curtailed to Isleworth Fire Station. Armchair retained the route on re-tendering from September 2001, with further new Darts, this time of the low floor variety. The new contract also saw a short and useful extension in Isleworth to the West Middlesex Hospital. Armchair retained the route again in September 2006, with the same vehicles but refurbished. As Armchair had been taken over by Metroline by then the buses have been repainted into standard Metroline livery.

However, in 2011 Metroline lost the route to Abellio London. It was not deliberate, but this has become something of a theme of today's update! New 10.2m Enviro200Darts were obtained, and 8568 (YX11 HPC) passes West Middlesex Hospital in Twickenham Road on Tuesday 20 December 2011.

Photo © John Bennett.

See also routes 237, 116

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