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Here are Routemasters No. 22 and No. 6. No.6 is showing the destination "Don't Be So Inquisitive". This destination was put on the first set of Reading blinds fitted to the buses, reportedly they were added as a 'dig' at blind-twiddlers and to "fill up the space" instead of having blank exposures. Other destinations such as "London" and "Newbury" have also featured from time to time included from day one, probably added to try to annoy Reading Transport (when the companies were separate).
The Routemasters came into the Reading Tansport fleet in 1998. Mainline originally started operations on 23rd July 1994, operating a fleet solely comprised of Routemasters in competition with Reading Buses. I have information about the operation on a special page: Reading Mainline in Detail .
The type had never even entered Reading until the 1990s when Reading Mainline started it's operations. Almost 40 of the type were based here, the largest number in one place outside London, Reading also became the last place to run Routemasters in service outside London after other towns finished off their examples! When the buses entered the RT fleet they took their place as the company's oldest buses, and so it didn't look as if they would last very long in the fleet. The takeover contract did however include a clause which guaranteed their operation for two years under the new management.
Here is No.20 on Friar Street on Line H in June 1998, No.35 at Reading Station on Line C in August 1999 and No.43 at Turnham's Farm on Line A in January 2000.
Mainline routes A, B, C, E, F, H, J and X were run when taken over. Soon after the take-over some changes were made to these services, lines B, J and X were withdrawn and a new Line D, an extension of Line E was created. Mainline also became the registered name as the contractor to provide the football special buses, but in practise it was rare for more than one RM to be used on the services, and they never ran on anything other than the 79 Shuttle to and from town. On occasions however an entire Routemaster service was provided, this being done on bank holidays and Sundays for football and rugby matches. Eventually the original services were whittled down to just the D and F with a couple of E journeys at peak periods, and Reading Mainline was finally ceased operations on 22nd July 2000.
One surprising event, never repeated, took place on the 26th February 2000, when No.26 operated on Reading Buses route 17, the only instance of a Routemaster ever being used on a Reading Buses route. On the day Reading Buses found themselves 20 drivers short, and Mainline had a spare bus and crew. The Routemaster operated two round trips in the morning before returning to the depot due to union objections. After the event it was stated that if Mainline crews are used on Reading buses routes a standard Reading Bus should be used providing the driver has been type trained. If not then an extra Routemaster should be put on Line F, allowing a 25 to be taken off, and the driver used elsewhere. (This however would leave Caversham with a hole in the service!) Here is No.26 at Tilehurst Bear Inn, the photograph was taken by Tim Wale:
The other interesting thing about this was that the Routemasters had the correct blinds for the whole of the 17 route, the route had seen the operation of Routemasters along it's entirety in the past with Lines B, E and F, but not actually connecting the two termini.
Last updated: 20-03-02
Reading Mainline in Detail
Former RTL Vehicle List
Bus Builder AEC