Caterham and District Advertiser

Friday September 10th 1999

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Bus-trippers mourn the last Tunbridge Wells Fargo

It only ran once a week, but the 411 bus from Caterham to Tunbridge Wells had a staunch following of fans who brought a party spirit to the bus's route.

By Neale Adams

Caterham District Reporter

A PIECE of transport history came to a close this month as the Wednesday shopping run of the 411 bus, known affectionately as "The Caterham to Tunbridge Wells Fargo", ran for the last time.

Caterham bus-trippers are in mourning with the cancellation of the route, which has been part of the timetable since 1921 and operated between East Surrey and Kent, and have even been moved to write a poem about it.

The bus, a service funded by Surrey County Council and run by bus operators Arriva, was cancelled as Arriva said it was uneconomical to run the full service and say that the county council had withdrawn its funding.

But county council bosses say they have not withdrawn the cash but are just getting less for their money.

The 411 route will continue to operate from Redhill to Oxted, via Caterham, although the Wednesday trips to Tunbridge Wells have been cancelled.

Bus enthusiast Alan Edwards from Warlingham has been a regular user of the service for many years travelling from Caterham to Tunbridge Wells.

He said, "There was a group of passengers who regularly travelled to Kent on this bus and despite our support it has finally been withdrawn, we had a pet name for the bus, "The Caterham to Tunbridge Wells Fargo" because it ran once a week in all weathers.

"On special occasions such as Easter and Christmas we wouild have some light refreshments and decorations to hand out to all those travelling and on the last journey we appropriately had Wagon Wheels (Wells Fargo style) and RIP notices and a wreath proclaiming 'the last one'."

The first direct bus route from Caterham, Warlingham and Tatsfield to Sevenoaks began running on March 30, 1994 when east Surrey Buses operated the route 553 on Wednesdays only, the route was altered to run on Mondays to Fridays on September 3, 1994 and was renumbered 253.

The 253 ceased to operate on August 30, 1996. A new service commenced on September 1996 numbered 411 and ran on Wednesdays only between Caterham Station, Warlingham, Tatsfield to Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

Mr Edwards added : "It will no longer be possible to travel between these points in Surrey and Kent without a lengthy detour and change of buses at either Oxted with a 57 minute wait or at Godstone with a 40 minute wait."

The cancellation of the service has been marked with a poem written by Mr Edwards entitled 'Ode to the 411 Caterham to Tunbridge Wells Bus.'

Arriva buses spokesperson Julia Jobling said : "Surrey County Council funded the bus to travel from Caterham to Sevenoaks and Arriva added the extra to Tunbridge Wells. But it is not an economical part of the route and the council withdrew their funding."

But county council bosses deny that they have withdrawn the cash. Richard Shirley said : "We still have an agreement with Arriva and are paying 126,00 a year for the service. It is just now that we are getting less for our money."