Go-Ahead owned Oxford Bus Company has announced that its long-established X90 coach service between Oxford and London Victoria will be withdrawn after service on Saturday 4th January 2020. The operator cites falling patronage due to improved rail links between the two cities, including the new Chiltern Railways services which commenced in December 2016, and worsening traffic congestion. The service now makes a considerable loss which is no longer sustainable.
Pro-rata refunds will be arranged for holders of season tickets with expiry dates beyond 4th January, and for unused journeys on 12-trip tickets. Refunds will be available from 2nd January.
Oxford Bus Company's Airline routes between Oxford and Heathrow/Gatwick Airports are not affected by the announcement and will continue to operate. Stagecoach will also continue to provide a coach service between Oxford and London Victoria on its 24-hour Oxford Tube route, which even has journeys on Christmas Day.
The X90 has its roots in the motor coach services that were established in the early 1920s along the old A40 road between Oxford and London. Motorway express journeys, taking advantage of the newly-constructed M40 motorway, first appeared over 40 years ago; initially these were operated as timetabled relief journeys but they quickly proved popular and the motorway express became a regular-interval service.
Heathrow Airport seems to have a new-found love of supporting bus links, they have been working with Reading Transport Ltd. lately to support and develop route 10 from Dedworth and Windsor, and also the new 459 for the Langley/Iver area.
Stagecoach are very clearly responding to the withdrawal of the X90, and their PVR (Peak Vehicle Requirement) will increase from 25 to 31. To cater for this seven Van Hool Astromegas* are being cascaded from Stagecoach West Scotland where they have recently been displaced from Megabus work. The new timetable will feature "express" journeys**, these will operate via Marylebone and will not stop at Notting Hill Gate, Shepherd's Bush, Hillingdon Station or Lewknor Turn but will stop at White City on request. These operate at selected times on Monday-Friday only and are clearly intended as timetabled relief journeys for the busiest commuter and tourist flows - which, ironically, is exactly how the X90 originally came into being (as the 190) in the first place!
* the seven Astromegas are listed as 50233, 50235, 50244, 50245, 50246, 50247 & 50250
** the express journeys are: - from Oxford, Gloucester Green at 0550, 0610, 0630, 0650, 0710, 0810, 1310, 1410, 1440, 1510, 1540, 1610 - from London Victoria at 0700, 0800, 0900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1650, 1710, 1730, 1750 - from Marylebone 20-25 minutes later
An hourly service will operate on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th January, with the last coach to London and back carrying a commemorative banner.
Oxford Bus Company is offering free rides on vintage buses and coaches on Saturday, between Gloucester Green and Thornhill Park-and-Ride. There will also be an information stand at Gloucester Green between 10am and 3pm, where a commemorative booklet outlining the history of the coach service between Oxford and London will be available.
In the meantime Oxford Tube is advertising its increased timetable and express journeys starting from this Monday 6th January. They also have a "special offer" price of £1,025 on an Annual Pass, which as well as the Oxford Tube also includes free travel on all Stagecoach Oxfordshire services (not the X5 coach, or the S6 which is a Stagecoach West service). The Pass must be paid for by 31st January.
All the regular X90 drivers who wish to stay with the Company will be redeployed.