This post should give you an introduction into the town and its network, although I'm still no expert yet and if some key information is missed please point it out in the comments box. For specific details I recommend using the Reading Buses website, which has timetables, maps and even a fleet list which can help in tracking specific buses on RVF. Their depot is based at Great Knollys Street, which is close to the town centre and there is even a Reading Buses shop located in the Broad Street Mall, where services include the provision of timetables, along with purchasing tickets and general enquiries. By taking you through each set of routes, a large variety of types will be documented and my views on each of them will be present too. Hopefully, you are able to enjoy this interlude from the London service changes and are tempted to try out their network yourself. In terms of fares, I would recommend using plusbus, by attaching a "simply reading" day ticket to your train ones, this not only helps save money, but also makes sure you can complete most of the routes in urban Reading for just £4 or maybe less. For more details, click here to investigate which ticket is best for you, although if you want to sample those that travel further afield, a more expensive "simply network" ticket might be better for you.
|Reading Buses 1202 is seen on the 1 at St Mary's Butts.|
|Reading Buses 434 is seen at St Mary's Butts on one of the occasional 2a trips to Tadley.|
|Reading Buses 426 is seen on stand at Reading Station.|
|Reading Buses 185 is seen along Friar Street.|
Another oddity that runs locally is the weekday only X3 service, providing three return trips between Central Reading and Shinfield Park Foster Wheeler, running non-stop between these destinations and using the dual carriageway rather than Shinfield Road, with an allocation of double deck vehicles. Although this route should be brilliant for fast running theoretically, it only runs during rush hour so I suspect the X3 is full of traffic rather than speedy buses, although it might be worth giving the service a try just in case. I'm not too sure on loadings for this one as I didn't see the bus at all during my visit, but it seems like one of the stranger routes found in Reading. In conclusion, the Leopard corridor is one of the more varied examples out there, containing gas E300s that go to the countryside, double deckers that run at peak times to offices and nutty gas Solo's that stop within the boundary. Pretty good, I'd say.
|Reading Buses 211 is seen on Friar Street working the X4 to Bracknell.|
|Reading Buses 760 is seen at Station Road on the 5 to Northumberland Avenue.|
|Reading Buses 527 is seen on the 6 to Whitley Wood.|
|Reading Buses 765 is seen on the 6a to Tesco Depot.|
Admittedly, I only found out that Reading Buses runs a number 7 service a few days ago, after my trip there. It's one of the most elusive routes on the network, with no advertising and no colour-coded branding either. The 7 only runs during the evening (one or two trips in each direction) and on Sundays, where four return trips are provided. The route runs to Riseley, a small village located outside of the town centre and the "simply Reading" boundary, further South than Spencers Wood. In order to travel between Riseley and the Central Reading, the 7 goes to Kendrick Students Village and then uses Basingstoke Road like the 6, although instead of serving Whitley Wood it continues in a straight line further South than the M4. This service only runs at these quieter times because Stagecoach number 7 service stops before the evening and doesn't run on Sunday - it actually continues all the way to Aldershot. Presumably, they withdrew these short trips and Reading Buses stepped in to save them, so Riseley continues to have a (sort of) accessible bus service. The route is operated by single deck gas-powered Scania Enviro 300s and I would love to be able to try the 7, but unfortunately I wasn't in Reading late enough to be able to snap one. It looks like a somewhat interesting route, becoming rural after leaving the boundary and if you are committed enough to intercept one of these rare trips, you might be in for a treat.
|Reading Buses 167 is seen on the 9 to Whitley Wood, using a bus that's colour-coded for the 12 but actually turns up on any of the Earley Gate routes.|
Routes 9 and 19 both serve similar areas and are often grouped together, although this wasn't always the case. The 9 actually had its own brand before, it had an allocation of gas-powered Scania E300s and was labelled the scarlet, running at a civilised 30-minute frequency - it was quite a substantial service in the Reading network. However, it seems that all of these scarlet buses have disappeared and are now found in different liveries on other routes, like the leopard services, presumably because the 9 wasn't used much. It now uses a neglected batch of E200s that trundle back and forth between Reading and the large one-way loop at Whitley Wood. The 9 takes considerably longer than the 6 to reach Central Reading, but it serves more housing and delves deeper into the estates at Whitley Wood and the edge of Shinfield Park. After running past the Royal Berkshire Hospital and University Of Reading, it serves side roads in a horizontal direction until ending up at the edge of Kennett Island, where the 9 runs along Basingstoke Road Southbound only, until Whitley Wood, where it curves around and joins the outbound routeing again at the edge of Shinfield Park, allowing the bus to travel back into Central Reading. Confusing, isn't it. The 9 generally runs at a dismal hourly frequency, with no buses at all during the morning and evening rush hour, bar two trips that run between 7 and 8pm, after a three hour service gap. The downfall of this service is unfortunate to see, especially with the frequency cut and unappealing bunch of buses.
|One of the E200s is seen on route 19 to Lower Earley.|
The final route along the corridor at the back of the University is the 12, which was introduced fairly recently to replace routes 19a and 19c. After the Earley separation point, the 12 crosses Wokingham Road and heads up to Woodley, where it serves a few inner roads which the substantial 13/14 circuit routes can't reach. It then terminates fairly close to the town centre. It takes 55 minutes from start to finish, which is 30 minutes longer than the 13/14, but this route isn't meant to be a fast link into Central Reading, but rather a lifeline where mainstream routes are inaccessible. It runs at an hourly frequency, although in rush hour the bus terminates at Chequers rather than running all the way to Culver Drive in Woodley. The route is technically allocated the solitary orange Streetlite, although this isn't always the case and one of the "nineteens" branded E200s is often seen on the route. Like the other two, this one doesn't seem particularly interesting and spends 80% of its time going past houses, although the actual Earley Gate corridor itself could be fascinating, especially if there are glimpses of the university. Therefore, even though these routes may not seem appealing on the surface, being very residential and not running very often, they might be fun to ride on some degree and I'd definitely be inclined to try them out, even if they're not a top priority for exploring the town.
|Reading Buses 419 is seen on route 11 to Coley Park.|
|Reading Buses 903 is seen outside the Station.|
Admittedly, I did find route 13 a little tiresome, as much of the scenery in Woodley is identical, consisting of low-density housing with nothing much else to see, bar the occasional school or green space. The full circuit takes around 70 minutes to complete and there are certainly more fascinating parts of the town to admire. However, for residential route lovers this route is probably perfect and the fleet of high-specification Streetdecks are unique in the Reading fleet and I enjoyed my experience on them. So, perhaps the Woodley circular routes are some to try, perhaps for the bus type rather than the surroundings.
|Reading Buses 840 is seen on route 15 to Calcot IKEA.|
I sampled the 15 on my trip to Reading, taking an Olympus to Calcot, which sounded a little clapped out - the engine was screaming its head off and the bus struggled to maintain any kind of speed above 15mph on both the dual carriageway and the massive hills that this route has to undertake. This amusing bus helped to make the experience even more fun and the 15 is one of my favourite routes run by Reading Buses. Some of the via points are rather quaint and the sheer variety of areas this route passes through in such a short time period makes it constantly intriguing, with no boring parts at all. Although the approach out of Reading is urban, along the bustling Oxford Road, the route all of sudden becomes extremely hilly and serves Dee Park, a relatively new housing area that's surrounded by a power station and what appears to be the side of a valley, creating a rural atmosphere. After some fast running, the 15 briefly becomes residential, before passing the urban part of Tilehurst and the stunning water tower. Some sensational views of the Berkshire countryside can be found as the 15 curves its way downhill through green forest, until the final stretch of dual carriageway which leads it to Ikea and Sainsbury's, the terminus of the route. The 15 certainly isn't your average route and hopefully you can understand why I love it so much, it's definitely one to try out!
|Reading Buses 843 is seen on route 16.|
|Reading Buses 220 is seen on route 17 to Tilehurst Water Tower.|
|Reading Buses 1101 is seen on the 17.|
|An E400 MMC navigates Friar Street on route 21.|
The claret 21 runs between Reading Station and the residential part of Lower Earley, via Reading University. It's another main trunk route radiating out of the town centre and is one of the busiest on the network, having a quarter-hourly service between Lower Earley and Central Reading, with additional trips during term time boosting the frequency to 8bph between the town centre and Reading University. The Sunday frequency consists of 3bph, whilst evenings and Friday/Saturday nights have a half-hourly service, with this reducing to hourly on Monday-Thursday nights ; the 21 is another 24-hour service running to the South-East of the town centre. A full circuit takes around 65 minutes and despite the residential nature of the service, I really enjoyed my trip on the 21. There's a wide range of different housing areas, from the large mansion-style homes near the university, to the typical outer-suburban settlement of Earley, although there are frequent breaks including green spaces and retail areas, making the route both balanced and a relaxing experience.
|Reading Buses 807 is seen on the 21.|
have been heavily refurbished and work the 21a shuttle between the town centre and Reading University during term time. These vehicles are called Claret spritzers and on the surface they might look like typical branded Reading buses. However, the upstairs interior has a rather radical design, which is meant to be appropriate for the university students who are the regular users of the 21a. Towards the rear seating is in a social style, with tables and a U-shaped booth. There are three zones, with the front portion of the bus being dubbed the "study zone", where people can simply sit down and enjoy the view (like I did) or get on with work - unusually on the right hand side the seats are isolated rather than being in a pair. There is also a lamp for anyone wishing to study, although unfortunately the light bulb has been stolen on 807. In the middle there's the spritzer library, where people can exchange different novels by placing them on the bookcase and collecting another, but on my trip it was empty. The play zone contains tables which should have tablets embedded into them, along with board games and lego, although none of these luxuries were present on my bus. At the rear there is the lounge zone, with the seating booth, contactless phone chargers and an mp3 jukebox, which can be connected to electronic devices in order to play music on the bus, although this seemed to be dead too. Even though students seem to have taken advantage of these spritzer vehicles and almost nothing works, the interior is quirky and they're still a pleasure to travel on. They don't just run during term time either, they are frequently found on the Earley service and other Reading routes during holidays. The revamped OmniDekka's are certainly some of my favourite vehicles in the fleet and I definitely recommend you take a ride on one.
|Reading Buses 201 is seen on the yellow 26 at Calcot IKEA|
|Reading Buses 803 is seen on stand at IKEA.|
|Reading Buses 704 is seen on route 33.|
Personally, I feel that the route could be a candidate for 24-hour operation, as it serves a large chunk of residential housing that's isolated from the rest of the night network and the route seems to be quite busy overall, with lots of demand for both services. Nevertheless, I sampled the 33a service on my trip (due to time constraints I couldn't continue all the way to Turnham's Farm) and the route was decent. I was entertained throughout the journey, even though much of it is residential in nature. There are occasional green spaces or unique buildings to look at, although the Turnham's Farm section does look pretty tedious with pure housing and a couple of schools. However, the most interesting element of the 33, in my opinion, is its allocation. Two ex-Claret diesel MMCs are branded for the service, but the five gas powered versions are what appeals to me. They are some of the first double deck examples of gas powered buses in the UK and are in the form of five ADL Enviro 400 MMC-bodied Scania N280UD vehicles. In terms of engine, they sound pretty similar to a regular OmniCity, except that the tone is more refined and the build quality is superb, offering a smooth ride and a motor which is satisfying to listen to. They have comfortable seating and all the Reading Buses extras, making them some of my favourite modern buses in the fleet. Therefore, I recommend catching a 33 to Tilehurst purely because of these buses ; you don't usually find them elsewhere.
|Reading Buses 431 is seen on Friar Street.|
The pink 25 is the only service to leave the "simply Reading" boundary on the Northern side of the town and is the last example to talk about that does this. It undertakes a loop in Central Reading and uses the Eastern crossing to leave the town centre. Instead of faffing around in the housing settlement, the 25 takes the most direct route through Caversham, being significantly quicker than the 24 or 23 in reaching Emmer Green, the end of the "simply Reading" zone. After this, the 25 becomes somewhat rural, serving the small villages of Sonning Common and Peppard Common, where it terminates. Route 25 fascinates me, not only because it goes to a large chunk of Berkshire on its own, but because of the isolated settlements and villages in the middle of the countryisde that it serves in detail- it's one of the only routes on the Reading network to do this, and if you invest in the more expensive "simply Network" ticket I'm sure using the 25 will be interesting, if you like looking at nature. A modest frequency of every 30 minutes is in place from Monday-Saturday, with this reducing to hourly on Sundays. Surprisingly, this route doesn't run late in the evenings, with the whole service packing up by 20:45. Its allocation is shared with the 22, using the pink gas-powered E300s and only two of these are required to run the service at peak times, due to tight timetabling. Overall, the pink single deckers seem to be largely interesting, with the 25 being particularly unusual.
|Reading Buses 1104 is seen on the 24 to Emmer Green.|
|One of the generic OmniCity vehicles is seen on Friar Street. The blind clarity isn't great on these vehicles - the destination is Caversham Park.|
|Reading Buses 654 is seen on Friar Street working route 29.|
|Reading Buses 381 is seen on the 42a to Central Reading.|
|Reading Buses 402 is seen on the Greenwave service 53 in Central Reading.|
Personally, I wouldn't bother trying to use a bus that serves the Tesco Depot, there's nothing much to see bar a massive warehouse and the timings are extremely inconvenient - you can probably catch a glimpse of it on the 60 service anyway. If you travel on a weekday, I would recommend using the Greenwave services between 9:45 and 13:00, before and after all the other messy route variants kick in. To start, take the 53 from Reading Town Centre to Madejski Stadium (this takes you via Green Park) and then take the 50a service from the Stadium back to Central Reading, this route takes you through Kennet Island. After this, use any route 60 variant that turns up apart from the 60X and this covers both Reading International Business Park and Mereoak Park & Ride - you'll probably end up using the same bus to head back into town. The total journey time for travelling on all three routes is around 135 minutes, which does sound like a lot, although this does cover pretty much everywhere on the Greenwave network and you might be inclined to skip out a route or two once I give details about where they go.
|Reading Buses 409 is seen on route 50a at the Madejski Stadium.|
Sunday is surprisingly a really good day for using Greenwave, although travelling on the rest of the Reading network can be a pain. There's a service called the 62a which runs hourly from Central Reading and serves Kennet Island, Green Park and Mereoak all in one journey, with the other areas all visible from the bus. Travelling there and back takes around an hour and you can cover a decent amount of this industrial area, although checking for football/rugby matches is always a good idea.
|A generic gas-powered E300 is seen in Reading Town Centre.|
Kennet Island used to be really industrial and there is still evidence of old warehouses and factories, some of which are abandoned, although a bunch of new homes have been built near the dual carriageway, along with a retail park. The contrast between the modern residential architecture and the abandoned, derelict and forgotten factories which lie so close by make this area strange yet satisfying to travel through, as if you've so many different sides of the town all in around 5 minutes. The nearby A33 also provides the constant noise of various vehicles roaring by at high speed and it was definitely one of my favourite places to travel through on my trip.
When there are no matches, the terminus at the Madejski Stadium feels desolate and lonely - a bunch of parked cars and a massive, daunting sporting venue essentially in the middle of nowhere, with not many people walking around and the sight of factories in the distance. From here, the 53 takes you through Green Park, which is essentially a business park not dissimilar to Stockley Park and Chiswick Business Park in London. Although there are so many tall and metallic offices, green space surrounds the sole through road, Longwater Avenue, and there are lakes and patches of water everywhere. The whole area feels quiet and is almost always deserted, with the nature outside being quite the opposite to the thriving technology inside the buildings. Beyond the offices, a housing development is being built opposite the lake with some of the homes next to the dual carriageway - seeing a construction site in action is always intriguing and it will be nice to see the finished product in a few years. A railway station along the GWR Reading-Basingstoke line will open here in 2020. I hope my description gives you a vague idea of why I loved travelling through Green Park and the justification for route 53 being my favourite on the Reading network, having both fast running and some interesting sights to pass through too, with the quiet terminus being the cherry on top.
There is another service operated by Reading Buses that goes to Winnersh Park & Ride, but it uses a bog-standard E200 and runs outside of the boundary, so personally I wouldn't bother. They seem to be quite elusive anyway and I was unsuccessful in snapping one during my trip.
|Reading Buses 526 is seen on the 33 to Turnham's Farm.|
Thanks for reading, stay safe and hopefully you enjoy the Reading network if you go there, just like I did.