Reading Transport Route 17
Tilehurst (Bear Inn) - Norcot - Central Reading - Cemetery Junction - Wokingham Road (Three Tuns)
This page is dedicated to Reading Buses' flagship service. Route 17 is the company's most frequent and busy service operating every 7-8 minutes during the day, every 20 minutes in the evenings, 30-60 minutes overnight and every 15 minutes on Sundays.
The number 17 itself started to be used in the days when Reading Transport ran Trolleybuses, before that the route simply being known as the "main line". As such Reading Transport have always operated a route from Oxford Road to Wokingham Road from when the company first started operations with horse-drawn tram cars in 1901.
The original tramway service only covered part of the modern day route, from Brock Barracks (on Oxford Road) to Cemetery Junction. After electrification the line was later extended along Wokingham Road to the junction of St Peter's Road, where the tracks ran onto the land between Wokingham Road and St Peter's Road. With Trolleybus operation the line was extended further, from Brock Barracks to The Bear Inn in Tilehurst via Norcot, and from Cemetery Junction to The Three Tuns on Wokingham Road.
A few off peak extensions were made to the service during the 1990s in the evenings and on Sundays only. The first was an extension from Wokingham Road to the Showcase Cinema in Winnersh on weekday evenings, lasting until sometime in 2000. The second was an extension from the Bear Inn to Calcot Savacentre on certain Sunday journeys in lieu of the regular weekday service 18. Sunday journeys were introduced on route 18 from 25 February 2008 removing this need. A final, and very short lived, extension in the 1990s also came on Sundays where certain journeys were inter-worked with Sunday service 30 from Turnham's Farm to Tesco. The bus would double back from the Bear Inn towards Tilehurst and continue to Turnham's Farm.
On 25th October 2004 the service was given a major re-launch with the arrival of a fleet of 17 Scania OmniDekkas, 13 branded specifically for use on the route as part of a Quality Partnership with Reading Borough Council. The council improved stop facilities with special kerbs designed for low floor buses, new bus stop flags and real-time information displays. For Reading Buses the vehicles introduced a new company livery of beige with a coloured front, the colour depending on the route for which the bus is intended. The vehicles for route 17 were purple, and the spares grey for use on any route. The purple examples also had unique rear branding.
On 26th May 2008 a fleet of 14 ethanol powered Scania OmniCity double deckers was introduced, each of which were branded for the route in a special purple and green livery to highlight their environmental credentials and to allow extra spare capacity to help cover the increased maintenance requirements with ethanol fuel. A new 24 hour timetable was also introduced operating every hour all night (and half-hourly on Friday/Saturday nights). The vehicles had full colour LED destination displays and were finished to a high internal specification with leather covered seats and a top deck air chill system to make them stand out from similar looking diesel powered vehicles in the fleet. However, the air chill system proved ineffective and noisy so was disconnected, and the ethanol fuel became substantially more expensive than diesel so they were converted to diesel operation from December 2009 onwards.
On 1st October 2011 a further re-launch took place with the introduction of 25 Alexander Dennis Enviro400Hs which are series diesel-electric hybrids. Of these, thirteen were painted into a new two tone purple livery for the 17 and two in generic silver/grey, although one of these was repainted into purple in September 2012 following frequency improvements.
The buses used on the 17 have always been double deck, with only the occasional single decker having ever made an appearance. Some have been known to appear on Sundays however, particularly in connection with the journeys that inter-worked with other routes for a short time. The route has seen horse-drawn trams, electric trams and trolleybuses operate along it, plus a Reading Mainline Routemaster did a couple of journeys once!
Following are some pictures of buses operating on the route, starting from Great Knollys Street depot, going through town and heading for Tilehurst, and then heading back to Wokingham Road.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400H 227 to 219 lined up in sequence in the rear yard at Great Knollys Street on for the official launch on 19th September 2011.
MCW Metrobus 180 preparing to leave the Great Knollys Street depot for Tilehurst in May 2000. The Metrobus was a regular performer on the route for many years.
Leyland Titan 75 on Minster Street in September 2000.
MCW Metrobus 152 on West Street in November 1996, buses only travelled in this direction along this road for a few years in the middle of the pedestrianisation process of Broad Street. Currently they only travel in the opposite direction along this road, and use other roads around the town in a 'loop'.
Preserved AEC Trolleybus 113 on Broad Street, the traditional route through the town for the 17. It is seen here in October 1998 for the thirtieth anniversary of the end of trolleybus operation on the route, and is seen facing as if it were to head off to Tilehurst.
Optare Spectra 701, for many years the company's flagship bus, outside the Broad Street Mall in February 2000.
MCW Metrobus Mk II 468 on Oxford Road by Reading West Station in July 2000.
230 passing Church End Lane on Norcot Hill on it's first day in service on 1st October 2011. Photograph by Keith Pauline.
Reading Mainline Routemaster No. 26 seen at the Tilehurst Bear Inn terminus in February 2000. The operation of a Routemaster on the route was a one-off and only occurred because of a driver shortage. After this many more Mainline crews did duties on the 17, but a standard Reading Buses double decker was always used. Photograph by Tim Wale.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400H at the White House on 1 October 2011.
Here we see Leyland Olympian 17 on the 17(!) in July 2000 heading back towards the town on Oxford Road, just after the Battle Hospital.
Scania OmniCity double deck 1114 unloading at Oxford Road / Broad Street on 26th August 2008.
Scania OmniCity double deck 1101 just a couple of metres further on turning into West Street on 27th May 2008.
Scania OmniDekka 807 coming out from the loop around the Town Hall on 22nd January 2005.
Leaving the town for Wokingham Road is Optare Spectra 705 turning at Jackson's Corner in June 2000.
MCW Metrobus Mk II 456 waiting at Jackson's Corner in September 2000.
MCW Metrobus 186 approaching the Wokingham Road terminus in April 2000.
At the right is Leyland Olympian 16 at the setting down stop for terminus, and at the left is Leyland Titan 73 waiting to turn back onto Wokingham Road after turning around in August 2001. To turn around, buses on the route must complete a u-turn in the road, and to make this easier this side road is used so it can be done in a single swing. This practise dates back to Trolleybus times when wiring dictated where the vehicles on the route could turn around.
MCW Metrobus 178 waiting at the Wokingham Road terminus in August 1997.
Dennis Loline 76 in July 2001, on the British Trolleybus Society's annual tour of Reading by preserved bus. This was it's first outing for a number of years, and is seen here at Wokingham Road (Three Tuns), blinded up for the 17 as it would have been in the 1960s and 1970s.
Scania OmniDekka 808 arriving in town from The Bear Inn, using a temporary stop in West Street on 5th March 2005. The normal stop opposite the Broad Street Mall was closed following a fire in adjacent buildings on 11th February 2005.
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