Oxford Tube service was launched in March 1987, originally owned by Thames Transit with just 7 single deck coaches. Little did the founder of Thames Transit know that within 30 years the Oxford Tube would enjoy a fleet of 32 high spec double deck coaches running up to 83 services a day between Oxford and London, giving customers access to 12,782 seats per day to and from the capital.
The first timetable presented 28 trips a day with a 30 minute frequency at busy times. Over the coming years the frequency increased to every 20 minutes and by 1991 there were late departures from London with the last coach at 1am. Due to the success and high demand of the late-night coach, by 1994 the service had become a 24-hour operation with coaches every hour throughout the night. The launch of the 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year model had started.
By its 10th anniversary The Oxford Tube was carrying a million passengers per year. Shortly after the 10th anniversary Stagecoach purchased Thames Transit and subsequently The Oxford Tube. The new owners wanted to build on the success, expand the service, and offer more seats for passengers. Stagecoach had the financial muscle to make a major investment in a new fleet and in 1999, a fleet of double deck coaches was launched representing a £5m investment in 27 new coaches. The double deck coaches provided seating for 68 passengers, allowing for greater capacity.
Demand on New Year’s Eve 1999 to welcome in the new Millenium was staggering. Many thousands of customers used The Oxford Tube to reach London with queues home to Oxford remaining until the dawn of the next day. Every coach that could be manned from the fleet of 27 was on the road, running around the clock to retrieve passengers from the London celebrations. The Oxford Tube had truly come of age and now represented a flag ship service in the Stagecoach Group.
In 2004 replacement coaches were introduced, the Neoplan Skyliners, and there was an increase in seats to 81. The coaches came equipped with toilets, power points, reclining seats, full air conditioning and a space on every vehicle for a wheelchair. An investment of £8m was made by Stagecoach in what had become the group’s premier service.
At this point, The Oxford Tube also saw the introduction of WiFi for its customers many of whom were commuters and who would very much appreciate this modern facility. We believe The Oxford Tube was the very first express coach service in the UK to offer WiFi.
An entirely new fleet was then introduced in 2009, The Van Hool Astromega. These ran from 2009 to 2014. After 5 years the first fleet of Van Hool Astromega were replaced by the current TX27 models. Our latest fleet features Euro 6 engines, which are more efficient and better for the environment.
The new coaches provided more leg room on the upper deck and a new luggage rack on the lower deck. All coaches feature a glass roof on the upper deck with power sockets now featuring USB ports.
For the first time in its 35-year history, in 2020, the Oxford Tube closed its coach doors due to the pandemic for a period of 6 months. Despite this, through continued investment, in vehicles, technology, and passion, the business grew back its customer base from zero to 94% of pre-Covid passengers in just 16 months.
In 2023, we saw the introduction of further coaches into the fleet and improved frequency to every 10 minutes at peak times. We also saw an increase in the number of coaches running during the night, reinforcing the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year service that our customers love.
The Oxford Tube service is renowned for its reliability and affordability. It is a service our customers know and hold in high regard. Our continual fleet investments and service improvements demonstrate we value it too and we are proud to own the keys to it at Stagecoach West.