Buses in Milton Keynes

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Route X5 from Oxford to Cambridge passing the Quadrant:MK Network Rail HQ and Stagecoach X5.jpg
Route X5 from Oxford to Cambridge passing the Quadrant:MK

The buses in Milton Keynes are run by a mixture of operators on a network of urban and rural routes in and around the Milton Keynes urban area. These services have a varied history involving five different companies. At the foundation of the 'New City' in 1967 and for some years afterwards, Milton Keynes was served by a rural bus service between and to the pre-existing towns. Apart from a small-scale experimental service, urban buses arrived on the scene with deregulation in 1986. Since April 2010 the core local services have been provided by Arriva Shires & Essex. Long-distance coach services also serve the city, often via the nearby Milton Keynes Coachway located near junction 14 of the M1 Motorway.

Milton Keynes urban area human settlement in United Kingdom

Milton Keynes is a large town in Buckinghamshire. The Milton Keynes urban area or Milton Keynes Built-up Area is a designation established by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics. As with other urban areas, it includes settlements that are physically contiguous with the rest of the built up area but, for historical reasons, regard themselves as being outside it: this urban area includes Newport Pagnell and Woburn Sands.

Bus deregulation in Great Britain was the transfer of operation of bus services from public bodies to private companies as legislated by the Transport Act 1985.

Arriva Shires & Essex

Arriva Shires & Essex is a bus operator providing services in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater London, with one service extending to Oxfordshire. Until 2002 its operations included Colchester. It is a subsidiary of Arriva UK Bus.


Urban Services

A Z&S Dennis Trident at Milton Keynes station on route 11 to Caldecotte, typical of the Council contracted routes that now serve much of Milton Keynes where Arriva Shires & Essex services have been withdrawn. Z&S Transport Dennis Trident at Milton Keynes on route 11..jpg
A Z&S Dennis Trident at Milton Keynes station on route 11 to Caldecotte, typical of the Council contracted routes that now serve much of Milton Keynes where Arriva Shires & Essex services have been withdrawn.

Urban services in Milton Keynes have been operated by several companies under a wide range of names since the city's creation in 1967. Since 2010, the principal operator has been Arriva Shires & Essex, who acquired the independent MK Metro in 2006. The operation was initially branded as Arriva MK Star. The Arriva urban network has continually reduced in size since then and now consists of only the busiest key urban routes, with other areas being covered by Council contract routes or by other operators such as Uno and Stagecoach. A number of independent operators have begun providing services within the urban area where the Arriva network has contracted; principal among these are Aylesbury-based Z&S Transport, Red Rose, Redline and Vale Travel. [1] [2] Some of the longer distance routes detailed below also provide journeys within the urban area, such as Stagecoach routes 89, 40 and 52 and Centrebus route X31. Uno currently operate service C1 to Cranfield and Bedford in competition with Stagecoach service 52. Stagecoach also operate service 90 to Yardley Gobion via Old Stratford, taking over this from Centrebus in September 2014.

MK Metro

MK Metro was a bus company operating in Milton Keynes from 1997 until 2010.

Uno (bus company) bus company

Uno is an English bus service operated by the University of Hertfordshire, serving members of the general public, and also its own students and staff. The service was set up in 1992, growing out of a shuttle service previously operated for students at Wall Hall College located near Watford connecting them to the other campuses of the University and the Polytechnic (Hatfield) before that.

Bus services within Milton Keynes are complemented by a frequent train service between the major centres of Wolverton, Central Milton Keynes and Bletchley, operated by West Midlands Trains. A less frequent hourly train service also links Bletchley to Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill and Woburn Sands between Mondays and Saturdays. [3]

Wolverton town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, England

Wolverton is a constituent town of Milton Keynes, England. It is located at the northern edge of Milton Keynes, between Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. It is the administrative seat of Wolverton and Greenleys civil parish.

Central Milton Keynes Civil parish and central business district of Milton Keynes, England

Central Milton Keynes is the central business district of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England and a civil parish in its own right, with a town council.

Bletchley constituent town of Milton Keynes, in the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire, England

Bletchley is a constituent town of Milton Keynes, (ceremonial) Buckinghamshire, England. It is situated in the south-west of Milton Keynes, and is split between the civil parishes of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford and West Bletchley.

Long-distance services

A few long-distance services to Milton Keynes are operated by Arriva Shires & Essex, with others provided by Centrebus and Stagecoach East: these services interchange at the shopping centre and railway station. Other long-distance services run by National Express call at the Milton Keynes Coachway (where passengers may also interchange with east/west and London airports services), whilst Megabus services call at Kingston District Centre near the south-eastern edge of the urban area.

Centrebus English bus operator

Centrebus is a bus company operating services in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland. It is also has a shareholding in High Peak Buses.

Stagecoach East

Stagecoach East is the divisional name for the bus operations of the Stagecoach Group in eastern England.

Milton Keynes Central railway station Principal railway station of Milton Keynes, England

Milton Keynes Central railway station serves Central Milton Keynes and the surrounding area of Milton Keynes, England. The station is located on the West Coast Main Line about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of London. The station is served by Virgin Trains intercity services, and by West Midlands Trains and Southern regional services.

Arriva Shires & Essex

Arriva Shires & Essex operate a large fleet of single-deck vehicles throughout Milton Keynes. Here one is seen on the weekday peaks only service 30 at Two Mile Ash. Arriva Milton Keynes.jpg
Arriva Shires & Essex operate a large fleet of single-deck vehicles throughout Milton Keynes. Here one is seen on the weekday peaks only service 30 at Two Mile Ash.

Arriva Shires & Essex run route 150 to Aylesbury at a frequency of up to half-hourly. [2] A pattern of operating a non-stop service 100 alongside a slower 150 via Leighton Buzzard began in February 2009; prior to then only route 100 had operated over the entire length of the route, with an hourly frequency. [4] Prior to September 2007 the route had been numbered X15; in the 1980s this had operated as a through service between Reading and Northampton, and was run jointly by Luton & District and Bee Line. It was shortened to terminate at Milton Keynes in 1986, and the Aylesbury – Reading section was abandoned in 1994 following Bee Line's withdrawal from the route. [5] In April 2013 service 100 ceased operating with service 150 returning to a route similar to the X15, due to a withdrawal of funds by Buckinghamshire County Council. [6]

Aylesbury town and civil parish in Buckinghamshire, England

Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire, England. It is a large ancient market town with several historic pubs, is home to the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery and, since 2010, the 1,200 seat Waterside Theatre. The predecessor to the paralympic games started in the town.

Reading, Berkshire Place in England

Reading is a large, historic university and minster town in Berkshire, England, of which it is now the county town. It is in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway. Reading is 70 miles (110 km) east of Bristol, 24 miles (39 km) south of Oxford, 40 miles (64 km) west of London, 14 miles (23 km) north of Basingstoke, 12 miles (19 km) south-west of Maidenhead and 15 miles (24 km) east of Newbury as the crow flies.

Northampton county town of Northamptonshire, England

Northampton is a large market town and the county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of England. It lies on the River Nene, 60 miles (97 km) north-west of London and 45 miles (72 km) south-east of Birmingham. One of the largest towns in England, it had a population of 212,100 at the 2011 census.

Arriva Shires & Essex also operate the hourly route 70, which links Milton Keynes to Luton via Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable, and the hourly route 32 from Bletchley via Central Milton Keynes to Buckingham, which extends to Tingewick once a day. [2] Service X60 runs via Buckingham to Winslow and Aylesbury. [7] Arriva formerly operated local service 33 to Northampton, but this was taken over subsequently by Z&S and then by Red Rose. [8]

Luton Large town in Bedfordshire, England

Luton is a large town, borough and unitary authority area of Bedfordshire, situated in the south east of England, but in the East of England region for administrative purposes. It has a population of 214,109 (mid-2018 est.) and is one of the most populous towns without city status in the United Kingdom. The town is situated on the River Lea, about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of London. The town's foundation dates to the sixth century as a Saxon outpost on the River Lea, from which Luton derives its name. Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone and Lintone and one of the largest churches in Bedfordshire, St Mary's Church, was built in the 12th century. There are local museums which explore Luton's history in Wardown Park and Stockwood Park.

Leighton Buzzard town in Bedfordshire, England

Leighton Buzzard is a town in Bedfordshire, England, near the Chiltern Hills and lying between Luton and Milton Keynes. It adjoins Linslade and the name Leighton Linslade is sometimes used to refer to the combination of the two towns; parts of this article also apply to Linslade as well as Leedon. For local government purposes, the town is part of the Central Bedfordshire district and is administered jointly with Linslade as the civil parish of Leighton-Linslade.

Dunstable market town and civil parish located in Bedfordshire basement, England

Dunstable is a market town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, East of England. It lies on the eastward tail spurs of the Chiltern Hills, 30 miles north of London. These geographical features form several steep chalk escarpments most noticeable when approaching Dunstable from the north. Dunstable is the largest settlement in Central Bedfordshire and third largest in Bedfordshire behind Luton and Bedford. Along with Houghton Regis and the much larger town of Luton it forms the westernmost part of the Luton/Dunstable Urban Area.


Stagecoach Gold service X4 from Peterborough in Central Milton Keynes. Stagecoach X4 in Central Milton Keynes.JPG
Stagecoach Gold service X4 from Peterborough in Central Milton Keynes.

Stagecoach operate four express routes, three local services and one school service into Milton Keynes. These are run by the Stagecoach in Bedford or Stagecoach in Northamptonshire divisions of what was previously United Counties Omnibus.

Route X5 links Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester, Buckingham, Milton Keynes, Bedford and St Neots with a half-hourly service seven days a week. It serves both Central Milton Keynes and the Milton Keynes Coachway for onward connections to north-south services. The route was launched in September 1995 and used the Cross Country brand. New Plaxton Panther coaches were introduced to the route in March 2009. [9]

Route X4, which is part of the Stagecoach Gold brand and was formerly branded as Cross Country, runs from Milton Keynes to Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and Peterborough. [2] It was introduced between Peterborough and Northampton in 2000, [10] with the extension to Milton Keynes introduced in 2004 to replace existing slower routes. [11] The service between Northampton and Milton Keynes became half-hourly with the extension of the Leicester-Northampton service X7 to Milton Keynes in October 2012, bringing direct links to Market Harborough, Brixworth and other areas of Leicestershire. [12]

Stagecoach also operate the 99 coach service linking Milton Keynes Central railway station with Luton railway station and Luton Airport. It was formerly named VT99 and used dedicated coaches in Virgin Trains livery. [13] However the route is now operated as a normal Stagecoach service.

In addition to the express routes, Stagecoach operates route 89 from Northampton to Central Milton Keynes via Blisworth, Towcester and Stony Stratford, route 40 to Bedford via Newport Pagnell and Bromham, route 52 to Bedford via Cranfield and Kempston and the schooldays only route 83 to Silverstone via Wolverton and Buckingham.


A Centrebus Dennis Dart SLF on route X31 in Milton Keynes Centrebus 531 P132 PPV.jpg
A Centrebus Dennis Dart SLF on route X31 in Milton Keynes

Centrebus operate route X31 from Milton Keynes to Luton via Dunstable. The route operates three per hour on the section between Luton and Dunstable, extending to Milton Keynes via Hockliffe once every two hours.

Milton Keynes Coachway

The coach bays at Milton Keynes Coachway MK-coachway.JPG
The coach bays at Milton Keynes Coachway

Milton Keynes Coachway is the second busiest coach station in the United Kingdom. [14] It is situated on the eastern edge of Milton Keynes close to junction 14 of the M1 Motorway on the A509 road. There has been a coach interchange at the junction of the M1 since at 1989. [15] The present (replacement) building opened in December 2010.

Most north-south National Express services along the M1 stop here, as does the east-west X5 service between Oxford and Cambridge. The local 300 service (which also serves the adjacent park and ride) provides a link between the Coachway and Central MK (and the Central railway station for other bus, coach and train interchanges).

Milton Keynes central bus station

A view of Milton Keynes central bus station in 2006 MK CentralBusStation01.JPG
A view of Milton Keynes central bus station in 2006

A central bus station for Milton Keynes was designed by Derek Yeadon of Milton Keynes Development Corporation and built in 1982/83 opposite Milton Keynes Central railway station. [16] On 4 August 2014, the design and construction of the building was recognised by being Grade II listed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of English Heritage. [16] [17] The citation remarks

“The design of the bus station with its projecting canopy, exposed steel girders and lightweight supporting steel columns, draws on influential buildings by the acclaimed modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, whose ideology inspired the new town plan and its buildings.

There is a sculptural quality to some of its internal features and the core building is detailed to an unusually high standard for its use. [16]

Since 1997,[ citation needed ] the building ceased to be used for its original purpose and the bus interchange is now in front of the railway station. The building was subsequently repurposed as a youth centre, and a skate park named the Buszy was built. [18] The youth centre was closed in 2016 when its operators ("Make a Difference") and the building owners (Milton Keynes Development Partnership, an arm's length agency of Milton Keynes Council [19] ) failed to reach an agreement for its continuance. [20]

The skate park (the Buszy ) is an important skate spot, attracting professional skateboarders from around the world [21] and has been featured in numerous skate videos. The park is free to use by all and remains in regular use. The Buszy's cultural importance and significance in UK skateboarding is substantial. [22] The skate park was designed by designer Richard Ferrington and professional skateboarder Rob Selley. [23] The facility has been identified as an exemplar for local authorities around the UK. [24]

As of December 2018, the upper part of the building is being used as a dance studio. The lower area of the building has been used to provide assistance to homeless people.


United Counties

From 1967 until 1986, services between the major centres in Milton Keynes were run by United Counties Omnibus. Depots in Bletchley and Stony Stratford were used until 1983, when they were replaced by a new depot in the city centre. The services were operated with a mixture of double-decker buses and some large single-deck vehicles according to the historical rural bus service model. Although they were relatively frequent and ran for most of the day, buses could not easily serve new developments as the roads were not wide enough. When it was designed, the city had been intended for every household to own a car. Bus priority schemes did not exist, and stops were often sited away from population centres, although no house was more than 400 metres from a stop. New services were often poorly used in their early years as development in each area of the city built up over time, and such routes required significant subsidies. This was partially offset by the low running costs encountered when running on the trunk roads around the city. [25]

One area in which operations were successful was fares. A zonal system was operated with five single fares. A multi-journey ticket named Quad was offered, offering four single journeys of any length at a lower cost, and by the early 1980s was the most popular ticket in the city. Around 60% of tickets were sold off-bus. Subsidies for loss-making services were provided by Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Borough Council. In its later years, the operation traded under the Citybus name. A new depot and the central bus station were built in 1983 at a combined cost of £6.5 million. [25]

In 1986 United Counties was split into smaller divisions in readiness for deregulation, and Milton Keynes depot formed a new company, Milton Keynes Citybus.

Milton Keynes Dial-a-Bus

To deal with the impracticality of a conventional staged bus service in the low-density new districts, Milton Keynes Development Corporation decided in 1973 to adopt and adapt the American Dial-a-ride concept, initially in Woughton Parish. According to this system, users who needed transport could call a central dispatch office and have a nearby (radio-controlled) Mercedes-Benz mini-bus diverted to the caller's street. The service began in 1975. [26] Operation of the service was contracted to the incumbent operator, United Counties, which chose to operate it under its existing agreements with drivers. The service did not survive long. [27]

Milton Keynes Citybus

Milton Keynes Citybus (initially Milton Keynes City Bus) was formed in January 1986 to take over the Milton Keynes depot of United Counties. It was privatised on 7 August 1987 [28] and introduced a policy of operating minibuses in an unusual two-tone grey livery. It took over a small independent, Johnson's of Hanslope, in 1990 and initially retained this as a separate operation. Other brandings introduced in 1992 were County Line and Buckinghamshire Road Car; all were run with a mixture of full-size vehicles and minibuses. [29]

In November 1992 Milton Keynes Citybus was taken over by Cambus Holdings Ltd. The three offshoots were merged under the Road Car name, and the operation was expanded at the expense of the main company. New liveries were also introduced in 1993, with Citybus becoming red and cream and Road Car green and white. The company was officially renamed MK Metro in 1994, but this was not used as a fleet name. [29]

MK Metro

A MK Metro Scania L94UB branded for route 5 in Milton Keynes shortly after MK Metro became part of Arriva Shires & Essex MK Metro 3621 YN55 PZY.jpg
A MK Metro Scania L94UB branded for route 5 in Milton Keynes shortly after MK Metro became part of Arriva Shires & Essex

Cambus Holdings Ltd was acquired by Stagecoach Group in late 1995. An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) concluded that this had led to an unacceptable monopoly of bus operations in Cambridgeshire, Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford and Mid Bedfordshire. [30] Stagecoach was ordered to sell the Milton Keynes and Huntingdon operations to avoid the deal being referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The OFT also stipulated that both depots must be sold to the same buyer. [31]

Milton Keynes Citybus was purchased on 2 May 1997 by bus entrepreneur Julian Peddle, using a new Premier Buses Ltd company both to operate in Huntingdon and as a holding company with which to purchase Milton Keynes Citybus. [32] The Milton Keynes operation was rebranded as MK Metro with a bright yellow and blue livery. Peddle was unable to fund new vehicles for both companies, and sold Premier to Blazefield in 1998. [31]

In the nine years that MK Metro was owned by Peddle ridership increased by 120% and the company became profitable. Between 1998 and 2003 passenger numbers rose by 63% following the introduction of new buses and ticketing schemes. [33] It became part of his Status Bus & Coach mini-group – an attempt to co-ordinate the resources of small independents to save money – at its formation in 1999, but the group proved largely unsuccessful and had broken up by 2004. [31]


An Optare Excel new to MK Metro operating with Arriva Shires & Essex at Bletchley bus station in 2010. Many services within the Milton Keynes urban area are operated by Arriva. Arriva Shires & Essex 3002 V392 KVY.jpg
An Optare Excel new to MK Metro operating with Arriva Shires & Essex at Bletchley bus station in 2010. Many services within the Milton Keynes urban area are operated by Arriva.

In February 2006, the operations of MK Metro were purchased by Arriva for £5.6 million, [34] and operational control transferred to the Arriva Shires & Essex division. Peddle cited disagreement between authorities as a major factor in his decision to sell the company. [31] [35] The purchase was considered by the Office of Fair Trading for possible referral to the Competition Commission, but it was decided not to do so. [36]

The Milton Keynes operation continued to use the MK Metro name until April 2010, when they were rebranded as Arriva Milton Keynes (temporarily using the brand name MK Star). The change of name coincided with a number of controversial service changes. [37] Some services were in fact improved in frequency as part of the rebranding but others were reduced or even eliminated, and some journey times were increased. [38]

Other Operators

Since deregulation in 1986 there have been some competing companies in Milton Keynes, although it has seen less competition than most cities. London-based R&I Tours began competing with Milton Keynes Citybus in 1992 using the trading name Inter MK. They operated 10 single-deck buses, mostly Leyland Nationals in a two-tone blue livery, on a small number of routes in the city. [39] They withdrew from the city in 1994 [40] and were subsequently taken over by MTL. [41]

A Leyland Olympian at Milton Keynes Central railway station working on route 44 with On A Mission On a Mission F440 AKB.jpg
A Leyland Olympian at Milton Keynes Central railway station working on route 44 with On A Mission

In November 2009 a new competing route 44 between Central Milton Keynes and Lakes Estate was launched by coach company On A Mission. [1] It was later extended across Milton Keynes to Wolverton, and also included a single school bus journey. However, the company collapsed on 2 August 2010 and the route no longer operates. The school bus journey was replaced by a tendered route. [42]


EasyBus, an intercity express coach operator founded by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, ran a service between Milton Keynes and London between August 2004 and February 2006 using 19-seat Mercedes-Benz Vario mini-coaches. Tickets were predominantly sold over the internet. Its parent EasyGroup first announced its intention to operate no frills express services in 2003. In August 2004 EasyBus launched its first service, connecting London and Milton Keynes. [43] To keep costs down EasyBus originally used Hendon Central station in north London as its terminal point, with a journey time of 65 minutes and a single fare of £5. [43] The threat of competition forced National Express to offer its own discounted fares to and from London, culminating in the introduction of a £1 single fare between Milton Keynes and London which Stelios claimed was intended to make his service non-profitable and force its withdrawal. [44]

In Spring 2005 EasyBus changed its London terminus from Hendon to a more central location in Baker Street. The service to Milton Keynes was withdrawn in February 2006, although services from London to other destinations including Luton Airport continue to operate. [45]

Virgin Trains

A Volvo B7R coach in Virgin Trains livery on route VT99 at Milton Keynes Central railway station Stagecoach in Bedford 53271 KX56 JZJ.jpg
A Volvo B7R coach in Virgin Trains livery on route VT99 at Milton Keynes Central railway station

From 2006 [46] to ?,[ citation needed ] Stagecoach operated a 50-minute express service, the VT99, from Milton Keynes Central to Luton railway station and Luton Airport under contract to Virgin Trains, with coaches in Virgin Trains livery. The objective was to provide a link to Luton Airport for West Coast Main Line passengers. Thereafter, Stagecoach continues to operate the service, as the 99 route, with their own livery. The service runs at up to 30-minute intervals.


In June 2012 Milton Keynes council introduced a new multi-operator ticket, MK Moove. [47] As of September 2013 it is valid on all services of nine participating operators within the borough, with the exception of Stagecoach's X5. [48]

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