'I took a £2 bus to the underrated Essex airport overshadowed by Stansted'

The X30 bus runs through Chelmsford to Southend Airport and Stansted Airport in Essex
-Credit: (Image: Matt Lee)

When it comes to transport in Essex there is plenty to moan about. Potholes and the speed (or sometimes lack thereof) in which they are repaired will always be a topic of debate. But there is also plenty to be encouraged about when looking at transport in Essex - and the X30 bus service is one such example.

The X30 service, run by First Bus, offers a hassle-free and direct route to Stansted and Southend Airport via Rayleigh and Chelmsford. It operates every day of the week from early morning until late at night.

It is not the only bus service from Essex destinations to these airports, but it must be one of the most comfortable and convenient. It operates from 15 stops, including pretty much the doorstep of the two airports, with the first service to Southend Airport arriving at 4.35 am and the last arriving at 11.34 pm.

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Since moving to Rayleigh, I've occasionally used the bus service for trips in and out of Chelmsford. The twice-hourly service is an easy and accessible form of transport that is ideal for those wanting to have a more environmentally friendly journey. Until now, however, I'd never given it a go from my flat to Southend Airport.

Booking costs and drop-off spots

One huge benefit of using the X30 to get to Southend Airport is the lack of a requirement to book in advance. Regardless of where you board the X30, it will cost just £2 for a single journey thanks to the extension of the £2 fare cap.

It means my journey from Rayleigh to Southend Airport was much cheaper than the cost of a single rail fare. If you were travelling from Chelmsford, the bus fare would still be only £2 whilst a rail fare could be as much as £15. And if you were considering driving to Southend or Stansted Airport you would have to think about parking which has the potential to cost an arm and a leg.

The X30 drops travellers just a few minutes' walk from Southend Airport
The X30 drops travellers just a few minutes' walk from Southend Airport -Credit:Matt Lee

The X30 service drops guests off at Stansted Airport's bus/coach station and at the Holiday Inn at Southend Airport. This means it's a two-minute walk to the Stansted terminal and eight minutes for Southend. That's a slightly further distance to travel than if you were commuting by train, but it's an incredibly simple walk to Southend Airport's terminal.

Facilities on board

One benefit of travelling by train is that you can add certain benefits, such as travelling in first-class. This isn't an option with the X30 - everyone receives the same level of service.

The seats, in my opinion, are far more comfortable than that you might receive in your personal car, a taxi or on the train. There are padded seats with extra comfort added at the seat headrests, making sure your head will be nice and comfortable as the bus bobbles through Essex.

Some bus services are single-decker but others are double-decker. Only the latter services have tables with small clusters of seats around them. A number of seats have USB charging facilities. Don't make the mistake I did, though, and bring a mini-USB cable as the ports are all normal USB-sized.

There are USB chargers on the back of seats on the X30
There are USB chargers on the back of seats on the X30 -Credit:Matt Lee

Some of the seats even had small pull-out trays with wireless charging pads positioned slightly above them. For those making the trip to Southend or Stansted Airport, there are large luggage racks on the lower deck. There is plenty of room for travellers to place holdalls or suitcases for the long journey.


If you're looking for an easy and hassle-free trip to one of Essex's two airports then the X30 is certainly worth considering. It has the benefit of being a straightforward journey, low-cost and environmentally friendly compared to driving yourself too.

There are limited downsides. As is the case with any form of public transport, there is the potential for services to be delayed or cancelled at the last minute. If you've put all your eggs in one basket and relied upon a bus service, there is the very small likelihood that you could end up regretting it.

Another downside is the limited number of stops between the two airports. The X10 operates between Basildon and Stansted, stopping at Wickford, Chelmsford and Barnston, whilst the X20 serves Colchester to Stansted via Marks Tey, Coggeshall, Braintree and Great Dunmow among others.

But if you want to travel from Basildon to Southend Airport, you'd need to change at Chelmsford. And if you want to go from Colchester to Southend Airport, you need to change at Gatehouse Villas or Great Dunmow.

This may not be the biggest problem in the world given Stansted is the busier of the two airports; however, bosses at Southend Airport want to be able to accommodate up to 10 million passengers annually from their existing 3.5m capacity. If that was to happen then adding some more connections to Southend Airport would likely be welcomed.

Overall I reckon this has to be one of the easiest ways to get to Southend Airport (or Stansted). If you want to get to Essex's two airports on the cheap and in relative comfort, then the X30 is your best option in my opinion.

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