New Route, New Road(s)

It's pretty rare that we get to introduce a new route to the fold, but here is Route 301. Introduced on 13th July 2019, it links Bexleyheath more directly to the Elizabeth Line at Abbey Wood, and said project isn't open yet. Yet another bus related Elizabeth Line/Crossrail change introduced prior to the actual introduction of the rail line.

Arriva London DW482 on Route 301, Bexleyheath
DW482 on the convoluted stand working at Bexleyheath
© Aubrey Morandarte

Operated by Arriva London from Dartford (DT) using used VDL DB300/Wright Gemini 2s from Wood Green, after the hybrid conversion of some routes there. These buses join a plethora of similar buses from various batches at Dartford, with many of the routes being won by Dartford with these buses displaced from inner London routes.

Arriva London DW455 on Route 301, Bexleyheath
DW455 having done the stand turnaround is about to start a journey to Woolwich
© Aubrey Morandarte

The route uses the formerly emergency stand at Bexleyheath Shopping Centre that is usually designed for about one bus, so squeezing two buses can be tight. Due to the 301 bus stand also being directly opposite the rest of the bus stands, the bus has to travel to the next roundabout enroute to starting its journey.

Arriva London DW486 on Route 301, Abbey Wood New Road
DW486 climbing up the hill at New Road
© Aubrey Morandarte

The route goes through a number of new roads, which are all not fitted with bus stops. Therefore, a lot of the route between Abbey Wood and Woolwich is hail and ride. However, another new road was not implemented, in favour of New Road with an existing bus route. Some TfL documents and the original consultation had the 301 going up Knee Hill, but due to local authority reasons not modifying the top of Knee Hill to be suitable for buses, the 301 ended up going via the existing B11 route. Said same consultation will also route 469 through New Road, giving an increased service to a road which might not even need more than the singular bus route in the first place!

Arriva London DW442 on Route 301, New Road
DW442 meanwhile is descending towards Abbey Wood and Thamesmead
© Aubrey Morandarte

One immediate benefit for the 301 is that it manages to clear the crowds that used to take an hour to clear at Bexleyheath post-school hours in about 20-30 minutes, as there is a significant increase of bus routes on the corridor that follows the 401 out of Bexleyheath. It also should boost capacity between Woolwich and Thamesmead immediately, as the current routes tend to get fairly busy. Currently, the 301 and 472 follow each other up Nathan Road, but after all the Crossrail changes are implemented, the 472 will go via Western Way, leaving the industrial area to the 301 solely.

Arriva London DW478 on Route 301, Abbey Wood
DW478 approaching Abbey Wood Station
© Aubrey Morandarte

One of the posters for the route at Bexleyheath

The service was poorly publicised by Transport for London, with posters being made and put up by an enterprising citizen wanting to inform a whole local area with A4 posters. A better effort than what TfL ever made for the route. It is slightly stupid to introduce a new route, without any notable prior publicity.

It showed, with light loadings being experienced. This has led to buses being slightly faster, and including how Dartford control their routes, it led to multiple stops for regulating the service. However, coming out of the termini, if there has not been a parallel service for a while (401/472), the bus does fill up at times.

They can be found here: https://twitter.com/LDNBusUpdates

A video of DW442 climbing up New Road hill
© Aubrey Morandarte

The performance of the buses on these routes can vary, depending on when Dartford have managed to derestrict the buses, as well as fixing the faults from their previous service in other parts of London, so the buses can be used at full strength for the hillier parts of South East London. DB300s are good buses, but they have been fairly restricted in the more inner parts of London.

Arriva London DW532 on Route 301, Bexleyheath
A nearly empty DW532 leaving Bexleyheath heading towards Woolwich
© Aubrey Morandarte

Initial signs show that the bus route is not living to its full potential, but once the Elizabeth Line changes occur, the route will live to its full potential. The changes would mean there would be less parallel to the 472 and the B11. The main increase of patronage will be when the Elizabeth Line opens. If the damned thing actually opens somewhere in my lifetime!

Post by Aubrey Morandarte

© All right reserved WLTMTB 2019


Metroline Further West

On 27th July 2019, Route 81 moved down Kingsley Road from London United to Metroline at their new base on Spring Grove Road in Lampton. Used Volvo B9TLs were passed onto the route.

Metroline VW1386 on Route 81, Colnbrook
VW1386 running through Colnbrook Village on the first day of Metroline service on Route 81
© Aubrey Morandarte

Yet another Metroline win on the western front from RATP. It increases the Metroline presence in Hounslow to an extent that it has most of the routes on the Bath Road corridor

Westbus/Metroline Lampton Garage (SG) (Spring Grove Road)
A view from Spring Grove Road of the new Metroline base in Lampton
© Aubrey Morandarte

The buses are based in the old Westbus depot as the Westbus moved to Hayes Garage, allowing the 81 to be based in Lampton. However, Metroline are not the only tenant in the site, with a light industrial site squeezed within the site as well.

Operation with London United started with Westlink winning the route in 1995 from Hounslow Heath. London United bought Westlink, and moved the route to Hounslow (AV) completely in 2000. Prior to tendering in 1985 as the first LT route to be tendered to a private operator (London Bus Lines), it was based in Hounslow as well.

London United ADE40421/ADE21 on Route 81, Longford
ADE21 passing through the village of Longford, which will be demolished when Heathrow Airport gains its third runway.
© Aubrey Morandarte

The route is now based out of the former Westbus depot at Lampton (SG). Existing Volvo B9TLs displaced from Harrow Weald and spares from Brentford were drafted for the route.

Metroline VW1833 on Route 81, Hounslow
One of the various buses, VW1833, is a former First bus that was allocated to the 427. It ended up at Alperton and Brentford, before moving over to Lampton for the 81.
© Aubrey Morandarte

81 is unique in that it sticks out into Berkshire (technically Slough Borough Council) as the only TfL route to go there. Thanks to the cuts caused by First Berkshire scaling down their operations in Berkshire, the 81 is the most frequent and the main route out of Slough. First (9) and Reading Buses (703) both operate parallel stopping services down the Bath Road, although they do not get nearly as much custom as the 81.

One in, one out
VW1255 heads out for another journey to Hounslow, whilst VW1382 waits to use the stop at Slough Bus Station.
© Aubrey Morandarte

VW1255 was a Holloway bus to start, but ended up at Brentford for the E8 extension, prior to a temporary move to Lampton for the 81. It is now (as of August 2019) back at Brentford. VW1382 meanwhile started at Holloway too, but went via Perivale to Lampton. However, apart from said VW1833, the allocation has settled to the 62 reg buses mostly ex-Harrow Weald.

Metroline VW1385 on Route 81, Heathrow North
VW1385 passes Mondial Way on the Bath Road, north of Heathrow Airport.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Driver changes are handled similar to when it was under London United, with buses running to the garage. However, as the garage has now changed, buses go along the short bit of Kingsley Road and Spring Grove Road to the garage, where changeovers occur on the forecourt.

Metroline VW1255, Hounslow Kingsley Road
VW1255 heads out of service on Kingsley Road enroute to Lampton for a driver change.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Metroline VW1379 on Route 81, Hounslow Treaty Centre
The arrival of Metroline on the route has led to a more descriptive qualifier for the Slough destination, stating it will terminate at the bus station. VW1379 exhibits this display heading out of Hounslow.
© Aubrey Morandarte

As these buses are approximately the same age as the ADEs that were on the route under RATP, the route will receive newer buses upon the next contract. Meanwhile, these diesel buses will continue to ply the route until either the end of the contract, or when the route is affected heavily by the Heathrow Airport third runway construction, which may begin during this contract.

Post and photographs by Aubrey Morandarte

All rights reserved © WLTMTB 2019


Strike Three for Stagecoach

On 30th March 2019, Stagecoach lost a large amount of work, with the 262, 396 and 473 all going to different operators, all using used buses, with the ULEZ playing its part in allocating buses. Yes, it's a tad tardy, but oh well.

Stagecoach London 25113 on Route 396, Ilford
Route 396 is a short shuttle between Ilford and King George Hospital, serving Little Heath, thus it can get fairly busy at times. It also was one of the few areas in London where Optare Versas still operated.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Route 396 had been operated by Stagecoach London at Barking (BK) since 2002, when they won it from First Capital, and thus has lasted 17 years with the operator (three contracts, one with extension). The second contract led to the 396 gaining Versas, and as the 2009 Versas aged for two contracts, Stagecoach would either have to find newer existing buses, or order new buses for the route in order to bid for the route.

Stagecoach London 10326 on Route 396, King George Hospital
On occasion, the 396 saw double deckers, an example being 10326 as seen at King George Hospital.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Go-Ahead Blue Triangle instead had existing buses of their own, being existing Enviro 200s from the loss of Route D6 to CT Plus. The route was allocated to River Road (RR) as part of the operator change.

Blue Triangle SE115 on Route 396, King George Hospital
SE115 standing at King George Hospital
© Aubrey Morandarte

The route itself can get very busy, with an Enviro 200 just about fitting the crowd from Newbury Park Underground towards Little Heath. These buses are only 3 years younger than the replaced Optare Versas, and are likely to be used for this contract only.

Blue Triangle E207 on Route 396, King George Hospital
The double decker presence on the 396 shown by E207
© Aubrey Morandarte

Akin to the previous operator, Go-Ahead also occasionally use double deckers on the route, but otherwise the age profiles aren't too dissimilar from the previous vehicles (by 3 years, thus within one contract cycle).

Two more losses by Stagecoach were the 262 and 473, both to Tower Transit.

Stagecoach London 18211 on Route 262, Gallions Reach
262 was one of the final stays for the Stagecoach Trident, with 18211 seen on the latter days of Stagecoach operation.
© Aubrey Morandarte

262 has been with East London (later Stagecoach) since privatisation, whilst 473 has been with Stagecoach since the first contract change in 1996. Although they were juggled over the past few years, with the garage situation in East London changing due to events like the Olympics demolishing the garages causing a chain reaction that did end up with Upton Park (U) closing, moving both said routes to the very large West Ham (WH) garage in September 2011.

Stagecoach London 15090 on Route 473, Stratford Bus Station
473 had been the mainstay of these Scania Omnicity double deckers from West Ham (WH)
© Aubrey Morandarte

Both routes join up with Tower Transit at Lea Interchange (LI/HO). Although these contracts did end up having new buses ordered for the routes, they did not end up on the route. Instead, existing buses from a singular other route have been nabbed for these routes.

Tower Transit VN36118 on Route 262, Stratford
VN36118 shows the temporary assignment of buses for Route 262
© Aubrey Morandarte

VNs from the 25/N25 have been taken, and their well worn bodies are now turning out for East and West London's suburban routes. The 25's buses have been spread to as far as the 262, 452, 473 and D8. All allocated from one formerly very well patronised bus route.

Tower Transit VN36134 on Route 473, Stratford
473 is also subject to the use of Volvo B9TLs from the 25, with VN36134 entering Stratford
© Aubrey Morandarte

These buses, fairly recently refurbished and converted to Euro VI under the 25 contract, have since been forced to move from the route they were allocated to because of the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which covers the Central London congestion charging zone. As Routes 25/N25 do penetrate the zone, they are required to have Euro VI hybrid buses. Transport for London, however, has not said the proportion of the propulsion which has to be electric, so hybrid Streetdecks with flywheels and regenerative braking are now the use for Route 25.

Tower Transit WH31105 on Route 25, Stratford
The reductions on Route 25 have allowed a large amount of buses cascade for use on other routes. The ULEZ allowed the last few B9TLs move away. This bus enters Stratford Bus Station towards City Thameslink, a situation only created by both the Stratford two way system and the TfL budget spending priorities.
© Aubrey Morandarte

These, admittedly under-powered buses now ply the truncated, reduced use 25/N25 from City Thameslink (Oxford Circus at night) to Ilford. As part of Crossrail changes, the 25 would have been truncated to City Thameslink, as there would be enlarged capacity towards Ilford on Crossrail. However, due to the delays, most of the cuts caused by Crossrail...still went ahead due to the TfL funding crisis caused by multiple factors, not including the cut from central government under Boris, and the cut of fares caused by cheap votes for Sadiq Khan. These funding cuts show. The cut to the 25 is an implied TfL forced transport mode shift towards the tube. Which is already overcrowded in the central area, especially for the Central Line. But that's another post for another time.

Tower Transit WH31122 on Route N25, Oxford Circus
WH31122 on the N25, a route born by the Central London bus cuts, caused by a need for saving a large amount of money.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Overall, these are good gains for the company Tower Transit, and Go-Ahead. However, Tower Transit only have these existing buses on the 262/473 as a stop-gap, and some are expecting the buses to return to their contracted routes from when the 25/N25 gets re-tendered at some point in the future.

Post and photographs by Aubrey Morandarte

All rights reserved © WLTMTB 2019