Saturday 26th October 2019
TfL’s policy of redeploying buses from Zone 1 routes into the suburbs moved forward a couple more centimetres today with the launch of brand new route 335 linking the expanding residential development at Kidbrooke with Blackheath and North Greenwich for its ‘Millennium Leisure Park’ (basically posh looking sheds with retail, restaurants, cinema etc), Jubilee Line station and ‘O2’ Arena (and a cable car).
It’s the second new suburban route to be introduced since June’s major cull of central London bus routes. I took a ride on the new 301 between Woolwich and Bexleyheath not long after it’s July introduction, but today was the inaugural day for the 335 and I’m delighted to report bus stop flags have had the 335 treatment and timetables have appeared in the cases on each bus stop. Bonus points all round.
It’s a pity online and bus stop displayed spider maps haven’t been updated, but they seldom are.
TfL consulted on proposals to link Kidbrooke with North Greenwich back in April and May. This included two options – either Option 1, a standard all stops route via Rochester Way/Kidbrooke Park Road and Blackheath Royal Standard, or Option 2, a quick non-stop route via the western end of the A2 and A102 shaving at least five minutes off the end to end journey time.
It turned out 65% supported or strongly supported Option 1 which provides more travel options and supplements routes 132 and 108/422 on common sections to Blackheath and on to North Greenwich, while 50% supported or strongly supported the quicker Option 2 indicating it obviously wasn’t a binary choice. 16% opposed or strongly opposed Option 1, while 20% opposed/strongly opposed Option 2.
So Option 1 had it and luckily that was TfL’s preference too.
The scheduled end to end journey time is around thirty minutes and the route has kicked off with an impressive 12 minute frequency from 05:00 to 00:30 with a 15 minute headway after 21:00 (and all day on Sundays).
Seven double decks are being used on a schedule which includes generous stand time – I noticed a bus was on the stand when we arrived at Kidbrooke and one was just pulling on to the departure bus stop at North Greenwich as we pulled in to the arrivals bus stop.
The route is operated by Arriva London’s bus garage in Dartford. It hasn’t been tendered in the usual way as it’s compensation for Arriva’s loss of the recently withdrawn route 48 (London Bridge to Walthamstow Central).
A start up route of this kind anywhere but London would come with a major marketing, promotion and PR launch to actively sell the route to passengers. TfL don’t do ‘selling’ though; they hardly do ‘informing’ as mentioned above, spider maps hadn’t been updated to let passengers know where the route goes visually.
I asked at the Information kiosk in North Greenwich bus station (it was closed on my first pass through at 09:45 but had opened by my return at 11:45) if there was any information or leaflet “about the new bus route to Kidbrooke” and was met with a completely blank look from the staff member behind the glass telling me the information is at the bus stop. However I spotted a supply of timetable leaflets in a rack for Stagecoach’s new M2 route to Canterbury and asked for one, so didn’t come away empty handed and was reassured actively marketing new bus routes is still a thing.
Unfortunately the marketing suite in the Kidbrooke residential development was closed too and unsurprisingly I couldn’t see any attractive looking leaflets promoting the new 335 bus route inside on the coffee tables.
I’m sure word will spread about this new travel option for Kidbrookeians especially as without any traffic delays, such as this morning, it only took twenty five minutes to make it down to Kidbrooke and that included a five minute stop in Annesley Road (just north of Kidbrooke) from 10:02 to 10:07 ‘to regulate the service’ – can’t have passengers arriving early at the terminus!
Obviously loadings were low on this first morning and most passengers looked quizzically as the bus pulled up at bus stops served by other bus routes. But buses were carrying between half a dozen to a dozen passengers, although many may have been abstracted from parallel bus routes.
I was a bit surprised the 335 didn’t make a call at Kidbrooke station in either direction this morning (it’s listed on TfL’s website as a stop), but this may be because trains were replaced by buses for engineering works today although there seemed to be plenty of room at the bus stops by the station entrance and I spotted a bus on route 178 coming out of the slip road as we passed by.
The massive Kidbrooke development straggles both sides of Kidbrooke Park Road and the 335, like the other longer standing (thirty years) Kidbrooke terminating bus route B16 (from Blexleyheath) serves both areas by a loop arrangement as shown in the map above. There’s also route 178 which only serves the eastern side, except not today, as it passes through from Lewisham to Woolwich and was double decked only last December.
Route 335 will normally travel around the eastern loop both towards the terminal stop on the western side and on the return journey to North Greenwich, except it’s a shame repairs to a minor road, Ryan Close, on the eastern side during the past week meant today’s inaugural operation had to miss out this section of route.
I had a wander around and it seemed to me a bit overkill with only minor repairs on half the road although it’s likely the roadworks were coming to an end. Despite it having been bus less for a week I found passengers waiting at stops expecting a bus to come around.
I was kept quite busy letting everyone know there were no buses – few people bother to read notices placed in timetable cases.
Back at the Kidbrooke terminus on the western side, it looked like some ‘officials’ were getting their photograph taken in front of a laying over bus to mark the auspicious occasion of a first day launch.
It also looked as though Arriva’s Dartford garage has added an allocation of ferry cars to whisk drivers up and down the A2 for meal and duty reliefs.
And I thought it was a missed opportunity that the bus shelter at the terminal point didn’t have any promotional information about the new 335 nor even an out of date spider map. Perhaps this will change in the coming weeks.
The area known as Kidbrooke used to comprise a large housing development called Ferrier Estate which was built between 1968 and 1972 and sadly gained a reputation for crime and a lack of social cohesion. Controversially the whole area was flattened between 2009 and 2012 and is now being slowly rebuilt with 4,400 new homes, 300,000 square foot of commercial and retail space, a school and parkland.
It’s pleasing to see TfL have resisted being taken in by Berkeley Homes’ misappropriate branding of the area by calling it Kidbrooke Village, preferring to stick with the long standing plain Kidbrooke on bus destination blinds.
There’s nothing ‘Village” about Kidbrooke. Just look at the scale of property development now underway which even includes some secure underground parking.
It will be interesting to see whether residents opt for the new route 335 and Jubilee Line option of reaching London Bridge, especially as southeastern can whisk passengers there in a third of the time in just sixteen minutes from the adjacent station.
It’s only fair to point out the development does also include some tastefully landscaped parkland, and to end on a positive, it is excellent to see a new bus service being introduced at such a high frequency and still relatively early on in the development.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train.