Friday 9th October 2020
When TfL intrdocued the politically inspired New Bus for London – I hesitate at using its official ‘New Routemaster’ name for want of not denegrating the great iconic London bus designed in the late 1950s – nor its nickname after the vanity seeking Mayor who set the hare running by introducing it in the first place – anyway, if you’re still with me, when TfL introduced the you-know-what-bus in 2012, who’d have thought they’d end up on route 313 – a relatively quiet route running from Chingford via Enfield to TfL’s northern served outpost of Potters Bar over the border in Hertfordshire.
Answer: no one.
But, this week sees the start of the transformation of this Arriva London operated route running every 20 minutes daytime (30 minutes evenings and Sundays) from single deck Enviro200 buses to the infamous LT class. Within a matter of days, all of the route’s commitment of seven vehicles (plus an extra or two in the peaks) will be LT type buses which until last weekend plied their way along one of central London’s most frequent routes between Victoria and Clapton Pond: route 38.
Reductions in passenger numbers led TfL to slim down the frequency of Arriva London operated route 38 last weekend from a peak hour every 3-4 minutes to every 4-5 minutes, thereby saving ten buses to a newly reduced peak vehicle requirement of 43. Probably a sensible move, even with the need for social distancing.
Today’s route 313 has its origins in a former London Transport country area green RF operated route between St Albans and Enfield via Potters Bar (even reaching Whipsnade Zoo in the summer) and central area red RF (and sometime RT) route 121 between Enfield and Chingford making it a long way down the list of suitable routes for LT class buses with their three doors, two staircases, unfriendly lower deck seat layout with a paucity of accessible seats (just 8) and a preponderence of backward facing seats (10). But needs must, and the fact the 313 is also operated by Arriva London and has a PVR under ten makes it an ideal candidate as a home for the ten surplus buses. Whether it’s suitable from a passenger perspective is neither here nor there of course. This is TfL and London. Although social distancing requirements does mean a welcome allocation of double deck buses to the route.
That was my preconceived thinking, but to test it out in practice I took a ride out to Enfield earlier today to track down the two LT type buses that have so far switched Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly for Southbury Road and The Ridegway.
According to the very helpful ‘London Vehicle Finder’ website, first thing this morning, three LTs were out on the 313 but by mid morning that had reduced to two with a gaudy all over advert adorned class member also out for driver familiarisation.
It didn’t take long before LT185 arrived in Enfield heading towards Potters Bar.
This northern end of the route is much less busy than the eastern side towards Chingford. Indeed at most stops we had more doors than passengers wanting to board.
After passing through the grounds of Chase Farm Hospital where extensive redevelopment and house building is taking place the journey takes on rural characteristics …
… as the bus speeds along The Ridgeway passing farms…
…. and fields ….
….. until it crosses the M25 and reaches Potters Bar.
We took half a dozen passengers to Potters Bar and on the next journey back towards Chingford ….
…. left the terminus on the station forecourt with a similar number with just a couple more boarding on the journey back down to Chase Farm Hospital.
I took a break in Enfield before continuing on to Chingford on LT176, the second bus on the road today.
As mentioned earlier this is the busier end of the route but numbers on the upper deck never exceeded six and I’d estimate about a dozen on the lower deck.
After passing Arriva London’s Enfield bus garage where the buses for route 313 are based (and which I note on destination blinds is called – more geographically accurately – ‘Ponders End Bus Garage’) the route’s eastern trajectory passes through Lea Valley reservoir territory…
… where we got held up for about ten minutes in a queue for Sewardstone Road (the A112).
…. before reaching Chingford and ending the journey in the bus station alongside the station.
The end to end daytime journey time is scheduled to take 55/56 minutes rising to up to 67 minutes in the peak.
On LT185 I noticed two pairs of forward facing seats over the wheel arch were ‘out of bounds’ …
… whereas not so on LT176.
I’m not sure what the official policy is.
It’s always a pleasure to take a ride on a double deck along the 313 with some great views, especially along The Ridgeway but it’s debatable whether the use of these ridiculously expensive buses on a relatively marginal route in TfL’s bus network could ever be justified. The answer is clearly, another no.
But this is London. And strange things happen.
This afternoon I spotted the special green liveried LT2 at Victoria bus station. What a pity that wasn’t one of the ten vehicles selected to transfer over to the 313.
That really would have been a nice touch.
A London Transport green bus back on the route where it belonged.