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.
I expected your closing words to be ‘but this is London and TfL doesn’t do sensible things’.
Having a green bus on the 313 would have generated some good publicity for TfL but unfortunately they gave up marketing buses many years ago.
I do think that the ‘New’ Routemasters’ still look stylish ten years on from their launch and conversion to electric operation would be a good move. I guess that TfL will continue to put the vehicles on outer area routes and they’ll no doubt be sold off within the next five years.
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Sold to who? TfL had to buy them because all the bus operators turned them down as there was no demand for a 3-door, 2-stair bus outside of London (in fact there was no demand for them outside of City Hail). TfL will be stuck with them until they fall apart.
When theyre sold off or transfered wonder which depot will want the over engineered, over designed ugly buses they are, not coming to a depot near you soon unless forced to accept them
I might be in a minority, but I do like the Borismaster (whoops, said it by mistake!). I felt that it also encouraged other manufacturers to up their game and make buses have some car-like features – the internal furnishings for example look more welcoming than the old plain metal window surounds.
However, I do agree that they are best suited to Central London rather than the countryside. Maybe it would have made more sense to wait until other LT buses are made surplus from other service reductions, and convert another central London route.
Forgetting all the politics surrounding their birth, they do give a nice ride and it’s great to see the 313 back to official double-deck! At this rate they may yet make the 146 to Downe soon!
Love to see them on the 146 – that would be interesting!
There are some things about the “New Bus for London” which i like, such as the front windscreen being so that the sun doesn’t get in your eyes etc. However, I don’t think the extra cost is worth it, especially with buses like the enviro 400 and newer versions being so successful. In Reading, they had a trial of the “New Bus for London” on the 17 – the busiest route – but in the end they chose to go for the enviro 400 city which i think speaks volumes on the economic practicality of these buses – they didn’t even make it out of London.
TfL policy is that all rear facing seats are out of use until further notice….however theory and reality are two very different things!
I maybe alone in this but I love the Boris buses, London deserves a bus of it’s own. I think it’s so sad that Sadiq is such a proud man he couldn’t face keeping the New Routemaster because it’s his predecessors legacy. Bring some more into London I say!
Sadiq Khan prevented any more new Routemasters from being built due to their cost being almost double that of a conventional double-decker bus, not the fact that it was his predecessor’s legacy. There is no clear added value for this extra cost, so why would he want to order more. The New Routemaster was a very expensive mistake caused by an incompetent Mayor, and fortunately, Sadiq has prevented any more damage from being done.
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At the risk of being pedantic, an LT has operated in (sort of) public service at Potters Bar before . . . on the occasion of various PB Garage Open Days, with yours truly at the wheel!! It mainly ran on Route 84 to and from New Barnet, but one year I opined that I was bored, and could I please go somewhere else? So . . . off I went as a Route 716 duplicate to Hatfield Station!! I’m sure there is a photo of the trip somewhere on the www . . . ..
In passing, whilst an LT is one of the best buses I’ve driven in over 40 years (very closely followed by a Volvo/Wright Gemini combo), it is necessary to be cautious when taking them off route; they are slightly longer than the normal London decker, and the wheelbase is also longer, so for the unwary driver it is possible to get the middle doors VERY close to street furniture when turning left.
I visited the GoCoach Open Day in 2018 (?) ,and found the turn into Sevenoaks Bus Station needed a lot of caution!
Driving LT100 at the IOW Festival in 2014 was also interesting . . . the roads through Ryde Town Centre needed a little extra care!
Bearing in mind traffic conditions in large areas of London, route allocation would need to be done carefully . . . it was necessary to move quite a lot of street furniture on some of the original routes, especially on the dead runs to/from Garages, which often caused more problems than the main routes.
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And at least one LT has run in Ipswich, at an Ipswich Transport Museum bus running day a few years ago.
I know ‘cos I rode on it! It caused a lot of interest as it drove round town.
Yes . . . even in London, when an LT attended a Garage Open Day or another event and gave free rides, it could easily be the most popular bus there!! This was in the early days, of course . . . after about 2015 the novelty had worn off and it was just another bus.
Metroline did “loan” an LT to Ipswich BC just after they were introduced, maybe for a shuttle service from the County Council to the Town Centre? I can’t remember the details now . . . .
I drove the Routemaster buses for London Transport back in the 70’s and the original
RM and RML ‘s where a real pleasure to drive .
The 113 route out of the old Hendon garage and The 13 out of Finchley garage it made you feel like you was part of London’s heritage ( if that makes sense)🤔.
But I must say it’s nicer to see this shape bus than the horrible MCW bus that replaced the old Ram’s
The route 84 from Potters Bar is a non TfL Commercial service although it just ventures into London They also operate the 242 which is a non TfL service which does not enter into London it is partly HCC supported. They operate a few other routes . At one time it also operate a commercial service between Enfield and Hertford and I think on Saturdays a variant of it ran to Harlow, A small number of other routes are also operated under contract to HCC. Non of the above services accept the Oyster card and have Non TfL fare structures
Interesting that the frequency on TfL route 38 has been reduced, as I thought it was the most frequent route in the UK. I’m not sure what is the most frequent route in London now: possibly 29, 65, 73 or 521? Outside London might there be more on Birmingham 50 or Manchester 192?
The W7 is pretty frequent at every 3 minutes. It is quite a short route though running from Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill
I was in Chingford last January, riding Class 315s for the last time, in those carefree, pre Covid days, and I noticed an E400 on the 313. Couldn’t say whether it was a one off or not!
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I am sure bendy buses were obviously much better as they must have lit up the area when they burst into flames.
London has always had iconic buses as part of the tourist attraction even if not intended.
As a matter of interest routemasters were designed in the earlier part of the 1950s. I saw RM1 at the commercial motor show in 1954