Saturday 20th November 2021
It’s been a long lingering death sentence. ‘The writing was on the wall’ way before the pandemic destroyed passenger numbers so it came as no surprise to hear news Arriva are withdrawing its Green Line branded route 758 between Hemel Hempstead and London Victoria.
The route will cease after service on Saturday 4th December.
Until then four coaches from Arriva’s Luton depot continue a somewhat limited timetable compared to what’s been available in past years. Each coach manages just one peak hour journey into London with just a smattering of off peak journeys shared between the vehicle quartet.
Four early morning journeys aimed at weekday commuters pick up in some of Hemel’s residential areas as well as the town centre then use the M1 from junction 8 all the way to the London end of the motorway calling by Brent Cross on the North Circular slip road before continuing down Hendon Way and Finchley Road to Swiss Cottage and Baker Street from where the first three journeys continue via Marble Arch to Victoria.
Departures from Woodall Farm are as early as 05:35, 05:55 and 06:15 taking 85, 95 and 105 minutes respectively to reach Victoria. The next departure at 06:40 uses the route number 748 and after Baker Street runs via Kings Cross, the City and Charing Cross taking a lengthy 2 hours 15 minutes to reach Victoria.
That’s it for the peak. There’s then just one southbound off peak journey leaving Hemel Hempstead town centre at 10:00 aimed at shoppers and leisure travellers arriving into Victoria 70 minutes later at 11:10.
Three more southbound journeys leave Hemel at 15:30, 16:15 and 17:15 to bring commuters back from London.
The weekday timetable also includes two return journeys between Victoria and the Warner Brothers studios at Leavesden using the route number 768. These leave Victoria at 07:30 and 09:30 returning from the Studios at 13:00 and 14:40. That first northbound journey seems remarkably early to me for a Harry Potter tour, and I thought most fans use the bus link from Watford Junction station to make their pilgrimage to the Studios.
There are two off peak journeys on the 758 back from Victoria at 11:30 and 14:30 as well as four afternoon peak journeys including a reverse of the morning 748 via the City.
There are a few more journeys aimed at shoppers in the Saturday timetable but only four return journeys overall (and the two Harry Potters) utilising three coaches …
… and there’s no Sunday timetable.
As you can see it’s a rather limited service now being offered as well as one with low vehicle utilisation for the four coaches. It’s not surprising the finances just don’t stack up especially now Covid Bus Service Support Grant has been wound down and it’s plain to see the service can’t be justified on the current arrangements.
I took a ride on the one weekday shopping journey at 10:00 from Hemel Hempstead to Victoria last Friday and was intrigued to see how many passengers would be travelling.
There was a coach laying over by Riverside when I arrived soon after 09:00 which was the second coach back from Victoria which had arrived at 09:00 but it didn’t work the 10:00 departure as I expected driving off out of service at about 09:30, I assume back to the garage in Luton.
The third coach back from Victoria arrives into Hemel at 09:42 and it was this coach which formed the 10:00 departure.
Six of us waited patiently for the driver to open the door and let us on board at 09:55 and we left promptly at 10:00 amid much talk of the forthcoming demise of the route.
Our driver was eager to share his thoughts on the uneconomic nature of the route, explaining he’d just taken one fare of £10 from the six of us, the other five having concessionary passes, and how could that possible cover the costs which he put at £10,000 a week for the service – which is probably about right.
We picked up one more passenger as we passed through the residential area of Adeyfield on our way to the M1 and that was it.
We made good progress reaching the Brent Cross slip road up to Hendon Way at 10:30 where one passenger alighted.
Finchley Road was fairly free flowing too with only minor delays through Swiss Cottage and we arrived at Baker Street on time where two passengers alighted.
It was slow going as we threaded our way through the western end of Oxford Street and Marble Arch but the usual severe congestion between Hyde Park Corner and Victoria cost us almost ten minutes delay …
…. giving an arrival into Victoria at 11:20 instead of 11:10 for the four of us still on board.
The demise of route 758 comes not long after Arriva invested in a fleet of new coaches for a planned new route 720 between London and Stansted Airport due to start just as the pandemic brought on last year’s first lockdown. Plans for that route have now been abandoned and the coaches have been used instead on route 758 as well as routes 755/757 between Victoria, Luton Airport and Luton which continues.
The new coaches also marked the 90th Anniversary in 2020 of the formation of the Green Line network, which is somewhat ironic considering this withdrawal means there’s pretty much nothing left of that once iconic and extensive network. Reading Buses persevere with the route from London to Slough and Windsor (as well as Bracknell) and Arriva have the no-longer-branded-Green Line route 724 from Harlow to Heathrow as well as the aforementioned 755/757, and that’s it.
The coach was very comfortable to travel in and had the usual leather style seats with a recline option and usb sockets are available …
… but I doubt the rather insipid updated Green Line livery has done anything to actually sell the service. You hardly notice it.
I also doubt whether the presentation of the timetable on Arriva’s website by splitting every journey at Brent Cross helps sell the service either. It makes for a very unwieldy timetable and is pretty much incomprehensible.
Thank goodness for the more sensible presentation used by Hertfordshire County Council’s Intalink website where I took the images shown earlier in this post.
With competition from a frequent train service (4 times an hour) provided by London NorthWestern between Hemel Hempstead and Euston taking just over half an hour and reasonably priced off peak return tickets at around £20 (£15.80 with a railcard), the coach alternative needs to really sell its positive points, not least picking up (and setting down) more conveniently in Hemel Hempstead’s residential area and running direct to Oxford Street for shopping, making the comparative journey time more attractive. And, for senior’s with a pass, it’s free. Sadly there seems to be no selling of the service at all and it’s not surprising so few passengers are using it.
Having just one off-peak southbound journey in the morning is also hardly an attractive proposition, and that’s if you can fathom out the timetable. All in all it’s probably the right and kindest thing to do to finally kill off the ailing 758.
If you fancy one last Green Line journey from Hemel Hempstead, you’ve only got two weeks to make the trip.
Finally, a quick update on TfL’s bus cuts with its relentless weekly downgrading of frequencies continuing – and this before next months financial bail out is agreed with the DfT. I left the tally last weekend with the cuts to routes 13, 168 and 414 from 13th November to which we can add frequency reductions to route 87 from today, 20th November and to routes 21, 91, 92 and 242 from next Saturday, 27th November. Keep reading for more ‘London Style’ bus cuts coming along soon.