Route 84 lives on

Tuesday 7th June 2022

Back in February when Metroline announced it was throwing in the towel on route 84 between St Albans and New Barnet station there was much speculation what the future would hold for this much loved long standing iconic bus route.

Famous for its heritage as a former London Transport red bus route with its southern origins in Golders Green and Walthamstow it was notable for its foray deep into green country bus territory terminating on the forecourt of St Albans bus garage.

Metroline had done their best to keep it going after deregulation but after many timetable and minor route tweaks the company decided it was simply no longer a viable proposition post pandemic.

We were all pleased to hear of the route’s secured future soon after Metroline’s announcement in the form of South Mimms based independent and respected operator Sullivans coming to the rescue by registering a continuation of the half hourly frequency (hourly on Sundays) but with a curtailment of the route at Potters Bar rather than continuing to Barnet and New Barnet.

Sadly TfL’s well publicised financial position meant it was unlikely funding would be found to finance the two buses needed to maintain that section of route leaving the direct link between Potters Bar and Barnet severed.

When I travelled on the route with Metroline back in February six passengers travelled on the now withdrawn section and since publishing that blog I was contacted separately by two passengers who regularly travelled on that part of the route including one who commuted from Potters Bar (near the bus garage) to High Barnet to connect with the Northern Line to London Bridge. He now has a longer walk to Mutton Lane to catch a 298 to Cockfosters and a longer journey on the Piccadilly line or a trek to the National Rail station in Potters Bar for a more expensive journey into the city. The other travelled from Barnet to Hadley Highstone and now has the rather restricted off peak route 399 and a walk.

But from Sullivans’ stance it made absolute commercial sense as it’s enabled a tidy timetable taking four buses for the hour long end to end journey which includes a neat anti-clockwise circuit of Potters Bar kicked off by a double run from Mutton Lane to the station and back.

This enables passengers from London Colney, South Mimms and Cranbourne Road to easily get to the station and back as well as catering for people making journeys around the Potters Bar circuit.

When I travelled late morning last Wednesday we dropped seven passengers off at the station and then picked up five on the town circuit some of whom alighted on the circuit but others travelled beyond the station on towards South Mimms and St Albans on the return journey. A further 12 boarded at the station to head north.

A dozen passengers boarded at Potters Bar station to head north

From St Albans the late morning journey I travelled on carried an impressive 16 passengers leaving the city (including the station) with nine alighting as we headed towards London Colney where I dropped back to the bus behind which arrived with seven on board and we picked up another six further on in London Colney and South Mimms.

Sullivans have acquired some ADL dual door Enviro 400s which have seen previous service with Abellio and GoCoach and are now painted in a very smart green livery including route branding on both sides and the company has also distributed nearly 3,000 timetable leaflets to promote the route.

Although my journeys were on the Wednesday before the four day Jubilee weekend which was also market day in St Albans making the city’s main shopping street, St Peter’s Street, a bustling but traffic choked affair causing some late running to buses as we inched our way forward through traffic lights….

….. and not helped by the usual on street parking issues at the western end of Victoria Street as traffic queues for the lights while buses try and head east towards the station…..

….. but it was certainly encouraging to see much improved numbers of passengers compared to when I sampled a ride towards the end of Metroline’s tenure which had been characterised by unreliability as drivers on the route left the company for other work.

I was sceptical whether a half hourly timetable could be sustained commercially but after my encouraging rides last week I’m optimistic the ever enthusiastic and dedicated Dean Sullivan and his team will be able to do just that and although some more timetable tweaks may be needed in the autumn it looks like the 84 has a secure future in Sullivans’ hands. Which is very good to see.

Roger French

PS I know there are those who insist stations should always be called a rail, or even, a railway station, rather than a train station. They need to avoid catching a train from Potters Bar.

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

14 thoughts on “Route 84 lives on

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  1. That’s really good news – here’s to hoping that Sullivan’s enthusiasm and detailed planning win the day. I know it is easy to talk about a route ‘ deserving’ only an hourly service, but – looking at the populations along the route – it also needs to be said that a half-hourly bus more than doubles the useful travel opportunities on offer – particularly for return journeys, where both out and back timings must be reasonable in order to attract custom. And how can the point be demonstrated if the more frequent service is not at least tried out? Isn’t that the point of enterprising and innovative private bus companies?

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  2. Originally the 84 ran St Albans to Golders Green it then changed to St Albans to Arnos Grove and then had some peak and Weekend journey extended to Walthamstow

    The other traditional Red Bus operated by Potters Bar in Hertfordshire is the 242. It is as pale shadow of what it used to be and provides an irregular service over most of the route. In effect it operates in three sections. Potters Par to Waltham Cross, Potters Bar to Cuffley and Waltham Cross to Brookfield Centre. I should imagine traffic congestion around Waltham Cross plays havoc with that timetable. It is also competing against a number of other routes on the Waltham Cross to Farmstead end section. I believe it gets a small amount of subsidy from HCC

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    1. The 242 is currently contracted to UNO on Sundays and Bank Holidays,and only survived the drastic HCC funded cuts of ten years ago of subsidised Suns/Bh services as it served a hospital, like the 404/5.

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  3. In a microcosm, Route 84 shows how local management by an local operator that understands local travel patterns CAN rescue an ailing bus route. Two years of Covid-reduced travel patterns had left Metroline seeing no future in the route . . . their “rescue” timetable of March 2020 had been sabotaged !!

    I travelled on the “new” Route 84 just after Easter, and passenger numbers were lower than I’d’ve liked to see . . . so it is good to see the route now doing better (although Wednesday market day in St Albans always produces an uplift in passengers anyway). If the school journeys are also doing well . . . then maybe the route can survive.

    {{If only the traffic in St Peters Street and Victoria Street could be sorted . . . !!}}.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true! As you know I’ve latterly moved to the neighbouring county where Stephensons perform exactly the same role. Just a shame (for passengers) they’re limited by practicalities, and a less than helpful Council. I’m sure they have a shopping list of underperforming routes they’d like to get their hands on, to match First’s list they’d like back. This game of bits and pieces benefits no one.

      As I recall, we’ve been praying for someone to sort out St. Peters Street and Victoria Street for the last half century. If it wasn’t the surrogate M1…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think it’s worth mentioning that the previous Metroline timetable wasn’t the most efficient to operate and probably didn’t give the service much resilience when faced with the Covid downturn. For example, buses for the pm school journeys from St. Albans where dispatched from Potters Bar garage and ran as live journeys giving a rather silly, albeit brief, 10-minute headway in the early afternoon. Similarly, buses on a Sunday had a layover time of 34 minutes at the St. Albans end and 10 minutes at New Barnet.

      Well done Sullivan Buses for taking the commercial risk in these straightened times!

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      1. I can’t let Dan’s comments pass . . . the 2020 timetable was designed around the Uno 602 journeys, such that passengers had an (almost) even 15 minute headway between London Colney and St Albans; together with the (HCC sponsored) Colney7 weekly ticket, this gave a pretty good service for a relatively small community. That was also the reason for the Sunday layovers in St Albans . . . a regular 30 minute headway was provided throughout the day.

        Would it’ve been better to run the positioning school journeys empty?? If they’ve got to run, better in service . . . and therefore better at a decent interval apart. The extra cost to run in service was miniscule.

        The 2020 timetable could’ve been compiled with minimum layovers and saved a bus on weekdays, but on those days when the M25 becomes sluggish, the 84 would have fallen apart . . . better to spend a bit more for a reliabie service.

        Would it have worked?? Ah . . . isn’t that just the question !!!

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  4. I hope the 84 works out well for Dean.
    I have always wondered why, if we catch a bus from a BUS station, don’t we catch a train from a TRAIN station. I must admit that I usually use the term NR or LU station.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Quite a handsome livery and it reminds me of the Greenline livery that London Transport used prior to the NBC taking over Greenline.A lot of people are fussy about rail station/train station but what difference does it make as it’s obvious what it means either way! Another one is; freight train/goods train/cargo train.Goods is more old fashioned something that Sir Jacob Rees Smog might use not that he’s likely to be interested in rail transport pre the grouping!

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  6. Yep, the livery was the first thing that stood out from the post for me. The brain says it shouldn’t matter, but I’m constantly drawn back to one of the first comments when I started posting, a quote from a fellow-posters relative: they don’t care about their buses, and I don’t care about them. The magic ingredient?

    Sullivans clearly do care. The results clearly show, hopefully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How many bus companies appear to really clean their vehicles or maintain the external appearance

      How many buses are full of scruffy out of date posters on the inside of the bus. It just gives a could not care a less attitude

      Buses used to have some fixtures so a card advert could be just slid in making it easy to post them and change them

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  7. With Covid and Metroline’s inability to run a full service (through no fault of their own I hasten to add) for some time prior to withdrawal, Sullivans face a somewhat uphill task to regain passenger confidence. IF this can be done, there is some hope, but still have to pinch myself that Potters Bar and Barnet are no longer connected! A road which once saw numerous LT Country bus services and Green Lines, not to mention various Central services including a more frequent 84, now abandoned, is almost beyond belief.

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    1. Ditto in the south.. the road past DG garage had 402, 431, 471 etc and GL704.. now left unserved apart from school journeys.. and I’m sure there are other examples…

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