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When I travelled on the route with Metroline back in February six passengers travelled on the now withdrawn section and since publishing that blog I was contacted separately by two passengers who regularly travelled on that part of the route including one who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.
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.
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