London bus riding: routes 132 & 231

Thursday 17th November 2022

After my two palindrome rides on London’s bus routes 123 and 321 last month, it seemed a good idea to repeat the adventure and do an anagram variant with a journey on both routes 132 and 231, not least because it made sense to ride the 132 after finishing my journey on the 321 (it didn’t take long to nip from Foots Cray to Bexleyheath) and sample the 231 after the 123 with both routes serving Turnpike Lane.

Route 132, like the 321, takes a south east trajectory, but this time from North Greenwich to Bexleyheath. It’s operated with 16 ‘71’ plate Enviro400EV City buses by Go Ahead London’s Bexleyheath garage on a 10 minute frequency. There’s recently been a a PR shout out about the route with TfL and Go Ahead London proudly showing off the pantograph contraption installed at the front of Bexleyheath bus garage where buses can top the battery up while on layover, but none of the buses pulling in late morning while I was there wanted to be plugged in, so I guess it’s something for later in the afternoon, rather than a morning thing.

End to end journey time on the 132 during the day time is 54 minutes with peak journeys given 68 minutes. It’s only run in its current form since as recently as 2009 when it got extended from Eltham Station to North Greenwich. At the other end of the route it once reached Slade Green station and even Dartford.

It’s a route in two halves taking 25 minutes from North Greenwich to Eltham Church and 29 minutes from there to Bexleyheath during the daytime.

I travelled from Bexleyheath heading towards North Greenwich catching the 12:56 departure. There were two buses on the stand close to the first bus stop by Bexleyheath’s shopping area, not even having gone to the bus garage. It’s a very busy area with 10 terminating bus routes and another nine passing through.

We only picked up four passengers at the first stop, which slightly surprised me as I was expecting more.

The journey didn’t get much busier as we progressed towards North Greenwich either.

Mind you, had we been heading in the other direction we’d have got a caning at the fifth bus stop (Hartford Road) by a hoard of students who had turned out from the nearby Beths Grammar School.

We picked up just six passengers from here and it doesn’t take long to fly over the A2 and soon reach Bexley and its rather narrow but busy shopping street (with more pupils from Beths frequenting the sandwich shops) which is the A222 Parkhill Road….

… and the town’s station.

Parkhill Road soon becomes a typical low density residential main road in this part of prosperous south east London and we headed on towards Eltham.

After picking up those six passengers at the school we passed by nine stops with no custom until we reached Blendon where one boarded and after another couple of stops passed, we reach Blackfen Road – one of London’s odd ball bus stops designated as a “Tailstop” by TfL, meaning the driver should pull up with its “tail” (rather than head) level with the stop. Presumably to appease the residents of the house alongside.

Blackfen has a neighbourhood shopping area but we still didn’t get much custom.

Getting closer to Eltham we started picking up passengers with twelve boarding at seven bus stops but five other bus stops offering no custom.

Eltham offered up 12 passengers at the areas two bus stops but no-one boarded at Eltham station which we passed after turning right at the church….

… and went over the A2 again.

Just passed here is the lovely recreational area on the left called Well Hall Pleasaunce which rather nicely has a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, although I think it may have been from the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the summer.

Tree pruning was taking place along the road here and I saw something not seen before – a kind of temporary bus stop closure notice – which I guess saves confusion which often arises when the more definite “bus stop closed” hood is a-fixed even when there’s no reason why it should be closed. Common sense prevails.

We then turned left left on to Rochester Way …

… but still didn’t get very busy with three passengers boarding from the seven bus stops after Eltham station.

As we head over the A2 again …

…. where the route divides with North Greenwich bound buses using a transformed Rochester Way with its northbound only bus only section …

…. which sits alongside the busy A2 as it’s about to turn into the A102 which heads towards the Blackwall Tunnel.

Meanwhile Bexleyheath bound buses take the parallel Kidbrooke Park Road to the west. We pick up two passengers from that bus only section which is it for the journey as far as picking up passengers is concerned and we head towards North Greenwich by joining the A102…

…. but not for long, as we exit at the Woolwich Road junction …

…. so we can pass under the A102 and then into …

… the Greenwich peninsular with its huge retail sheds, entertainment venues and leisure destinations, including IKEA.

It’s a busy area for bus routes, if not passengers…

… the sights are worth the ride…

… as we approach the terminus at North Greenwich station and 11 passengers alight. It’s 13:45 meaning we’ve completed the journey in 49 minutes, shaving five minutes off the scheduled time and carrying 40 passengers.

Sadly my route 231 experience got off to a similar frustrating start as I’d experienced on the 123 earlier that morning. The route is scheduled to run every 15 minutes between Turnpike Lane station and Enfield Chase station and just to make it easy for passengers, TfL give departure times at the bus stop – being 00, 15, 30 and 45

I missed the 13:15 departure by a whisker – seeing it leave just as I arrived at Turnpike Lane’s bus station sited conveniently alongside the Underground station having walked down from Wood Green. And as always the way with these things, the next bus at 13:30 was cancelled, making for another half an hour gap between journeys and an unwelcome long wait for passengers.

Still, it gave me time to study the flow of buses leaving the bus station, or rather the lack of a flow, with congestion being the name of the game with the surrounding roads unable to cope with the volume of traffic. As I mentioned in my write up of the 123 journey, green time for exiting the bus station is 15 seconds in every 90 seconds and such was the scale of congestion, on many occasions only two buses could leave during the green time.

Buses on route 217 which parallels much of route 231 every 12 minutes (as far as Southbury Road) came and went during this time and took passengers waiting to head north up the A10 Great Cambridge Road…

… as well as plenty of buses on the even more frequent route 144 at seven buses per hour and which also heads to Edmonton Cambridge but via Wood Green and Lordship Lane rather than Westbury Avenue.

I spotted a few passengers letting buses on both routes go and I guessed were also waiting for a bus to take them to Enfield and sure enough once a bus displaying 231 arrived for the 13:45 departure around a dozen passengers came forward to board and we were off, pinching a minute from the scheduled time to ensure we were in pole position at the traffic lights to exit the bus station.

Interestingly the internal destination is shown as Enfield Town rather than Enfield Chase

Route 231 is operated with seven 10 year old Wright Gemini bodied Volvos from Metroline’s Potters Bar bus garage, although as you can see my bus was actually a four year old mcv eVoseti. It takes just 35 minutes to reach Enfield Chase station with buses starting off heading in a slight north easterly direction up Westbury Avenue to Lordship Lane and then round Roundway to turn left on to the A10 Great Cambridge Road and then a north trajectory all the way to Southbury Road where we turn westwards to reach Enfield. It’s a relatively short route by TfL standards with buses completing the journey eight minutes quicker than route 329 which takes a more direct route from Turnpike Lane due north along Green Lanes to Enfield; such is the fast pace available on the A10.

Buses on the 231 have been following this same route since it began in 1954 originally extended further west to Alexandra Park at the southern end, and further north to Forty Hill at the Enfield end. The former was lost in 1968 with the latter extended further to Carterhatch in 1973 and cut back to Enfield Chase in 1998.

It took a few minutes to clear the busy road junction with Wood Green High Road and Turnpike Lane, but we managed to turn right into Westbury Avenue on the next green phase and then we were off.

It didn’t take long to see the bus behind us just approaching Turnpike Lane in Westbury Avenue.
The junction with Lordship Lane had three way temporary traffic lights but thankfully….
… they didn’t hold us up, and passengers don’t have a stop to board or alight at. No ‘Dolly Stops” these days.
We turned left into Roundway and round this way to the A10 Great Cambridge Road….
… which we follow for most of our journey noting the bus lane along much of it.
Although the position of this HGV made it impossible to pass.
But we took advantage of the next section as we approached the Great Cambridge roundabout with the A406 North Circular Road.
We weren’t particularly busy and soon caught up a bus on route 217 ahead of us.
And then had to queue for a few minutes to cross Church Street (towards Edmonton).
Passing by the huge Edmonton Cemetery while inching our way towards the junction.
After that it was plan sailing to the next junction with Lincoln Road where the 217 prepares to turn right at the next junction to serve a retail park….
… at Southbury Road where we turn left towards Enfield and frustratingly have to wait for a change of lights to reach the slip road.
Southbury Road has a number of other bus routes including the 121, 191, 307, 313 and 317 so not surprisingly we soon caught up with one and followed it to…
… Enfield Town station on the London Overground line to Liverpool Street.
After that it’s in to Cecil Road where London Transport country buses on routes 310 and 313 used to stand and…
… we soon arrive at Enfield Chase station where passengers are dropped off at the bottom of Windmill Hill ….
… so that the bus can enter the station forcourt with no one on board.
As there’s no accessible bus stand for passengers to alight.

We’d arrived at Enfield Chase at 14:23 taking 39 minutes having lost a bit of time at the Church Street traffic lights, but otherwise a smooth and uneventful journey after that missing bus.

And that’s it for the 123 and 321; 132 and 231 which just leaves the 213 and 312 to do because there aren’t any more three way three numbered palendromic anagram sequences possible on TfL’s bus network.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

20 thoughts on “London bus riding: routes 132 & 231

Add yours

  1. Nah, you’re far from done!

    401/104
    403/304
    411/114
    412/214
    413/314
    422/224
    423/324
    432/234
    433/334
    452/254
    453/354
    462/264
    463/364
    472/274
    481/184
    482/284
    483/384
    491/194
    492/294
    493/394

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  2. The 132 is the closest southeast London (currently) has to an express bus and is often very busy. It’s my favourite way to zip to Eltham.

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  3. Can I just point out that the 144 doesn’t follow the same route as the 217 and 231 from Turnpike Lane, it goes via Wood Green Station and Lordship Lane to reach the Roundway/ A10 ?

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  4. Bus EP2.

    What is the height impact of the roof mounted pantograph kit?

    Is the overall height greater than a conventional ADL City E400 for London?
    Does the pantograph protrude above the rest of the roof line and if yes by how much?
    As the pantograph sits in the middle of the roof line, is there a height reduction inside at that point?

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    1. There is no pantograph on the bus, just receptor rails on the roof that receive an electric charge from the pantograph that drops down from the gantry at Bexleyheath garage. There is no discernible dip in the ceiling under the receptor rails.

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    2. I wonder what will happen when the pantograph fails? At least with bus mounted pantographs only one bus would be affected if its pantograph failed. But maybe being double decker height limits mean that only roof bars can be fitted.

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  5. Although the 217 and 231 date from 1954, the routes have been around longer. They were actually created in 1938 and were numbered 144A and 144B as off-shoots of the main 144 from which they diverged at the North Circular Road. They were given their own numbers in 1954.

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  6. Its good to see that Bexleyheath garage, which was built in 1935 as the depot for trolleybus routes 696 and 698 is being used for electric buses again.

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  7. 132 used to be a ‘frying pan’ shaped route from Eltham, looping via Bexley and Bexleyheath back via Danson Road (so one direction would have had a yellow blind if memory serves).

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  8. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I used the 132 to get to my primary school 1946-1951. But it was even more special in those days, a proper circular route (Eltham-Bexleyheath-Bexley-Eltham and the other way round. One dreadful non-trip in 1947: I waited in vain for my bus for about 30 minutes and returned home in tears. Would I get punished for unauthorised absence? Mum sorted me out. In the freezing weather, buses couldn’t get up and down Gravel Hill! That was one cold winter.

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