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.
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.
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.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS