London bus riding: routes 213 and 312

Saturday 3rd December 2022

And so to the third and final of my palindromic anagram London bus route riding trilogy. Having enjoyed the 123/321 and 132/231 it can only be the turn of routes 213 and 312 thus completing the only six route palindromic anagram possible on TfL’s bus network.

So far I’ve not had much luck with one ride of each pair – a huge gap in service on the 123 and a missing bus on the 231 – and, spoiler alert, this time it was the same disruptive story.

I chose to begin my day on route 312 which runs from Arriva’s anonymous looking bus garage in South Croydon taking a fairly short four mile, 30 odd minute run, via Croydon town centre and East Croydon station to Norwood Junction station.

When I arrived at the bus garage I saw a likely looking bus for the next departure parked at the front ready for action.

It was due to leave at 09:54 but by 10:00 there’d been no movement ….

… so assuming the journey had been cancelled I wandered down Brighton Road south of the garage for some leg stretching only to turn round and at 10:02 saw the bus emerge and just managed to approach from behind and hop on board.

It was a quiet run to Croydon with the five buses an hour (every 12 minutes) route 312 being paralleled by four others (60, 166, 407, 466) adding another 21 buses per hour to this important corridor. We picked up only six passengers.

There’s not much scenery to enjoy as the bus heads north towards Croydon passing the Swan and Sugar Loaf Hotel (now a shadow of its once grand self and demoted to a new life as a Tesco Express)…

…. the closed estate agents ….

…. under the flyover ….

…. with East Croydon station hoving into view …

…. where route 312 doesn’t stop in the bus station bays close by ….

…. but continues round the corner to stop where all six on board alighted and two boarded and where it looks like the demolished Royal Mail office is making way for yet another skyscraper block of flats.

Two bus stops later in Cherry Orchard Road at 10:15 we arrived at a bus stop called Leslie Grove where the driver got out of his cab and announced this was as far as the bus was going.

Thirteen minutes after leaving Croydon bus garage it was the end of that journey and it turned out the destination blind had been displaying Lower Addiscombe Road as a short working and I’d not noticed as I’d hurried to catch it in South Croydon. Unhelpfully there’d been no announcements or displays on the usual internal screen.

The three of us got off and waited for the next bus to arrive, as the short working bus headed back for its 13 minute run to South Croydon.

Eight minutes later at 10:23 the next bus arrived with no-one on board and two of us boarded – the other passenger had wandered off.

Whereas route 312 is scheduled for nine Optare (now Switch Mobility) MetroCity electric buses making us all feel good about making a green journey this next bus was an 11 year old diesel Enviro 200.

I wasn’t sure whether I should let it go else it would impact my righteous personal carbon footprint reduction regime bus companies are always patronisingly imploring is good for me, but having already spent some time waiting I decided to persevere and jump aboard.

We continued on to Norwood Junction trying to ignore the loud rattles and picked up 17 passengers at eight of the next 11 bus stops with nine alighting at four of the stops.

There’s not much scenery to point out on this half of the route either. Ashburton Park on Lower Addiscombe Road is about as green as it gets….

… before turning left into Spring Lane and passing the former Woodside station, now a tram stop with no need for the station buildings which remain boarded up 25 years after it closed.

Eight passengers alighted at the terminus at Norwood Junction which we reached at 10:34, making it only 32 minutes for the journey from South Croydon even allowing for the eight minute pause at Leslie Grove. It’s not a long route by any means.

Whereas route 312 is a fairly new kid on the block – taking over the southern end of route 12/12A in 1990 initially running from Peckham southwards but cut back to Norwood Junction in 2005 (the Peckham section was taken over by route 197)…

… the palindrome route 213 which beckoned for my next journey has a much longer pedigree dating back to 1934, and before that running under the number 113.

To catch it involved a seamless interchange at Norwood Junction on to a Southern train to Sutton where I made my way to another long standing London Transport bus garage – this one owned by Go-Ahead London and not afraid to display its credentials – from where route 213 begins its journey across to Kingston.

It’s a double deck 10-minute frequency route including a night service making it a true trunk route of importance in these outer south western suburbs of nine miles in length compared to the 312’s status of a four mile rump end of a once famous cross London route.

I arrived at Sutton bus garage just as the 11:12 departure was leaving…

… but it was no surprise the next departure at 11:22 was waiting alongside the garage on layover behind a bus on route 413 heading for Morden.

The 19 vehicles allocated from Sutton bus garage to the route are a mixture of 12-14 year old Tridents and nine year old Volvo B9TLs – there were 12 of the former and two of the latter out during my travels. Not exactly modern buses for this busy prime route.

At 11:21 the bus pulled round to the first stop by the bus garage and I boarded for the 56 minute journey to Kingston via Cheam, North Cheam, Worcester Park, New Malden and Norbiton.

First task was to spend the initial 11 minutes making our way south through Sutton’s town centre with its interesting offside bus lane and bus stops along Throwley Way which runs parallel to the pedestrianised High Street where the shops and commercial businesses can be found.

There are many bus routes using Throwley Way which has four bus stops as buses head northbound with the busy Police Station bus stop at the end of the road.

We picked up 24 passengers from those first seven bus stops, only losing one who made a very short hop and we were now heading west along Cheam Road picking up three and dropping two passengers off reaching Cheam “Village” seven minutes later.

Cheam lives up to its reputation of being a well to do suburb of London and as we turned right into Malden Road we dropped eight of our Sutton passengers off and picked four up.

Five minutes and four bus stops later we arrived at North Cheam’s crossroads with the A24 London Road and we’d lost 13 more passengers but picked up eight more.

On this stretch of route towards Worcester Park and New Malden route 213 is joined by route 151 (every 10 minutes Worcester Park to Wallington) …

… as well as the limited stop route X26 (half-hourly West Croydon to Heathrow Airport).

It’s an eight minute run between North Cheam and Worcester Park station with six bus stops which saw us pick up 17 passengers and drop 15 off.

Route 151 turns round alongside Worcester Park station with a bus bay alongside the station entrance.

From Worcester Park it’s then on to New Malden once we’d cleared under the rather brutal bridge carrying the railway line to Chessington South….

…. then approaching the New Malden roundabout …

… we’d gained six and lost 11 by the time we reached the ‘Fountain” bus stop (above) after which New Malden’s High Street saw us pick up 21 students heading to college as the clock reached midday.

At the next stop at New Malden station …

… we picked up seven more bringing the total complement on board to 41, which was the maximum on board at any one time we had during the journey. Route K1 also serves High Street commencing its journey at the station before heading via Tolworth to Kingston.

After that we turned left into a residential road called Clarence Avenue to take us to Kingston Hospital and Norbiton.

Our driver didn’t worry about the parked cars necessitating taking the right hand side of the road and ignoring the keep left signs – he had no alternative

…. and we dropped the students off at the school and the bus felt quieter…

…. although eleven more passengers had boarded at the seven bus stops as well as 18 alighting including the 14 students …

… which brought us to Kingston Hospital where eight alighted at the two stops serving the hospital with one boarding.

As we then headed through Norbiton, passing the station and yet another railway line crossed (the fourth) …

…. we picked two more up as traffic built up towards Kingston town centre, passing the bespoke bus service for the University….

… and encountering a frustration wait to access the bus lane.

Finally arriving at Kingston’s Fairfield bus station at 12:20, fifty nine minutes after leaving Sutton with 28 passengers alighting having carried 104 passengers during the journey making it the most productive trip of my palindromic anagram trilogy.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS and occasional Su specials but not tomorrow.

8 thoughts on “London bus riding: routes 213 and 312

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  1. I always enjoy Roger’s reports of bus rides, both on unfamiliar routes and also this time the 213 which was familiar from when I lived in London. Clearly he was in the nearside front upstairs seat, yet managed as usual to count the numbers boarding and alighting along the route – but from that seat how does one count downstairs passengers on London double-deckers who leave by the centre exit (without a lot of neck strain)?

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  2. Bus Chaos in Watford/ Passengers are being left stranded for hours as Arriva is unable to operate services. It is stating there will be no improvement until at least next year when it is reducing the service levels on some routes and is surrendering the 357 route

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    1. Bob . . . source, please!! I live in Watford, and I’m not aware of huge gaps in service. Route 357 is surrendered on 1 January 2023.

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  3. You said: “There are many bus routes using Throwley Way split across two bus stops at each location to spread the load.” I don’t think I quite understand what you mean by this. There are four stops along Throwley Way, designated, in ascending order of altitude, Benhill Avenue, Manor Place, Times Square, and Police Station, and they are, very approximately, equally spaced up the road.
    Route S4 joins Throwley Way from Benhill Avenue and so misses the first stop but serves the other three. Route 407 starts at the bottom of the hill round the corner in Marshall’s Road and also misses the first stop (presumably TfL don’t think it has room to get across to the other side of the road in time) but serves the other three. Apart from that all the buses that go up the hill serve all four stops. There is no splitting.

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  4. Ah . . . the accurate Watford Observer (or not). Well-known locally for making a story up from one fact and embellishing it !!
    The comment that the service are unlikely to improve for some months after Route 357 is withdrawn (releasing at least a dozen drivers) tells me that the problem is more complex.
    The timetables on Routes 10 and 20 have around 30 minutes non-moving time in 5 1/2 hours driving time, almost all in waiting time in the middle of journeys.
    There is no provision for recovering from any traffic delays (in a town surrounded by the M1 and M25 motorways, these occur almost daily) . . . so buses get late and stay late or miss out ends of routes (and on 30-minute headways, that is poor). No change to the timetables have yet been registered, so no improvements until March !!
    The 0853 ex Abbots Langley runs up to 15 minutes late every schoolday, and has done so since April !! A 15 minute car journey becomes a 60 minute bus ride . . . unsurprisingly, I’ll go by car !!

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