My favourite London bus terminus terminates tomorrow

Thursday 2nd February 2023

It’s been a long time coming, as these things always are at TfL. Having launched a consultation proposing the withdrawal of route 271 and associated changes to routes 21, 141, 143, and 263 as long ago as November 2021, the end is finally here. Tomorrow is the last day to enjoy a terminal delight at Highgate Village.

That consultation attracted 1,520 responses most of them against the proposals including the loss of a direct bus link from the Village to Moorgate and the City, but despite this, in today’s financially constrained TfL, the proposal is going ahead. To be fair to TfL, as a consequence of the replies, it has amended the original plan which had involved swapping routes 143 and 263 north of Archway, but now route 143 will continue unchanged with the 263 still diverting to use Highgate Hill instead of Archway Road to provide the capacity needed after the 271’s withdrawal.

From Moorgate the 271 is being replaced by a diversion of route 21 to Holloway instead of Newington Green, then the aforementioned rerouting of route 263 to use Highgate Hill instead of Archway Road which in turn is replaced by an extension of route 234 from Highgate Wood to Archway, thereby covering all bases, although there’ll be less capacity on a number of sections of road, but that’s how things go in TfL land these days. As far as direct links to the City being lost goes, obviously TfL’s response is the customary ‘hopper fare’ with a change of bus on Holloway Road.

I blogged about all this a year ago in January 2022 as the consultation came to an end and lamented the end of one of London’s most enduring bus routes having escaped route extensions, curtailments, deviations, enhancements or reductions over past decades.

Route 271 has continued to ply its way pretty much in a straight line for over 62 years from the lovely and substantial Finsbury Square terminus in Moorgate along City Road, New North Road and Holloway Road before climbing Highgate Hill to turn at London’s most charming of termini at Highgate Village. The route’s history goes back even further with it originally being operated by trams before they were replaced by trolleybus route 611 which followed the exact same route until Routemasters took over in July 1960 as the newly renumbered 271.

Trolleybus route 611 ran every 4-6 minutes and took 28 minutes for the journey whereas as route 271 comes to an end it has run very 8 minutes taking 44 minutes extending to 51 minutes in the peaks for the end to end journey. But whereas trolleybuses only ran between around 07:00 and 22:30 from Highgate Village, today’s 271 has operated round the clock for 24 hours. And after tomorrow will feature as a new N271 which will continue north to North Finchley.

Metroline operate 13 buses on the 271 (with an extra in the morning peak from route 17) from its Holloway (previously called Highgate) bus garage from where the route has operated for almost the entire time. For eight months in 1990 and 1991 it moved to Chalk Farm garage and rather oddly ran from a base in Edmonton when contracted to a company called London Suburban Bus in 1993 for two and a half years. During that time weekend journeys were extended from Moorgate’s Finsbury Square to Liverpool Street station.

Another oddity was in December 1965 when 15 Atlanteans (XAs) were allocated to the route as part of London Transport’s trial of front entrance, rear engined buses. This lasted until July 1966 when RMLs took over.

But tt’s the terminus at Highgate Village which I will miss the most. There are few places in London where buses make such a majestic turn at a road junction.

Not only that but it has a lovely original London Transport poster display board together with a park bench dating from 1965. There’s even a spider map displayed, but obviously that will be removed, never to be updated and reappear.

Unlike almost everywhere else in London, the wonderful Highgate Village bus terminus (called South Grove after the side road at the junction) has had a bus stop flag allowing passengers to actually board buses while on the stand.

My sadness at seeing this terminus come to an end is not shared by the Highgate Society which in its consultation response welcomed “the proposed removal of the South Grove bus stand in Highgate Village ….. and asked that TfL work closely with the London Borough of Camden and local community if redesignating the space”.

It was good to see a prominent notice displayed at the terminus letting passengers know about the withdrawal of rouite 271 which even had a map to illustrate what’s happening, which is very helpful. It’s a shame the top out-of-date notice about strikes in November and December wasn’t taken down as the map was inserted though.

Here’s a special treat – a video clip showing the tricky bus manoeuvre when one bus is already on the stand.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

28 thoughts on “My favourite London bus terminus terminates tomorrow

Add yours

  1. Very sad Roger when a long established route ends do you think the alternatives suggested by TfL are acceptable?

    Meanwhile I attended a meeting here in Brum & there was a surprise announcement that if Andy Street CBE wins a third term then the prospect of bus franchising here will be on the cards. This may go some way to explain why Stagecoach has decided; although somewhat disastrously initially & has become a total laughing stock in to process ; to become as a TfWM contractor .


  2. What is the point of wasting vast amounts of time and money on a consultation which gives them the answer that most people object to the changes, then they ignore that and go ahead with it all anyway?! That’s what TFL do every time!


    1. It’s a consultation, not a referendum.

      There are occasions when a consultation does result in TfL not implementing what was originally proposed, or implementing a revised version of it – most likely because the response has produced a compelling reason for not proceeding with the original proposal. However, if the response is in line with what TfL were expecting, that is less likely to result in a proposal being altered or scrapped.


  3. I took a ride on the 271 during its final Monday and found that the poster frames at South Grove had been removed and their space used for locals posting messages. This made it look so tacky.


  4. Looking at Roger’s image of the bus stop, I see that it’s mounted on a ‘Birmingham’ post which date from LGOC and early LPTB days. Thus must be almost unique in 2023.


  5. The 271 is very historic and may have been London’s oldest route it’s history appears to go back to 1884 when a cable tram commenced operating between Highgate Village and Archway. This continued to 1909. It then reopened in 1910 and linked to LCC Route 9 between Archway and Moorgate. It went through various changes over the years with the 9 becoming the 11 and then in 1939 the 611 before becoming the 271 when the trolleybuses were converted to bus


    1. The W7 from Finsbury Park, formerly 212 and 111, has been running on what I think is an unchanged route since April 1914. Whether it in turn succeeded a horse-bus route is something I don’t know though I think it’s unlikely.


      1. The very first recorded bus service in London was horse drawn and ran between Paddington and the Bank of England It started on 4th July 1829


      2. Horse drawn buses tended not have route numbers. I have found an old photo dated 1910 of a horse drawn bus at Muswell Hill operated by the Camden Town Omnibus Association. It operated between Muswell Hill and Victoria


  6. I don’t agree with your comments about the Highgate Village terminal of the 271. It is an eyesore. It is also a problems that, as the 271 bus stop and the stop for other routes is split, passengers going down the hill don’t know which but is going first.


    1. I would put this gentleman on moderation ASAP Roger he looks a bigger trouble maker than me my good friend 😉

      Personally I think your analysis and comments in this blog today are fundamentaly sound.


  7. London Suburban Bus was a subsidiary of Liverbus in Liverpool. I think it all passed to MTL (Merseybus and MTL London respectively) on their purchase of Gemsam Holdings.


  8. Your second sentence reminds me of a report that, in (I think) the 1980s, the cafe at Nicosia airport had an item ‘Terminal Breakfast’ …


  9. Is a bus stop a thing of beauty? No, I don’t mean a bus stop passenger shelter.

    I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but…


  10. The only thing that could be considered an eyesore is the flyposting and the lack of upkeep of the notices etc. But no doubt liocal residents find the very existance of buses in the vlllage to be the eysore. I dare say that whatever replaces it will be much worse. I agree it is a nuisence that the 271 starts from a different stiop than other routes to Archway, but that has not been an unsumountable problem for very many years


  11. TfL do rather overuse the ‘hopper fare’ excuse when cutting bus routes. Bus Passes and capping mean that no-one pays more than 3 single bus fares per day anyway however many buses they use. It’s the inconvenience of having to get off one bus and onto another with little shelter from the elements and no certainty about the length of the wait that really matters. It’s a very different experience from changing between tube lines.


  12. Thank you for your wistful piece on the 271 route, and the removal of the South a grove terminus. I was out on the Holloway Road today and route 21 was clearly on display at the bus stops, reminding me that here is the introduction of a through route from the south eastern suburbs cross city into north London. With so many route truncated nowadays, cross city running is a rarity.

    I would just like to add to the 271 story. You mention the appearance of the XAs followed by the Routemasters. But in 1971 or 1972, the exact date escapes me, route 271 was one of the first routes to be operated one-man by the then new DMS class, then known (briefly) as “The Londoner”. Along with route 220 in the north west, the 271 pioneered pay as you enter double deck operation in the capital.


    1. There was one man operation of buses in London long before the 271 admittedly single decker’s
      Ignoring the routes that largely run outside of London the 210 was probably the first London bus to go one man. It was already single decked RF operated but they had no doors so surplus London Country Green RF’s were used as these were fitted with doors. They operated in the green livery for some time before being repainted in Red


  13. Germany introducing £1.40 a day public transport travel

    The 2023 one-month ticket will cover all but the fastest trains, plus U-Bahn and S-Bahn networks in the cities. It also includes trams, most buses and even ferry services on the River Elbe in Hamburg.

    I guess in the UK we can only dream

    Now theses a challenge for someone. How far can you travel in 1 month in Germany on this ticket. Time to get the maps and timetables out and to do a lot of planning

    You would not get far in 1 day in the UK for £1.40


  14. Interesting observation regarding the placing of one of the very few remaining “Birmingham” bus stop posts. At least Somebody had a sense of history and occasion at some point, as these handsome posts are located at very appropriate locations which are entirely suitable. There is one such on Chislehurst Common, at a stop never used by anyone on the former RF operated 227 (now 162 and 269) twixt the War Memorial and Cricket Ground. The other known location is at a similarly remote spot on Hayes/Keston Common in Baston Road, once solely the preserve of the famous 146. Now shared with the 353, it has been allowed to fall into a terrible state of repair and almost become part of the undergrowth. To have one at the somewhat quaint Highgate Village terminus seemed entirely appropriate, and will, knowing the present day TfL, probably be sold off for scrap!.


  15. It’s a terrible change seems impossible to accept the 271 at night so I would imagine 21 are keen to not have Newington Green to resume the rest of the 141 route. ‘N271’ direct journey from Moorgate and North Finchley, I do wonder what will be done with ‘N’ and being dropped in 2004.


  16. I’ve used this route a lot in the last two years and I’m very sad to see it go. I cannot understand how the Highgate Society can possibly view the terminus as an eyesore. A real loss.


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