London

After the powers that be finally decided which bit was going to be which number, the 10 was split into overlapping sections from 1st Feb 2003, and guess what, it’s another part OPO conversion as oddly the busier section retains the number 10 with OPO DLFs of First, while the quieter section to Archway gains an oddly high number for Routemasters to bear, 390. Like a previous service between the same points, the 135, it is surely only a matter of time before this section also succumbs to OPO.

A totally new service opening up a number of new links across South West London started 23rd Nov 2002. It runs between Tooting and Richmond, also providing a service to new streets in the area alongside the home of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon Park Road. Mitcham Belle are in charge with recent SLFs they have moved off of the 152.

Contract changes in the Kingston area have seen Armchair lose the 65 to London United’s new DLFs, who in turn lost the 85 to London General. The 85 was previously won by Arriva and operated from Leatherhead, but was given away to London United during one of their many contractions of operations in Surrey.

To the East Stagecoach stole the 369 back from First, while First took the 364 and 499 from Stagecoach! The 193 has also been upgraded from yukky Mercedes vans to these Optare low floors a la Wilts and Dorset.

Following retendering of the full network of E routes based around Ealing and Greenford, the E3 has been upgraded to Double Decks, as illustrated round the back of the Red Lion terminus. Though the busiest of the E routes, this one had previously had Single decks as low bridges between Acton and Turnham Green had always been sited as a problem for previous double deck types like the DMS, though Metrobuses with their slightly lower roofs would probably have been ok to use… however it no longer seems a problem for these DLFs.

Elsewhere in the same area, previous low frequency H40 has been split into 2 higher frequency offerings 440 and 272, the latter of which incidentally serves the Grove Park Hotel in Chiswick, a terminus previously associated with a minority of E3 journeys which went there instead of Edensor Road.

We are of course pleased to see many routes being upgraded to Double Deck status as part of Red Ken’s enhancement of many services in preparation for charging cars for entering the central area.. No less than 3 of Connex’s services are involved, with the 344 now completed, 211 and 156 next in line. The surplus of SLFs are being sold on – East Thames taking some for the 108 and Easylink for the 42, though DDs appear on this service also from my observations, the number is shown though no destination in this case, as their DDs only seem to carry ultimate blinds for the 185.

This month’s crop of London strange visitors… You’d think that Armchair would have enough spare DDs having lost the 65, but it seems not as this SLF on the regular DD 237 proves. The DLF on the T33 has to be a bit of a rare one, since this is now a Godstone service, and this is an Orpington vehicle. Orpington cover odd duties when GD are short of drivers, and on this occasion this was the only Low Floor vehicle available!

The very lengthy articulated low floors have now arrived on Red Arrow services 507 and 521. They seem amazingly easy to get around corners and passengers may board in most circumstances at any of the 3 sets of doors as all stops have machines where tickets must be purchased in advance. More are due for parts of the 36 and 53 in due course though it remains to be seen whether they will be operated in the same style which will surely become known as ‘travel free’ to some South Londoners if they do…

First have 3 super thin low floor dry cleaning vans for their operation of the 395 which travels through the narrow Rotherhithe tunnel as it makes it’s way between Surrey Quays to the south of the River Thames and Limehouse to the North. Side and rear 395 displays are permanent, which may cause confusion when one of these vehicles makes appearances on Walthamstow local W12 which it does from time to time..

Another upgrade to Double Deck status is the 345 officially from 27th April 2002, along with a hefty increase in frequency, but it would appear no additional necessary running time, hence far too many journeys do not make the full trip, as illustrated on our red example. Conversion mostly complete by mid May with only an occasion SLF putting in an appearance.

The 204 has gained a top deck since 27th April 2002, restoring the 3rd service through Kingsbury to full double-decker ness in less than a year (79 and 183 being the other two), harking back to the days when this was the 79, and the 79 was the 79A. It became 204 via a very lengthy 226 I seem to recall, during which time the 79A simply lost it’s prefix to become 79. The extension to Edgware from Burnt Oak Broadway, and diversion to Sudbury Town Stn instead of Alperton are comparatively recent alterations.

Just days after I was last in the area in March London General’s Sutton Garage started putting their new DLFs out on the 93 and 154. Now I like these, a huge front upper deck window, and no rail right across the middle of your field of vision. Doors that take about 3 hours to open and a very annoying stand clear of the doors recorded announcement could be improved upon I suppose….