diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 17, 2018

Between January and May this year, I rode on every London bus route.
Not many people have done that.

But since then I have also ridden on every nightbus.
Even fewer people have done that.

TfL run 50 nightbuses in total, that's 50 routes which run at night but aren't the same as their daytime equivalents. I've ridden them all, for at least one stop.

The lowest numbered nightbus is the N1, which runs from Tottenham Court Road to Thamesmead.The longest nightbus route is the N199 (it's 22 miles from Trafalgar Square to St Mary Cray).Nightbuses tend to kick off around half past midnight, though some start earlier.It isn't possible to ride all London's nightbuses in one night.
The highest numbered nightbus is the N551, which runs from Trafalgar Square to Gallions Reach.The shortest nightbus route is the N97 (it's only 6 miles from Trafalgar Square to Hammersmith).Nightbuses tend to finish around five in the morning, though again it's a moveable feast. One night simply isn't long enough to ride them all.

Riding nightbuses ought to be trickier than riding daytime buses because most only run every half an hour. A 30 minute frequency is particularly bad because it means each route only runs about a dozen times before stopping for the night, so you don't have many chances to catch one. It's also a long wait if you just miss one (although you can get lucky and catch one going in the opposite direction soon after).

Amazingly, and thankfully, it only took me three nights to ride the lot. The main reason for this is that the vast majority of nightbus routes start in central London, so it's easy to knock off several without travelling very far. I spent an extremely productive first hour simply shuttling back and forth along the Strand between Trafalgar Square and Aldwych, catching whichever of the dozen-or-so nightbuses came along first. A spell in the vicinity of Oxford Street ticked off plenty, and hanging around Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner dealt with several more.

Night number 2 involved mopping up what I'd previously missed in the West End, and edging out further to the Euston Road and Elephant & Castle. Hurrah for the Night Tube, which helped along the way and meant that by the end of Night 2 I had only had six nightbus routes left! These occupied one further evening, including the genuine outlier N83 in Golders Green, the annoying N28/N31 couplet in Camden Town and the red-eye N86 in Stratford. I'm fortunate in living near the latter, so I was swiftly home on a 25 before dawn. All in all, the whole thing was somewhat easier than I was expecting.

On Night 1 I rode the N550, N26, N91, N9, N199, N89, N63, N68, N343, N551, N21, N15, N136, N3, N279, N19, N38, N41, N155, N11, N8, N55, N207, N98, N74, N2, N16, N137 and N205.On Night 2 I rode the N87, N20, N253, N5, N29, N1, N171, N73, N7, N113, N18, N109, N22, N97, and N44.On Night 3 I rode the N83, N31, N28, N381, N133 and N86.

I don't normally ride buses in the middle of the night, so this involved being out and about while I'm normally asleep. You might be thinking OMG, isn't it dangerous riding buses in the early hours, but it absolutely wasn't. Passengers were generally sedate rather than rowdy, bus stops were invariably well lit, and I don't think I saw any serious misbehaviour whatsoever.

Also I got to see London at night, which is always amazing. Not just the glittery lights, but the people out and about taking advantage of the capital while most of us are asleep. On buses departing the West End, especially earlier in the early hours, most are heading home, sometimes worse for wear. A bit further out, especially a bit later on, more of those on board have jobs to go to and are taking advantage of the cheapest way to get there. Hurrah for the London nightbus, which runs to a frequency the rest of the country can only dream of.

Several nightbuses only run at weekends. So you have to do the challenge at the weekend.The most crowded buses were northbound N29s.Every nightbus runs at least every 30 minutes, thankfully.TfL no longer do bus maps of Central London, which didn't help.
The N5 goes nowhere near its daytime self, heading to Edgware rather than Romford.The poshest passengers were on the N22 though Mayfair.People tend not to get off nightbuses in the first few stops, they're aboard for the long haul.The most recent Central London bus map (from March 2016) is already annoyingly out of date.
The N20 goes nowhere near its daytime self, heading to Barnet rather than Debden.Only once did the timetabled bus not turn up.My shortest journey was one (brief) stop at the start of the N109. I felt guilty dinging the bell.Nightbus drivers are lovely. Assertive, but lovely.

So, that's 50 nightbuses ridden, on top of 543 daytime buses, which is the full complement of 593.

Since the start of the year, I have ridden on every London bus route, day or night.
A ridiculously tiny number of people have done that.
But I don't necessarily recommend it.


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