[NEW] Route 335: Kidbrooke to North Greenwich Location: London southeast Length of journey: 5 miles, 30 minutes
There used to be a 335 from Watford to Windsor fifty years ago, indeed this is a painting of it going past my house.
But London's never had a 335 before, so my apologies for this irrelevant nostalgic digression.
The freshly-baked 335 is a response to the gentrification of Kidbrooke, specifically the replacement of the Ferrier Estate by Kidbrooke Village. Until this weekend residents had buses to Woolwich, Bexleyheath and Lewisham but none to North Greenwich, so TfL decided to add a new link of particular benefit to Jubilee line passengers. You may not think sitting on a bus for half an hour to catch the tube is ideal, but you may not live in southeast London.
The new route is atypically short, at a mere five miles. TfL's initial consultation considered making it even shorter by sending buses direct via the A2, but decided against to better serve the communities inbetween. Half the new route precisely shadows the 108, which isn't exactly innovative, but the 335 is also intended to help solve capacity issues on several existing local routes. Do join me for a ride.
The 335 starts its journey at the as-yet-undeveloped end of Kidbrooke Village. There is a new primary school out here, but the adjacent plots are conspicuously vacant and Moorhead Way remains a dead end with a turning loop. Those living closest to the first stop are actually those on the neighbouring Brooklands Park estate in Blackheath, a 1950s outpost whose demographic (grey hair, podgy dogs, St George's flags) contrasts sharply with Kidbrooke's younger incomers. The 335's arrival is also particularly good news for drivers on route B16 who now have company on the stand (and someone new to chat and vape with).
Before heading off towards the Thames the 335 gets to follow a lengthy twiddle around both halves of the Kidbrooke estate. Or at least it will do. The new route has had the misfortune to launch during roadworks on Kidbrooke Park Road, so the intended loop is out of bounds until the cones have been removed. A sign attached to the traffic lights on Weigall Road announces that the 335 has been on diversion since five days before it started running, which I think may be some kind of record.
I did pause to go for a walk around the Kidbrooke Village loop that the 335 won't be following for a day or two. It's not particularly well blessed with bus stops, but those that exist already have tiles and timetables, plus small yellow posters confirming they're currently closed. Nevertheless a young couple with two very large suitcases were waiting patiently beside one of them for a bus that would never come. The village is blessed with a lot of parkland but also quite densely packed with flats, which grow taller the closer you get to the station. The main square so far boasts only a Sainsbury's and a pub, and doesn't spark joy, but hopefully the promised "wealth of amenities" will appear later.
Passengers are already beginning to board our 335, despite a lack of publicity, probably encouraged by the words 'North Greenwich' on the front of the bus in large friendly letters. It also helps that the railway line through Kidbrooke is closed today, indeed two distinct hi-vis crews can be seen beavering away on the tracks as we cross. I see the next bus stop is still called Homebase Superstore, despite the fact the retail unit closed last December and is currently a building site waiting to metamorphose into an Aldi. In the meantime nobody's thought to rephase the traffic lights, so we wait unnecessarily for departing shoppers who don't exist.
What happens next is the Rochester Way one-way shuffle. Northbound buses switch to the road closest to the A2 while southbound buses stick to Kidbrooke Park Road, which isn't instinctive but TfL's reasoning is that it'll be easier to change from the 335 onto other buses. If a 132 was coming it ought to be much quicker to switch onto that and speed down to North Greenwich, but it might also be rammed with passengers whereas the 335 pretty much guarantees you a double seat. Our bus takes a slower zigzag path through Blackheath towards the Royal Standard instead, picking up a fair few middle class passengers along the way.
Some say Westcombe Hill already has too many buses, particularly its residents. The road is steep and narrow, which can entail plenty of waiting and headlight-flashing, and the 335's arrival has increased the average frequency in each direction to one bus every three minutes. Meanwhile someone unrelated to TfL has been out sticking up information posters about the new 335 service on all the bus shelters from Blackheath northwards. If TfL can't be bothered to update their spider maps then @LDNBusUpdates seem happy to oblige. They've used quite a lot of sellotape.
In better news all the bus stops I inspected had new 335 timetables and all but one had a fresh 335 tile (the exception being northbound at Millennium Leisure Park West). Yes, we are yet another bus which meanders past the new IKEA and the old Odeon and thence the Millennium Village - that makes seven now. And as we finally approach North Greenwich I'm unnerved to see we've taken one minute longer than timetabled, despite having skipped an entire loop in Kidbrooke earlier and benevolent traffic conditions throughout. It was the traffic lights that did it, there being so bloody many of them.
At North Greenwich a healthy number of passengers alight, which is a bit of a triumph for Day One and bodes well. The bus station feels more clogged than usual, which may be a consequence of squeezing in a seventh route, but residents of southeast London will certainly appreciate having an alternative means of escape. It's Bus Stand B for the return journey, should you ever want to take advantage.
» Roger was also out and about yesterday morning, and his report is longer than mine with a lot more photos (which is what you really wanted).