The 84 is a most peculiar service, an ex-London bus sequentially surrendered to the suburbs. It runs all the way to St Albans, some considerable distance north of London, but was once operated by London Central Buses all the same. They ran the bus station in Potters Bar, a town formerly part of Middlesex not Hertfordshire, hence the 84 fell under non-Country jurisdiction. Go back even further and the 84 was an excursion service running from Cricklewood, even Walthamstow, running weekends and bank holidays only to take the masses on a cathedral city day out. The southern end was later chopped back to Golders Green, then fifty years ago to New Barnet, but the northern terminus has always been St Albans.
As for fares, they've become increasingly parochial over time. Normal London Transport fares used to be permitted along the entire length of the route, but the 84's no longer run under TfL contract so they've been cut back too. Travelcards used to get you as far as South Mimms, then in 2002 the limit was curtailed to Cranborne Road in Potters Bar. Oyster users wanting to travel further had to flash their card and then pay a cash top-up for the extra bit. Then in 2012 operators Metroline removed all pretence of being a London bus, and Oyster is no longer accepted. They do offer a £16 weekly pass for travel between Potters Bar and Barnet, but for anyone wanting a one-off journey the normal Hertfordshire fare is paid.
Another peculiarity of the route is the wide variety of vehicles used to operate the service. Sometimes a double decker is used, at others a single decker, it feels like pot luck. A separate raffle seems to be held to decide whether the bus has a static blind on the front or an electronic display. TfL insist on blinds for reasons of accessibility, so any bus an operator sometimes uses on a London route will have a roll of scrolling destinations. Digital displays are much more popular outside the capital, not least for their flexibility, and because many think pixels make for easier-to-read displays. Who can say which is really better - I guess it's all a matter of opinion.
ROUND LONDON BY BUS(xvii)
Route 84: Barnet - Potters Bar Length of journey: 3 miles, 8 minutes
I got a double decker with the black and yellow blinds. It pulled up on Barnet High Street where a handful of us were waiting, pinned up against the chemists. I wondered how much I'd be charged for my trip, which only a couple of years ago I could have made for nothing. "I don't suppose this is any use," I said, waving my Oyster (plus Travelcard) at the driver. "Afraid not," he said, and charged me £2.40 for the short run up from Barnet to Potters Bar. I baulked slightly, then remembered that this was less than I'd been charged earlier in my journey on the 8 and 441. I also spotted that it's exactly the same as the cash single fare on any London bus, which maybe is deliberate, so decided not to grumble after all.
The two pinnacles to the left used to be part of Barnet Methodist Church, and now guard the entrance to The Spiresshoppingcentre. Developers would quite like to knock them down to improve and enlarge the mall beyond, and are currently consulting on proposals for an upgrade. They claim their replacement would have "an exciting contemporary facade clad in brass shingles with elegantly proportioned simple opening", whereas in fact they're wrong about the "elegant", and local residents have them rumbled. The rest of the High Street has a bit of class, especially as it nudges north along Hadley Green. The common's lovely, if a little waterlogged at present, with some highlydesirable houses lined up along either flank. We're passing through the delightful village of MonkenHadley, site of the Battle of Barnet in 1471, which is commemorated by an obelisk at Hadley Highstone.
Where the houses stop, London turns back into Hertfordshire. Ahead is the Great North Road, originally the main turnpike plied by stagecoaches to York and Edinburgh, since downgraded from A1 to A1000. Barely anybody lives along the next section so the bus isn't stopping... past the entrance to the grand mansion at WrothamPark, along the edge of fields and more fields, looking down over Hadley Wood across long ploughed slopes, a bit of woodland, careering on ever faster, a lane shooting in from the right, The Duke Of York, and that's a lonely garden centre, suddenly ducking darkly beneath the M25, then there are bouquets and Saracens shirts by the side of the road where a cyclist was knocked down three years ago, they don't forget, we're at the edge of Potters Bar already, past the Community Hospital, oh this is much more ordinary, a chip shop, a reptile den... and all without stopping. Eight minutes flat, the entire journey.
I'm not heading into the centre of town, so I ding the bell as we approach the first crossroads. The bus stop's called Potters Bar Lion, so I look around for the pub to check I'm in the right place. Of the old coaching inn there is alas no sign, but there is a suspicious looking restaurant called Potty Pancakes, which I later discover replaced The Lionlast summer. Who needs alcohol when you can stuff your beer belly with PP's sugary batter and ice cream instead? Thankfully there is as yet no sign of anyone renaming the bus stop in their favour. 313>>