diamond geezer

 Friday, June 14, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
146: Bromley North to Downe

Location: Outer London south
Length of journey: 6 miles, 25 minutes

Because it's 14th June I've been out riding the 146, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day.

The 146 is one of TfL's handful of hourly buses, and by far the lowest route number to run this infrequently. It starts in bustling Bromley and rapidly heads out into the countryside, indeed has done since the 1930s when it was a weekend only service. It exists to serve the village of Downe at the southern end, whose residents would otherwise have to rely on the even less frequent R8, and along the way zips through off-piste slices of Hayes and Keston.

It's also one of a dozen TfL bus routes to be operated by a single vehicle (in techspeak it has a PVR of 1). This is because each run is timetabled to take less than 30 minutes so a full hourly service only needs one bus. At peak times Bromley's roads are more choked with traffic so the schedule stretches somewhat, the interval occasionally extending to 70 minutes, but generally speaking a 146 leaves the village on the hour and heads back around half past. However this tight timetable also means the 146 is exceptionally susceptible to disruption, as I was about to discover when I tried to go for a ride...

Given it runs so infrequently I thought I'd best be early so turned up outside Bromley North station with five minutes to spare. This ridiculously busy interchange is served by as many as 15 different bus routes spread across two adjacent stops. These include 6th January, 26th January, 12th June, 22nd July, 13th August, 11th September and 26th September, plus several others that don't translate including the frustratingly marginal 31st April. All these were showing on the Countdown displays apart from 14th June, which didn't initially worry me because some older vehicles don't always register. I stayed put and waited, and the bus didn't turn up.

I checked one of my apps which wasn't helpful one way or the other, until I finally thought to switch direction and see where the incoming bus was. It was just outside Downe, i.e. at totally the wrong end of the route, so there was no chance of it being here any time soon. Such are the perils of a one vehicle route - when it screws up it totally screws up - so I went off and looked round the shops for a bit. I came back when the bus did and was excited to see 14th June was top of the Countdown display because it was now 'due'. I stayed put and waited, and the bus didn't turn up.

The 146 remained top of the Countdown display for a full 30 minutes, 29 of them a lie. I didn't dare go anywhere in case the bus came and went, because it would be a very long time before it came back, but instead I was being entirely misled. None of this was made easier by the large pile of sick inside the shelter, a lumpy sprawl which looked like a bowlful of porridge hadn't stayed down. Part of it was covered by a few flappy pages from a copy of City AM, but the remainder was visibly congealing on the pavement causing large numbers of arriving passengers to give it a wide berth. Sometimes travelling by bus is anything but glamorous.

Shortly before the timetabled departure time a cleaner from the council turned up, noticed the mess and halted his trolley. I expected him to clean it up, but instead he spotted a spare copy of City AM behind the shelter and used it to cover over the exposed half of the sickpool, then stamped the paper down. This camouflaging measure proved successful in that passengers no longer dodged the shelter, even sitting on its bench with their feet dangerously close to concealed beige sludge. I presume someone cleared it up properly later but I don't know for sure because thankfully at that point the 146 turned up, either bang on time or one hour late depending.

The bus wasn't busy, even after an exceptional wait, just me and a schoolboy and later three more passengers picked up by the shops. The weaving wiggle through central Bromley always seems to take an age, this the inevitable consequence of high street pedestrianisation. The driver nudged in by its bus stops, not really expecting much interest and generally being proved correct. Almost everywhere we were heading was alternatively served by more frequent routes so why wait for the intermittent single decker?

By the time we crept past Bromley South station we were already two minutes behind schedule. I soon spotted what the inbound traffic problem might have been - Thames Water digging up a road the 146 didn't follow but which had sent a lot of diverted vehicles into its path and clogged up the traffic lights. Heading south thankfully we skipped through. Hayes Road is lined by smart suburban villas and larger than average semi-detached houses, ditto Hayes Lane, the backroad through the original village of Hayes some distance from the station. I wasn't expecting anyone else to be getting on, not in a non-shopping direction, so was exceptionally surprised when an entire class of Year 6 schoolchildren piled on.

They'd been swimming in the Nuffield pool by the football ground and were now heading back to their village primary before lunch. They were also exceptionally polite and well-behaved, filing in quietly and filling every seat, the remainder standing near their supervisory adults and holding tight. The bus became so full that the driver triggered an announcement which inexplicably was 'Seats are available upstairs', which on a single decker shouldn't even be in the digital repertoire. And off we all went, the children chattering softly about how the lesson had gone and which was the best car in Sweden.

It strikes me as inherently risky to base your weekly swimming lessons around a two mile ride on an hourly bus operated by a single vehicle. I'd been caught out by a missing service and had to wait for ages, something which might have swallowed an hour of learning time and which was entirely outside the school's control. I guess it's hugely cheaper than hiring a coach, and I also suspect they got lucky this time because the class weren't anywhere near as restless as you'd expect if they'd been waiting for the cancellation.

On we sped past the civic bits of Hayes - the church and library and village hall, plus a rather nice village sign. At the secondary school the older boy who'd been aboard since the start of the journey attempted to alight, and the teacher had to nudge her pupils to part the ways and let him through. Swiftly we entered the wilds of Hayes Common, the road continuing past thick woods and ferny clearings without even a footpath to either side. After a brief breath to cross Croydon Road we plunged back into the greenery - nothing that'd generate any passengers - and eventually one small car park where the dogwalkers accumulate.

On the far side was Keston village green with its two pubs, one embracing the Euros with gusto and one remaining resolutely above the fray. This is one of the largest settlements in London to be entirely surrounded by Green Belt, although nearby New Addington and Biggin Hill comfortably trump it. At the bus stop by the Post Office the school party finally alighted, the teacher counting very carefully lest anyone be left hiding behind a back seat. One thing I'll say is that whichever company is making 'Leavers 24' sweatshirts must be making a fortune because I've seen them being worn by Y6 and Y11 children across London recently, and the other is that local parents must be chuffed to have such a good school to send their offspring to.

Now considerably emptier we ploughed on towards the windmill and ah, damn, a set of temporary 3-way traffic lights. This must have been another contributory factor to slowing down the previous journey, especially with people still heading into work. We stopped for what felt like ages beside thick nettles while the gas board took their turn to drill a massive inconvenient trench. No alternative timetable kicks in when this kind of disruption happens, nor can a second vehicle step in to ease the service, making the 146 extremely susceptible to falling over entirely.

At the woody roundabout by the parish church we finally bore off to serve a trio of bus stops no other route serves. None are ever busy, indeed this is where the 146 gets fully rural and rattles down narrow country lanes with awkwardly high hedges. The first stop was by a farm shop and mobile home park, a quiet corner familiar to those approaching the Wilberforce Oak on London Loop section 3. The second was at Downe Riding Centre, which I speculated last week might be one of the very least used bus stops in London. The third was at one end of Farthing Street, a brief row of houses which the Ordnance Survey lists as one of London's eight hamlets. Nobody else had come this far, just me. I can't say I was surprised.

On the final approach to Downe the bus passed proper cottages and an orchard, and our driver hoped not to pass any other vehicles coming the other way. According to the timetable we arrived at the top of Downe High Street five minutes late, and not beside the proper terminus because that was occupied by a huge red coach. Normally the bus turns round here by circling a central tree but the driver had to do an awkward reversing manoeuvre instead, first past one pub then the other, before picking up absolutely nobody and ferrying them back to Bromley. I'd alighted by this point and was busy exploring London's highest High Street, which is Downe. How fortuitous that the Bus of the Day had delivered me here, and you can expect to hear more about that tomorrow.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24  Jul24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jul24  Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards