Route 34
26 May 2003

The 34 is another amazingly well-established route, and also unusually low-numbered for a route that does not serve central London. However in this case there has been a fair amount of fiddling at the ends, even if buses have always linked Whetstone with the Crooked Billet north of Walthamstow via a substantial portion of the North Circular Road.

In 1936 the route ran from Whetstone through to Walthamstow and Stratford at an impressive 5 minute frequency most of the way (every 3¾ minutes on Saturdays!). After the war, buses were running from New Barnet via what is now the 326 to Whetstone, and the section between the Crooked Billet and Stratford had been given over to the trolleybuses. Later, the route was extended into Barnet and to Chesterfield Road (present 184 routeing) and by the 1970s the present direct route into Barnet via Barnet Hill had been adopted, the route via New Barnet then covered by part of the 260. At the other end, buses had been restored to Walthamstow and Leyton, but later the route was curtailed to Walthamstow Central.

Major rebuilding of the North Circular Road in the mid 1990s had quite an effect on the 34. As well as the building of the Woodford-Barking link, most of the road between Hanger Lane and north Walthamstow has now been upgraded. Just a few bottlenecks around Neasden, Finchley (Henly's Corner, where it crosses the A1) and New Southgate-Palmers Green remain to be done — if the government allows. The result is a very good road, with lots of new flyovers and underpasses constructed. Unfortunately, the 34 does not stick to the fast road, but, as buses do, dives off onto every possible service road and access way. There are still some fast bits though!

However, during the construction, traffic congestion was very heavy, and it was decided to split the route into sections. It had been every 15 minutes Barnet to Walthamstow, but the new sections were Barnet to Edmonton and Arnos Grove to Walthamstow, every 20 minutes each giving a 10 minute service on the overlap. Some of the worst congestion was around Edmonton, where a huge underpass under Silver Street station and Fore Street was built. Once the NCR works were completed, the 34 was retendered, with quite a big improvement in that buses would run every 10 minutes throughout – i.e. the overlap frequency throughout the route. New low floor Darts were specified.

Photo by John Delaney.

The 34 has “always” gone past Arnos Grove station, and brand new DLA 353 (LJ03 MLF) of Arriva London is seen at this location on a gloomy spring day. Heavy school loadings had meant a number of double deck journeys had to be run at school start and finish times alongside the main Dart allocation, so in the latest re-tendering exercise it was decided to put in a full double deck allocation instead, as well as a slight increase in frequency.

At the time of the previous re-tendering Leaside, the operator, was under Cowie ownership, and Cowie had just bought County Bus which had a base at Edmonton Wharf. It was decided to operate the route from there instead of its traditional Palmers Green base, to make more room for other routes. The 34 continues to operate from Edmonton, although this garage has now come back under Arriva London control.

See also routes 326, 102, 444, 112, 232

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