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Route 86
27 November 2009

The last version of this page recorded a transition of vehicle types from Titans to Volvo Olympians and then Tridents. The first two types are now long gone, so an update is in order. The Tridents have indeed gained two new liveries since then from allover red with Stagecoach logos to the more colourful version of Stagecoach livery for London, and then back to red under new owners Macquarie. There were two responses to my request for an updated photograph, so I have included one of each.

Photo © John Bennett.

First up is 17762 (LX03 BUU) pulling out of Stratford Bus Station on Friday 11 September 2009. Many operators have become lax about display of garage codes on vehicles, but East London is an exception; the 86 has recently been moved back to Romford (North Street - NS) garage, and the new code is proudly displayed. Then, again typifying the smart appearance generally expected with this company's vehicles, 17793 (LX03 BWG) heads along Clements Road, Ilford, on 2 November 2009.

Photo © Sunil Prasannan.

Not a lot has happened to route 86 in 70 years, although the route used to run further east. In 1936, buses ran 8 times an hour from Stratford to Romford on Mondays to Fridays. Two buses an hour (but for some reason Market Day in Romford? 4 on Wednesdays only) were numbered 86A and diverted at this point to Upminster via what is now part of the 248. The rest continued as the 86 to Gidea Park, and every 15 minutes a bus continued to Brentwood. But even then the Saturday service was considerably enhanced, with the 86 running every 7 minutes and the 86A every 15 minutes to provide 12 buses per hour between Romford and Stratford! On Sundays both routes ran every 12 minutes, providing 10 buses an hour on the common section.

On 9 December 1936 both routes were extended west, to Mile End, complementing the trunk 10 and 25 routes. From April 1939 the 86 was diverted at Bow Church to run to Limehouse via Devons Road, charting previously unserved territory.

Major housing developments in the Hornchurch area just before the war resulted in the 86A taking on a more prominent role from 13 December 1939. The 86 was withdrawn between Chadwell Heath, Ilford, Stratford and Limehouse, with the 86A diverted at Bow Church as per the former 86 to Limehouse, thus ending a brief period of operation to Mile End by the 86/A.

Around 1960, the 86 was withdrawn, being replaced between Brentwood and Romford by new route 287. (Responsibility for this corridor subsequently became solely that of Eastern National and its descendants.) The 86A became the 86 but was otherwise largely unchanged, thus running from Upminster (Upminster Park Estate on Sundays) to Limehouse.

In 1970 the section between Romford and Upminster was replaced by a much upgraded route 248 this had previously been a local route in the Upminster area. In the early 1980s the section between Stratford and Limehouse, by then running via Bromley-by-Bow rather than Bow Church, was replaced by the 225 (later the 278 and then abandoned completely in 1993), although the Sunday service continued to run to Limehouse until as recently as 1990.

In more recent times operation has switched garages a few times. Romford had been the main garage, with a more frequent Saturday service provided by Stratford. Subsequently the whole allocation moved to Stratford, a modern garage in Waterden Road. That is now part of the Olympic construction site and was replaced by a garage in West Ham, where the 86 was allocated briefly, but East London has taken the opportunity to move a number of its routes to improve efficiency and the 86 has been back at Romford since the start of the current contract in July.

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See also routes 25, 30, 248

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