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Route 87
4 February 2010

Once upon a time it was common for London bus route numbers to have suffix letters. Often these were introduced when a minor deviation or spur working was required on a main route, or to denote overlapping sections. In some cases subsequent changes meant the suffixed route bore little resemblance to the original, and maybe even the original route would disappear, leaving just the suffixed variant.

Some years ago, London Transport developed a dislike for suffix letters, and started eliminating them whenever the opportunity arose, and this was continued by Transport for London. The last route to escape this process was the 77A, linking Wandsworth and Aldwych. Unlike some routes, this did have a substantial overlap with the parent 77, between Clapham Junction and Vauxhall. Although shorter than the 77, changes in demand patterns meant that the 77A was now a much more intensive service the 77, and so perhaps it was felt that the route deserved its own number!

The opportunity was duly taken when a new contract began on the route on 3 June 2006. The number 87 was available, having been conveniently vacated a few months earlier by a merger with route 5 in East London. That merger made little sense and has caused major problems ever since, and some have suggested it was only done to free the number for the 77, as numbers 177, 277, 377 and 477 were already in use!

Either way, it is doubtful whether the renumbering of a route serves any useful purpose. Whilst things look neater on paper there is no evidence that passengers find a number such as 77A confusing, but to find that a familar route has changed its number overnight with no other change could certainly cause confusion.

Anyhow, the 87 is now firmly with us and now well into its contract. The mainstay of the allocation is the Go-Ahead PVL class of Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs, operated from Stockwell garage. A number of batches of buses are represented there are used largely indiscriminately. PVL205 (X705EGK) was originally bought for route 118 at Merton garage, but has since moved to SW along with most of the batch, and was seen at Vauxhall in September 2009.

Photo © Danny Robinson.

This photograph is shared under a Creative commons license.

The other major type at Stockwell garage is the WVL class of Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied volvos, and are represented by WVL139 (LX53 AYM). The bus is one of a batch intended for route 11, which most unusually carry route branding neatly illustrating the perils of this idea! I was not informed of the location so, not being intimately familiar with the buildings and shops along the 87 route, my best guess would have to be the top end of St. John's Hill, between Clapham Junction and Wandsworth. The bus is evidently facing south-west, from the position of the shadows. If anybody recognises the spot, please do get in touch!

Photo © Deano Dean.

A second picture of the same type allows me to illustrate something other than another boring red London bus, as overall advertising has made a return after an absence of some years. I am not sure if the advert is still carried, but the bus is WVL148 (LX53 AYZ), another of the route 11 batch.

Photo © Danny Robinson.

This photograph is shared under a Creative commons license.

The new contract for the 87 incorporated a modest frequency increase, and the main allocation of existing PVLs was topped with with two new buses, E38 and E39, the last of which is seen at the Aldwych terminus. The E allocation has subsequently expanded, the main allocations being to routes 196 and 24, but it is understood that the destination blinds on the Es have been altered and can no longer display 87, even though the type is are scheduled on the route!

Photo © Deano Dean.

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See also routes N87, 77, 5, 177, 277, 377, 477, 118, 11, 196, 24

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