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Route 101
2 April 2013

The 101 was one of the five routes selected to take part in the trials of the prototype low floor single deckers, which entered service from 1993-94, in this case the SLW class Scania version, which from reports seems to have been a lot more durable than the Dennis LLWs. The 101 was the last of the five routes to start, and indeed the last SLWs were delivered after privatisation of East London to Stagecoach. On the other hand, the final withdrawal of the last few vehicles from route 101 during March 2005 was of special historical importance, marking as it did the departure from London service of the last remaining vehicles purchased by London Transport, apart from the Heritage Routemasters.

Like most of the other routes involved in those trials, the 101 has reverted to double deck operation following contract renewal. Alexander bodied Dennis Tridents were used, but they have now moved on following a large delivery of the updated model, the E40D with Enviro400 bodywork. Two photographs are provided, showing contrasting locations on the route. First is 19847 (LX12 CZA) passing through the new Beckton bus station this replaced a previous facility just round the corner off Tollgate Road; it is perhaps surprising that such a modern area should already be subject to redevelopment.

Photo © David McKay.

Illustrating the distinctly un-modern and run-down nature of Manor Park is 19848 (LX12 CZB), approaching Manor Park Broadway heading for East Ham, Beckton and Gallions Reach. Gallions Reach is a new shopping park to the east of Beckton, and the 101 doubles back to reach it. Both photographs were made on 9 April 2012.

Photo © David McKay.

The double deck conversion was an integral part of a route scheme that also saw the route substantially reduced in frequency from 8 to 5 buses per hour. The freehold section between Manor Park and Wanstead was not heavily loaded, and capacity between Manor Park and East Beckton was maintained by extending route 474. The overall scheme was designed to match supply better to demand in light of the opening of the London City Airport extension of the Docklands Light Railway, and, like the north end, the south end of the 101 was lightly used, so the route was diverted to Gallions Reach, leaving the North Woolwich section to the 474.

This was the first major routeing change since the route was introduced nearly a century ago in March 1914 (and for a year before that it had run under the number 54). The basic route has been North Woolwich to Wanstead ever since, although for many years there was a Summer Sunday extension to Lambourne End, for Hainault Forest.

Even before the recent reduction the 101 was much less frequent than it used to be. In 1936, buses ran every 3 minutes between North Woolwich and Manor Park, and in its heyday in the 1950s was London's most frequent bus route with a total of 64 buses per hour between East Ham and North Woolwich in the peaks at one point. The difference was that then it was the only route along most of the roads served. Now it has nothing to itself even Aldersbrook, the isolated area in the middle of the Wanstead Flats, enjoys the services of a second route, the W19 (formerly 551)!

The 101 is also notable in having been operated from Upton Park garage for over 80 years, although there are several other contenders for the longest unbroken spell at one garage. Sadly, following tender losses, Upton Park had to close as of 17 September 2011, and the route now runs from Barking garage.

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See also routes 186, 144, 104, 474, W19

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