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Route 122
2 August 2006

The 122 underwent an unusually protracted conversion to low floor operation starting in 1999, it being several years before a full low floor operation was achieved. Of the early deliveries there were never enough to cover the intended allocations to routes 96, 472, 53 and 122, even before making a substantial allowance for frequent visitations on the 54, 99, 177 and 178! Much shuffling of the original buses took place, and in particular the last 9 out of Stagecoach London’s second order for Tridents, TA 214-222, were transferred from Romford (NS) garage to PD and, together with a couple of Olympians also sourced from NS, were used almost exclusively on the 122. It has now been officially (and publicly) announced that the 122 was the basis for trials of a new type of CCTV camera, in a joint initiative between London Buses, Stagecoach and the Police. Successful prosecutions for vandalism have ensued, and they have now been rolled out across London. Video cameras on buses are not new, but until then had usually been restricted to one at the front (and sometimes a fake at that). But now buses are fitted with a large number of high resolution cameras and these are far more effective. The 122 has the misfortune of running through Woolwich and Sydenham, so miscreants are not thin on the ground!

The original batch of buses have now largely been superseded by later examples delivered over the turn of 2003/2004, which were intended for other routes at Plumstead garage to complete the low floor programme, and therefore typical of the current 122 allocation is 17945 (LX53 JYH) seen on the stand at Crystal Palace on 2 April 2006. Although outwardly similar to the earlier buses, they have the new brighter Stagecoach interior (and livery) and also have upgraded C-series engines which are more powerful and much smoother than the early ones.

Photo © James Fullick.

The 122 is a long-established, if not always too busy, corridor, but the route number itself originated rather further west. For many years it ran from Bexleyheath to Woolwich via Pickford Lane and Bostall Hill, a pleasant 37 minute run and operating every 10 minutes. Then, the current 122 route was a mixture of bus 94 (Crystal Palace – Southborough, near Petts Wood, via Lewisham) and tram 72 (Victoria Embankment – Woolwich). The 122 was altered to run via Okehampton Crescent and past the old Plumstead bus garage on Wickham Lane rather than Bostall Hill. When the tram replacement programme for south London finally got underway after the war, the section of 72 tram between Lewisham and Woolwich was amalgamated with the Crystal Palace leg of the 94 to form new bus route 186. Curiously, this was later extended via present day route 2 to Victoria, making the route into a giant W!

Meanwhile, the 122 sprouted an A-suffixed variant, delving deeper into East Wickham to terminate in Erith. The 122 was the extended at both ends in the 1960s, to the east to reach Slade Green via Colyers Lane and to the west to reach Crystal Palace replacing the 186. But this was not the sort of route you would be likely to ride end to end and its length must have made service control a nightmare, so the 122 and 122A were abandoned east of Woolwich in January 1988. The new Bexleybus unit formed at that time covered the withdrawn sections variously by new route 422, taking a different alignment in East Wickham, the 89 to Slade Green and the new Bexleyheath local minibus routes.

Thus the 122 now covers just about 1 mile of its original route, between Woolwich town centre and (the new) Plumstead Garage, from where it is operated and sensibly runs to terminate. It is therefore almost identical to the original form of the 186, except that the 186 terminated in the town centre at Woolwich. Terminating in the garage means there is no problem finding stand space, so the operator can provide plenty of recovery time at this end. Indeed, the 122 is lushly provisioned with it, with 32 minutes scheduled at PD during the day on Mondays to Fridays and up to 40 minutes in the AM peak. At other times there is less, but usually at least 20 minutes, except in the early mornings and late evenings. The result is a very robust schedule, which can even cope with train strikes and the like, unlike other routes which often have as little as 5 or 10 minutes on the stand – although in the last few years this has been let down by poor supervision leading to an erratic service even under normal traffic conditions.

See also routes 96, 472, 177, 194, 53, 54, 99, 178, 2, 422, 89, B11, B12, B13

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