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Route 146
10 October 2007

A new contract on route 146 saw the route allocated new Darts, along with route 336. Along with an earlier batch for routes 138 and 367, these are unique in having a hybrid bodywork design by East Lancs. The basic body design is the old Myllennium design introduced in 2000 for the Millennium Dome routes and subsequently modified to fit a variety of bus chassis. However, on these vehicles, the front and rear styling has been modified, at the request of Metrobus, to match East Lancs' new Esteem design, the replacement for the Myllennium.

Photo © John King.

258 (PN06 UYM), one of the earlier batch, represents the type in Hayes Road, Bromley, on Saturday 8 September. Older Pointer Darts continue to put in regular appearances, as 356 (Y356 HMY) shows, at the Downe High Street terminus on 26 August 2007.

Photo © John King.

This is the outer terminus of the route, next to St. Mary's Church, at the junction with Cudham Road. Buses turn by circumnavigating the island in the road. The current timetable consists simply of one bus shuttling up and down between Downe and Bromley once an hour, taking 25 minutes with 5 minutes' break at each end. A Sunday service has recently been added after an absence of 25 years – finally reversing the last of the September 1982 cuts to Sunday services. This restoration was to coincide with opening of Down House (Charles Darwin's residence) on Sundays, although the service appears to be popular with residents as well.

Although now a relatively insignificant route, the 146 used to have more importance. In 1936 it ran through to Catford and Lewisham, supplementing routes 47 and 137, though at that time was numbered 146A. Buses still only ran hourly to Downe, but between Keston and Bromley ran every 10 minutes, with alternate buses on to Lewisham. At this time the 146A was the only route to Hayes, although one should remember that Hayes was still “country” then, the large tract of housing west of Hayes Lane not being built until after the war. Introduction of new routes 119 and 138 serving more of this area meant the 146/146A could be scaled down.

Apart from a short-lived deviation via West Common Road rather than Baston Road to cross Hayes Common, the 146 has remained unchanged south of Bromley. The section north of Bromley was lost by the 1950s, together with the A suffix, but it remained double deck for some time longer, latterly using RT type buses (and RMs on Sundays). It was converted to single deck in 1978 with BL class Bristol LHs, and then in 1982 to LS class Leyland Nationals.

The 146 was included in the first round of tendering and awarded to Crystals Coaches, who took over from 10 August 1985 using various unusual types, a pair of Lex Maxeta-bodied Bedford YMQSs being usual. The route was awarded to Metrobus from 10 August 1991, and they have retained the route ever since. A batch of new 8.5m Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointers was introduced, and shared between the 146 and 351 (now 354). The basic service required 2 buses, with a half hourly service during Monday to Friday rush hours, and 2 buses running every 45 minutes on Saturdays, to provide extra recovery time to allow recovery from delays due to shopping traffic.

In addition, one morning peak journey started from Biggin Hill to convey school children to Charles Darwin School on Jail Lane. This trip was covered by "borrowing" a bus from another route, with routes 351, 358 and 367 having provided this facility over the years. There has also been interworking with other Metrobus routes at Bromley North over the years, to aid recovery from the tight schedule, with routes 351, 352 and most recently 246 having provided this function, although the route is now stand-alone once again.

Operation was initially from Orpington, although following the acquisition by the company of East Surrey the route ran from their South Godstone base for a few years, where it fitted in well with the company’s substantial rural network in Surrey and Kent. The introduction of commercial route 246 complemented the 246 between Bromley and Keston, allowing the 146 peak frequency to be reduced to hourly, apart from the above mentioned journey from Biggin Hill. Interworking of buses with the 246 ensured reliability and allowed the Saturday service to be standardised to a more memorable hourly timetable. Low floor Darts followed shortly after, with an Excel from route 358 latterly covering the morning journey.

The journey from Biggin Hill was modified to be a standalone route, 620, although this has now been withdrawn (there was never a corresponding afternoon working, so it is a mystery why it was ever provided!), and the trip on route 146 withdrawn completely giving a standard hourly timetable. In fact, the timetable is now identical on all days of the week apart from the timings on one morning peak journey into Bromley and the service starting later on Sundays.

See also routes 336, 138, 367, 354, 358, 246, R2

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