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Route 243
19 June 2013

Trunk route 243 owes its high number to the Trolleybus replacement programme of the 1960s. Route 543/643 ran Wood Green to Holborn Circus, terminating in a loop working there (with the two routes going opposite ways round), on Mondays to Saturdays only, with the Sunday service being numbered 649A and running to Liverpool Street instead, an arrangement dating back to 8 May 1940! The routes were renumbered 243 and 243A respectively in 1962.

The 243A ran to London Docks via Aldgate, but subsequently reverted to Liverpool Street. The main reason for the differing route on Sundays was to serve the Sunday markets in the Shoreditch area, and the arrangement survived right until 2000, the 243A being withdrawn after operation on 13 August after just over 60 years (inclusive of its previous number). This route was notable as being the very last of a long line of "Sunday suffixed" bus routes in London, i.e. routes where the Sunday service differed slightly from the Monday to Saturdays and was numbered with a suffix letter. This tradition thus narrowly failed to survive into the 21st century, although a similar but undistinguished arrangement lasted a few years longer on the 43.

Changes introduced from 19 August 2000 saw the Sunday service re-numbered 243 and diverted to Old Street, which was also the terminus on Saturdays, and the Monday to Friday service extended to Waterloo replacing Red Arrow route 505, which was withdrawn, also ending the Holborn Circus terminal loop which dated right back to when the 643 replaced tram route 43 on 5 February 1939. The service now runs to Waterloo at weekends too, and all night.

Tottenham garage has had a wholesale fleet renewal over the last couple of years, and the 243 is therefore in the hands of the DW class Wright Gemini 2s, now the mainstay of the garage's fleet. Two photos have been provided, and firstly we have one of the older (relatively speaking) examples of the class in the shape of DW311 (LJ10 CUW) on the stand at Waterloo on Monday 19 September 2011, when the route was rather in transition. The new buses originally ordered for the 243 (and other routes) were initially diverted to route 29 to allow its early conversion from bendy bus to double deck, and there has been much re-shuffling of Arriva London North the bus pack subsequently.

Photo © Chris Tongmee.

From a later batch is DW456 (LJ61 CFE) seen in Stoke Newington on 28 April 2013. The numbering of the DW class is not consecutive - the original design, based on a DB250LF chassis, ran from DW1-133, all based in south London. There was then a gap of a few years before deliveries of the type recommenced on a modified chassis designated DB300, and these were numbered from DW201 up (to 336). A further revamp of the design caused another new series to start from DW401, which is still going. The differences between the DW201s and DW401s are much harder to spot.

Photo © Au Moran.

One reason for the shuffling of buses around the fleet is the introduction of hybrid double deckers, and changing priorities as to which routes these should be operated on depending on the latest identified pollution hotspots. Tottenham garage has a batch of hybrids of its own, the first "production" batch with Arriva London. These are most often to be found on the 76, but do put in appearances on the 243, so here is HV18 (LJ60 AWG), again in Stoke Newington (a favourite location from the last few updates!), on 29 April 2013.

Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).

Prior to the arrival of the DWs and HVs Tottenham's routes were mostly in the hands of DLA and VLW types, but they have now been cleared out. Apart from any straggling DLAs (I have not been keeping track) the only other double deck type is a batch of VLA class Volvo B7TLs with ALX400 bodywork, which are nominally for route 123, but can also be found on the 243. Anyhow, VLA91 (LJ54 BDV) was photographed en route to Wood Green passing the old Kingsway Tram Subway, while turning from Southampton Row onto Theobald's Road at Holborn on Tuesday 4 November 2008. The destination and via points are enormous!

Photo © David Bosher.

See also routes 43, 123, 29

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