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Route 244
4 March 2011

In contrast to the previous version of this page, where I was able to illustrate no less than five different vehicle types on the 244, only one type will be seen on the route for the foreseeable future, as it has been re-allocated to Belvedere garage where it is the only single deck route. This coincided with the start of a new operating contract on 22 January 2011, which also resulted in new buses being allocated, and these take the form of 10.2m Enviro200Darts. They were actually introduced to service a couple of weeks earlier from Bexleyheath garage, and so we see SE61 (YX60 DXW) on 19 January 2011, still working for London Central but with London General logos ready for the switch Belvedere is a LG garage, acquired with the sale by TfL of East Thames Buses.

Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).

The 244 started in 1987 as a very short route just running from Woolwich to Broadwaters also known as Thamesmead West. It was very soon tendered and awarded to Selkent's new low cost Bexleybus operation, based at Bexleyheath garage (despite the entire route being within a mile of Selkent's Plumstead garage!), which commenced operation on 16 January 1988. Bexleybus was disbanded less than three years later, with the garage and most routes being handed over to London Central in November 1990.

In 1991 the 244 was extended to Belmarsh Prison, with peak hour journeys running to Thamesmead via the Woolwich Industrial Estate on Nathan Way. Services in the Thamesmead area have been subject to frequent re-structuring, and one such scheme in Janaury 1999 saw the 244 extended on a daily basis from Belmarsh to Abbey Wood via Central Way and Bentham Road. This was part of the re-structuring of routes 272 and X72 to 472, with the 244 providing the quickest link between Bentham Road and both Woolwich and Abbey Wood Station. The 472 ran via Nathan Way, obviating the need for the former 244 peak hour extensions.

Like the Jan 1999 changes, the next major changes were timed to coincide with contract renewal in January 2004. This time the changes were centred on the south end of the route and, in particular, the newly redeveloped Queen Elizabeth Hospital. One of the major criticisms had been the lack of a direct bus link from much of Shooter's Hill Road into the hospital, and this was corrected by diverting the 178 through the grounds. The 178 had previously come from Kidbrooke, run along Shooter's Hill Road and up Shooter's Hill, and then down into Woolwich via some of the roads now used by the 244. Instead, it was re-routed via the hospital and directly into Woolwich, thus providing the service from the west, and the 244 was extended from Woolwich via the former 178 route to terminate at the hospital from the east.

A further criticism of the network around Woolwich Common and the Hospital, resulting from this scheme of changes, had been how the 386 doubled back on itself. After travelling from Blackheath and Greenwich to the hospital, it turned south on Woolwich Common to serve Herbert Road, then followed Nightingale Place thus returning to the Woolwich Common crossroads served five minutes earlier before heading into Woolwich. This problem was to be corrected by swapping the route from Herbert Road to Woolwich with the 244; though that does mean the 244 takes up to 20 minutes from Woolwich Common crossroads to the hospital, about half a mile as the crow flies, which might cause annoyance if anybody uses it to get to the hospital from farther afield! After initial plans to do this in January 2009, when many routes in the area began new contracts, the changes eventually happened on 19 December 2009, at the same time as the final phase of the Woolwich town centre redevelopment, which saw General Gordon Place closed to traffic.

Further changes have been proposed in connection with the eventual opening of the Greenwich Waterfront Transit, if that ever comes to pass. The GWT is primarily a replacement for the 472, but would serve many of the areas currently served by the 244, i.e. Thamesmead West and Barnham Drive, but conversely would not serve Woolwich Industrial Estate, so the 244 would be re-routed from Plumstead Station via its old haunt of Nathan Way and the current 472 route to Bentham Road, thence to Abbey Wood as now. Ironically, these changes would mean the 244 no longer serves its original objective!

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See also routes B11, 380, B12, B15, 469, B16, 155, 472, 178, 386

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