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Route 281
5 November 2005

The 281 is one of London Unitedís busiest routes, despite being an outer suburban service (and a high numbered one at that). The fact that it passes through Kingston is no doubt the main reason for this. It is quite a lengthy orbital service, providing many links, if not always by the most direct route.

Photo © John Nicholas Bennett.

Here TA 261 (LG02 FCO) is seen at Whitton Church, Hounslow Road, on a short working to Teddington on 5 March 2005. The reason for this is that it was a rugby match day and, although it is not immediately obvious, buses run in two sections. The route normally passes Twickenham Rugby Ground in Whitton Road, but this is closed off on match days, and in any case the whole area usually becomes gridlocked. Therefore the main service terminates in Twickenham and a shuttle operates between Teddington and Hounslow via Whitton High Street, with passengers changing buses if needed in Teddington and tickets being transferable.

The 281 is significant in that it started off as Londonís first Trolleybus route. In the early 1930s, London United Tramways launched five Trolleybus routes based on Kingston, simply numbered 1-5. The network was operated from Fulwell garage, which still housed a few trams and now houses motor buses. In view of future expansion of the Trolleybus network, a new 6xx number series was allocated, and the routes 1-5 became the 601-605.

The 1 (later 601) ran from Tolworth to Twickenham via pretty much the current 281 route. Then, the present section between Twickenham and Hounslow was covered by route 33 (27 on Sundays), and later by route 73. The trolleybuses were removed about 1960, although the 281, which replaced the 601, still ran between Tolworth and Twickenham, but now turning at the Albany rather than in King Street. The added flexibility of motor buses allowed the route to continue to Hounslow from 1966, initially on Mondays to Saturdays only ó even though the 73 remained initially.

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See also routes 33, 27, 73

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