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Route 286
19 August 2014

The 286 has its roots in old route 108A, which started in April 1944 as a Monday to Saturday rush hours service from Well Hall Roundabout to Poplar, and soon gained a daytime service and an extension to Bow (Seven Stars) in line with the 108. A Sunday service was added a couple of years later, and a further extension to Eltham proper, with a terminus at Southend Crescent, was effected in 1950.

Meanwhile, route 228 (Chislehurst to Eltham via Sidcup and Avery Hill) was given an ambitious Monday to Friday extension to Surrey Docks via Rochester Way, Westcombe Hill and Greenwich, as well as a 228A version diverting at East Greenwich to the South end of the Blackwall Tunnel — North Greenwich as we call it now. Needless to say, this brought in a large measure of duplication with the 108A, so in 1969 the routes were rationalised with the 228 becoming Chislehurst — Eltham again and the 108A running from Eltham to Surrey Docks (Greenwich Sundays) and yet further during peak hours to London Bridge.

At the same time, the 108, which now reached as far south as Lower Sydenham, was cut back to Blackheath (Royal Standard), leaving the section south to the 108B (Crystal Palace to Blackwall Tunnel), this being introduced at weekends to cover. However, within a year the ends were swapped round again, with the 108A withdrawn, the 108 extended to Eltham and the 108B diverted to Greenwich (Surrey Docks during rush hours). The 185 provided an alternative route from Catford and Lewisham to the Blackwall Tunnel during rush hours.

The section of 108B west of Greenwich was withdrawn in 1985, but a re-think in 1986 produced the 286, almost recreating the 108A of 1969-70 from Eltham to Greenwich. The 108B was cut back to Lewisham, and the 108 diverted to Lewisham to cover. Although initially double deck worked, the 286 quickly fell into the hands of Optare StarRider minibuses from New Cross garage. The route was a surprise award to Transcity Coaches of Sidcup starting on 11 July 1992, which bought some new 9m Dennis Darts for the route.

Transcity was bought out by Kentish Bus in 1993, with the vehicles repainted from Transcity’s green (with yellow relief) to KB cream and maroon. Subsequent sale of the original Plaxton bodied Darts to Metrobus in 1995 resulted in Northern Counties bodied Darts taking over, and these lasted until 1998 when they were replaced by new 10.7m low floor Darts in the turquoise national Arriva livery.

The new vehicles were part of a package of changes linked to the withdrawal of circular routes 228 and 328 — the descendants of the 228 mentioned above! In 1986, the 228, once again Eltham to Chislehurst via Avery Hill and Sidcup, was extended from Chislehurst back to Eltham via the former 61/61B route via New Eltham, making it circular. Initially A and C suffixes (for anticlockwise and clockwise) were used to distunguish the directions, but the routes became the 228 and 328 on 16 January 1988 when their garage (Sidcup) closed and the routes transferred to independent operater Boro'Line Maidstone. But the 228 and 328 were withdrawn, the 286 extended to replace them as far as Sidcup (Queen Mary’s Hospital), via Avery Hill, a similar extension to the 160 replacing the western leg. This re-creates the 228 as it was in the 1960s, apart from the short sections between Chislehurst and Sidcup and between Greenwich and Surrey Docks. More new buses came with contract renewal in July 2007 in the shape of new Enviro200Darts – notably the first in London to the 10.7m length, which has subsequently become standard.

The award of the route to London Central in July 2014 was therefore quite historic, and the route now runs from New Cross garage once again, picking up where it left off 22 years ago. Passengers will not notice too much differences as E20Ds, the Enviro200Dart successor, were again specified. SE208 (YY14 WEJ) was in Eltham High Street on the first Monday, 14 July 2014 on a heavy curtailment to Avery Hill. This is a good example of TfL's meaningless blind displays, as a good couple of miles of the route could be described as Avery Hill, so where the last stop is is anyone's guess.

Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).

Of note also, despite all the hype surrounding TfL's new bus blinds committee, is the inconsistent standards applied to the destination displays, both of which have (as of 2007) been changed from previous versions. At the Sidcup end, Sidcup has been dropped and the former qualifier of Queen Mary's Hospital now stands alone. It is fair to say this display is clearer, and there is little danger of confusion with the other hospital of the same name, in Roehampton.

At the other end, the former display of Greenwich, Church has been changed to Greenwich, Cutty Sark, even though the last set down point is in Romney Road, a fair distance from the said ship and even further from the station of the same name. While the qualifier is unlikely to lead to any confusion, there is only one place where buses can terminate in Greenwich, so I am surprised it was included.

See also routes 108, 370, 477, 61, 160

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