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Unlike route 505, featured in the previous update, former lengthy cross-border route 500 (Harlow – Romford) did fall foul of the London Low Emission Zone. Although operated commercially by Arriva, and carrying healthy loadings, it would not have been commercially viable to comply with the LEZ requirements, and so Arriva curtailed the route to Ongar. Neither Essex Council nor Transport for London was minded at first to provide any replacement, but as there were sizeable habitations at the London end not served by any other route, following some pressure TfL did agree to provide a limited replacement.
That has taken the form of new route 375, a number no doubt selected to reflect the historical route that covered this section, the 175. Unlike the 500, the 375 does not reach Ongar, merely running to the London boundary and then to the first available point to turn around, which happens to be the roundabout at Passingford Bridge. There is nothing much there, and it has been noted that only a modest increase in the service interval would have permitted the route to continue more usefully to Ongar, where it would at least have connected with the 500. Alternatively, the route could be extended to Epping, historically a better-used link. As it stands, passengers between Epping and Romford now have to take a lengthy detour via either Brentwood or Leytonstone, adding an hour to the journey time.
The journey between Passingford Bridge and Romford generally takes 29 minutes, allowing a 90 minute service to be provided with one bus, with no evening or Sunday service. An initial 1-year contract was awarded to Blue Triangle commencing on Monday 7 July 2008. After a year it was awarded to Arriva's Grays garage (which is mainly focused on TfL work these days), and a spare Enviro200Dart was drafted in. Three of these buses had been ordered for a planned enhancement to route 499, which was cancelled. One was used on route 160 for a time, until the 375 award found it a more appropriate home.
|Photo © Stephen Williams.|
3999 (GN57 BPE) is the last of the three, and was in charge of the route when photographed in August 2009. The first view is in Orange Tree Hill as the bus approaches Havering village, with the London Borough of Havering in the background. This is one of the main residential areas on the route that would otherwise have lacked public transport, and the only one within TfL's area of responsibility; a little farther along the road, across the border, lies Stapleford Abbots. The bus carried a reasonable load in this afternoon shot, no doubt as shoppers head home from Romford. The return working, photographed at Chase Cross, was less well patronised.
|Photo © Stephen Williams.|
Historically, the corridor out to Passingford Bridge has had a surprisingly good level of service. For many years there were three routes, the 123, 175 and 250; the 175 terminated at Stapleford Abbots Royal Oak, while the 123 (previously 250A) continued to Ongar, and the 250 to Epping via Abridge and Theydon Bois. All three provided a full daily service. The 123/250 group provided a joint hourly service as far as Passingford Bridge, with 1 bus each just as suggested above for the 375, but the 175 to Stapleford was more frequent, generally running every 30 minutes, a far cry from the 90 minute intervals provided now by the 375! Indeed, on Sundays buses ran every 10 minutes to Stapleford – the 375 does not run at all on this day, despite the potential for leisure traffic to Havering Park.
In November 1958, the 175 was extended right through to Ongar, replacing the 123, but presumably perpetuating the wider headways. The Romford – Ongar section was separated again as route 175A in June 1973, with no evening and Sunday service (though the 250 still ran daily). In January 1977 the 250 was replaced by an extension of the 247 from Collier Row, and the 175A was renumbered 247B to match. Interestingly enough, from April 1978 a further supplementary service was re-introduced, being an extension of the 103 from Chase Cross to How Green, a little farther on than the Royal Oak.
This lasted until July 1981, when the 175 was re-extended to Passingford Bridge, double-running via Hillrise Estate to which the route had by then been extended! At the same time, the 247B was reduced to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays only (i.e. Romford market days). Also the 250 was withdrawn and replaced by diverting Green Line route 712, which had previously run into Romford via a different route. This arrangement was even more short-lived, as the 247B gained a full Mon-Sat service between Romford and Passingford Bridge from September 1982, allowing the 175 to be curtailed to Hillrise Estate. The remnants were soon farmed out to the country area as route 339, continuing beyond Ongar to North Weald, Epping and Harlow.
Withdrawal of local Green Line routes in 1984 resulted in new route numbers from Harlow via Epping: 500 replacing 712 to Romford via Abridge, 501 replacing 339 to Romford via Ongar, 502 replacing 702 to Walthamstow via Loughton, and 503 replacing 329 to Waltham Abbey via Upshire, continuing to Walthamstow – a sort of precursor to the 505! The 501 was still a relatively limited service. In 1990 the 502 was diverted at Loughton to Romford also, running via Debden to Abridge and then following the 500, a link which had not previously existed. The 500 was subsequently extended to Stansted Airport, which could have been quite a useful link for Londoners!
The 501 was withdrawn in 1993, so the lack of an Ongar-Romford service is not new – and, as can be seen, the service had been quite limited for many years prior to that in any case. The 500/502 continued to be a success however, the 500 even re-gaining a (tendered) Sunday service. Typically, the onset of TfL bureaucracy started to affect the viability of the routes, and in December 2001 Arriva pulled out of the 502. Essex tendered a partial replacement 202 between Loughton and Romford only, with just three return journeys on market days only, later reduced to Saturdays only. In 2003 it was re-numbered back to 502 and extended to Waltham Cross via Epping Forest, was cut back to Loughton again in 2004 before being withdrawn completely in 2006.
That left the 500, which was controversially diverted via Ongar in April 2007, leaving new local routes to cover the Theydon Bois area. This form of the service actually seems to have been very successful, with average loadings into Romford apparently averaging about 15 passengers, which is quite high for a single deck route. On the out-county section the change had the effect of doubling the service between Harlow and Ongar via Epping, previously provided solely by the 501 (running to Brentwood). However, as noted earlier the LEZ finally finished the route off within London from July 2008.
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