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Route 472
27 August 2007

The 472 is quite a new route, having started in the Woolwich and Bexleyheath area route scheme of January 1999. Its primary function is to link Thamesmead with Woolwich, the local town centre, and the Jubilee Line at North Greenwich. The former function had previously been provided by route 272, but this took a fairly slow and roundabout route via Abbey Wood. Links to Abbey Wood previously provided by the 272 are now adequately served by other routes such as the 229, while the 177 maintains something like the old routeing, via Eynsham Drive.

Serving Thamesmead had always presented a bit of a headache. The main housing area is arranged around a large loop called Crossway. Thamesmeadís own shops are at the north west corner of this loop, Woolwich is to the south west, and Abbey Wood, the nearest railhead, to the south. The 272 ran from Woolwich via Plumstead, McLeod Road and Abbey Wood after which buses ran alternately clockwise and anticlockwise round the loop. A ten minute service was provided (15 minute evenings and Sundays), with buses running every 20 minutes (30 eves and Suns) either way round the loop, although at Monday to Friday peak hours there were extra buses running to and from Abbey Wood.

Although this arrangement worked, providing all the necessary links, it was slow and confusing to passengers. The first step in providing a quicker link to Woolwich came at the height of the Bexleybus fiasco in 1989, when reliability on the 272 was a real problem. The manager of Bexleybus took a decision after consultation with local pressure group, The Bexleybus Action Group, and began to run an hourly, Saturday-only shopping hours, service numbered 472 from Thamesmead East (Alsike Road), along Yarnton Way, around the Crossway part of the "loop" and then fast from Thamesmead Town Centre to Woolwich Market.

This continued by Boro'Line when the 272 contract was re-awarded from November 1990, and Kentish Bus when they took over Boro'Line. In 1995 it was re-numbered X72 upon re-tendering, now operating as a circular from Woolwich and clockwise round the loop, and gaining a Monday to Friday daytime service and a much improved 15 minute frequency. This was operated briefly by Stagecoach Selkent from 19/10/98.

The new 472, starting on 23/01/99, replaced both the 272 and X72, and was designed to enhance the service to Woolwich, as well as continuing to meet the extended Jubilee Line at North Greenwich, bringing the London Underground within one bus ride of Thamesmead residents. This link has proved to be a master stroke with the frequency already having been increased once, and further increases planned. An all-night service is also planned, although with no Jubilee Line at night it remains to be seen how busy this will be, other than transporting home visitors to the occasional events at the O2 (former Millennium Dome). In the longer term, this route is also a core part of the proposed Greenwich Waterfront Transit scheme, which should involve the route being diverted onto dedicated bus-only roads for most of its length. The route already uses the Millennium Busway between Charlton and North Greenwich.

The 472 also provided a new all day service through the Woolwich Industrial Estate on Nathan Way, and recalled the old 198/198A pre-Bexleybus service that ran from Erith to Woolwich via North Thamesmead and the Industrial Estate, which was withdrawn in 1988. In the intervening years this area had been served only by a few peak hour journeys on the 401, later 244, and the 472 provides a much more satisfactory service, and at the same time Nathan Way provides a convenient short cut from Thamesmead to Woolwich.

Initially, due to a no right turn in to or out of Nathan Way at the Thamesmead end, buses had to run via Eastern Way, with buses towards Thamesmead executing a short double run via a nearby roundabout at the junction with Central Way. Thus the 472 approached the Crossway loop from the south, just as the 272 and indeed 198/198A had done, but buses on the route now all ran in the same direction, making things simpler for passengers. However, a new facility for buses to turn right into Nathan Way was finally opened in May 2000, allowing buses to run along Central Way and enter the loop at the northwest corner (just missing the shops) before going round the loop to terminate at Thamesmead Town Centre. This produced a common routing in Thamesmead with the 177, 229 and 401, with these buses all starting from the Town Centre (which had by this time been re-modelled as a terminus when Safeway opened) and serving Crossway before heading off to Bexleyheath or Woolwich.

The new 472 was won by Stagecoach Selkent, with new low floor double deckers to be phased in, long wheelbase Dennis Tridents with Alexander ALX400 bodywork. As usual with this company the original allocations have been shuffled about, and the oldest buses have now been repainted twice, first into "new Stagecoach" with blue and orange relief, and now into allover red under the auspices of Macquarie Bank, the new owner of Selkent. 17307 (X307 NNO) arrives at General Gordon Place, the main stop in Woolwich, on an eastbound journey in January, sporting the revived Selkent bunch-of-hops logo.

Photo © Adam Murray.

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See also routes 229, 177, 401

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