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Route 505
25 March 2010

Route 505 is unique, as far as I know, in terminating within the Greater London Authority area but not entering London's Low Emission Zone. (Route 269 briefly enters the GLA area, but not the LEZ, at its eastern extremity around North Ockendon, on its way between Brentwood and Grays.) The LEZ is generally the same as the GLA area, but is cut back along the edges to ensure that any non-compliant vehicles that reach the boundary from the outside have a safe route to divert away from it. The length of 505 affected is quite substantial, but operator Arriva has made the most of it and runs many non-compliant vehicles on the 505. They must hope roadworks or an incident never divert buses into the zone!

Following replacement of the previous manual gearbox Iveco minibuses that generally worked the route, it really does seem like anything goes on the 505 from its Harlow base. An increasing proportion is low floor, and the first type featured here is the Dart SLF with Wright Crusader bodywork. 3435 (R165 GNW) dates from 2007 and is seen nearly at the end of its journey in Chingford on 24 September 2009. Unusually for a provincial operator traditional blinds are still carried, and the inclusion of the word "Rail" in the display is a nice touch at least somebody knows that there is no such thing as a "train station!"

Photo © Suzy Scott.

Another Dart SLF is 3231 (V231HBH), a long (10.7m) Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied example, just leaving Chingford station with the 14.35 departure for Harlow on Monday 8 March. As can be seen, this bus should not be on the 505 at all, but on a Harlow local town service! Painted route branding is a useful marketing tool if you can ensure that the right buses go on the right routes, but in practice is often more a hindrance than a help.

Photo © Julian Walker.

The final view is of a high floor bus, now extremely rare in the London area as TfL's own fleet is 100% low floor, and indeed most high floor vehicles do not comply with the LEZ. Also, new London Service Permits now require low floor buses. The vehicle is a Wright Handybus bodied Dennis Dart dating from 1992, which was acquired with West's of Woodford Green. It was photographed in Sewardstone Road, again on Monday 8 March, working the 14.29 from Mark Hall North (14.41 from Harlow) to Chingford. It is just about to cross the boundary between Essex and Greater London just beyond Yardley Lane Estate; the change in the road surface marks the actual boundary.

Photo © Julian Walker.

Once out of London at Chingford, the 505 meanders via Waltham Abbey to Harlow, and is essentially a rural route. At one time it ventured farther into London reaching Walthamstow, but increasing bureaucracy and other costs meant this was no longer commercially viable and the route was curtailed to Chingford. Entry to London had been via Bury Road (no longer served), but the route was diverted via King's Head Hill to maintain the link to the shopping area in Chingford. The former route did provide some handy links within Greater London and was the only bus to serve Waltham Way even now some of those links are still missing, and the replacement route 385 is more limited. But the 505's main function is to serve Sewardstone and Tylers Cross in Essex.

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