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Route B15
4 March 2011

Route B15 began in 1988 as a replacement for Kentish Bus route 421 (formerly London Country route 401A), which ran from Joydens Wood to Bexleyheath, and then on to Belvedere via route 401. When Kentish Bus ceased operations the route was taken over by Bexleybus as route B15, under the auspices of London Transport. Buses ran from Joydens Wood to Bexleyheath, and then via uncharted territory to Welling. A daily service was provided between the Summerhouse Drive/Birchwood Drive junction and Bexleyheath, via Baldwyns Park. Additionally, part of the service started from Bexley Hospital, and the evening and Sunday service ran via Bexley Hospital, while a few peak hour journeys ran to and from Bexley Hospital via Leyton Cross Road. The section from Bexleyheath to Welling via Elsa Road ran Monday to Saturday daytimes only.

In 1991 a new route contract was awarded to Transcity Link using Talbot Pullman minibuses, notable for their twin rear axles with single tyres. The service was also re-structured to the form familiar today, with a one-way loop via both Bexley Hospital and Joydens Wood, thereby eliminating reversing manoeuvres, with buses running clockwise before midday and anticlockwise thereafter, to minimise journey times for the majority of passengers. The route also lost its Sunday service, leaving Joydens Wood completely unserved on that day, as the only other route serving the area, the 476, did not run on Sundays either. At the time there was a Sunday afternoon only extension of the 124 to Bexley Hospital, but in 1993 this was withdrawn as well. To this day the area still has no Sunday service, but there intensifying calls for one to be provided.

Transcity Link was bought up by Kentish Bus in 1993. In 1999 the route returned to Bexleyheath garage, by then in the hands of London Central rather than Selkent but in 2004 was re-awarded to Arriva Kent Thameside (the former Kentish Bus) again, thus effectively giving Dartford garage its third stab at the route!

With the commencement of the new operating contract on 24 January 2004 the B15 gained an interesting extension from Welling via Welling Way and Riefield Road to Eltham. This made the route rather lengthy, given the loop working at Joydens Wood, with buses running for nearly two hours without a break. The original intention had been to remove the loop arrangement at Joydens Wood, with a terminus established at Bexley Park (the site of the former Bexley Hospital), but it was not possible to locate a stand there so the old arrangements had to continue. The result was poor reliability as buses could easily get delayed on such a long route.

A new contract that began on route B15 on 24 January 2009 provided an opportunity to rectify this, so the Joydens Wood Bexleyheath section transferred to the shorter route B12. This enabled a further extension to take place at the other end of the B15, to the Horn Park Estate, with buses terminating at Alnwick Road. Due to antisocial behaviour in the area buses only hesitate before making the return journey, thereby introducing a loop working at the other end!

Arriva retained the B15, but the short single door Wright Cadets were transferred to the B12, and the B15 gained larger vehicles in the shape of dual door 10.2m Enviro200Darts. However, crowding problems at the Joydens Wood end of the B12 saw the buses swapped back again after a couple of years, so I have added this photograph of 3951 (GK53 AOR), 9.4m long DAF SB120/Wrightbus Cadet dating from 2004. It was photographed on 9 February 2011 in Dorcis Avenue, on the (then) "new" section of the original route between Bexleyheath and Welling. When new, these vehicles featured the Arriva "stone" coloured "cow horns," but are now all-red to comply with the latest TfL regulations.

Photo © John Gillespie.

The newer Darts are now normally on the B12, but can still put in appearances on the B15. They are represented by 4025 (GN58 BUV) at Bexleyheath on Wednesday 4 February 2009 when nearly new, with plenty of evidence remaining of the snow that caused the bus network to shut down completely the previous Monday.

Photo © William Turvill.

See also routes 476, 401, 124, B12, C3, 413

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