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Route G1
11 June 2010

The G1 has recently changed operator, being lost by Abellio London to London General. On the same date route 322 passed the other way, and although both routes were originally specified with new buses in the event the existing vehicles were retained in both cases. The G1, now based at Plough Lane garage, has thus gained the 5-year-old Mini Pointer Darts previously at Stockwell. Unfortunately there was an error with the ordering of blinds, as standard manual blinds were ordered, not realising that the buses have powerblind mechanisms (or it may have been the other way around). As a result, the old paper-in-windscreen trick has re-surfaced, although at least the characters are clear!

Photo © James Fullick.

Thus we have LDP271 (LX05 EXZ) passing the ‘Falcon’ crossroads at Clapham Junction on 10 May 2010 with its temporary route number display and no destination. We have brightened up the blind box by inserting the photographer’s name there instead! The buses are the same type as Abellio had used, so apart from the change of livery and interior there is actually little change. Note that buses carry the new generic Go-Ahead-London logo, with London General subtitle.

‘G1’ seems a rather odd number for a route serving Streatham, Furzedown, Tooting, Wandsworth Common, Clapham South, Clapham Junction and Battersea. Where does that ‘G’ come from?

Starting from 5 August 1988, Wandsworth Health Authority sponsored two new local routes, criss-crossing the borough and serving as many hospitals as possible. Both served many streets not previously covered by the bus network, and also between them almost saw off the last remaining remnants of the 189 (by then just Monday to Friday shopping hours between Tooting and Clapham Common via Burntwood Lane, Wandsworth Common and Nightingale Lane, plus school journeys on to Brixton and Stockwell, which survived and have now become the 689). Both the new routes ran on Mondays to Saturdays.

The G1 started from Tooting Broadway and ran via St. George's Hospital, Aboyne Road, Burntwood Lane (for Springfield Hospital), Wandsworth Common (for St. James's Hospital), Bolingbroke Grove, Bolingbroke Hospital, Clapham Junction (Northcote) and Bettersea Rise (for St. John's Health Care Unit and St. John's Hospital). Meanwhile the G2 was to start from Furzedown (for Tooting Bec Hospital) during shopping hours, otherwise from Tooting Broadway via St. George's Hospital, Aboyne Road, Springfield Hospital (into the grounds in this case), Tilehurst Road, Heathfield Road, Allfarthing Lane to Wandsworth (Arndale Centre).

Six MCW Metroriders were purchased by WHA for the routes, E873/4 NJD and F895-8 OYR. Although they very quickly gained London Buses numbers as MR 93-98, they were originally numbered SG 1-6. This, and the G in the route numbers, stood for St. George's Hospital, served by both routes. The routes ran from Streatham garage.

Due to the way in which the two routes were operationally interworked, it proved more convenient for journeys leaving Furzedown to be covered as the G1, the G2 thus only covering arrivals in Furzedown. This rather unusual arrangement nevertheless covered the immediate need for Furzedown residents to get to Tooting and St. George's Hospital, even if travel to anywhere beyond would require changing in one direction. However, this arrangement was not to last long, as the G1 was extended a short way to Streatham (St. Leonard's Church) while the G2 contracted to terminate at Tooting Broadway in both directions. A Monday to Friday peak hours service was also provided between Tooting and Streatham, but still no early morning or late evening service. The G1 was soon extended again, to Streatham Garage.

In 1992 the short G2 was withdrawn, largely without replacement, and the G1 was re-structured. At Clapham Junction, the route now ran to the Meyrick Arms terminus to serve the shops and station better, rather than the St. John's Health Care Unit. At the south end, instead of terminating outside the now-closed Streatham garage, the route was altered to terminate at its new base at (West) Norwood, charting new territory in the process by serving Gleneldon Road, Valley Road, Canterbury Grove and York Hill. A full early morning and evening service was provided, and the frequency was increased from 2 to 3 buses per hour, to make up for the loss of the G2 between Tooting and Burntwood Lane.

The next upheaval took place in 1995, when a small route scheme was put in place to replace route 115, which was being withdrawn. The middle section of the 115 became the 315, and the east end was covered by a rather long extension of the P13 and a shorter extension of the 201. The west end of the 115 ran rather circuitously from Balham via Upper Tooting Park, Wandsworth Common, Nightingale Lane, Clapham South, Broomwood Road and Northcote Road to Clapham Junction and on to Shaftesbury Estate. It was decided to amalgamate the two routes north of Wandsworth Common – in the process creating an even more indirect service and breaking some links. At the other end, the G1 was cut back to Streatham garage once again, with the 315 taking over through to West Norwood. However, the G1 gained a Sunday service for the first time.

Around the same time, the Metroriders started to be progessively replaced by Dennis Darts, first DT class versions with the original Duple/Carlyle Dartline style bodywork, and later some DR class Reeve Burgess Pointer bodied versions released from the 249 by conversion to double deck. Unfortunately, they fell foul of some of the rather extravagent traffic calming measures to be found in the Tooting area, and buses had to be diverted away from Furzedown completely, instead running via Southcroft Road and Ribblesdale Road/Nimrod Road, regaining the previous routing at Ullathorne Road for the final section into Streatham. After suitable modifications, buses were restored to Chruch Lane and Furzedown Road after a few months.

Due to continuing problems with driver recruitment and retention at Arriva London South (the company that had by now acquired Norwood garage and its routes), the route passed to Thornton Heath garage for a while. However, this did not solve the problem, so it was decided to sub-contract the route out to Limebourne, a medium sized independent based at the other end of the route, in Battersea. Eight DRs and 3 DTs were hired to Limebourne for the duration. The DTs were subsequently swapped for four DRs, such that Limebourne had the whole batch, DR 20-31.

The sub-contract was originally understood to be a temporary arrangement, with Arriva expected to resume operation once post-Tramlink bus service reductions had kicked in, but strangely Arriva still could not manage to take the route back. A new contract commenced on 29 April 2000, causing a short extension along Streatham High Road from Streatham Garage to the junction with Green Lane. The sub-contract continued; new vehicles were allegedly specified, but did not materialise. However, a sudden flurry of events during 2001 saw Limebourne bought out by Connex, the G1 contract formally handed over to them, and new vehicles ordered.

In the event, the route also transferred from Battersea to Connex’s other depot at Beddington Cross, and the new vehicles were put on the 322 instead, because their noisy Euro III engines had caused complaints from residents along the G1! Having run with the ex-322 ALX200 bodied Darts, the G1 did get new buses upon contract renewal in 2005. Since then there have been further changes. Connex sold its London Bus operation to National Express which re-branded it Travel London; a proposal to re-brand it again, to National Express London, did not materialise, perhaps because, after expanding the business, National Express then sold it to NedRailways, which has in turn re-branded it Abellio London!

The transfer to the route to London General from 1 May 2010 coincided with a number of minor routeing alterations to simplify and speed up the service. The route was diverted in both directions direct via Northcote Road instead of Bolingbroke Grove, thus missing out Bolingbroke Hospital. However, the two roads run quite close together. It was also diverted between Tooting Broadway and St. George's Hospital via Tooting High Street and Blackshaw Road instead Garratt Lane, although the routeing remains quite complex in the area, including a circumnavigation of the St. George's Hospital grounds and double runs at St. George's Grove and Springfield Hospital. The Sunday service was also doubled from hourly to half-hourly – very few routes in London are that infrequent at any time of the week, so this was something of an anomaly.

See also routes 689, 315, P13, 201, 249, 322

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