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Route H12
3 January 2005

After 5 years with Sovereign, operation of route H12 has now reverted to Metroline. This is partly a result of the need to convert the route back to double deck operation to cope with schools loadings: Sovereign's Harrow garage, from where the route operated, has a low roof beam across the middle of the site, which makes it impractical to accommodate double deck vehicles there. Whilst the off-peak service is lightly used and Darts were quite sufficient, there had been a need for several additional double deck journeys to cope with the substantial movements of school children in the Hatch End area, and it was found to be more economical to convert the whole service to double deck instead.

New short wheelbase Volvo B7TLs with President bodywork were ordered for the H12, as well as top-ups on the 140 and 182, and were joined by some earlier examples transferred from Holloway garage. In this view, new VP 606 lays over at South Harrow station on a damp Thursday 14th October 2004. Although there is a large bus stand at South Harrow station, bus drivers seem loathe to use it for some reason, instead standing on stands or normal stops on the roads outside.

Photo © John Nicholas Bennett.

The award of the H12 to Sovereign was something of a surprise in the first place. The route passes the door of Metroline's Harrow Weald garage, where indeed it is now based once again. Sovereign initially ran it from Edgware garage, using two extra buses to shuttle drivers to and from Stanmore, hardly the most economical practice. Later it became necessary to transfer the route to Harrow garage, due to the double decking of the 183 as mentioned before, Harrow garage cannot accommodate double deckers. This was not ideal operationally and Sovereign struggled to run the route reliably, so the transfer to Metroline upon re-tendering (in a swap with route H14) was to be expected.

The H-prefixed number is misleading, as (like the H13) the route does not actually serve Harrow, instead skirting around the edge between South Harrow and Stanmore. Interestingly, it seems to be just as quick to catch an H12 between South Harrow and Harrow Weald, starting facing the opposite direction and travelling via Rayners Lane and Pinner, as it is to catch a 140 the direct, but slow and relatively congested, route through Harrow and Wealdstone.

Prior to November 1987 the H12 was numbered 209 and ran to Edgware. The old number lingered on for a number of years for the double deck school journeys mentioned above, as the H12 was reserved for the new Harrow Buses minibuses, although these were later incorporated into the main H12 number despite being operated by Thorpes. When the H12 started, it was diverted after Harrow Weald to Masefield Avenue, but this was not popular and the service was quickly restored as far as Stanmore, terminating at the station. Sovereign won its first routes in the Harrow area in 1990, but the H12 stayed with London Buses and gained new Dennis Darts to replace MCW Metroriders. Sovereign only won the H12 in September 1999 (when, incidentally, a Sunday service was finally introduced).

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See also routes H13, 140, 183, 182, H14

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