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Route P13
2 August 2006

The P13 is a modern 1990s minibus type route, running for most of its length along various side roads, the objective being to provide transport closer to people’s homes than had been the accepted norm until recently. On 19 November 1988, a series of minibus routes was introduced using some of the first Optare StarRiders based on Mercedes 811D chassis.

The P11 and P12 mainly replaced existing services, but the P13 covered new ground between Peckham garage and Pepys Estate, running via Asylum Road, Ilderton Road, South Bermondsey and Surrey Quays. This routing also helped the P11 on what had been the busiest part of the 70, which the P11 replaced more directly. No Sunday service was provided. From 27 April 1991 route 199 was re-introduced, serving Pepys Estate on a daily basis, and so the P13 was withdrawn between Surrey Quays and Pepys Estate. However, it was diverted along a further new road, Southwark Park Road, between South Bermondsey and Surrey Quays.

Meanwhile, the southern end of the 184 was replaced between Lewisham and East Dulwich by a further new minibus route, the P2. From East Dulwich, the P2 continued to Peckham via a complicated routing via Avondale Rise and Blenheim Grove, emerging rather abruptly into the hubbub of Rye Lane beside Peckham Rye Station. This route began on 11 July 1992. The minibuses were also able to deviate into the car park of the new Sainsbury's in East Dulwich.

The Lewisham area route scheme of 12 March 1994 saw route P2 merged with the L1 to form new route 484, with a much enhanced service and larger buses. The 484 however ran to Camberwell rather than Peckham, and so the P13 was extended over the former P2 route to East Dulwich, and on to Forest Hill (Horniman Museum), initially direct along Lordship Lane.

Withdrawal of route 115 in 1995 resulted in further expansion of the P13. The 115 had been a rather convoluted route from Shaftesbury Estate, near Clapham Junction, to Tulse Hill via Balham, Streatham, Amesbury Avenue, Roupell Road and Upper Tulse Hill, with a peak hours only extension to Dulwich College (it had run through to Forest Hill at one point). The P13 was diverted via a hairpin bend to Streatham, mostly following the former 115 (the rest of which was replaced by new 315 and alterations to the G1) but running straight from Tulse Hill gyratory to Hillside Road via Christchurch Road.

The aspiration was to provide a bus along the length of Underhill Road, and this was partly achieved from early in 1996 as the P13 was diverted along Upland Road and Underhill Road. It became possible to serve the full length of Underhill Road later that year, although buses towards Streatham have to make a small diversion via Melfort Road due to turning restrictions. By now, the route had been converted to Dennis Darts, 9 metre DRL class ones mainly displaced off routes 295 and 211. These provided improved comfort and increased capacity.

The final piece in the jigsaw came on 29 April 2001 when a mid-contract upgrade took place to the P13. At long last a Sunday service was introduced, and soon afterwards new low floor Darts were put in place. Unfortunately their increased width caused some problems, with the deviation via Sainsbury's in East Dulwich having to be suspended for a few weeks until the gates could be modified, and there are ongoing problems across the road in some of the narrow side roads the route goes along, with a residents’ campaign in progress.

A surprise came in 2004: having just won TfL’s Bus Garage of the Year competition Peckham promptly lost the larger part of its route operations to Travel London, busy filling their brand spanking new garage freshly refurbished by TfL down the road at Walworth. One of the routes lost was the P13. In addition to receiving new buses, the P13 was also re-routed away from Surrey Quays – the Peckham to Surrey Quays section was much the busiest part of the P13, and was replaced by an extension of the more frequent P12. More surprisingly, it was also reduced in frequency from every 15 to every 20 minutes.

Rather than simply being cut back to Peckham, the P13 was retained as far as Ilderton Road but then diverted to New Cross Sainsbury’s, providing a new local link. While this is undoubtedly useful, the route was (and is) far too long for a low frequency routes, especially given its run along the congested South Circular Road, so the opportunity should have been taken to shorten it permanently. As this has not been done the route now suffers being one of the least punctual routes in London, with a dismal performance of around 50-60% of buses running on time last time I looked.

Travel London ordered new 8.8m Dart SLF/Pointer vehicles, similar to what London Central had used latterly although LC’s buses were the 9.4m long version. Here DP 20 (BX54 DMZ) is seen passing along Streatham High Road on 1 August 2005, quite near the start of its daunting journey to New Cross.

Photo © Russell Baldock.

See also routes 381, P12, 199, 484, 315, G1, 295, 211

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