Have you ever wondered what all the numbers and letters on buses and their stops mean? Here is a limited guide to what I’ve learnt…


Letters and numbers on the front of the bus:

The letters refer to the bus type/ design, since 1990s privatisation, the number of types has really expanded. Letters for classic bus types include ‘RM’ for Routemasters, ‘RT’ for Regent Three, and ‘RF’ for Regal Four. The 213 uses DOEs  (Alexander Dennis Trident II Optare Enviro 400) and PVLs (London Plaxton President bodied Volvos). The number afterwards is individual to the bus, like the numbers assigned to limited edition artist’s prints.

DOE28 at Sutton Garage. 'DOE' refers to bus type (both chassis and body design), '28' is the individual number assigned to that specific bus.

DOE28 at Sutton Garage. ‘DOE’ refers to bus type (both chassis and body design), ’28’ is the individual number assigned to that specific bus.

Combination of letters and numbers on the side of the bus:

The letter refers to the garage where the bus comes from. So, all 213s will have ‘A###’, where ‘A’ means Sutton. Previously, they could have had ‘K’ for Kingston or ‘NB’ for Norbiton Garages but they are both long gone now, Kingston where Oceana now is, Norbiton where the Wickes store is. The number following, the running number, indicates where the bus is in the fleet, so if you wait to see a few buses pass they should be in chronological sequence. This number corresponds to a duty number on the driver’s duty card, this tells the driver where on the route they are supposed to be at a certain time.

The letter number combination on the yellow panel tells you that the 213 is from Sutton (A) and its running number is '250' - so the next bus should be '251'

The letter number combination on the yellow panel tells you that the 213 is from Sutton (A) and its running number is ‘250’ – so the next bus should be ‘251’


Stop sign for Malden Green Avenue

Stop sign for Malden Green Avenue – Towards Sutton

Yellow/Orange numbers and letters on stop signs/ Numbers on bus shelters:

These numbers are assigned by London Buses/ Transport for London presumable for maintenance and inventory purposes. The yellow number is called an ‘Origination and Destination plate’. All the stops in Kingston Borough start with K and all the stops in Sutton with J but I don’t know anything else about them

Live departure numbers:

These numbers appear on a red and grey panel fixed on the sign post. You can also get a full list of these on TfL’s website which allows people with fancy phones (what I call smart phones) to find out when the next bus will arrive at any given stop.

Letters above stop signs:

This is called a ‘Point Letter’ and refers to a position on a map which is used when there are a number of different bus stops to choose from, i.e. at interchanges and town centres. It is specific to a physical location so that for example, on the 213 route there are three stops with point letter E.

Number on stop sign (underside)

This is called the stop number and is unique to the sign, it is on a little greyish disk on the bottom of the route display, for London Bus’s inventory records.

Individual shelter number and map for identifying your stop.

Individual shelter number and location map for identifying your stop.


Watery problems

Last week was hell on the bus due to a pot hole appearing in the middle of the road at Worcester Park Station. Workmen discovered a burst water main and emergency repairs had to be carried out. This caused delays of one and half hours during a heatwave. I felt so sorry for the poor bus drivers and don’t know how they didn’t go mad. Thankfully, it’s all been sorted now but I thought I’d share this photo (provided by Ron and Julia – see previous post) which shows flooding at Worcester Park in 2007. The road had to be lowered and widened to allow double deck buses to pass under it and to deal with increased road usage. From the looks of it, the solution for providing adequate drainage at this crucial part of the road still hasn’t been found!

Flooding at Worcester Park

Morning chat at Malden Green Avenue (well, one street away)

A gentleman called Ron invited me round for tea with him and his wife Julia months ago. They were so lovely and hospitable, I am ashamed it has taken so long for me to write up their 213 story.

Ron moved to New Malden with his parents in 1967. In 1975, he and Julia were married and lived together in Motspur Park, both working in accountancy, Ron for Kingston NHS at  Kingston and Surbiton Hospitals. In 1993, they moved to Mayfair Avenue, near to Malden Green Avenue stop.

They have two sons, and Julia remembers travelling on the 213A for hospital appointments during her pregnancy in 1979. One son went to Tiffin Boys, the other to Sutton Grammar so they both used the 213 but going in opposite directions. Nowadays, Julia uses it to get to fitness classes in New Malden and they both may occasionally catch the bus from New Malden Station after coming back from central London – I do this too if I’ve missed the train to Worcester Park and it saves a walk at the other end! Because the 213 links to lots of other routes and is regular, it is a very useful bus. Also changes such as the Oyster Card system and ‘countdown’ at stops and on mobile phones have really improved the customer experience and generally made it easier to use.

Ron is very interested in heritage and local history, and provided me with a list of useful local history publications. Here are some of the things he told me:

– The place name, ‘Malden’ is derived from ‘Maeldune’ meaning ‘cross on the hill’ in Old English, which refers to the ancient church of St John the Baptist in Old Malden

– New Malden Railway Station kept having its name changed. When is was first built in the mid 1800, it was called ‘Malden’, then ‘New Malden and Coombe’, then ‘Coombe and Malden’, then ‘Malden for Coombe’, then ‘Malden’ again  and finally in 1957 it was named ‘New Malden’ Station. A case of confused identity maybe?

– Longfellow Road, Worcester Park was apparently childhood home to John Major, whose father was a garden gnome maker. Longfellow Road itself is one of the oldest in Worcester Park so maybe that is why it has a stop named after it, rather than there being a stop called ‘Worcester Park High Street’ or even ‘Central Road’ instead.

– Malden Road leading to Worcester Park used to be lined with lombardy poplars (we’ve got a lovely photo of this in the Kingston Local History Room collection). Many of the trees were found to be diseased and had to be cut down in October 2010. They have been replaced by oaks after a public consultation.

Ron and Julia’s Photos from Worcester Park Running Day 2008 and RF 60th Anniversary 2012

Another time, Ron took me for a little tour of the local area, showing me St John the Baptist Church, and the extend of Nonsuch Great Park, which is Worcester Park now and how the road names come from the old field names. We then went up Trap’s Lane in Coombe and looked at John Galsworthy’s house on Coombe Hill and what is now Rokeby School. After that we visited Kingston University’s Roehampton campus which is part of what was the KLG spark plug factory. This was significant to Kingston’s history as Kenelm Lee Guiness (KLG) supplied spark plugs to Hawker Aviation and both of these factories were reasons to bomb the local area during the Second World War.

Meeting Ron and Julia made me realise that being here (living in Worcester Park/London), it can be possible to make yourself a little place, feel a sense of community and start to know people. I moved here almost two years ago and through this project I have realised just how many interesting people I have met and come to know. Also, learning stories about a place’s past helps you understand reasons for the present, and makes me feel a sense of continuity and embeddedness, that my experiences flow back through time and have been shared by countless others. Maybe people can have more than one home, they can belong to more than one place and time. I need to remember this feeling and be positive about the now, finding meaning and joy in my everyday life – that’s the point right?

History #1 The Route

Here is a condensed history of the route. It is primarily based on work undertaken by London Transport Museum volunteers using various timetables etc to identify changes to the route and its allocation of buses. I hope to follow up shortly with another post about bus types used on the route. Do get in touch if you want to add something or notice an error or two, I’m no expert!

The 213 route from Kingston to Sutton began life as the 113 on 7th September 1921, when a hourly bus ran from Kingston, Horsefair to the Fox, Lower Kingswood via Sutton. The route was a bit different at both ends, Kingston being quite different before the 1960’s ringroad construction, and the route obviously continuing down to Kingswood from Sutton along the Brighton Road, but it still went through Coombe, New Malden, Old Malden, Worcester Park and Cheam. At this time, three buses were used, initially based at Putney Garage (AF) before running from Merton (AL) by October 1921. By January 1922, the route was based from Kingston Garage (K), and no longer served Kingswood, terminating in Grove Road, Sutton. The number of buses used was reduced to two.

There were some quite rapid changes to the route, it being first extended to Banstead Victoria in January 1923, and the service between Kingston and Worcester Park partly withdrawn for one month only in January 1924. It was obviously a popular route as 5 buses were in the fleet from January 1923. The route also began to operate from Sutton in 1924 but actually over the span of the route’s existence, buses have started from Kingston, Sutton and Norbiton garages, and kept swapping how much of the 213 allocation of buses came from each.  In February 1924, the 113 ran Kingston, Horsefair to Banstead, Victoria and continued to do so until 1930. For a two month period in Spring 1927, the route was split, one section terminating at Balmoral Road, Worcester Park (nearest stop, Lindsay Road), resuming at North Cheam, Queen Victoria due to road works on Cheam Common Road – at least today’s disruptions don’t normally include getting off a bus and a half mile walk…. In May 1930 the route between Belmont and Banstead was withdrawn, the new terminus being Belmont, California. On 1st July 1933, the route was compulsory purchased through Act of Parliament by the London Passenger Transport Board and on 3rd October 1934 it was renumbered the 213, as all single deckers were meant to begin with ‘2’.

The 213 Bus

The first 213 bus was a route operated by Alexander Timpson and Son, between Plumstead Common and Westerham Hill on Sundays only, from March 1923. Similarly, the 213A ran from Lewisham to Westerham, and the 213B from Woolwich to Westerham Hill. They were renumbered the 289, 289E and cancelled respectively in 1934.

The Kingston/Sutton 213 Bus

There were a few changes to the route at the Sutton to Banstead end during the 1930s, but otherwise the bus ran from Kingston to Belmont daily until 1962, with half terminating at Sutton from 1946 onwards. Double deck operation began on 8th May 1963 after the bridges at New Malden and Worcester Park were raised (and the roads lowered!) and the route being diverted away from the low bridge at Norbiton. Things on the route to Belmont kept changing, and in 1963, the terminus at Kingston became the Train rather than Bus Station. At the end of January 1966, for one month only, Sunday service was suspended due to staff shortages, and in March 1969, the 213A took over all Sunday journeys, no longer serving Coombe Road. In 1978, only a small fleet of 213s remained, serving Kingston to New Malden Station during peak hours Monday – Saturday. This was withdrawn on 27th October 1978, the route now being served by the 213A

In 1963, half of the fleet of 213s became 213A and were diverted via Clarence Avenue rather than along Traps Lane, running from Kingston to Sutton or Belmont.  In January 1964, it was extended to operate from Wimbledon Station on Monday through to Saturday, and to Morden Station on Sundays from November. This extension was replaced by the 80 and 80A in 1969. The fleet of 213As continued to grow, eventually making the 213 bus redundant in 1978.

213B bus ran for 9 months only in 1964, and was the Sunday service on the 213A route, using 6 RTs split equally between Sutton and Kingston Garages. It ran from Belmont to Kingston on a route very similar to todays.

Now, this is when things get a bit mad. On 4th February 1984, the 213A was renumbered ‘213’ and extended to serve, from Kingston to Sutton Garage (Daily), Belmont (Peak hours and lunchtimes, Mon – Fri, until 1990), St. Helier Station (Monday – Saturday, until 1988) and West Croydon Station (Sundays only, until 1990). A slightly unusual diversions included the bus being extended to Ham (BAE works) for one school trip to Beverley School, New Malden in 1990, soon renumbered 213S. There has also been an N213 which connected Croydon to Kingston at night times. This was cancelled by London Buses in 2009 due to apparent lack of use, however, a lively campaign has been set up to get it reinstated.  At the same time, the 213 became 24hours and it currently runs with an allocation of 19 vehicles on weekdays, 18 on Saturdays, 10 on Sundays and 3 at night.

This graph shows how the number of buses allocated to the 213 route has changed over time.

This graph shows how the number of buses allocated to the 213 route has changed over time. (My graph from data accumulated from various sources)

The peak during the late 1940s-early 1950s is due to the Second World and petrol rationing. Today’s allocation is equivalent to that of the 1970s so there seems to be a bit of a resurgence in bus usage. Also, before 1964, buses were single deck (their capacity less, so therefore more buses needed). All in all, I’d wager more people use the 213 now than ever before and I’m proud to be one of them!





London Transport Museum

On diversion… (44/44A from Newcastle to Dinnington)

As a slight diversion from all things 213, I thought it might be fun to tell you about buses in Newcastle.

Buses in Newcastle are not as good as buses in London. When I lived in Newcastle (which I did for 19ish years on and off), I avoided buses. In fact, I only used them because my boyfriend always lived away from the Metro system we have here, first in a little place called Dinnington and then in the east end of the city, Heaton. (As a second aside, the Metro is super cute with only 2 lines!). I’m sad to say that nearly all buses in Newcastle smell of McDonald’s chips. The other main problem is, they don’t tell you anything once you get on the bus, so if you don’t know where you are going you have to do a guess-timate of where to get off or hope your driver is friendly. This makes bus travel a bit of a hazard, and I only get them up here because my folks won’t put me on their car insurance (a sensible decision, I am blonde and occasionally very ditzy)

The Dinnington bus is run by Arriva. It used to be a 45, but now it’s a 44 or a 44A. It used to run every quarter of an hour, going to half hourly after 7pm. Now it’s half hourly, with one an hour after 7pm. This isn’t good. It also costs £2.20 for a single trip from where I lived to Dinningston, £2.70 from the centre of town. There isn’t an Oyster card system so you have to have cash. They are quite empty, and because they move faster than London buses (less congestion), they are noisy! They do however come in fun colours, Arriva’s buses are turquoise-ish and cream usually, but I also boarded a red ‘United’ double decker this time, which is apparently a modern bus, repainted in celebration of 100 years of the company. Another bus has a huge painted zip on the side, half in red, half in Arriva’s modern colours. You can find out more here: http://www.arrivabus.co.uk/100-years-of-service/ which also tells you about a cool school project to collect stories and poems from the bus. And shamelessly, I’ve nicked the photo from http://northeastbusnews.wordpress.com/.

This is my favourite poem, by Daniel, aged 8:

The Bus Poem
Buses are comfy
Buses are great
Buses are fantastic
Buses are the best
Buses are big
Buses are cool
Buses are warm
Buses are lush
Buses are spectacular

I have also been on a 10A from Ryton to Newcastle run by GoNorthEast (the northern version of Go Ahead London who run the 213 route). They come every 20 minutes even late at night and the driver let me change a tenner with him so that was good, even if the ticket cost over £2.50.

Did you know that Britain (excluding London) is the only country in the world with an entirely privatised / deregulated bus service? More to come on that once I’ve read up a bit.