Stopping the bus to anywhere

Those of you who are very observant may know that there are in fact two types of bus stop: ‘Bus Stops’ and ‘Request Stops’. The logo on ‘Bus Stop’ flags is red on a white background, ‘Request Stop’ flags have the reverse. The bus is technically meant to stop at every ‘Bus Stop’ if there is someone waiting there, i.e. you shouldn’t have to stick your hand out to wave it down at these types of stop. However, I wonder how often this works in practice: I for one always wave down the bus even though my stop is a Bus Stop, and I’ve only ever had one 151 pull up to ask if I wanted to get on in almost two years of waiting there. With 24 Bus Stops towards Sutton, and 24 back towards Kingston, you can imagine the route might take a lot longer if the bus actually stopped every time it is meant to. On the other hand, people with reduced mobility, or those who physically can’t wave down the bus (e.g. blind people; where the stop is positioned right after a turn in the road) should have some security that their bus will actually stop for them!

Bus stop flags are really well designed things, displaying information simply with a versatile design which serves the whole of London. They also reveal something about the bus stop: that catching a bus there actually gives you an opportunity to go anywhere because all stops and bus routes are interconnected.

From 213  stops you can also catch: 57; 80; 85; 93; 131; 151; 154; 164; 265; 280; 371; 407; 413; 420; 470; 613; 627; 665; 668; 773; 775; A3; E16;  K1; K2; K3; K4; K5; KU1; KU3; N44; N87; S1; S3; S4; X26 – that is 36 different bus routes! Plus it connects you directly to railways at Worcester Park and New Malden, plus Sutton, Cheam, Malden Manor, Norbiton and Kingston if you can walk a bit. I will eventually put this all on a map but for now, the mind boggles at the numbers alone!

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History #2 Bus Types

Browse through to look at the bus types which have been used on the 213 route over the years:

The first buses to be used on the 113 (later 213) route were  single deck B types in 1921, then S types some of which remained in operation until 1931. An important change to single-deck types was the introduction of pneumatic tyres (air filled, rather than solid), initially on K buses based at Kingston from 1926, and to the entire fleet by October 1928 which reduced the journey time from 70 to 55 minutes (Belmont – Kingston). From the 1930s – 1952, T and LTs were the official fleet although Q types were in use from 1936 and in fact, the route appears (from photos) to have run with any single-decker it could get.

Beginning on 12 December 1952, the route was converted to RF operation, running from Sutton and Norbiton Garages. This was the last single-deck type on the route, double-deck RTs being introduced in May 1963. RMs or more famously know as Routemasters were used on Sundays only from 1966.

The route became one-man operated in August 1972 with the introduction of the DMS type bus, Ms followed in 1984, NVs in 1997, EVLs in 2002, PVLs in 2007 (still used on the route) and the DOE type from 2011. The current allocation for Sutton Garage is 53 DOEs, 17 PVLs of which 19 vehicles run the 213 on weekdays.

Lots of letters and dates – but the important thing for me is thinking about the experience of being on these buses, the noise, smell, and feel of them and also their visual place in both constructing views of the urban landscape (the view out) and their visual identity on the road. Old photos of these buses on the route are both strikingly familiar and at the same time jarring, like looking at an alternative universe…

I’m not a bus expert, so if you spot errors or can pad out my account, please comment. Other important things to learn from bus design and manufacture are: material wealth of society / bus companies; the need for greater capacity; regulation or de-regualtion of rules on bus design (police standards were incredibly restrictive in the early 20th century); the environmental impacts of bus travel – e.g. if a bus travels empty it is more damaging than a car – so judging required capacity is essential.