CCI01012018fi 800x425 - London Bus Photos – Route 150

London Bus Photos – Route 150

Route 150 – Aldgate to Victoria Bus Station

This really should have been a 30th anniversary post in the summer of 2017 – however these pictures were found over xmas! The bus route concerned is not the 150 which runs between Becontree Heath and Chigwell Row (which didn’t run on Sundays anyway.) Its a different route and one that had Routemasters! Obviously its a London bus route that’s been practically forgotten with just one very scant mention on the Internet.

This was the one off tourist bus numbered ‘150’ – clearly a precursor to the tourist bus routes 9 (withdrawn) and 15 (current.) The 150 began on 24 May 1987 and was an attempt to introduce a new express bus route on Sundays.

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RML 2402 at Aldgate. The bus behind, RML 886 is on stand-by for both the 15 and 150. 31/5/87

The 150 route was via the 15 from Aldgate bus station as far as Aldwych, then down to Temple and along the Embankment, quite closely mirroring the District and Circle Lines to Victoria.

What the 150 did was sort of emulate its sister route, the 15. For a few years the 15’s westbound route from Tower Hill went via Lower Thames Street before climbing Arthur Street to Monument and regaining its usual route. The 150 did something similar, except it was Aldwych where it descended (or ascended) Arundel Street en route to/from the Victoria Embankment.

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RML 2737 heading down Victoria Embankment. Incorrect destination blind in use. 31/5/87

Destination blinds on the 150 read either Aldgate via Tower or Victoria via Tower. I am not sure the 150 did run garage journeys. Its possible, as my photos show yellow destination blinds Upton Park Priory Road via Tower were made – the last journey of the day from Victoria may have been one such. The difference between the 150 and the 15 was the latter had via Tower in big yellow letters on the intermediate blind – therefore the 15’s destination blind should simply read Upton Park Priory Road.

The Embankment is not that unusual in terms of being served by buses. The 109 from Croydon used to serve this riverside location via a loop taking in Westminster and Blackfriars bridges. The 109 service was withdrawn three months before the 150 was introduced.

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RML 2709 at Embankment station heading west. 31/5/87

The only other services known to use Arundel Street was the old 172 service (Archway to West Norwood.) This used that route from its inception in 1952 until 1978, when it was routed via Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. The old 170 from Holborn to Wandsworth also used Arundel Street – there’s no dates for this apart from a reference on the London bus map for 1978.

Certainly the 150 was a partial attempt to reintroduce some sort of regular London bus service along the Victoria Embankment, in lieu of the former 109 and 172 services. Another reason for this route was to avoid the busy area around Trafalgar Square and the Strand and thus allow the 150 to maintain a twenty minute interval express bus service.

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RML 2652 at Westminster for Aldgate. 28/6/87

The service was a supplement to the 15 and was intended to give Upton Park’s Routemaster crews some extra work on Sundays. The 15 continued to operate as normal on Sundays between Ladbroke Grove and East Ham. Its difficult to see where the 150 fitted in for comparable journeys by tube were far quicker.

The 150 route required four Routemasters (RML’s.) The fact it was a limited stop express service was meant to allow such a small allocation to manage what was envisaged to be a reasonable level of service for a Sunday, especially as it was aimed at tourists. Services began about 10am and finished around 6pm.

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RML 2760 at Tower Hill. One of the immaculate show buses from West Ham garage. 31/5/87

The present tourist 15 service in comparison has five buses required for a much shorter working (Tower Hill – Trafalgar Square) serving all stops at 15 minute frequencies. The 15’s crew layovers are at both Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square. Thats quite liberal compared to the 150 which did round trips to Victoria with crew breaks taking place at Aldgate bus station.

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RML 2670 at Victoria. Just arrived, blinds changed, and return to Aldgate. 28/6/87

The ‘terminus’ at Victoria was the usual stop for the 2, 2b, 36, 36a, and 36b buses so the 150s could only stop here very briefly. The service’s stops as far as I remember were Victoria (Terminus Place), Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Westminster station, Embankment station, Aldwych (eastbound) Fleet Street, St. Paul’s (the old stops at Godliman Street),  Monument, Tower Hill, and Aldgate.

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The non-standard 150 stop at Monument

150 stops were indicated by an orange flash in lieu of the usual white employed for most London bus services and the orange ones were invariably found on white (compulsory) bus stops. The one at Monument was unusual being a request stop yet a compulsory stop for the 150!

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RML 2642 at Westminster station. 28/6/87

Some of the stops must have been an annoyance. For example there used to be a red bus stop by Westminster Pier, handy for the famous bridge and Big Ben, yet the allocated stop was further on in Parliament Square! Another example is one needed to get off at Godliman Street for St. Paul’s. The stops just round the corner near the top of Ludgate Hill just wouldn’t do. Similarly Fleet Street (Royal Courts of Justice) for Aldwych (except on the return trip.) One really needed to have some knowledge of the stops in advance. Of course passengers could get on or off where they liked if the bus was at rest.

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RML 2727 at St. Paul’s cathedral. 31/5/87

The 150 wasn’t even that busy. Being  a crewed bus service the costs were quite high despite initial expectations its costs would be fairly covered, so I expect the authorities were glad it ended. The service  ceased 31st August 1987. Ironically just fifteen days of service!

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  1. Quite a bizarre service! Why didn’t they number it 15S for Sunday (or 15SS for Summer Sunday, although that would have looked weird)? Anyway, giving it only one short season, presumably not on the bus map or in guides, would have limited its potential somewhat. I would have been a different story now I think, with instant appearance in journey planners and, no doubt, blog posts informing of its existence! Incidentally, thinking back to the 80s there were still a lot of services (or parts of services) that didn’t run Sundays, weekends or evenings, or had A or B suffixes on variant parts of their routes – it’s (almost) all much simpler to understand now (a service is either daytime or 24 hours, and that’s just about the only difference bar a few special cases).

  2. Just thinking again, I wonder if this was actually a “political” route to appease the unions, created to ensure the conductors got an agreed level of hours worked, without having them and the buses sitting around doing nothing, rather than a response to a perceived public demand?

  3. Author

    It was a very strange service, but would have been more successful today as you say, becos of blogging, social media etc.

    When you say political, the 15 used to run as far as East Acton on Sundays, it was cut back to Ladbroke Grove (Eagle) I think 31 May 1987, its possible the 150 may have been a venture to keep crews employed on Sundays rather than face ire from the unions.

  4. I had forgotten about this route completely until reading your excellent article. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever photographed it but it turns out I had taken an RML descending Ludgate Hill:
    https://flic.kr/p/KFUgJ5
    One slight correction though, West Ham wasn’t the home of this route or its parent route 15 but nearby Upton Park.

    1. Author

      A nice pic of a 15 on the 150! Its very rare to see pics of this route. Thanks for your feedback. I am sure you realise I meant Upton Park as I referred to the garage journeys. I dont know how West Ham slipped in!

  5. Ha ha, of course. Both garages are now history sadly but the new West Ham garage is very impressive.

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