A New Transition

Today we're going down to East London to be in touch with nature, exploring green Euro 6 (hybrid) buses in the Valley and Forest areas - in a nutshell, new buses are on the road in Lea Valley and Waltham Forest. EastLondoner, LondonBuses72 and FG have cooked up a post together.

Route 212:
LondonBuses72 now, and I'm here to write my section about route 212 between St' James' Street Walthamstow Station and Chingford Station, who acts as a better alternative to your average horrible commute on Abellio Greater Anglia service. 

The route leaves the little station at St James's Street Walthamstow, and within 2-3 minutes will have arrived at Walthamstow Central Station. After circling the well-known bus station, the route departs via Walthamstow Market and already is diving into the residential roads. Church Hill and Prospect Hill notably, these roads lead you into the depths of Upper Walthamstow, or Wood Street as it is better known today. 

CT Plus Scania OmniCity SD1 (YR59 NPA) stands time
on a rather sunny afternoon at Chingford Bus Station,
whilst serving route 212 during the summertime of 2014.


The route then dives onto the high street to join route 123 at Thorpe Coombe Hospital, just to immediately dive off the high street to join paralleling route W16. Back into the houses we go again, this time on Fulbourne Road. Interestingly we come to a small junction on the A406. If this is the first time on the route, you'd probably think the route is to dive on to the A406 to dive off into sparsely used bus stops on the hard shoulder located in the middle of nowhere! 212 provides an interesting plot twist to the journey as it continues across a small road on top of the A406, on a rather unusual road which has about 5 sharp bends that have to be cleared in the time of 2 or so minutes. 

Reaching Highams Park now, still on the housing side of the town before reaching a very small town square located right by the railway station with a level crossing right outside of it - which is uncommon in London. However bus routes 212, W16 and 275 who all serve the do not cross the level crossing. 212 and W16 are west of the crossing whilst 275 is on the east side. Buses continue along Larkshall Road to reach Chingford Hatch. Buses towards Walthamstow on this route dive off on every 'slip road' in this area to create more convenient stopping arrangements, especially on Friday Hill which is where route 212 heads up. Buses are notably fast on this section, so if you are in hunt of a speed demon, this might be the section you are looking for. The end of Friday Hill calls with buses ducking under the Chingford branch railway bridge and running along the length of Chingford High Street to end at the rather unusually laid out, and small bus station.

During a sunny day in August, I had made a trip around East London: Walthamstow, Chingford and Romford to be precise. After alighting from a rather dull and dirty Class 317/6 on the Abellio Greater Anglia, I went to the bus station at Chingford to snap all the buses, primarily focusing on routes 212 and 444. My original plan was to get route 97 to Walthamstow Central, however the poorly run 444 took about 30 minutes to come, delaying my trip - especially as I had already eaten into my pillow time. Several Tridents on route 97 kept coming and leaving, and just as the 444 had come, a 97 left by the time I went to snap it. A bit annoyed by this, I noticed a 212 was ready to depart for St James' Street Walthamstow. Having known that the route also happens to go to Walthamstow, although misinformed of how long and interesting this journey was, I decided to take a risk and embark the service. 

Upper Deck Interior of CT Plus Scania OmniCity SD9 (YR59 NPK) on route 212.
A bit bemused as to why these buses didn't have the CT Plus interior, but instead was replaced by a what was still welcoming and relatively clean Scania, which had the default interior which mainly consists of blue and yellow instead of CT's bright red, brown and yellow. Not much thought later, I took a front row seat on the upper deck on SD9. We were off, really quick for a OmniCity as well, so I was already impressed, three minutes into the journey. Soon after I was on Friday Hill, and these buses do not struggle uphill. Very quick vehicles - they raced along the smooth surface of the road. A rather unusual feature was that buses had to dive off into 'slip roads' such as at Chingdale Road to reach the bus stop then re-join Friday Hill again. We then were off again with such pace and an empty and quiet bus, leaving New Road and into Larkshall Road where the bus had only stopped once on this stretch of the route. Before I knew it, within 4 or 5 minutes we had arrived at Highams Park Station where I could see my 317/6 returning back to London Liverpool Street.
CT Plus Scania OmniCity SD9 (YR59 NPK) is seen at Chingford Station on
route 212. ©LondonBuses72

SD9 had to hold up for about 3 minutes due to it being early, note the journey was around 1400 on a working day so patronage on a lot of bus routes is a lot lower, and in addition there isn't as much traffic. After those 3 minutes, we continued straight, however as we were down a residential street, there's cars parked up and down the road so as an oncoming 212 and W16 were coming, the bus had to weave in and out of parked cars and lay over on side roads. After Swanage Road saw an interesting turn, as SD9 ran on top of the A406 to reach the northern arm of Garner Road. Shortly we reached Wood Street, before arriving at Thorpe Coombe Hospital, where the bus picked up a number of passengers - foreign exchange students to be precise, from all ethnic backgrounds who asked the driver if the bus would take them to Walthamstow. After there, the bus ran up Prospect Hill before arriving at Hoe Street, and doing a U-turn to enter Walthamstow Bus Station. 

As knowing that St' James's Street was a little yard allocated in the back streets of Walthamstow, and that only routes 212 and 275 make it there, which both go to Walthamstow Central anyways, I decided to leave SD9 inside the bus station to do some pit-stop photography where I did actually see a 275, so there was no need for St James' Street Walthamstow. 

CT Plus have submitted planning permission documents to open a new bus garage at Walthamstow Stadium (AW) however this garage is not even being built! Route 212 was one of few routes that would've transferred to this garage but this seems to be a 'dave ja vu' as Tower Transit are building a new garage at Picketts Lock (PI) although for now route 212 has to operate out of the overcrowded Lea Interchange (LI) who on a daily basis parks their Enviro 200s on route W14 inside ASDA Leyton's car park!

Anyways, 6th March 2015 called an end to CT Plus' chapter on route 212. In the early hours of 7th March 2015 saw SD8 (YR59 NPE) being the last ever CT Plus bus on route 212. Tower Transit took over the route a few hours later with the new fare being 11 Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5L Hybrids in Tower Transit's new 'retro' interior. It consists of the colours grey and green ordered to have similar seats found on Scania OmniCities. Like most takeovers, although this time round was generally impressive, 'First Day Syndrome' did occur. Buses were frequently being curtailed to Chingford Hatch and Walthamstow Central Station in groups of 3 or 4.

Here's a fleetlist for both CT Plus (former) and Tower Transit (Latter) buses:
YR59 NPA - SD1
YR59 NPC - SD2
YR59 NPD - SD3
YR59 NPF - SD4
YR59 NPG - SD5
YR59 NPJ - SD6
YR59 NPN - SD7
YR59 NPE - SD8
YR59 NPK - SD9
YR59 NPO - SD10

BF15 KFV (Formerly BL64 MHA) - VH38101
BL64 MHE - VH38102
BL64 MHF - VH38103
BL64 MHJ - VH38104
BL64 MHK - VH38105
BL64 MHM - VH38106
BL64 MHN - VH38107
BF15 KFU (Formerly BL64 MHO) - VH38108
BL64 MHU - VH38109
BL64 MHV - VH38110
BL64 MHX - VH38111

Over the last 2 weeks, buses have been strictly allocated to route 212, although a number of VNs from route 58 who is also housed at the same garage have seen the route and also one 61-reg (BN61 MWZ), but that is as far as Tower Transit have gone to the extent of odd workings on this route. Tower Transit honestly speaking haven't been the best on route 212 after three weeks, the route has very frequent turns to Chingford Hatch and to Walthamstow Central Station, especially on this turn as they take 15 minutes stand time. I can definitely imagine passengers at St James's Street who use the 212 must be relatively annoyed lately about the poor service as Walthamstow Central  - St James's Street is only an extra 2-3 minutes of driving. Doing a rounder Walthamstow-St James's Street is only 6 minutes maximum without a break so drivers will still have a 9 minute break, which for a route like 212 works perfectly fine. With a route this short, and service that terrible, it's fair to say CT Plus were better on the route because at this rate, 212 is going to end up being the new 266.

Thanks to Lgee Faure of Flickr who has kindly provided us with photos of VH381xx at Chingford Station on route 212. These vehicles do look the part at night! Please do not use this photo, or any other photo in this post for that matter, without the permission of the said photographer. 

©Lgee Faure

Now over to two of our new bloggers, FG and EastLondon. Over to FG, first.

Route 444:

The 444, a route not known for its reliability or quality of buses, was introduced in 1991 running between Chingford Station and Turnpike Lane Station via Edmonton, it replaced the old 144. The route's remained the same since its introduction with only a re-route in the Edmonton area occurring in its 24-year life span. 

Arriva London DWL51 (LF52 UOC) on route 444 at Turnpike Lane Station.

Beginning at Chingford (Bus) Station, the 444 sets off for Turnpike Lane Station down Station Road, Kings Road and Larkshall Road - most of this is done alone with its x minute frequency. It's then in Chingford Mount, the home of something. After Chingford Mount, the 444 paces down onto the A406 (North Circular Road to you and me!) joining the 34 over the Lee Valley river; the route is now in Edmonton. The 444 then hastens past North Middlesex Hospital and down Great Cambridge Road and Westbury Avenue to reach its destination of Turnpike Lane Station. What's noteworthy about the 444 is that despite linking the northwest of London with the northeast of London, overcrowding on the route only began to develop in the last few years or so.

County Bus - using Lea Valley branding - operated the 444 at its introduction using standard-floor Dennis Darts on a Plaxton Pointer body, the route operated from their Edmonton (EM) Garage with 7 buses required Monday to Saturday and 5 on Sundays. A few years later, County Bus was purchased by the Cowie Group, who then were renamed as the operator we know today, Arriva. 

In 2000, the route received a new low-floor allocation of Alexander ALX200 bodied Dennis Dart SLF's (ADLs) under Arriva, the peak-vehicle-requirement remained unchanged and the reliability problems began to grow. In 2002, the 444's re-routing took place, the route instead using Wilbury Way to navigate through Edmonton to provide better access to North Middlesex Hospital. 7 years down the line, the 444 said "Sayonara" to the ADLs and welcomed an aged batch of Wright Cadet bodied VDL ABC123's (DWLs) from route. These buses were loathed by many, enthusiasts and passengers alike. The DWLs not only brought extra capacity to the 444, they also brought an extra bus, which increased the Monday to Friday frequency to x15 minutes with Saturdays remaining every x20 minutes and Sundays every x25 minutes. The 444 was moved away from Edmonton (EC/EM) Garage and its new-but-old DWLs being replaced by Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied Dennis Dart SLF's and Lea Valley (LV) Garage, this was scuppered after 2 years and the old allocation and garage were restored, this time drivers were sourced from Palmers Green (AD) Garage. 

Being one of the few routes to link the northwest of London with the northeast of London, you would think that the service would be closely preserved and looked after, however, that doesn't seem to be the case; I spoke to a regular user of the 444 and he had this to say about Arriva London's operation

"Arriva was terrible; the buses rattled, squeaked, and banged. The buses were never fit for service, and [they] were quite frequently breaking down. The only good point is that the wait for the 444 with Arriva wasn't too bad, if I'm honest." - Rushuane WalthamstowBusWVL10
With the popularity of the route increasing and the reliability decreasing, many wondered whether the 444 would be retained by Arriva in 2014. Following on from other routes in Arriva's troubled tendering spell, the 444 was subsequently lost to new arrivals, Tower Transit with operations due to commence on the 7th of March 2015 from their Lea Interchange (LI) Garage (soon to be Pickett's Lock (PI) Garage when it opens) with 11 brand new Wright StreetLite DF Micro-Hybrid buses. This came as no shock as it was hard to see Arriva retain the route with its reliability.

Leading up to the Tower Transit's take over, former-StreetLite demo WM47400 (DRZ6181) was purchased by Tower Transit to act as a spare for route 444; it was given the fleet number of WV44700 and differentiates from the newly purchased StreetLites as it contains First's upholstery. The 11 Wright StreetLite Micro-Hybrids were given the fleet numbers of WV46101-11 and registered, unusually, on SN64 plates (CVS/F/G/H/J/K/L/M/O/P/R).

The 444 did experience the ol' 'First Day Syndrome' with Tower Transit: curtailments; bunching, and the changeover incidents at Chingford Bus Station causing problems for other routes trying to enter the bus station. Overall, a miserable first day for the Aussies. As expected, DMVs off of route 488 have strayed, regularly, providing daily users a bit of variation between the buses (as if they can tell the difference). Let's turn our attention towards the new service on the route, so far, and to do this we caught back up with the 444 regular and he had this to say about Tower Transit's operation,

" 444 with Tower Transit is the complete opposite [to Arriva]. However, the buses are very comfortable as well as being fast; giving you great comfort whilst being on a quick journey to your destination!" - Rushuane WalthamstowBusWVL10

Do you agree with Rushuane? Let us know in the comments!

Tower Transit WV46303 (SN64 CVG) at Chingford Station on route 444.
©Lgee Faure

I'm going to remain tight-lipped about the service, but I have seen signs of improvement from observations on the London Vehicle Finder, and it looks as if it can only get better for the 444 and Tower Transit. Thanks for reading, onto the 488, EastLondoner.

Route 488:

It's EastLondoner here, and I shall be talking about the east-most route, Route 488 is one of the newer routes in London, however don't let it's age mystify you. The past three times the route has been tendered it has changed operator. But before we get onto that let's talk a bit about the history of the route.

Creative Commons, Picture by Sludge G
Route 488 was born in July 2008, to partially replace route S2 which operated between Clapton and Stratford along with route 425. The 488 was operated by First London, continuing with route S2s old contract and continued using its old Marshall Capital buses. The route operated between Clapton, Kenninghall Road and Bromley By Bow, Twelvetrees Crescent. 

However, First couldn't hold onto the route for very long, and in April 2010, the contract of the route was awarded to the East London Bus Group from their recently opened West Ham bus garage. New Enviro200 buses were specified for the route, and to make the route more convenient it was extended from Twelvetrees crescent to Bromley By Bow, Tesco. Roughly around this time the Clapton end of the route also changed from Kenninghall Road to Clapton, Lea Bridge Roundabout. 

On the 4th of April 2011, the route was extended from Clapton, Lea Bridge Roundabout to the new Dalston Junction station, in conjunction with the opening of the re-vamped East London line service.

When the route was next up for tender in 2014, a surprise came when it was announced that brand new operator Tower Transit were to take over the route from the 28th of February 2015. This was going to be their first gain of a route in the London market and Tower Transit had still not decided on a Livery. It was later announced that the route was going to get some brand new Enviro200s, getting its current fleet replaced by newer versions of the same buses. 


When the 28th of February came, the whole route was operated with the brand new buses, and like most routes when taken over, the service did suffer from reliability however the service gradually improved over the first week and a few 12reg DMV buses from route 308 also made guest appearances. So we all wish Tower Transit luck for the next 5 years of route 488!

While the route was at Stagecoach, it used Enviro200s intermixed with routes D3 and 323. Therefore the 488 didn't exactly have much buses to call its own.

However, now with Tower Transit it has brand new buses all to itself and here is a picture of one of the buses along with the fleetlist.

DMV45101 - YY64YKL
DMV45102 - YY64YKM
DMV45103 - YY64YKN
DMV45104 - YY64YKO
DMV45105 - YY64YKP
DMV45106 - YY64YKR
DMV45107 - YY64YKS
DMV45108 - YY64YKT
DMV45109 - YY64YKU
DMV45110 - YY64YKV
DMV45111 - YY64YKW

Overall it seems Tower Transit are still transitioning (we hope you got the pun) into their 3 new routes, as there seems to be a lot of rough patches that need improving. I'd say 212 was the worst conversion, then 444, with route 488 being the best. 

Thanks to all the contributors to this post: BowRoadUK, Lgee Faure and EHBusman1958 

Please stay safe!


  1. I've read the article about my favourite route 444 and it used to be arriva London many years ago and back in 200 it's converted to low floor Alexander ALX 200s and it's replaced by Wright Cadets from route 184 in July 2009 and it's a terrible wright cadets on arriva London and it's packed and very stuffy and the heatings on in the summer which a lot of passengers complain that it's too hot! so in June 2014 the route 444 is awarded to Tower Transit with 10 new Hybrid Single deckers at first! when it announce by the end of 2014 is ordeeing brand new 10.8m Wright Streetlite single deckers and the new timetables changed to every 12 minutes on Mondays to Saturdays and sundays 15 minutes and it's improving a lot and see the regular buses now running on the route 444! the brand new 10.8m Wright Streetlies are much better than the old wright cadets on arriva and the streetlites on the route 444 bus has very spacious and to carry enough people and the air con is allocated when it's used for summertimes when it's hot which is good news! so I agree that the Tower Transit works well on the 444 bus and theres no disturbance on the change of drivers when it used to operate on arriva London on route 444! well done for the route 444!

    1. I'm glad you are happy with the changes to route 444!

  2. Really enjoyed this article about tower transit's new routes. I like the 212 and 444 sections, thanks for the wonderful post

  3. Technically route 488 was curtailed from Twelvetrees Crescent to Bromley-by-Bow Tesco so as to keep the link between the area and Bow Church that was withdrawn when route S2 stopped operating. Good article nonetheless.