The Newington Routemaster

Arriva London have introduced LT356, LT464-477, LT488-500 and LT517-542 to Stamford Hill (SF) for route 73.

Route 73 starts off from the second available bus lane in Victoria Bus Station on Terminus Place. Deliberately navigating through the boarded-up constructions at the exit of Victoria Bus Station on Victoria Street, the route heads up to Hyde Park Corner past Grosvenor Gardens via Grosvenor Place. Keeping to the left of Duke of Wellington Place, skipping the exit onto Knightsbridge, route 73 takes the second exit onto Park Lane towards Marble Arch.

A fast start is interrupted by the Oxford Street traffic all the way to Tottenham Court Road Station, passing Bond Street and Oxford Circus Stations en route. A duck left onto Tottenham Court Road leads to Goodge Street Station as the route approaches Warren Street Station before taking a right onto Euston Road towards Euston Bus Station. Following the bus lane out of Euston Bus Station, route 73 rejoins Euston Road to serve the British Library before King's Cross Station and St. Pancras International Station.

Paralleling the 30, 205, 214 and 476 to Islington up Pentonville Road, the route soon takes a left to stop at Angel Station. From here, it's a more suburban routeing past Islington Green along the Essex Road en route Stoke Newington. Essex Road Station is the last station the route serves, crossing paths with fellow Arriva London 'New Routemaster' route 38 at the Mildmay Park curtailment point shortly afterwards. Progressing onto Newington Green Road, it is a fast drive through the long and narrow Albion Road to Stoke Newington Church Street, the traffic lights completing the road as it ends and forces the route left for a brief drive along Stoke Newington High Street. A right onto Northwold Road sees the approach onto Stoke Newington Common, where the route's terminus stands after a final right.

Previously allocated Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B5L hybrid buses, ranging from HV24-83, 'New Routemasters' arriving at Stamford Hill (SF) allowed route 253 to receive an official allocation of hybrid buses upon its contract renewal on 6 June 2015. This was the same date route 73 was retained by Arriva London with 'New Routemasters'. The new buses were phased into service in three separate batches, the last batch introducing the slide-open rear door as an alternative to the previously inward-opening door, a slightly more dangerous way of opening for passengers waiting to exit the bus. The rest of the hybrid bus fleet at Stamford Hill (SF) converted route 144 to fully hybrid operation, any more redundant buses used sporadically around the garage's other routes.

My first journey on the 73 with its 'New Routemaster' hybrid buses was with LT356 (LTZ 1356), a bus initially expected to enter service as the bus from batch LT317-356 for route 137 back in December 2014 but only entering service in mid-May as route 73 started introducing its LTs early. I enjoyed route 137 with its improved allocation of buses and generally commended its buses. LT356, manufactured with the batch, felt the same as the bus: fast, smooth and quiet. I had a nice cruise along Warren Street, LT356 showing off the acceleration of the 'New Routemaster' whilst displaying the calm atmosphere and fast nature of the LTs on routes 38 and 137.

I made a day out of getting up-to-date with the latest 'New Routemaster' routes, route 12 filling up most of the day with route 73 to complete what was a tiresome outing. The driver was showing off his expert driving skills with the 'New Routemaster' and I showed my gratitude by sleeping throughout most of the journey, from Oxford Street to Stoke Newington. However, the feedback of the rear tyres hitting small potholes along the road and the momentary descent following elevation from speed bumps provided an exciting end to a journey I would have liked to been fully awake for.

The same driver started my journey back to Victoria, so I was anticipating the same performance now that I was more awake to enjoy this journey. Accomplishing 20-25mph through the narrow roads of Stoke Newington, the driver avoided opposite moving traffic and street furniture with impressive precision to display a dazzling characteristic of the 'New Routemaster' I had never really been able to acknowledge before: the incredible ability to manoeuvre, especially by ducking in between parked cars and back out again to avoid traffic on the opposite side of the road.

Then there was a driver change at Mildmay Park. I knew not to expect much more fun from the next driver. I made the most of the photo opportunity during the driver change but did not board the bus again, instead opting for the following bus on the 73 which would increase the accuracy of my review by analysing more than the small number of new buses I had done so far.

My analysis became much more attentive to the mechanics of the bus aboard LT541 (LTZ 1541). The air-conditioning was what I paid attention to first, simply because I had heard enough of it from my journeys aboard route 12. Much quieter than LT417-456, the air-conditioning did make its presence heard, nevertheless. Not as noticeably, though.

As for this driver, he was much slower than the initial driver on LT539 that day, however LT539 with its new driver for the evening was not creating much of a headway in front, only increasing it to a maximum of two stops ahead of us after we caught up to the bus in Islington.

Meanwhile, trying to identify the stop-start technology accustomed to all recent hybrid buses was more difficult than recognising the smart eco-friendly tech on their diesel bus debut with DEL2062-2063 for route 112. Noticing the difference between the noise from the air-conditioning and noise from the engine was equally difficult.

An average bus journey, the driver was doing 15-20mph from Islington all the way to Victoria. LT539 became out of sight along Oxford Street, headway seemingly increasing until we turned onto Park Lane at Marble Arch. Progressing down Park Lane, we caught up to the bus and overtook it effortlessly. The contrast of driving from the driver change at Mildmay Park aboard LT539 would no doubt have been infuriatingly slower had I ran across the road to get back on the bus!

LT539 led us into Victoria Bus Station, though, bypassing Wilton Street bus stop as passengers were getting off our bus to regain position ahead of us.

I had a good experiences aboard route 73: thoroughly fun journeys, regardless of the speed. Route 73 also provides you with the most feedback from the road you can get from a 'New Routemaster' and I have not had that much excitement from the driveline of the bus type before. Absolutely fantastic and definitely entering my top three 'New Routemaster' routes in the article series' performance hierarchy.

The Borismaster Performance Hierarchy looks like this after this conversion, in order from best to worst 'New Routemaster' route: 38, 73, 148, 9, 8, 453, 137, 15, 55, 12, 11, 10, 390 and 24. Many routes are next, most of the new selections for 'New Routemaster' hybrid buses quite controversial. At least with the next conversion, one route will get its contracted hybrid buses back.

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