A Sea of Claps

Abellio London have introduced their first new Double Deckers after a gap of over a year. This time route 344 running out of Abellio's flagship Battersea (QB) garage is the lucky route. On the 20th of August 2016, Abellio London retained route 344 from Battersea (QB) garage with a mix of existing and new Hybrid buses. The route operates between Clapham Junction Station and Liverpool Street Station.

2541 sits on stand at Clapham Junction with 2422
© EastLondoner

Route 344 is a fairly young route, only starting operation in 1991 as a single decker route operated by London General from Merton garage initially running between Clapham Junction and London Bridge Station via most of its current route today. In 2000 the contract for the route passed to Connex from Battersea (QB) garage. Later in 2001 the route was rerouted to serve Liverpool Street Station an it was rerouted via Southwark Bridge. In 2002 the route was converted to Double Decker operation using ALX400 bodied Dennis Tridents. The route then passed to Travel London in 2004 when the company brought out Connex. 

9474 is seen at Liverpool Street
© Koex73
In 2009 Travel London was brought out by Dutch firm Abellio, the route also had its contract renewed that year and it got a new allocation of Enviro400 buses, the first Euro5 buses in London. The route then continued operation at Abellio London for the next 7 years. The contract was renewed in 2015 and the route was re-awarded to Abellio with a mix of new and existing Hybrids. 

The route is pretty unique in London as it is the only route to serve Southwark Bridge  however at the time of me writing this post the route is currently on a long term northbound diversion via London Bridge instead running via Borough High Street and Southwark Street. 

On the 19th of August I decided to make my way to Clapham Junction to try out the new buses for route 344. After a long walk out of the station I saw 2535 speeding down the road on its way to Liverpool Street. However luckily I didn't have to wait long for the next MMC, which was due to be 2541.

2535 at Clapham Junction
© EastLondoner
We set off empty from Clapham Junction with me as the only passenger until we reached Battersea, The Latchmere where a few people boarded. By this point the famous MMC air cooling system had kicked in and was making the bus very cool (as well as blowing my hair about) and very noisy. It was smooth sailing until Vauxhall, not many people boarded the bus and apart from the aircon the bus was nice and quiet making for a nice and relaxing journey. We did eventually meet with re-phased traffic lights at the Vauxhall gyratory which only let 4 cars through at a time.

A few tourists boarded at Vauxhall Bus Station and sat in the front seats opposite to me...so much for my quiet relaxing journey. Once we left Vauxhall Bus Station it was smooth sailing again along the Albert Embankment. The views along that part of the route were spectacular, giving you a view of London from the south of the river. Upon reaching Lambeth bridge we took a turn and started heading to Elephant and Castle. There we were met with a lot of traffic how my driver didn't seem to like waiting much, he tried to manoeuvre the bus into ever gap possible which was quite fun, however I doubt the vehicles behind us appreciated that much.

Once we escaped the traffic it wasn't long until we reached London Bridge where predictably we were met with more traffic. We probably spent a good 20 minutes sitting along Borough High Street and London Bridge, however once we managed to get out of the traffic past Monument the driver started to floor the bus all the way to Liverpool Street. At that point the diver announced the bus was diverting to Finsbury Circus due to works preventing access to the normal bus stand. 

I did enjoy my overall experience on the bus a lot, the aircon kept the climate inside the bus very comfortable, especially during the hot day that I rode the bus and adding to a wonderful experience for the average passenger aboard the bus.

Lower Deck interior of an MMC
© EastLondoner

Upper Deck interior of an MMC
© EastLondoner
The new bus did attract the attention of people passing by as well as the passengers. It personally reminded me a lot about my experience on route 53, wonderful buses that are very comfortable, buses that were fun moving fast or moving slow.

2536 sits on stand at Finsbury Circus
© EastLondoner

Below you can find a fleetlist of the new buses that can be found aside the existing buses on route 344:

2534 - YY16YKA
2535 - YY16YKB
2536 - YY16YKC
2537 - YY16YKD
2538 - YY16YKE
2539 - YY16YKF
2540 - YY16YKG
2541 - YY16YKM
2542 - YY16YKK
2543 - YY16YKL
2544 - YY16YKH
2545 - YY16YKJ
2546 - YY16YKN
2547 - YY16YKO
2548 - YY16YKP
2549 - YY16YKR
2550 - YY16YKS
2551 - YY16YKT

Overall I feel these are a wonderful addition to route 344, I recommend you to try out these buses in the area.