A brief history of the H37 bus route and an assortment of allied omnibus trivia.
“We like to drive in convoys, we’re most gregarious,
The big six-wheeler, scarlet painted, London transport,
Diesel engine, ninety-seven horsepower omnibus.”
FLANDERS AND SWANN – “A TRANSPORT OF DELIGHT”
There are some numbers that stick in our minds and remain with us forever – a telephone number, the registration of a favourite car, a Co-op ‘divi’ number, a PIN number, and for former members of the services their military number. Most of us will still remember with nostalgia the number of bus routes that we used when we were young – to travel to school perhaps or go shopping. In London it is particularly easy to remember bus route numbers because once a bus route is established its given number lasts for ever. Our own route, H37, is about 100 years old.
Route H37, from Hounslow to Richmond, started life in the early 1900s as Route 37, one of the first bus routes operated by the London General Omnibus Company. Running between Isleworth and Peckham via St Margarets, Richmond, Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction, Clapham Common, Brixton, Herne Hill and East Dulwich Route 37 was one of the longest in London. At first the terminus at the western end was the forecourt of The Northumberland Arms in Isleworth but later the route was extended to Hounslow. On Sundays during the summer months the route was extended further west to Maidenhead. So popular was the route that its frequency was increased, causing such service congestion that the route was often terminated at Richmond or Isleworth rather than Hounslow. Another difficulty was the use of double decker buses – including in later years the legendary Routemaster. These faced a problem in Isleworth where a low bridge at the northern end of St. Johns Road required an awkward deviation via Loring and Linkfield Roads.
In 1981 with ever increasing passenger congestion the 37 route was split into two sections, with one section operating between Hounslow and Richmond or Putney, taking in the West Middlesex Hospital, the other completing the journey to Peckham via Clapham. This required passengers to change buses half way.
In 1991 the old route 37 was further divided into 3 distinct routes – 37, 337, and our own H37 operating between Hounslow and Richmond. To avoid the low bridge in St. John’s Road, Isleworth it was decided to introduce single deck buses onto the route. Initially these were 28-seat DT class Dennis Darts, but when these proved too small for the passenger numbers larger LX class Leyland Lynx buses were used at busy times of the day. In 1998 the route was offered after tender to London United Busways now known as Transdev. They introduced brand new low-floor Dennis Darts which are still used today.
In 2007 the Hounslow terminal was moved from the Bus Station to the New Blenheim Centre. The terminal in Richmond moved from the station to Manor Circus on 27 June 2009.
H37 – a helpful note for passengers:- This route is classed as high frequency, and as such controllers will endeavour to provide an even service rather than necessarily adhering exactly to the times shown.
QUESTION: Why is it that after waiting ages for a bus to arrive 2 or 3 suddenly come along together?
ANSWER: This is an age-old problem. Here is one reason why it happens.
Let us imagine a typical bus route with buses leaving the terminus at 10 minute intervals. Bus 1 sets off, stopping to pick up passengers at each bus stop it passes. 10 minutes later Bus 2 sets off. When it reaches the bus stops there are fewer passengers – or no passengers – waiting. (Why? Because they are all on Bus 1!)
Bus 2 moves on, slowly catching up with Bus 1 which is crawling along picking up passengers. Another 10 minutes passes and Bus 3 sets off. By now there are even fewer passengers waiting at the bus stops because most of them are on Bus 1, and the rest on Bus 2. Bus 3 speeds on, eventually catching up with Bus 2, which by now is riding in convoy behind Bus 1.
The bus companies are aware of this problem and have tried various methods to avoid it. Here are some:-
When Bus 2 catches up with Bus 1 it overtakes and drives on a few stops before it starts picking up passengers. This clears the way ahead of Bus 1 and allows it to speed up. However this inevitably leads to the familiar passenger complaint..“I was standing at the bus stop when an empty bus drove past without stopping.”
Reduce the frequency of the buses. If the buses on our imaginary route operated at 20 minute intervals rather than 10, Bus 2 would find more passengers waiting for it and so would have to stop. This would prevent it catching up with Bus 1. This method leads to 2 very familiar complaints from passengers. Complaint 1 “The buses seem to be taking for ever to come these days. They used to be every 10 minutes but now…blah blah blah….” Complaint 2…" and when they do eventually turn up I can’t get on because they are full!"
Forget having a timetable. Electronically monitor passenger demand down the route and then send out buses only as required
Sell off the bus company, open a bike shop in Crown Road and let the passengers cycle to work!
THE BUSMAN’S ’LORD’S PRAYER’
Our Farnham which art in Hendon
Holloway, Turnpike Lane
Thy Kingston come
On Erith as it is in Hendon…
Give us this day our Maidenhead
And lead us not into Penge station
But deliver us from Esher
For thine is the Kingston
The Tower and the Horley
For Iver and Iver
— from Martyn Day