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Route 2
12 April 2005

The 2 has now succombed to low floor operation, having been the last West End route to be operated by multiple-step-entrance buses other than Routemasters. Arriva’s odd policy of purchasing virtually every available chassis/bodywork combination (apart from Tridents) for its buses produced the VLA class Volvo/Alexander combination, which is now present in some numbers at Norwood garage, from where the 2 is operated. Conversion took place a few months before contract renewal (two weekends ago), and here VLA 40 (LJ53 BCK) is seen under the rather alarming canopy of the new Bondway bus station in Vauxhall.

Photo © Joshim Nur.

Like most low numbered routes, the 2 was once a cross-London service, running from Crystal Palace to North Finchley (later only to Golders Green), and indeed during peak hours on to Arnos Grove via Whetstone. However, one could argue that that is not the present day route 2. A clue lies in the fact that the 2 then ran via Herne Hill and Railton Road, whereas today’s 2 bypasses this area, running along Tulse Hill instead. In the 1950s the 2 was joined on Mondays to Saturdays by the 2A, diverting from the north at West Norwood to the Rosendale — as coincidentally had the 2 in the 1930s – and also running via Brixton Road rather than Railton Road. On Sundays, there was the 2B from Golders Green to Crystal Palace, but running via Tulse Hill to cover the 186, which did not run on that day.

In due course the 186 was withdrawn completely, and the 2B therefore became a daily operation. The 2 was also restored to North Finchley, although the 2A lost its Saturday service. By the 1980s the 2A was withdrawn completely, and increasingly the 2 was sidelined, being withdrawn north of Baker Street from the September 1982 changes, although an extension from there to The Zoo on summer Sundays was innovative. Nevertheless, the more direct 2B took on the prominent role, although that was split in 1986 with new route 82 replacing it between Baker Street and North Fincley. To make room for the 2B at Baker Street, the 2 was further curtailed from the south to Victoria, and lost its Sunday service shortly afterwards. From 1988 part of the 2B service was renumbered 2A, though I can’t work out the logic.

In 1990 the 2 received a further deviation via Lansdowne Way in Stockwell. By 1992, the 2A/2B arrangements seemed more logical, with the 2A running Crystal Palace to Brixton, the 2B West Norwood to Baker Street and the evening and Sunday service running through under the 2A number. But in October that year, the 2 was re-numbered 322 and converted to minibus operation, and the 2B plus evening/Sunday 2A was renumbered 2. This overnight swap of route numbers must have been confusing for the passengers! At the same time, the northern terminus was altered to Marylebone Station, and use of the number 2A was dropped completely about a year later.

This retrograde step was reversed in 2003 when new route 432 took over the Crystal Palace - Brixton section on a daily basis. This was in connection with the introduction of central London congestion charging, the main part of the 2 being boosted in frequency, and at the same time the northern terminus was altered back to Baker Street to make room for route 453. There is an intention to restore services to Marylebone, with a new terminal point being established at Hayes Place, but this had not been achieved by the contract renewal date.

See also routes 432, 82, 322, 453

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