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Arriva The Shires' 8 is a commercial route linking Watford with Northwood on the outskirts of Greater London. Despite the fact that it is the only route to serve a significant community within Transport for London's area, TfL are not willing to pay for its passes to be accepted, so it now runs on a London Service Permit.
The route is a direct descendant of London Country route 348. That itself was a relatively recent creation, as the traditional routes were the 345 and 346 from Kingswood to Harefield. In the 1950s these were cut back to Oxhey and the 347 took over the section to Harefield, later being extended to Uxbridge. The 347 was joined in the 1960s by the 347A, which served Oxhey proper rather than running via Hampermill Lane. This latter was renumbered 348 in 1978, to facilitate three-track number blinds.
The 348 was cut back to Northwood in 1995, the section to Uxbridge being taken over by LT as route 331. That left it pretty much as the same as today's route, although there have been many detail modifications since. The number was changed to 8 on Sunday 3 September 2000, with the tendered evening operations becoming 8A. The remnants of route 347 became 8B. Quite a popular trend in the former London Country area has been to change the route numbers to give them a more "local feel" – LC had numbered all its routes in a common series with LT central buses, using numbers in the 300-499 block, but clearly, after the split up of the company, there was no need to continue this archaic practice. Nonetheless, the benefits of changing route numbers for the sake of it are decidedly questionable, as it can lead to confusion for passengers. It has also caused confusion for TfL, who internally, and even for a time publicly, called it 8W to avoid potential confusion with the other 8 in central London!
Still, the 8 seems not to have been unduly affected and continues to be operated commercially by Arriva, as direct descendents of that part of London Country, from their Garston garage. Long wheelbase early Dart SLFs are the normal fare and 3186 (P186 SRO) is seen near journey's end on 15th August 2008, in Green Lane, Northwood.
|Photo © Suzy Scott.|
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