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Route 9
3 December 2005

The 9 is one of Central London's shortest major trunk routes, and always has been, although it traditionally ran a bit further at each end from Mortlake to Liverpool Street via what are now the 209, 9 and 11. Frequency then was by all accounts impressive, with a 3 minute service on offer from Monday to Saturday (referenced 1936). On Sundays it ran every 5 minutes with an intriguing diversion at Bank to Romford over the 5, 15 and 23A, as the 23A did not run on that day. That made it a rather lengthy, with a through running time of just over 2 hours! The section between Becontree Heath and Romford only ran every 10 minutes and was later lost when the 87 was extended to Romford.

The Sunday 9 extension was finally removed when the 23 gained a Sunday service in the late 1960s, although a token service was maintained as far as Aldgate until 2 PM on Sundays to serve the local markets, the afternoon service being curtailed at Aldwych. The Saturday service was also curtailed to Aldwych a few years later, but the Sunday service was renumbered 9A to avoid the unusual bifurcation, being further diverted via Monument and Tower Hill instead of Bank and Leadenhall Street. This variation had been dropped completely by 1990, and the route thus then ran daily from Mortlake to Aldwych with a Monday to Friday extension to Liverpool Street. The whole route was cut back to Aldwych in the central area changes of July 1992, the replacement to Liverpool Street (also on Mondays to Fridays only until relatively recently) being the 'new' 23.

Meanwhile, problems with the bridge at Hammersmith led to the imposition of a severe weight restriction. Double deck buses were thus barred, which created a particular problem for the 9 which would have been totally unsuitable for the small Dennis Darts that were introduced on the other routes crossing the bridge. The 9 was thus curtailed to Hammersmith from early 1992, new route 9A taking over the short section to Mortlake with an overlap as far as Kensington. On Sundays, however, the 9 continued to run right through, and this pattern was adopted in the evenings also from the end of 1993. In 1997 however, the 9 routing was standardised as Hammersmith to Aldwych daily, while the 9A was replaced by new daily route 209 (Mortlake to Hammersmith only).

Traditionally the 9 had been the main route of the little garage at Mortlake (M), which was its terminus, with some assistance from Dalston (D), while Riverside (R) (Hammersmith) and Barking (BK) garages ran on the extended Sunday service. The closure of both M and R resulted in the allocation settling down at Shepherd’s Bush (S) for some years. The 9A was operated from a new base in the London Underground depot in White City, known as Wood Lane (B) but which has since closed again, its allocation absorbed by S. The eventual end of crew operation on 4 September 2004 resulted in transfer of the route to Stamford Brook (V), in an economy swap with the 49. So, this single digit route has had quite an association with single letter code garages over the years!

Photo © Steve Benson.

OPO conversion saw the introduction of new low floor double deckers, such as VLE 2 (PG04 WHD), seen laying over at Aldwych on 21 October 2005 – the last day of crew operation on the 13, 9 operator Transdev’s last crew route.

Meanwhile, to assuage media coverage given to the withdrawal of London’s classis Routemaster fleet, London Mayor Ken Livingstone promised to introduce a "heritage" Routemaster operation. After wild hopes that this would be operated commercially (despite the insistence of standard fare/pass acceptance), the operation eventually materialised as tendered short workings on two existing routes, and one of those is the 9. Buses run between Royal Albert Hall (although the first pick-up is actaully some distance further east) and Aldwych, where they briefly overlap with the other Routemaster operation, on route 15 between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.

There has been speculation that that Mayor and/or TfL do not want the routes to be a success, and certainly the limited nature of the operation and lack of publicity lends itself to that theory. However, the official line is that the Routemasters, not being Disability Discrimination Act compliant, can only be operated as short workings, so that a low floor alternative is always available. The DDA does not actually come into effect for older vehicles until 2017, but the Mayor has self-imposed a 2006 deadline. Each route needs 5 buses in service, with 3 operational spares and 2 in reserve.

Nonetheless the routes have now started, with a start date of Monday 14 November 2005 (not the usual Saturday start date, so as to keep clear of the Remembrance Sunday parades), in time to give a healthy overlap with the last "proper" operation on the 159. The 9 short workings having been awarded to First which runs them from Westbourne Park garage, and so we have RM 1913 (ALD 913B) in Piccadilly. Purists will detect a number of non-authentic features – indeed, apart from the general shape, there is very little left of the original following refurbishment five years ago! However, the buses have been turned out immaculately in red with traditional London Transport logos and cream relief, and certainly look the part.

Photo © Malc McDonald.

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See also routes 22, 209, 11, 5, 15, 23, 49, 13, 159

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