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Route 66
22 October 2010

The 66 spends most of its length running along a dual carriageway, and for some years was operated by Volvo coaches rebuilt as buses by East Lancs, which had an appropriate turn of speed – as had an earlier allocation of Leyland Lynx. Now, however, the route is operated with bog standard Alexander Dennis Enviro200Darts of Arriva's Grays garage, which replaced an earlier generation of low floor Darts when the route was won from Blue Triangle from 4 September 2010. The change prompted a flurry of contributions, so I have selected three. The first view is of 4068 (GN10 KWE) departing Leytonstone station on 18 September 2010.

Photo © Sunil Prasannan.

At the same location just pulling up to the stop is 4076 (YX10 EBP) on the first day of Arriva operations.

Photo © Jay Houlden.

Finally, mid-route, 4079 (YX10 EBZ) is seen navigating the bus station at Newbury Park on Saturday 25 September 2010, just pulling back onto the A12 Eastern Avenue mentioned at the start. Whilst affoding welcome protection from the elements for waiting passengers, the large aircraft hanger style building seems rather extravagent for the low volume of passengers typically found at this location! Newbury Park is the first stop on the Hainault branch of the Central Line after it joins the former Great Eastern line, which it took over, which originally branched off the main line at Ilford.

Photo © Stephen Williams.

The 66 is an old route, always having run along the Eastern Avenue between Leytonstone and Romford, the only lost section being an extension to Gidea Park, and later Hornchurch station, via Heath Park Road. At the other end, the Leytonstone terminus has now been altered from the traditional Green Man terminus to a less remote terminal at the Central Line station. The 66 also sprouted an A-suffixed variant running to Harold Wood, which subsequently metamorphosed into the 296.

County Bus, part of the North East part of the privatised London Country empire, won the 66 from August 1990, stocking it with 8 new Leyland Lynx. These were initially operated from the Grays ‘Thameside’ garage, but soon moved to Debden ‘TownLink’ base — no doubt for the same reason that the 103, won at the same time and also operated from Grays, was quickly surrendered to Grey Green. The Cowie group, which already owned Grey-Green, began expanding in the 1990s, with County bus being one of its earlier acquisitions.

Both Grays and Debden are some distance off route, and, as with the 141, the new common ownership by Cowie of County and Grey Green led to the 66 being moved to Grey Green. However, Barking is not a lot closer to the 66 route than Debden, and so the move was primarily a result of recent route losses there (179, 313, 473). Initially Scania double deckers freed from route 275 by Volvo Citybuses were used, but these were later replaced by the Volvo B10M rebuilds, these having the dual door layout generally preferred in London.

Prior to the opening of the Hackney-M11 link road through Leytonstone and Wanstead, the effects of traffic congestion could be seen very clearly on this route, although the problems have been lessened considerably now. During the day, when a clear run was usually possible, 5 buses sufficed to maintain a 20 minute frequency, but at peak hours the substantial increase in journey time meant the route required 9 buses to maintain the same frequency! Nowadays, 11 buses are used during the peaks, but these are able to provide a bus every 12 minutes, showing the very substantial improvements brought about by the link road, notwithstanding the considerable controversy surrounding its construction. These improvements took place when the route was tendered and awarded to Blue Triangle, with effect from 6 September 2003. The last year or so of Blue Triangle again saw the route hampered by road works, this time at Gants Hill, though the 66, following straight along the main road, managed to avoid the worst of the disruption.

See also routes 141, 20, 103, 179, 313, 473, 275, 167, 296, 496, 173

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