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North London route 113 provides what is these days a rare opportunity to ride on a day bus route right from the outskirts of Greater London into the heart of the West End. The route commences from Edgware, and appropriately is now once again run by Edgware garage, having been a Cricklewood operation for some years.
However, Edgware is not the most distant point from the centre on the route, as buses initially head farther north to join the Edgware Way! From there it is a fairly brisk run along the dual carriageway as far as West Hampstead. The 113 probably owes its survival at this length to the combination of the existence of this good road and the need to run frequent bus services along it. There are other roads that could run buses into London, but are served only infrequently or not at all due to lack of anybody much to serve: for instance the A13 to Southend (route 173), A20 Sidcup Road (not served), A3 Kingston By-Pass (265), A40 Western Avenue (route 95), A4 Great West Road (route H91). By contrast the 113’s A41 Edgware/Watford/Hendon Way runs through quite a lot of residential areas for which it is the main bus service, as well as serving several shopping centres along the way (although passes close to Brent Cross without calling in).
Between 1993 and 1997 the route was single deck operated using modern Dennis Lances. Although these fast buses were ideal for the outer section of the 113, they could not cope with loadings between West Hampstead and Oxford Circus, where the route parallelled the 13. This resulted in their withdrawal and the return of Metrobuses; sale of the Lances proved very difficult, and they did not finally go until 2001. Surprisingly the elderly Metrobuses were retained upon contract renewal in April 2000, but consideration was given to upgrading the vehicles, perhaps to more modern but standard floor double deckers, which could have been ex-Singapore long wheelbase Olympians, except that London Transport was not too happy with them. In the end they were replaced by new Volvo B7TL low floor double deckers, of the relatively uncommon long wheelbase variety.
A controversial change took place from 7 November 2009, when the 113 was diverted to serve Marble Arch instead of Oxford Circus. In fact, the first stop at Marble Arch is in Portman Street, which was served anyway when buses started at Oxford Circus. The reason for the change was part of the Mayor's drive to reduce the number of buses in Oxford Street. The objective is a sound one, as congestion is severe and average bus loadings are low, but TfL's approach to the problem has been somewhat questionable. TfL was quite happy to dismiss the 2000 broken links per day (i.e. passengers using the route between Oxford Street and points along the A41 – passengers from Finchley Road have the alternative of the 13), describing this as a "small number" – when in fact, if you consider that most of them will be concentrated on around 30 afternoon/peak departures, that could be as many as 50 people on some journeys!
A much less disruptive proposal would have been to divert the 13 via Regent's Park, as the 113 would have provided a direct alternative for the vast majority of passengers, with the 82 still linking the western end of Oxford Street with the final mile or so into Golders Green. This scheme would also have sped up through journeys on the 13 to points south of Oxford Street.
Anyhow, to Marble Arch the 113 now goes, and as the previous photograph showed a destination of Oxford Circus, a new one is required. The original VPLs are now split with TE class Enviro400s across Edgware garage's double deck routes, and so we have TE724 (LK07 AYZ) pulling across Orchard Street after serving the Selfridges stop, ready for the final set down at Marble Arch on 4 December 2009.
|Photo © Hans Liljewall.|
The 113 is certainly a survivor – it has been running over essentially the same route since at least 1946. However, before that it was a rather different service, running from Hendon to Canons Park, via the Watford Way as far as Apex Corner but then via Selvage Lane and Hale Lane into Edgware. The section from Oxford Circus was route 121, in fact running from Peckham Rye via route 12. The service between Hendon and Mill Hill is now rather less frequent than then; the present service on the 113 is every 10 minutes, compared to every 3½ minutes then! Even that is an improvement on the 20 minute service previously running between Hendon and Edgware, albeit that that service was supplemented every 20 minutes during shopping hours by route 186. The 121 was however every 10 minutes, the same as the 113 now!
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