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Route 151
4 September 2010

Due to heavy loadings, the 151 serving Wallington and St. Helier was converted back to double deck operation in April 2006, probably linked with the imminent commencement of a 2 year extension to the contract. Initially, the vehicles used were PVL class Volvos which had been on loan to Metrobus for route 127 since London General lost route 188. However, a major re-tendering exercise in December 2008 resulted in most routes in the area, including the 151, receiving new buses, in a repeat of what had happened 7 and 12 years previously! This time the double deck choice was a most unusual option, being Optare (formerly East Lancs) Olympus bodied Dennis Tridents. DOE3 (LX58 CWP) passes the Head Post Office in Sutton bound for Worcester Park on 14 February 2009, not long into the new contract.

Photo © Brian Creasey.

Although the previous PVLs have maintained their nomadic existence by moving on again, to Silvertown garage, more of the class moved in during July 2009 for route 213 replacing the last of the EVL class which had been the backbone of the Sutton garage double deck fleet following the 2002 tendering exercise. I have therefore retained the earlier picture of PVL187 (X587 EGK) at Wallington on the first day of double deck operation, 29 April 2006. This was one of a few buses caught by a technicality in the then new Disability Discrimination Act regulations on blind displays in 2000, and consequently specified with a single-line destination display in place of the traditional London layout, before a derogation was secured. Subsequently TfL have decided to go for single line displays anyway, so compare with the similar but larger display on the DOE above!

Photo © Matthew Wharmby.

The 151 has got to be one of the most wiggly routes. From Wallington buses head north to Hackbridge, then south west to Wrythe Green, then north again to St. Helier, south west and north west to Rosehill roundabound, south to Sutton, west to Cheam and north west to Worcester Park!

There was for many years a 151 in the Sutton area bearing little resemblance to the present one, running from Hackbridge (Reynold’s Close) to Morden with a peak hour extension to North Cheam; this has a short common section with the present route along Green Wrythe Lane. In 1962 the service from Morden to North Cheam was increased to Mondays to Saturdays and extended to Belmont via Cheam, Sutton and Carshalton Beeches (covering some more of the current 151), replacing parts of routes 156 (which was withdrawn) and 213.

A few years later in 1969, the original section from Hackbridge to Sutton was replaced by flat fare route M1 (which also took over the Morden to Raynes Park section of the 118). This section subsequently became part of the 293, later a standalone route 393 and is now covered by the 80. The rest of the 151 was withdrawn largely without replacement in 1970 (with a token rush hours extension of the 213 covering the Belmont to Sutton section), only to re-appear between Belmont and Sutton garage only later the same year, albeit only running in Monday to Saturday shopping hours, and then be withdrawn again in 1971!

Meanwhile the number was-reused in the Lewisham area only to re-appear in Sutton in its present form in a re-organisation of services on 4 February 1984, taking most of the Sutton garage allocation on route 213A (which became 213 the same day) using 6 DMSs. Much of the route was new and designed to improve links to St. Helier Hospital (previously only served by the 157), although it became the main route between Hackbridge Corner and Wallington as the 127 was diverted via Carshalton. There was no Sunday service, the 213 once again coming to the rescue on this day of the week.

In the 26 November 1988 Suttonbus scheme the 151 was diverted at North Cheam to run to Lower Morden 'Beverley', picking up on yet another section of the former route! The route also gained a Sunday service between Sutton and Wallington and one schoolday journey continued to operate between Worcester Park and Glenthorne School, a link still covered today by route 613.

However, in 1992 the routeing to Worcester Park was restored, the facility to Stonecot Hill and Lower Morden passing to the 413 (the route which eventually took over the Sutton to Belmont section of the 213, which was part of the original 151), albeit running via Gander Green Lane instead of Cheam/North Cheam.

In the Sutton tender scheme from 1996, the section between Cheam and Worcester Park was withdrawn, on the basis that it parallels the 213. Before the change the 151 was every 15 minutes, whereas the 213 ran every 10. But after local protests it quickly had to be restored, showing that there are passengers who value a cross town service.

However, the new contract specified a 10 minute service using low floor Darts instead of double deckers previously used, and lack of extra vehicles or staff needed for the extension meant that it was necessary to make the 151 run only every 20 minutes between Sutton and Cheam/Worcester Park. The net effect is that the 15 minute service has gone down to every 20 minutes on this section, which also lost its evening and Sunday service that it had gained only the previous year. In fairness the 10 minute service still provided an improvement over the most essential section between Wallington and Sutton, which does not parallel other routes.

This was an increasingly unusual arrangement, as London Transport has been making efforts to simplify timetables, and short workings of routes are frowned upon. As expected, the new contract from 2001 saw the 10 minute service and evening/Sunday services extended to cover the whole route. The increased frequency must have been popular as once again double deckers are needed, as mentioned at the start.

All in all, an incredibly complex history, but at least I managed to get the map right the first time, so here it is:

Route map

See also routes 127, 188, 213, 118, 80, 157, 413, 613

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