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The 162 was formed in the 12 March 1994 scheme by fusing the southern legs of the 161, which was cut back to Chislehurst, and also taking over part of the 126 route between Bromley and Beckenham. The resultant route was quite loopy, in a literal sense: from Beckenham, buses ran via Park Langley so as to approach Bromley from the south, then doing a loop via Sainsbury's and Bromley North before heading eastwards to Chislehurst in place of the 161. Then buses did a loop via Chislehurst town centre before returning to the War Memorial and on to Petts Wood over the former 161A.
From the outset the route was operated by Kentish Bus from its depot in Deptford – quite a long way off route – using new Northern Counties bodied Dennis Darts. However, the route was one of those selected in an exchange of work between Cowie companies and Stagecoach Selkent in 1997, passing to more local operator Selkent on 27 September that year. Selkent used rather elderly Leyland Titans on the route, although these were progressively replaced by Volvo Olympians and then low floor Dennis Darts.
The original 7-year contract for the 162 finally expired in March 2001, but the route was retained for a further five years by Stagecoach. The new contract (from 17 March) involved withdrawing the route between Chislehurst and Petts Wood (covered by an extension to the 273) and diverting it to Avery Hill via some previously unserved roads. Unfortunately some more obstinate residents raised an objection, and so the extension was deferred until 20 October, although then the route was extended even more usefully through to Eltham. But in the meantime the route had to terminate in Chislehurst – where there was not really space – furthermore retaining the original schedule that allowed buses enough time to get to Petts Wood!
Re-tendering again in 2006 saw the route pass back to Arriva Kent Thameside, as Kentish Bus had by then become – this time operated from the company's traditional base at Dartford, no doubt a more acceptable location now that the route runs as far as Eltham. At this time, the established loop working via Bromley North was discontinued, despite the fact that this included the most popular stops in the town centre. This allowed about 5 minutes running time to be saved in each direction, and means the route can now be run with one bus fewer than before. Further re-tendering saw the route pass to Metrobus from 19 March 2011, run from Orpington garage – yet again quite some way off the route.
A route restriction on the new section means that 10.1m Darts will not fit round the 162; from 2001 Selkent used 9.4m single door buses. Arriva ordered shorter buses than necessary, in the form of 8.8m mini Pointer Darts, which presumably met the TfL specifications; Metrobus has done the same. However the MPD is no longer available, and this gave Metrobus a quandary as the company had until then resisted the Enviro range from Alexander Dennis, preferring products from builders such as Scania and MAN. AD almost has a monopoly on single deckers in London – their designs are cheap and practical, but not exactly top-of-the-range. However the only other vehicle in the small bus category that has worked in London is the Optare Solo – Metrobus does have a couple of extra-small ones for the R8.
|Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).|
Thus short Enviro200Darts now ply the 162, and two views are provided here. First we have 160 (YX60FVC) in Eltham High Street on the first day of Metrobus operation, 19 March 2011, setting off on the lengthy trip to Beckenham. Secondly we have 162 (YX60 FVE) in a neat fleet number/route number match, in Bromley on 20 April 2011.
|Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).|
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