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Route 291
12 August 2009

The 291 has been a shuttle between Woodlands Estate and Woolwich since 27 October 1984, but the route started as Woodlands to Lewisham in October 1981 by fusing routes 151 and 192. In fact, the 192 had itself started on 27.06.56 as a Woodlands to Woolwich shuttle, the route then being via the full length of Griffin Road and Plumstead station. At Woodlands Estate an anticlockwise loop was followed.

The route was extended to Lewisham via route 89A from 07.01.59, taking it on from Woolwich via Shrewsbury Lane to the top of Shooter's Hill and then following the 89 to Lewisham. This extension also broke new ground in Woolwich previous routes coming from the Plumstead Common Road area had operated via Crescent Road and Burrage Road (in both directions), but this would have meant the 192 doubling back on itself, so it instead used Anglesea Road towards Lewisham and the full length of Sandy Hill Road on the return. The latter routeing is still in use by the 178 and 244. Operation was variously by Plumstead (AM), Catford (TL) and New Cross (NX).

As mentioned above, the 291 was formed from the 192 on 31.10.81 by diverting the 192 via Kidbrooke Park Road and Lee Green to Lewisham. This reduced duplication with route 89 and allowed route 151 to be withdrawn, the latter being a shuttle between Kidbrooke and Lewisham. The majority of Kidbrooke Park Road was previously unserved, though not far from other routes including the 108. Initial operation was from Plumstead garage using the MD class Scania Metropolitans, well known for their exceptional acceleration and high fuel consumption! Leyland Titans took over late in 1982 and Leyland Olympians from early 1986 after the route had been curtailed to Woolwich. The section between Woolwich and Lewisham was given to route 178 from 27.10.84. The route lost its Sunday service soon afterwards (27.04.85); this eventually re-commenced from 17.02.96.

The route was put out to tender and awarded to Selkent's new low-cost Bexleybus operation from 16 January 1988, based at Bexleyheath garage which Bexleybus took over. This change saw the route converted to minibuses at a higher frequency and diverted via Raglan Road to provide better penetration of housing estates. When Bexleybus was wound up the route transferred to London Central with Bexleyheath garage, although Selkent won the tender back in January 1999 and put the route back into Plumstead garage. A further minor change was from 19.01.91, when it was re-routed within the Woodlands Estate on departure via Flaxton Road and Timbercroft Lane instead of Landstead Road. From 24.02.01 there was a more significant change with the route's extension to the newly expanded Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Woolwich Common.

These days the allocation is low floor Dart SLFs, officially Plaxton Pointer bodied examples dating from 2003. Those are represented by 34383 (LX03 BZR) approaching Woolwich Arsenal in Plumstead Road on Friday 29 May 2009.

Photo © RNAM200.

Also to be found on the route quite frequently are newer Enviro200Darts bought for the 386, and 36035 (LX58 CDN) was seen at the same spot on Tuesday 14 April. The route is restricted to 9.4m buses, which is the length of both of these, but the absurd provision of a second door on such a short vehicle can be seen in the second photo. The older Darts are more sensibly single door.

Photo © Richard Groves.

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