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Despite having been demoted to minibuses since creation in 1992, the 322 is actually the original route 2. The present day 2 is a renumbering of the 2A/2B; the old 2 followed the more roundabout route that the 322 did when introduced, operating via Herne Hill and Railton Road instead of Tulse Hill, and diverting at Stockwell via Lansdowne Way to serve the north end of Wandsworth Road instead of following South Lambeth Road directly to Vauxhall. The 2 ran from the Rosendale pub in West Dulwich through to Victoria.
Although the 322 did not replace the 2 between Vauxhall and Victoria, it was extended southwards via some narrow and previously unserved roads, Gipsy Hill in particular, to Crystal Palace. Later it was extended at its north end over the equally unserved Kennington Lane to Elephant & Castle. The 322 was also quite a bit more frequent than the 2 had been.
The original extension to Crystal Palace necessitated the route’s conversion to minibuses, initially Connexions branded Mercedes 811D based-Optare StarRiders operated from Norwood garage. Late in 1993 new 9 metre Dennis Darts replaced the SRs, these being DRL 147-158.
In 2000 the route was awarded under competitive tender to French transport giant Connex, their second London bus route (after the 3), and quite by coincidence recalling the 322’s original marketing name. They bought 8.8m Dart SLFs with Alexander ALX200 bodywork, the largest buses that will fit round some parts of the route. These were later displaced by newer Pointer bodied Darts, after it was found that the Euro III engines on these vehicles disturbed the dainty residents along the G1 route for which they had been bought, so they were swapped with the quieter Euro II vehicles! Unfortunately Connex’s performance left a lot to be desired, probably not helped by the considerable distance between the garage in Beddington and the nearest point on the route, Crystal Palace, and for a while the route was officially the least reliable in London.
Re-tendering in 2005 saw the route change hands again, this time to London General with a garage on route at Stockwell. Except that the route was altered and no longer serves Stockwell! Very heavy loadings north of Brixton led to a decision to convert this section to double deck, which was achieved by extending the 196, leaving the minibuses to the narrow sections of route and also enabling the remainder of the 322 to be reduced in frequency. The opportunity was also taken to re-route the buses from Brixton along Landor Road to Clapham High Street and Clapham Common; previosuly this section had been served by route 355, but due to the road layout at Clapham North the larger buses on this route were only able to serve Landor Road eastbound.
Further re-tendering in 2010 saw the route revert to its previous operator – although that had gone through a couple of changes of ownership in the meantime, now being known as Abellio London! Route G1 was lost to London General from the same date, and although both routes were awarded with new vehicles, in the event each route has kept the existing vehicles off the other. Two views are provided here. First is 8030 (BU05 HFG) turning into Robson Road, West Norwood, on 10 May 2010. This bus has since been sold to CT Plus for route 385.
|Photo © James Fullick.|
The second photo was made on the first day of Abellio London operation, 1 May 2010, at Crystal Palace bus station awaiting departure time. Connex/Travel London/Abellio have run route 3 from the same Beddington base since 2000, and some of these buses can be seen in the background; ferrying drivers all the way from Beddington to Crystal Palace must be quite expensive, and certainly ranks as one of the more remote operations in London.
|Photo © Taelin-Jorda Lambert.|
Going back further, the 2 once ran from Crystal Palace to North Finchley. The routing between West Norwood and Stockwell was the same, West Dulwich being served by the 2A, which also ran via Herne Hill but not Railton Road. The 2, 2A and 2B had their ends changed round quite frequently, with the section north of Baker Street ultimately becoming the 82, but it was the diversion via Lansdowne Way in 1990 that really marginalised the 2.
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