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The 331 is an amalgamation of parts of former London Borough of Hillingdon sponsored routes 128 and 128A, and parts of routes 347/348 that were operated by London Country, serving the rural areas around Harefield. Today, it is operated by First Centrewest from their Uxbridge garage, using Enviro200 single deckers. DML44006 (LK57 EJL), loading at Uxbridge Station on 15 March, is one of a batch of 6 that was temporarily allocated to Uxbridge for routes 331 and A10, owing to a delay in the company taking over their intended route, the 498. That did actually happen on 28 June, and these buses should therefore have been returned to Dagenham garage, and replaced by similar vehicles ordered for a new 331 contract commencing today.
|Photo © Alan Herbert.|
Much the oldest section of the route is the part between Uxbridge and Northwood. At one time this was servied by London Country route 357, running just between those two points, and with a fairly limited level of service; the main service to Harefield was the 309, which ran between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth via Denham and Harefield. In the 1940s the 357 was replaced by an extension of routes 345 and 346, which ran between Kingswood and Northwood via Watford and (then-developing) Oxhey, with a limited service on to Harefield. These were soon replaced by route 347, which then got extended to Uxbridge replacing the 309, and was joined in the 1960s by the 347A, which served Oxhey proper rather than running via Hampermill Lane. This latter was renumbered 348 in 1978, to facilitate three-track number blinds.
The 128 began in 1978, and had a rather complicated timetable. The route was unusual, if not unique, at that time in having sections of what is now called Hail & Ride, where buses would stop at any safe point in areas where there were no fixed stops, and this was mentioned on bus maps for several years. The main route was from Ruislip to Harefield Hospital via Ladygate Lane, Ducks Hill Road, Mount Vernon Hospital and Harefield. Some journeys diverted at Harefield Village to one of Rickmansworth (these journeys replaced the 309), Harefield West, or Uxbridge (via Harvil Road), and one shoppers' journey ran via Sharp's Lane in Ruislip on Mondays to Saturdays. The route thus missed the centre of Northwood.
A further variation was introduced in 1983, when garage journeys between Uxbridge and Ruislip were livened up, operating via Belmont Road, Western Avenue, Long Lane and Kingsend. These were later re-routed via Swakeleys Road and reduced to Sundays only. The Sharp's Lane variation was withdrawn at the same time, but in 1986 yet another variation was added, with school day journeys operating between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth via Denham and Maple Cross.
In 1987, the Sunday service was renumbered 128A and became a regular service from Harefield Hospital to Uxbridge, via Ruislip and then Long Lane and the 98 route to Hillingdon Hill, then into Uxbridge. This provided a Sunday service to the Windsor Avenue area, when the 98 did not run. The direct journeys between Uxbridge and Harefield on the 128 were also re-routed via the 347/348 route via Denham, instead of Harvil Road.
In 1992, the 128 and 128A were withdrawn and replaced by an extension of route U1 (Uxbridge to Ruislip via Swakeleys Road) from Ruislip to Chorleywood via Mount Vernon Hospital, Harefield and Rickmansworth. This also re-introduced the deviation via Sharp's Lane, going a bit further to Heathfield Rise. There was no longer any need for the direct journeys between Harefield and Uxbridge, although the ones via Maple Cross still operated and were expanded. The 128A was renumbered U8 and diverted via Hillingdon Hospital.
The decision in 1995 by Luton & District (by then owner of the former London Country North West) to curtail the 348 at Northwood (the 347 having already been cut back) led to the creation of the 331, as an LT route, to cover the Uxbridge - Denham - Harefield - Northwood section, and also the Harefield - Ruislip section of the U1. In order to serve Northwood, the 331 was routed into Northwood from the south via Northgate Way and Maxwell Road. A standard daily service was provided, the variations via Rickmansworth being taken over by new Herts route R1 (now R21). At the same time route U9 (Harefield to Uxbridge via Harvil Road) was boosted up, and a new U10 introduced to cover Heathfield Rise, and these services remain today.
One quirk of the route is the number of times it crosses the London boundary. From Uxbridge it is in the London Borough Hillingdon, then South Buckinghamshire through Denham, Hillingdon again through Harefield, then entering Hertfordshire at White Hill, returning to Hillingdon near at Mount Vernon Hospital – four boundary changes! The route is also the only TfL service to accept the Bucks/Herts/Essex Sunday Rover ticket, despite many others going into the area, presumably because the 331 replaced the 347/348 over the Uxbridge to Mount Vernon section, which had also accepted these tickets.
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