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Contract renewal time again, and the B11 has gained a fleet of new buses, Enviro200Dart complete vehicles from Alexander Dennis. On 9 February 2011 SE69 (YX60 FBU) passes along Okehampton Crescent in East Wickham, which is on a one-way loop mid-route, where buses in both directions go the same way via Lodge Hill and Okehampton Crescent – correct blind displays are vital here! In the background can be seen two new WVLs on route 422.
|Photo © John Gillespie.|
A second view of the route shows SE73 (YX60 FCC) loading in Bexleyheath town centre on Tuesday 25 January 2011.
|Photo © Brian Creasey.|
The original raison d’etre of the B11 was to serve the Lodge Hill loop mentioned above. At the time that was the end of the route, buses running from there to Bexleyheath via the same route as today. This also served to cover the original direct routeing of the 122 via Long Lane, the replacement 422 taking a more circuitous routeing via Bedonwell Road to cover part of the 122A. The route began on 16 January 1988 as part of the Bexleybus scheme, which introduced smaller buses (MCW Metroriders) on more local routeings with B prefixes, with associated changes to the "big bus" routes such as the 122/422. Bexleybus was a low cost unit within the Selkent division of London Buses, and operated from Bexleyheath garage; its blue and cream livery made for a distinctive local identity.
Unfortunately service standards were poor, and Bexleybus lost all its routes upon re-tendering three years later. Thus the B11 passed to Kentish Bus in 1991, and gained new Optare Metroriders – Optare having taken the design from MCW upon the latter's closure. The route was also extended to Abbey Wood station at this time, to provide an alternative railhead, other than Bexleyheath station. This introduced the present arrangement where the Lodge Hill loop is served in the same direction by buses heading either way; the loop cannot be traversed in the opposite direction due to the road layout.
Further tendering in January 1999 saw the route extended again, this time via Alsike Road to Thamesmead Boiler House. This section "replaced" the Alsike Road section of route 177, though as the B11 has no other points in common with the 177 this scheme did seem more than slightly odd! The Metroriders were also replaced by (standard floor) Dennis Darts. A Sunday service was also added. In 2003 buses were diverted away from Knee Hill to use the parallel New Road – although, as both roads cut through Lesnes Abbey Woods with minimal population to serve, quite what the objective of this was is not clear!
As had happened 5 years earlier, in the Bexleyheath re-tendering exercise of January 2004 quite a number of routes changed operator, although broadly speaking each company retained a similar level of work. One of the routes which changed hands was the B11, which passed to London Central, which had taken over Bexleyheath garage when Bexleybus shut down. Again second-hand Darts were specified, but this time 9.4m low floor machines surplus from Peckham garage where the P13 had been lost. In January 2009, route 469 was lost to Selkent and the larger 10.2m Darts were moved to the B11; they had in turn been drafted in from Merton garage in 2004, having previously been on route 155, which was being converted back to double deck.
This new contract saw some further service improvements. The route was extended yet again, via Bentham Road to Thamesmead town centre, providing a direct link from this area to Bexleyheath for the first time. The frequency during the day on Mondays to Saturdays was also improved from every 20 to every 15 minutes. For a change, the January 2011 contract specifies more of the same – there is nowhere further for the route to extend northwards anyway!
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