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Probably the least viable of the Kingston are 'K' routes is the K4. It was not part of the original network introduced in 1987. It started in 1990 purely to provide a service to the Mansfield Estate area of Hook, running direct to Kingston via the main road. One wonders how the little MCW Metroriders coped alongside the DMSs and Metrobuses on the 71 – at that time the 71 took the current longer K1 route via Villiers Road, so the K4 would have been considerably quicker for journeys between Hook and Kingston.
A small route scheme in 1993 saw some switching of routeings between Surbiton and Kingston. The K1 swapped with the 71 between Surbiton and Kingston, while the K4 swapped its direct route with the K3, and thus now served Villiers Avenue and Villiers Road – the former road being also unique to itself. These changes made the 71 the quickest route into Kingston – quite reversing the fortunes of the K4, which now really only carries only passengers from Mansfield Estate and Villiers Avenue (plus, since its extension, anyone wanting Kingston Hospital).
During 2000 the route was changed at both ends. At the Hook end the loop working was extended to take in Winey Park, a new housing estate built on former government land. After much deferment this change was introduced from November. At the other end, the route was extended to Kingston Hospital, as planned in April – although this change proved short-lived.
The extended routeing proved to be more than the route could cope with within its allocation of 3 buses, so when the K routes came up for re-tender in June 2001 it was proposed to withdraw the K4, replacing its unique sections at both ends by extending route K2. It is not clear how the Villiers Avenue section would have been covered, but in any case the proposal to withdraw the K4 was dropped, the scheme having at least two flaws: journey times from Mansfield Estate to Kingston would have been considerably extended, and more seriously, the Mansfield Estate section can only accommodate short 8.8m Darts, which would have been inadequate for the loadings on the established section of the K2.
The replacement of the Kingston-Kingston Hospital section of the K4 with the K2 nonetheless went ahead, which the routeing at Mansfield Estate was modified again to provide a proper stand in Ripon Gardens, buses serving Winey Park bi-directionally, these measures (in theory at least) enabling a more reliable service to be provided. The route also gained an hourly evening service, remaining half hourly during the day, and new low floor Darts.
Passenger request soon materialised for the extension to Kingston Hospital to be restored. A proposal to do so was initially linked with an interesting proposal to extend the route to Epsom, replacing route 467. However the proposals were once again scrapped due to a number of problems – lack of funding from Surrey Council for the increased level of service that would have been provided, inability of small buses to cope with schools loadings on certain 467 journeys, and difficulty finding a suitable route through the Hook/Mansfield Estate/Winey Park area. Plus both changes would have made the route rather long. After some concerns about stand space at the hospital this extension was duly achieved, using a fourth bus, from 19 March 2005. The timetable was designed so that buses could share the stand with TGM's Surrey route 514, though the latter no longer serves Kingston Hospital.
The route continued to be operated by the Mini Pointer Darts bought for it in 2001, but after loss of route K1 to Abellio in June 2013 some of the newer Enviro200Darts that had been on the K1 were transferred to the K4 instead. Two photographs are provided, and first of all we have SDE3 (YX08 MDY) heading through the suburbs of Surbiton on 12 July 2013.
|Photo © Au Moran.|
A second view shows sister vehicle SDE4 (YX08 MDZ) passing through Eden Street, Kingston, on 31 May 2011 – when the route was still officially scheduled for DPK class buses. The low levels of demand for the cross-Kingston service can be seen. Bus service access to hospitals can be a politically emotive subject, as these links are often needed by the most vulnerable members of society. However, the fact remains in transport terms that the catchment areas of hospitals are huge and demand for any specific link is always likely to be quite low. Matters are compounded by the inconvenient location of many hospitals, away from major public transport corridors. Kingston Hospital does have one rare advantage, being located right next to a railway station.
|Photo © Ian Armstrong.|
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