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Route N89
21 November 2007

I don't get many photos of night routes to include in this site, but, as this photo demonstrates, those prepared to get up early can get good photographs in the summer, without having to worry about the technicalities of photograping in the dark. Here PVL260 (PN02 XBH) climbs the west face of Shooter's Hill in the early morning on 1 July 2006, demonstrating the good view out from this location over Greenwich towards central London. Note the unusual ultimate destination display to reflect the day 89's normal terminus, which is Slade Green, as well as the actual destination of Erith. It is unlikely that this will be continued under the current programme of standardising displays.

Photo © John King.

The N89 is a relatively recent creation, and also has the distinction of being London's longest stopping route (i.e. excluding the X26). It was created to replace route N81. This route in its heyday ran from Trafalgar Square to Dartford, with certain journeys to Victoria or Gravesend and one journey at weekends all the way from Victoria (depart 0345) to Gillingham (arrive 0535).

The N81, in turn, started in 1993, and replaced the western end of route N72 (Victoria to Dartford) and the commercial route NX1 (Trafalgar Square to Gillingham, limited stop, two return journeys at weekends only). At this time, as with most night buses, the timetable was very irregular, with a bus roughly once every two hours, utilising two vehicles. The original routeing was via Westminster, Old Kent Road, and direct via Blackheath Hill to Shooter's Hill, Welling, Bexleyheath, Crayford, Dartford, Northfleet, Gravesend, Strood, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham. However the routeing from Trafalgar Square was changed to go via Aldwych and Blackfriars to Elephant & Castle, and then via Camberwell instead of Old Kent Road.

Following privatisation, the London bus industry no longer felt it was appropriate to serve areas outside their remit, and so the N81 was curtailed to Crayford, apart from the weekend only journey to Gillingham. However, service levels were ramped up. The service was further cut back to Bexleyheath in 1999. The service to Dartford, Gravesend, Strood and Gillingham was maintained by a commercial N80 by London Central for a couple of years, this having a similar format to the NX1 mentioned earlier.

Meanwhile, route N53 ran from Oxford Circus, via Westminster, Old Kent Road, then deviating from the day 53 to run via Lewisham to Blackheath before re-joining the 53 to Woolwich and Plumstead Common, and then on to Erith via a rather non-standard route. In 2002, it was decided to standardise the N53 routeing by running it via Blackheath Hill instead of Lewisham. The N81 was diverted via Lewisham instead. At the same time, the N53 was diverted to Plumstead Station, and the N81 was extended via 89 route to Slade Green and on to Erith via the 469 route. This meant Erith was still served at night, but by a completely different route compared with previously!

The resultant route was, probably deliberately, thus a direct copy of the day 89, with extensions at both ends, and was accordingly re-numbered N89. Although most N prefix night routes mirror the corresponding day route, it is unusual for this route to be an outer suburban route as the 89 is. A simple half hourly service is provided, and the end to end journey time is only 1 hour 11 minutes, which is pretty good going for 21 miles.

See also routes 53, 89, 469

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