Saturday 19th July 2014 saw me visit Abellio’s Walworth Bus Depot in south London, which opened its doors to members of the public, with all proceeds generated from the open day being donated to charity.
It forms part of a series of free bus depot and garage open days across the capital in celebration of the Year of the Bus.
Events and activities are being held throughout 2014 to celebrate the role that London buses, bus drivers and the staff who support them play in keeping the capital moving, and mark a number of important anniversaries.
These include 60 years since the creation of the original and iconic Routemaster, 75 years since the launch of its predecessor the RT-type bus, and 100 years since hundreds of London buses were sent to the Western Front to play a crucial role during the First World War.
The first bus garage open day was held at Catford on 10th May 2014 and attracted 3,000 visitors. Since then, Alperton, Stockwell, Fulwell and Potters Bar Bus Garages have all opened their doors to the public to offer behind-the-scenes access in celebration of the Year of the Bus. The last bus garage open day will take place at Dartford Bus Garage on Sunday 7th September – so don’t forget to note it in your diary.
The many visitors to the event had the chance to get up and close with some vintage horsepower in the form of London Transport Museum’s newly restored B-type bus, and other various old style models such as the iconic Routemaster. In addition, visitors took advantage of the free vintage bus service to Dulwich or Elephant & Castle, as well as a bouncy bus, rides through the bus wash, the chance to learn about transport safety, and go on a behind-the-scenes tour, where you could find out about the engineering, operations, and history of the depot, such as major repairs after bomb damage from World War Two.
Buses weren’t the only focus of the day, as Southwark Model Railway Club displayed their model railways, as well as plenty of visiting stalls with celebratory merchandise, with all the proceeds going to charity.A visiting mobile exhibition was on display, where you could find out the story of London buses, and what their future holds, or perhaps yours. Abellio London currently have job vacancies available too, so if you were interested in a career as a bus driver, then you could find out more by talking to staff on the recruitment bus, or if you weren’t fortunate enough to visit the event you can take a look at their website for more details.
History of the depot
The site of Walworth Bus Depot was acquired by the London County Council for its electric trams back in 1981, it was known as Camberwell Tram depot until 1950 when its name was changed to Walworth, after its Southwark district, and comes from the Old English ‘Wealworth’, which means ‘Welsh farm’. The change of name was also to avoid confusion with Camberwell Garage located opposite the Walworth depot. Major rebuilding work took place during the 1950s to repair bomb damage from the Second World War.
The depot assumed operation of the Red Arrow routes in the late 1960s until its closure in 1985. Then following the closure of the Victoria and Ash Grove garages, from 1987 Walworth operated the Red Arrow routes for a short time until Waterloo garage was ready.
The depot lay dormant for the next six years until late 2003 when work started on refurbishing the depot for Travel London, who needed more space after some contract wins. The current depot finally re-opened again in 2004 after being fully refurbished with the latest environmental technology including solar panels on the roof, and today the depot currently houses over 140 vehicles for daily service on the following routes; The depot once again re-opened during the early 1990s, this time for the London links operation of routes 78 and 176. The Cowie Group undertook a major restructure a few years later which once again saw the closure of Walworth depot in 1997.
35 between Clapham Junction and Shoreditch via Clapham Common, Brixton, Camberwell, Walworth, Elephant & Castle and London Bridge.
40 between Dulwich Library and Aldgate via East Dulwich, Camberwell, Walworth, Elephant & Castle and London Bridge.
100 between Shadwell and Elephant & Castle via Wapping, Aldgate, Liverpool Street, London Wall, St. Paul’s, Aldwych and Waterloo.
172 between Brockley Rise and St. Paul’s via Crofton Park, New Cross, Elephant & Castle, Waterloo and Aldwych.
188 between North Greenwich and Russell Square via Greenwich, Surrey Quays, Bermondsey, Elephant & Castle, Waterloo, Aldwych and Holborn.
343 between New Cross Gate and City Hall via Telegraph Hill, Brockley, Peckham Rye, Peckham, Southampton Way, Rodney Road, Elephant & Castle and London Bridge.
381 between Peckham and Waterloo County Hall via South Bermondsey, Surrey Quays, Downtown, Bermondsey, London Bridge Station and Southwark.
484 between Lewisham and Camberwell via Ladywell, Hilly Fields, Brockley, Peckham Rye and East Dulwich.
N35 between Clapham Junction and Tottenham Court Road Station via Clapham Common, Brixton, Camberwell, Walworth, Elephant & Castle, London Bridge, Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Holborn.
N343 between New Cross Gate and Trafalgar Square via Telegraph Hill, Brockley, Peckham Rye, Peckham, Southampton Way, Rodney Road, Elephant & Castle, London Bridge Station, Southwark, Waterloo and Aldwych.
N381 between Peckham and Trafalgar Square via South Bermondsey, Surrey Quays, Downtown, Bermondsey – London Bridge Station, Southwark, Waterloo County Hall and Westminster.
The routes as above are operated by various types of vehicles, some variants include Alexander Dennis Enviro200 Dart 9.3m for routes 100 and 484, Alexander Dennis Enviro400 10.1m for routes 35, 40, N35 and N343, Alexander Dennis Enviro 400H 10.2m for route 188, Dennis Dart SLF 9.3m with Alexander Dennis Pointer 2 bodies for route 100, Dennis Trident 2 9.9m with Alexander ALX400 bodies for route 172 and Volvo B7TL 10.6m with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodies for routes 188, 343, 381 and N381.
Buses are a vital daily service for millions and one that is very local, with the vast majority of Londoners (95 per cent) never more than 400 meters from a bus stop. Buses link homes to jobs, schools and hospitals in every part of the capital. They are the backbone, and often the forgotten workhorses, of London’s transport network.