RF679 at Borough Green Station

Route 703 Recreation

Saturday 1st August 2015

Prepared by Ian Smith, 5th August 2015.

703: Wrotham to Victoria

We set off for London. Not up Old London Road, which is chopped off by the M20 motorway, but east along Bull Lane. There we turned up London Road, and ground slowly up the face of the North Downs. The gradient eased eventually, and we bowled northwards along the old A20. We swept through West Kingsdown, past the Portobello Inn, where connections might once have been made with the 452 or 492.

Portobello Inn, West Kingsdown

We passed the entrance to Brands Hatch, and descended into the Darenth valley. Suddenly we were slowing down, and pulling off the A20 into Farningham. We made a stop - not at the old Green Line stop at The Pied Bull, but at the much more scenic stop on the river bridge.

RF679 at Farningham

While we were taking photos we were met on the bridge by Nu-Venture's Dart 197 working the 478 to West Kingsdown.

RF679 at Farningham Nu-Venture 197 on 478 at Farningham

We climbed up past the Lion Inn, and turned right to climb back up to the A20. We headed for Swanley, passing under the M25 and into red bus territory at the south end of Swanley. Swanley bus garage looks smart. There were a few Metrobus vehicles in the yard.

We met our first red bus at the roundabout in Swanley. It was Metrobus EnviroDart 153 on the 233.

We avoided the Swanley pedestrian precinct, and skirted round the backside of Asda, before heading for Sidcup. We were not allowed (by TfL) to take our bus across the weak bridge by Sidcup Garage (although it is regularly used by buses almost twice our weight), so took the Sidcup by-pass, briefly, before turning back up Cray Road to reach Sidcup Hill. There we met Go-Ahead's PVL320 on the 321, followed closely by Stagecoach Scania 15053 on the 51 to Orpington Station.

153 on 233 at Swanley 15053 on 51, Sidcup Hill

As we passed through the cenre of Sidcup Arriva's DAF Wright 6215 came up Station Road on a 492 bound for Bluewater. We continued on, along Main Road, through south-eastern suburbia. At one point we planed alongside the busy A20, kept separate by a wall. We headed away to the north, along Footscray Road.

Another bus on the 321 illustrated that this route is losing its Presidents: this one was EnviroTrident E274.

6215 on 492 at Sidcup E274 on 321

We approached Eltham along the 321 route, past the foot of Southend Crescent and up onto Eltham High Street. That was busy, with EnviroDarts of different sizes and different companies buzzing about, such as Metrobus 752 on the 233 to Swanley and a tiny Stagecoach one on the 124.

More esoteric was red and black Volvo Olympian / Northern Counties NV97, with London Bus Hire. How different it looks from its London Central days.

Passing on from the busy junction by Eltham Church, we followed Eltham Hill towards Kidbrooke. Another operator with an EnviroDart: 4006 on the B15 towards Bexleyheath.

ex-NV97 on Eltham High Street 4006 on B15

But not everything was new. LDP197, a sprightly thirteen year old, was still performing on the B16. Much newer was 10184, Stagecoach's re-equipment for the 261, emerging from Lewisham.

LDP193 on B16 10184 on 261, Lewisham

Then we were into the traffic hell of Lewisham. The central roundabout opposite what used to be the bus stance at Lewisham Station (before it was sold off for redevelopment), is a maze of cones and building sites. We negotiated it safely and headed for New Cross.

We drifted down towards New Cross in a busy traffic stream, keeping company with a bendi-bus replacement in the shape of hybrid technology EH9 on the 436. Further on, as we approached New Cross garage, we slowed to allow EnviroTrident E236 to emerge from the garage.

EH9 on 436, New Cross E236 leaves NX

After years of going round the houses to get onto Old Kent Road it was strange to just fork right, as we did in the days of trams. Now we were in Xylon territory, and LT291 grumbled past on the 453. There followed an on-board discussion on the merits, demerits and general performance of the Boris-masters.

We negotiated another massive roundabout redevelopment, at Elephant & Castle, then headed for Lambeth Bridge. Our intended route was being dug up, so we were on diversion, following Abellio EnviroDart 8563 on the C10.

LT291 on 453, Old Kent Road 8563 on C10

WE made our way to Lambeth Bridge, then wound our way through to Eccleston Bridge. Double red lines prevented our pausing there, but suddenly there was an added bonus: "That's another green RF!" We turned the corner onto Buckingham Palace Road, and there was RF208, on a 704 route recreation! We pulled up behind, and exchanged greetings. Who could have imagined this would happen: two country-livery RFs on consecutive routes arriving at the same time!

RF280 on 704, Victoria RF679, RF280 at Victoria

Part Three: Victoria to Amersham

Ian's Bus-stop One Two Three Four Five Six Seven