RTL1531 at Amen CornerCarshalton 2007

Route 88

In the 1950s and 60s, the 88 was a cross-London trunk route:  ACTON GREEN, Oxford Circus, Vauxhall Bridge, Stockwell, Tooting Broadway, MITCHAM Cricketers (Monday to Friday), St Helier Rose (Monday to Friday peaks and Saturday), Sutton, BELMONT (Sunday), BANSTEAD HOSPITAL (Sunday afternoon from 1964).
On 15 April 2007, the free service on the 88 will run between Tooting (journeys), Mitcham and Belmont, extended to Banstead Hospital (afternoon).  See the timetable.
Main boarding points
Mitcham Cricketers, Mitcham Tram stop, St Helier Rose Hill, Sutton Green, Sutton, Belmont Station
On a summer Sunday in 1964, RTL1531 heads off from Amen Corner on its way to Banstead Hospital.
Photo © Bob Turner, via Ian Armstrong
Route history
By 1935, the 88 was well-established, running from Acton Green via Oxford Circus, Mitcham and Sutton to Belmont, with a frequency along the whole route of five minutes on Sundays.  During the 1940s, the route was cut back on other days to the pattern summarised above.

The route enjoyed a number of garages and types allocated in 1950.  The main allocation was Merton (AL) garage, running a combination of Ds and STLs, assisted by Hammersmith Riverside (R) with RTLs and (on summer Sundays) Victoria Gillingham Street (GM) with STLs.  In May 1950, AL and R ran RTWs as part of the successful central London trials of 8' wide buses.  In 1951, GM ran RTs, whilst the summer extras were provided from Stockwell (SW) from 1952, with RTLs.  Meanwhile, Merton replaced its STLs and Ds with RTs (with a PVR of 58 on Monday to Friday) from the summer and winter schedules respectively in 1953.


The closure of Clapham (CA) garage in November 1958 led to a substantial reorganisation of allocations, with Merton losing the 88 in favour of CA’s 155.  The main 88 allocation then moved to SW with RTLs, still supported by R’s RTLs but now only on weekdays, with the Sunday support now from Shepherds Bush (S) also with RTLs.  R’s Sunday allocation reappeared for just a year from October 1961, but R lost any role in the 88 from October 1965 in a west London shuffle and was replaced by S daily, now with RTs.  


As a central London route, the 88 was a natural candidate for Routemasters as deliveries continued, and they duly arrived at both SW and S from July 1966.  These allocations were upgraded to RML from March 1975.


There were very few route changes between 1950 and 1985.  Certain journeys on Sunday were extended further to Banstead Hospital from January 1964 and the Saturday extension to St Helier was lost at the same time.  The Monday to Friday peak extension lasted until January 1970.  In January 1974, the Sunday extension was replaced by the 280, leaving a daily service between Acton Green and Mitcham.


Into the 1980s, Merton regained a Sunday allocation, with RMs, from 1981 to 1986 (involving garage journeys from Mitcham to Merton via Phipps Bridge).  Monday to Friday evening journeys were curtailed at Tooting from 1985, followed by the full route (except Sundays) from 1987.  The southern section was further cut back to Clapham Common from April 1990 (except on Sundays for a few more months) and the western part of the route was renumbered 94 from September 1990 – a new route which was to remain RML-operated right up to January 2004, one of the final group of Routemaster routes.  Meanwhile, the 88 was converted to OPO on Sundays in 1987, using Metrobuses and (briefly) Fleetlines, and the weekday route followed in August 1992. 


The 88 still runs from Clapham to Oxford Circus, and since 2000 has continued north over previously foreign territory by taking over the 135 to Camden Town.