RF472 on the 202Red RF routes

Route 202 and 202A

Page last updated 9 April 2015
This page is dedicated to the memory of 202 conductor Alan Neale (1936-2012), who enjoyed recreating the route in 2010.
The inner-most single-deck route in London until the Red Arrows of 1966, the 202 served the then-busy industrial area of South Bermondsey.  A series of route changes included (variously and confusingly) conversion to a circular route and temporarily splitting into 202 and 202A.  The first route to lose RFs in favour of Merlins.
RF472 seen in Pagnell Street, New Cross on the terminal loop, 20 March 1960.
Photo © Gerald Mead
Dates of RF operation
17 Dec 52 to 25 Oct 68
(total 15 years 11 months, all crew operation).
Route 202A: 1 Jul 64 to 10 Mar 67
NEW CROSS Clifton Rise to ROTHERHITHE NEW ROAD Canal Bridge (daily 13 Dec 52 to 10 Dec 57, daily 1 Jul 64 to 10 Mar 67, plus Sundays during operation of circular route)
NEW CROSS Clifton Rise and ROTHERHITHE NEW ROAD St James's Road (circular) (Mon-Sat: 11 Dec 57 to 30 Jun 64, 11 Mar 67 to 25 Oct 68)
Route 202A: NEW CROSS Clifton Rise to SOUTHWARK PARK ROAD (Mon-Fri peaks and midday, 1 Jul 64 to 10 Mar 67)
Last night of operationRF Garages
P     Old Kent Road (until closure on 25 Nov 58)
NX   New Cross (from 26 Nov 58)
Route 202 last night of operation, 25 October 1968 - RF 370 displays the informative display (for a circular route) New Cross Clifton Rise (here it is running away from New Cross) and stands at the first stop in Hawkstone Road just after Surrey Docks station.  This road has not been used by buses since Canada Water station opened and the local routes were altered to run into the bus station.  RF370 moved on the the 236, but is today in rather a poor state (photos © Paul Redmond, Peter Osborn).
Main photo © Chris Stanley
Reason for single-deck operation
The route was always single-deck operated because of low bridges in Trundleys Road, including one carrying the Bricklayers Arms goods yard line which descended at a shallow gradient for the very heavy goods trains.  Some of the low bridges are still there and bus routes along the road are still single-decked.
Route history

Introduced as the 202 by independent companies GH Allitt & Sons Ltd (with Dennis Es) and Robert Hawkins & Co. Ltd ('Nil Desperandum', Leyland Lions, pictures here and here) on 23 Jul 29, the route initially ran only from New Cross to Rotherhithe Red Lion, but was extended to Canal Bridge at the end of the year.  The two operators were joined in 1931 by Renown Traction Co. Ltd (for 4 months, until their only single-decker caught fire) and E Puttergill ('Golden Arrow', also with a Dennis E).  Between November 1933 and June 1934, the three remaining operations were acquired by the LPTB, although GH Allitt continued as furniture removers in Rotherhithe New Road until at least the 1960s.  Workings started from Old Kent Road garage (P) in January 1934, with a mixture of DE-class Dennises and LN-class Leylands.


The Renown workings, as described by Ken Glazier, are of interest in providing a sidelight on the restrictions faced by independent operators before the amalgamation that formed the LPTB.  Renown operated from a base in East Ham, with garage runs via Barking Road and Rotherhithe Tunnel operated in service (so-called 'when working' journeys).  Barking Road proved to be more lucrative than the 202 itself, but additional schedules on that road could not be obtained, so Renown designed schedules with an abundance of 'when working' journeys, covering nearly as much mileage as operated on the 202 proper.

Menaced by dalek?
Old Kent Road's Q152 on the stand in Achilles Street, New Cross, in about 1951.  This is one of the batch that was originally green.
Photo © MG Webber, Paul Brophy collection

It was in 1934 that the Rotherhithe New Road terminus became known as 'Canal Bridge', whilst Clifton Rise was known as Clifton Hill until 1937.  In May 1936, the ex-independent buses were replaced by nine crew-operated side-engined 5Q5s, running every 5 minutes.  The route was always single-deck operated because of low bridges in Trundleys Road, including one carrying the Bricklayers Arms goods yard line which descended at a shallow gradient for the very heavy goods trains.  However, it was a very busy route, so whilst the Qs gave 15 years' good service, the route was an early priority for conversion to the new RFs in 1952, providing an extra 4 seats on each bus. 


Although nominally converted on 13 Dec 52, conversion was staged over the period 17 to 24 December as the new RFs were licensed.  Seven RFs replaced seven 5Q5s and one 10T10 on the route, which required seven buses on weekdays.  A spare bus was again provided from 1 Jan 53, in the form of another 10T10, replaced in turn by post-war T768 in April that year. 

The Canal Bridge terminal working was changed for the RFs, to turn using Verney Road - previously the Qs did a loop in the road at the St James's Road junction - but it wasn't until June 1954 that the stand moved from Rotherhithe New Road into Verney Road.
Once the market in Southwark Park Road was less busy, from 11 Dec 57, the route was changed for weekday working only to become a circular serving St James's Road and Southwark Park Road.  Unusually so late on, the same route number was used for the two different routes, with the Sunday service staying unchanged.  The circular route operated both ways from and to New Cross.
Clockwise circular service
Despite carrying a blind for the clockwise circular service from and to New Cross, RF432 is laying over at the Old Kent Road Canal Bridge stand in Verney Road, Rotherhithe, in this view.  Perhaps this is a Sunday.
Photo © Gerald Mead
Old Kent Road garage, which was very close to Canal Bridge, closed after 25 Nov 58 and New Cross took over the route.  Rather than operate garage journeys at the other end of the route, however, they were operated from Canal Bridge along Old Kent Road and the schedules remained unchanged.
A weight restriction on the railway bridge in St. James' Road led to the severance of the circle and the consequent introduction of the 202A on 1 Jul 64.  The 202 reverted to its original working and the 202A diverged from the 202 to turn up Galleywall Road with route 1 and terminated at the far end in Southwark Park Road.  It worked in the peaks and lunchtimes, to serve Peek Freans and Shuttleworths chocolate factory.  The stand was soon moved from Ambrose Street to Anchor Street.
In less than three years, from 11 Mar 67, the railway bridge in St. James' Road was rebuilt, the 202A was withdrawn and the 202 reverted to its circular route on weekdays.
Such a short route was an obvious candidate for the new ideas of flat-fare one man operation, and on 26 Oct 68, a month after the Bus Reshaping Plan commenced, the 202 became the first red RF route to be replaced by flat-fare Merlins.  The replacement ran as the P1 (anticlockwise, following the 202, Mon to Sat and as per the 202 Sun) and P2 (clockwise, but from Surrey Docks taking the Rotherhithe loop to Rotherhithe Station in part replacement for the 82, rather than going to New Cross).  The leaflet and flyer issued by LT describe the extent of the changes.
The first day of the new regime, 26 Oct 68.  MBS255 on the P1 loads at the Bonamy Estate (now demolished) in Rotherhithe New Road, just north of Verney Way.
Photo © Chris Stanley
It was hardly surprising that the conversion was a disaster.  With fewer buses (every 7 minutes instead of every 5 minutes in the morning peak), fewer seats (but plenty of standing room), no conductor and no change given, the position would have been bad enough.  But the notorious unreliability of the Merlins made matters worse.  A mechanic who worked at NX in the early 70s (when the Merlins were replaced by smaller Swifts) reports that sometimes there was only one SMS available out of a requirement of 7 to operate both routes, so it alternated between the P1 and P2 which left over an hour between buses.
RF route in detail, with timing points
Canal Bridge service:
NEW CROSS Clifton Rise, Clifton Rise, Woodpecker Road, Trundleys Road, Bush Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Rotherhithe Old Road, Surrey Docks Station, Hawkstone Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Verney Road, ROTHERHITHE Canal Bridge
Circular route:
NEW CROSS Clifton Rise, Clifton Rise, Woodpecker Road, Trundleys Road, Bush Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Rotherhithe Old Road, Surrey Docks Station, Hawkstone Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Galleywall Road, Southwark Park Road, St James’s Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Hawkstone Road, Surrey Docks Station, Rotherhithe Old Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Bush Road, Trundleys Road, Woodpecker Road, Clifton Rise, NEW CROSS Clifton Rise
Operated in both directions.
NEW CROSS Clifton Rise, Clifton Rise, Woodpecker Road, Trundleys Road, Bush Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Rotherhithe Old Road, Surrey Docks Station, Hawkstone Road, Rotherhithe New Road, Galleywall Road, SOUTHWARK PARK ROAD St James’s Road
On the introduction of a one-way system at Surrey Docks Station in about 1966, the route(s) were amended in the New Cross direction to run from Rotherhithe New Road via Rotherhithe Old Road, Lower Road, Bestwood Street to Trundleys Road.
Terminal working at New Cross: From Clifton Rise, Walpole Road, Pagnell Street, Achilles Street (stand at the Clifton Rise end).  Exit direct to Clifton Rise. 
Terminal working at Canal Bridge: Rotherhithe New Road, Verney Road (spur from north), Verney Road (stand at the south-east end, from 1954).  Exit direct to Rotherhithe New Road. 
Terminal working of 202A at Southwark Park Road: Ambrose Street to stand, changed within four weeks to Anchor Street.  Exit believed to be via Rosebery Street.
 Maps © London Transport
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1936 5 mins 5 mins 7 mins
1941 5-7½ mins

4-5 mins

6-7½ mins
1946 4-7½ mins 4-7½ mins 10-12 mins
1951 5-7½ mins 5-7½ mins 7½-10 mins
1959 10-18 mins* 12-18 mins* 10-12 mins
1964 5-9 mins† 7-12 mins 20 mins
* each way round the loop
† plus 202A, every 10 mins (peaks) and 3 lunch-time journeys
The route took about 13 minutes from New Cross to Rotherhithe New Road and 31 minutes for the loop working.  The November 1959 timetable, showing the differing weekday and Sunday workings, is here (thanks to Roger Newport for scanning these).  The July 1967 timetable is here.



To view the faretable for May 1965, during the operation of the 202A and including New Cross garage journeys, click here.
202A unloadingIn this atmospheric view from 1965, the 202A is clearly very well used - the service ran every 10 minutes in the peaks.  RF 473 is outside the old Surrey Docks station in Rotherhithe Old Road, going towards New Cross - not Southwark Park Road, the blind has not been changed for the return journey.  The bus has just turned out of Hawkstone Road.  See Paul Brophy's notes below.
Photo © Colin Stannard, with apologies for poor quality reproduction
Vehicle allocation
New RFs delivered Dec 1952 to P: RF 378, 380, 382, 384-5, 387 + 1 ex-AV (367) (total 7, no spares)
PVR 1952 (Dec): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 7, Sun 5
PVR 1955 (May): Mon-Fri 6, Sat 6, Sun 5
PVR 1955 (Oct): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 6, Sun 5
PVR 1957 (Oct): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 6, Sun 4
PVR 1960 (Oct): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 6, Sun 2
PVR 1962 (Oct): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 5, Sun 2
PVR 1964 (Jul, joint 202/202A): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 5, Sun 2
PVR 1966 (Dec, joint 202/202A): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 4, Sun 2

PVR 1967 (Mar): Mon-Fri 7, Sat 4, Sun 2



Alan Neale was a conductor at Old Kent Road garage (P), then Camberwell (Q), between 1956 and 1962.  His memories of his time with London Transport are here.
Paul Brophy remembers the area well:
'Up until the mid 1960's, buses used Hawkstone Road both ways on routes 1 and 202, then a one way system was introduced to the area and although Hawkstone Road was still two way for traffic, buses only used it towards London. Once Canada Water station opened all the bus routes in the area were altered to serve it and buses were withdrawn from the road altogether. The stop in Hawkstone Road where RF370 is standing [rear view above] was very busy in the mid 1970's onwards. The reason was that if you wanted to get a bus towards Central London, you had a choice of route 1 from Hawkstone Road (with buses either coming up from Bromley/Catford or from the Surrey Docks Station stand in Rotherhithe Old Road), route 188 at the stop shown (coming from Greenwich or the stand at Surrey Docks Station), or the 70 from the 188 bus stop. The 188 met the 1 at the Bricklayers Arms and ran parallel with it to the Aldwych, the 70 meet them at Waterloo. So at a Mon-Fri morning peak, there was a big group of passengers all on the corner of Rotherhithe Old Road and Hawkstone Road looking out for buses and then making a quick dash to ether the bus stop in Rotherhithe Old Road or the one in Hawkstone Road, all trying to get on a very full bus with a load of its passengers trying to get off to join the East London line tube. I think the bus crews hated those two stops.'


In 2010, RF486 ran over the old 202 route with some former Old Kent Road staff, including Alan Neale.  A photo-report is here.