London Buses route 118
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|Vehicle||Alexander Dennis Enviro400 10.1m|
|Peak vehicle requirement||Monday to Saturday: 12
|Night-time||Night bus N133|
|Length||9 miles (14 km)|
|Frequency||About every 12 minutes|
|Journey time||36-63 minutes|
|Operates||5:30am until 1:00am|
|London Transport portal|
The 118 commenced operation on November 18, 1936 as a daily service between Clapham Common and Mitcham Common (Horse & Groom). It was a "localisation" of route 5 and was introduced as part of a small route change scheme in which route 5 was withdrawn between Clapham Common and Mitcham, being re-routed to Raynes Park to replace route 67.
By 1950, the route was extended at the southern end beyond Mitcham Common to Raynes Park, via Mitcham Cricket Green, Morden and Lower Morden, at that time being jointly operated seven days a week by Streatham (AK) Garage and Merton (AL) Garage using STL and D class vehicles respectively. By 1953, RT class vehicles had taken over both allocations and for the next 15 years the route essentially continued unaltered.
On 22 March 1969, the route was withdrawn between Raynes Park and Morden Station as part of a policy of (a) route shortening to improve efficiency and (b) the gradual introduction of driver-only operation. The section lost from the 118 was taken over by new driver-only operated flat-fare Route M1 which also absorbed the old 151 route between Morden and Hackbridge. The Merton (AL) allocation on the 118 was also withdrawn from this date, that garage taking responsibility for the M1 in lieu, leaving Streatham (AK) the sole operator, still with RTs.
From 17 June 1972, the Sunday operation was transferred to Brixton (BN) Garage using RTs. By this time, Streatham were able to convert the Saturday service to Routemaster (RM) operation using vehicles spare from the weekday allocations on Routes 49 and 159. From May 1973, Brixton gained a Monday to Saturday allocation as well and by May 1976 the route was fully converted to RM operation, having been subject to a gradual changeover in the interim.
From 28 October 1978, Brixton Garage took over the route entirely, by which time it was the only service from that depot using Routemasters, the other crew (driver/conductor) operations on Routes 109 and 133 both using doored Daimler Fleetline (DM) class vehicles. Even if DM class vehicles were available for the 118, they were never used as their larger size made them inappropriate for use along the narrow Commonside East in Mitcham, a likely factor in the route not succumbing sooner to One Person Operation (OPO). In 1979, London Transport Buses was broken up into multiple administrative districts, the South London area (encompassing Brixton Garage and those neighbouring) being designated as Wandle District.
The 118 continued to dodge the inevitable conversion to OPO for a few more years, having escaped the purge of 4 September 1982, when massive service cuts were implemented across the whole LT bus network. However, with the practice having laid low for a few years, 1985 saw another massive push towards driver-only operation, dictated by government policy after they took control of London Transport from the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1984. Under the short-lived renaming of London Regional Transport (LRT), the new body enacted four major OPO conversion programmes in 1985.
The 118 came up for conversion in the second programme, on 27 April 1985. On the plus side, the route was allocated 16 brand new Metrobus (M) class vehicles within the range M1203-M1233. The type was fairly new to the area, Wandle District having been designated the last in London to receive replacements for the unreliable DMS class, with Brixton receiving the 22 Cummins-engined batch of Metrobuses (M1084-1105) for Routes 50 and 95 in November 1984. On the 118, the issue of tight clearance along Commonside East was addressed by introducing 'passing points' with appropriate road signage for the drivers and the replacement of one of the existing road-side bus stops with a bay stop (since relocated). Initially, insufficient new blinds were available so the new vehicles operated with the old RM side-blinds in the front box but the new blinds arrived soon after allowing mixed operation from both batches of Metrobuses at the garage. In the following months, there were at least two incidents (both on Saturdays) of crew-operated RMs re-appearing in normal service on the 118 alongside OPO Metrobuses, presumably done for logistical rather than nostalgic reasons.
On 2 November 1985, a further programme of OPO conversions were implemented which included Route 133 from Brixton Garage. A further batch of brand new Metrobuses were envisaged for this. However, these were unavailable at the conversion date, so the route continued initially with the 'D' class (crew DM vehicles modified for OPO) and so inevitably this led to mixed D and M class operation across all OPO routes at Brixton Garage including the 118. However, Brixton did receive further M class vehicles (including the last 16 production vehicles M1425-M1440) during January/February 1986 for the 133, with the inevitable mixing of batches across all routes resulting in these vehicles also appearing on the 118.
However, this access to various new vehicles would prove nothing more than a tease for the 118 with the very policy that had enable access (i.e. the OPO conversion programme) also resulting in the vehicles being taken away. The mass conversion to OPO in 1985 (and continuing through 1986/1987) had not been envisaged by LT when deciding the total order for DMS replacement buses several years earlier. The order of 1440 Metrobuses (for north, west and south London) and 1125 Titans (for east and south-east London) had been deemed adequate at the time. However, as OPO conversions progressed in 1986 within long-established Metrobus territories elsewhere, these areas were seen as the priority for the newer vehicles and consequently both the latter batches at Brixton were soon re-deployed. The newest vehicles went first after just a few months at Brixton (with the exception of the last vehicle M1440), settling mostly at Tottenham alongside similarly new vehicles, whilst the middle batch (as originally deployed for the 118) mostly went to nearby Clapham (then temporary home for Streatham Garage during reconstruction works) for the OPO conversion of Route 37 on 21 June 1986. So throughout most of 1986, the 118 (along with Brixton's other OPO routes) was operated by a mix of Metrobuses from the Cummins batch (and M1440) and re-called D/DMS class vehicles. One slight positive in 1986 was Brixton's acquisition of the Metrobus Mark II prototypes (M1441 and M1442) from Stockwell upon completion of their evaluation on Route 170, with these vehicles now appearing on the 118.
From 7 February 1987, it looked like the presence of the DMS on the 118 was just a temporary blip. The route was reallocated from Brixton Garage to the newly reopened Streatham Garage, which had been allocated 35 brand new Leyland Olympian L class vehicles (L206-L240) to service the 118 as well as routes 50 (also reallocated from Brixton) and 249. At the same time, the 118 exchanged routing with Route 137 between Streatham Hill Station and the Thornton Road/Cavendish Road junction on the A205. Just four months later in June 1987, Route 49 (part-based at Streatham Garage) was converted from RM to OPO resulting in an influx of Metrobuses to Streatham to service this, including a number of very early examples from Fulwell (e.g. M6, M10) which inevitably were mixed into all OPO schedules at Streatham including the 118. Operating alongside brand new Leyland Olympians, this made for a type mix as odd and uneven as the new Metrobus/DMS mix at Brixton . Worse was to come in 1989 when all the Olympians were 'stolen' for the 197/403 route tendering contracts at South Croydon (TC) garage. Yet again, the D/DMS class returned with a vengeance to the 118 as replacement for the Olympians, bringing them to the rebuilt Streatham Garage for the first time.
On 6 January 1990, the 118 suffered a cut-back in length with the withdrawal of service between Streatham Hill Station and Clapham Common, this section being taken over by Route 60. At Streatham Hill Station, the 118 continued the short distance to Brixton Garage (aka Streatham Hill, Telford Avenue on blind displays) with a peak hour extension to Brixton Station. The most negative aspect of this change was the loss of route distinction once it reached Streatham High Road northbound, as it then just mirrored routes 109, 159 and 250 up to Streatham Hill/Brixton (as it still does today).
On 10 August 1991, the Sunday service on the 118 was transferred to Norwood Garage and converted to single-deck operation using Dennis Darts (DR) class vehicles.
On 14 March 1992, the loss of several routes at South Croydon/Thornton Heath Garage to Bromley/Catford Garage under the route-tendering policy had the knock-on effect of forcing the closure of Streatham Garage (by then only 5 years old since rebuilding) due to over capacity of garage space across the entire South London district (successor to Wandle District). As a result of this highly controversial decision, Route 118 was reallocated back to Brixton Garage, which at the time had recently had its entire fleet replaced with Leyland Titans, which had been made spare from the Walthamstow area after another massive route-tendering loss and been dispersed across South London district garages to remove the remaining DMS class. So the 118 was converted to Leyland Titan operation, meaning the route had now had access to all the major double-deck classes in London which, along with the final demise of the DMS from the route, could be construed as the only positive from the closure of Streatham Garage. On 13 March 1992, the final day of operation of Streatham Garage, a special one-off journey on the 118 between Brixton Garage and Morden Station was performed by RML895 during the mid-afternoon.
Titan operation continued into early 1993 when Metrobuses began to reappear at Brixton Garage. On 3 February 1993, as a further cost-cutting exercise, the entire evening service was converted to single-deck Midibus operation from Norwood Garage. Thereafter, events moved in a positive direction, starting on 29 January 1994 when the service was extended to Brixton Station at all times. On 23 March 1996, the weekday evening service reverted to double-deck operation from Brixton Garage. Then on 31 September 1997, the Sunday service reverted to double-deck operation, with Brixton Garage taking over the remaining involvement from Norwood Garage in the process. In April 2000, single-deckers of a longer variation were introduced on Sunday using vehicles spare on that day from Brixton's Route 319. During the period 1993 to 2000, privatisation of the London bus network took effect, with the 118 operating during this period under the banners of South London and then Cowie South London (now Arriva London South).
In February 2001, operation passed under route tendering to London General (the other post-privatisation operator in South London, owned by the Go-Ahead Group) with the route based at Merton (AL) Garage. Operation was by low-floor Volvo B7TL Plaxton President (PVL class) vehicles which had replaced Merton's entire Metrobus fleet the year earlier. Since around 2009, Merton's fleet has been updated by mostly second-hand vehicles made spare elsewhere including Wright Eclipse Gemini (WVL class) which have worked on the 118. The route also had access to DOE54 (an E400 with Optare Esteem body) whilst it was based as the sole member of the class at Merton between March 2009 and January 2012, before transferring to Sutton Garage with the rest of the fleet.
In February 2011, the 118 contract with London General was renewed with the route receiving 13 new Enviro 400s (E138-150). These have mostly stayed on the 118 but appearances on other routes are not uncommon, consequently resulting in other older vehicles still appearing on the 118. Newer vehicles that also appear on the route are the 61-registered WVL class vehicles allocated to Merton for the 249 contract, plus in late 2012 Merton also gained a batch of 57-registered E400s made redundant from Stockwell after the loss of the Route 24 contract.
The route has been involved in three significant incidents. In October 1998 a 95-year old man became trapped in the doors of a bus on route 118, being dragged down the road, but was not seriously injured. In August 2000 a bus operating route 118 collided with a stationary vehicle on route 164. In July 2010 another accident saw a vehicle crash into a van in Streatham, damaging two cars and injuring one passenger. The driver of the bus was jailed for 16 weeks for drunk driving.
- Morden Station
- Mitcham Tramlink
- Streatham Vale
- Streatham Common Station
- Streatham Station
- Streatham Hill Station
- Brixton Station