Battersea's Route 19 celebrates 100 years of service


THE top people's style bible, Vogue, describes it as "the shuttle service for 'nice' girls as they hop between jobs in West End art galleries and their Chelsea apartments".

It's been recommended by Time Out as one of the best routes in London.

The London Evening Standard has written about it and quoted six of its enthusiastic regular passengers. And it's been featured in publications abroad as one of London's top tourist routes.

Battersea's Route 19 celebrates 100 years of service, so perhaps all this acclaim is fitting.

Although Route 19 was born on November 2, 1908, in its "present form", its history dates back to 1906 when it was horse drawn and known as Route H plying between Highbury and Clapham Junction.

It continued to operate between the same places when it was launched as Route 19 with a B-Type vehicle, the first motorized double-decker, albeit without a roof.

Now, 100 years later Route 19 operates a similar route from Battersea Bridge to Finsbury Park station. The N19 runs to Clapham Junction, the 19's original destination.

The route has been based at Battersea for most of its 100 years. It has shared operations with Holloway for much of that time and for a few years during the 1980s and early '90s it was based mainly at Gillingham Street, Victoria, when for a while it served Clapham Junction and Tooting Bec.

Route 19 has been back home in Battersea since 1993, albeit on land adjacent to the original garage.

Arriva has operated Route 19 since 1996 when it took over the British Bus Group, which had run the 19 in its Kentish Bus livery for three years.

Over the years Route 19 has used London's most iconic vehicles, such as STLs before and throughout World War II, RTs and their derivatives and the most famous of them all - the Routemaster, which bowed out on April 1, 2005.

Nowadays Route 19 uses 28 DW buses, six of which are berthed at Norwood. The service employs 71 drivers at Battersea and 14 at Norwood. The N19 operates out of Brixton.

Operating manager Graham Topliss said: "Route 19 performs very well. It operates through some of the most popular tourist areas and some of the most attractive parts of London.

However, it runs through some of the most congested parts of London as well and virtually every march or demonstration in London has an impact on it."

But such is its performance that Graham is optimistic it will be offered a two-year extension on the contract from 2010.


Driver's eye view :

Stephen Rothery has driven buses in London for more than 30 years. He's worked the 19 since 1993 when it was Kentish Bus.

He said little had changed in the character of the route, but the congestion had got worse.

"It's the people who make the route so interesting," said Stephen. "We get a lot of tourists at the height of the season, of course, but young posh people use it throughout the year, particularly in the Sloane Square and Green Park areas.

"There's a tendency for some of them to treat you like their own personal servant, but at least it's all fairly civilised. If you are going to get any real unpleasantness from passengers on this route you know it will probably be at the other end of the journey.

"It would be lovely if the route went from Battersea and ended at the Angel, Islington.

"Overall it's a good route, it's interesting and there's a wide diversity of people - I enjoy it."


Published : Mon 4th Aug. 2008
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