|35px London Buses|
|Operated by||East Thames Buses|
|Vehicle||VDL SB120/Wright Merit|
|Length||11 miles (15 km)|
|Frequency||About every 10 minutes|
|Journey time||40-55 minutes|
|Adult single fares|
| † peak vehicle requirement|
Transport for London •
The 108 is considered to be one of London's most difficult routes to operate, and is said to be agonisingly slow for a through journey from Lewisham to Stratford, taking just under an hour. This journey is now also covered by the Docklands Light Railway in offpeak times, taking about half as long, but via Greenwich and the Docklands rather than Blackheath and the Blackwall Tunnel. The unusual feature of the route is its use of the Blackwall Tunnel, which has a lot of traffic at the best of times; regular tunnel closures and maintenance work also cause service delays and interruptions.
The 108 commenced operation on 29 March 1914. It replaced route 69 Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) - Greenwich (Woolwich Road) which was extended at both ends and renumbered 108, running from Bow Bridge to Blackheath (Royal Standard) via Blackwall Tunnel, Woolwich Rd and Westcombe Hill. This was the second time the number 108 had been used for a motorbus route.
By the time of the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 108 had been re-routed to terminate at Bow Road Underground Station and a supplementary route 108A had also been introduced, operating daily between Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) and Woolwich Road (Blackwall Lane) to cater for tunnel traffic. By the end of the war, the 108A had disappeared and the 108, due to wartime shortages, had been reduced to run between Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) and Greenwich (Ship & Billet).
On 1 December 1924, a new system of route numbering on London buses came into force under the London Traffic Act of 1924. This made the Metropolitan Police responsible for bus operation and route numbering in London. The new system was designed to make route numbering easier to understand for the travelling public. In fact, the reverse was the result. By this time, the 108 had been extended at both ends to run from Clapton Pond to Crystal Palace.
108 group routes:- 108 remained 108, working daily from Clapton Pond to Crystal Palace; 108A, a daily short working Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) - Greenwich (Ship & Billet); The 108B, 108C, 108D, 108E and 108F were reserved for short workings. The plain route number 108 being only used for journeys for the whole length of the route.
This situation remained until 3 October 1934, when the newly constituted London Passenger Transport Board instituted its own numbering system, which generally re-instated the situation previous to December 1924. By this time the plain 108 wasn't operating, routes 108A, 108B and 108E became 108, Bromley-by-Bow to Crystal Palace. The 108D became 208, numbers in 200+ series signifying a single-deck working. The 208 went on to form today's S2 route.
At the time, the 108 was double deck - especially bearing in mind that there was only one tunnel then, which is now the northbound tunnel. Interestingly, two batches of double deck buses (NS and STL types) were specifically built for use in the Blackwall and Rotherhithe Tunnels, with specially shaped roofs to improve clearance on the corners.
On April 19 1944 the 108 sprung an A-suffixed variant running to Well Hall Circus, providing this section of the Rochester Way with a bus service for the first time, and run from Athol Street garage. Initially it ran peak hours only, but soon expanded to a Monday to Saturday then daily operation, and was also subsequently extended into Eltham (Southend Crescent), but then retracted to operate Eltham - East Greenwich only.
On 12 October 1960, in a "localisation scheme", the 108 was split only on Monday to Friday, the main service becoming Lower Sydenham to Bow only, with a new 108B running from Crystal Palace to the Greenwich (Blackwall Tunnel) on the south side of the tunnel.
In 1951 the Blackwall Tunnel road surface was lowered allowing standard RTs to operate. However, as vehicles got wider and wider over the years it became necessary to raise the carriageway level to make the road wider at the expense of height clearance, which was done during 1967–1968 after the new tunnel opened, so now there are severe height restrictions and the northbound tunnel can only accommodate single deckers. Consequently, the 108 was converted to single-deck one person operation as from 26 October 1968 with minor changes to the 108A and 108B at the same time.
Further re-structuring took place in January 1970, with the 108A withdrawn and replaced by an extension of the 108 from Blackheath. The 108 was extended at the north end to Stratford in 1977.
The next major changes were in 1986 when the 108B was reduced to run Crystal Palace - Lewisham only, with the 108 restored to serve Lewisham and new route 286 taking over the Eltham - Blackheath section of the 108 and the Blackheath - West Greenwich section of the 108B. The 108B has since been replaced by changes to the 75 and new route 202.
Although the approach roads on both sides of the tunnel have been massively upgraded, in connexion with the new southbound tunnel, the 108 takes many long cuts. Buses leaving both Stratford and Lewisham operate via the shopping areas, and in both directions deviate to serve Bromley High Street in Bow, resulting in southbound buses circumnavigating the roundabout twice; northbound buses serve the only surviving part of St. Leonard's Street (the rest having become the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach). Southbound buses also deviate via the Tesco in Hancock Road and via Gillender Street, but northbound buses have stops on the dual carriageway.
Finally, and most recently, the 108 became the first bus route to serve the Millennium Dome at the Greenwich Peninsula during construction, and as initially this stop was inside the security area, only staff were allowed to alight. This deviation has added nearly 10 minutes to the through journey time, partly because of an unusual 3 minute hesitation now scheduled at the Greenwich Peninsula.
The 1993 Stratford area route scheme saw the section north of Stratford withdrawn, with links maintained by the 257 and 308, but the frequency was improved from every 15 minutes to every 12. The Lewisham scheme soon after in 1994 saw the introduction of Volvo B6 buses operated from Ash Grove garage.
Kentish Bus saw the route through a particular period of turmoil, with the redevelopment of Lewisham and Stratford town centres, and the major rebuilding of the East India Dock Road junction and streamlining of the tunnel approaches. Closure of the East India Dock Road bridge at weekends resulted in a lengthy diversion, with northbound buses via Cotton Street, Poplar High Street, Bazely Street, Chrisp Street, Violet Road and Devas Street to rejoin the normal route, and similarly southbound via Twelvetrees Crescent, Devas Street, Violet Road, Chrisp Street, Bazely Street, Aspen Way, Leamouth Road and East India Dock Road. In addition, routine maintenance work often takes place at night, with one or other or sometimes both tunnels closed between about 21:00 and 06:00, and buses are then diverted via Tower Bridge.
A major surprise in 1997 was the award of the route to a newcomer to London Bus operations, Harris Bus. 11 new Optare Excels were purchased, restricted in length to the 10.7m version due to a new deviation in Blackheath via Prince Charles Road instead of Prince of Wales Road. Buses were initially operated from the firm's far-away base in West Thurrock, although the subsequent win of routes 180 and 132 saw operation transferred to a new base in Belvedere.
Harris Bus got into serious financial difficulties late in 1999, and as a result operations of its LT contract routes was taken over by a new subsidiary of LT itself, trading as East Thames Buses. Harris's colourful, albeit latterly rather scruffy, blue and green livery was sacrificed in favour of dull all-over red. East Thames Buses initially ran its routes north of the Thames from the former London Forest garage in Ash Grove, along with the Harris Belvedere base. Part of the 108 was based at Ash Grove, a neat coincidence considering that Kentish Bus operated the 108 from there for a while as well.
Since takeover by Harris, the 108 has been diverted via North Greenwich, but to compensate reverted to the more direct route across Blackheath via Prince of Wales Road; the frequency has been further enhanced to every 10 minutes, utilising four earlier Excels made redundant by the loss of car park services at Lakeside Shopping Centre, but this is still not as good as the 5 minute double deck service provided in 1933.
Optare Excels were not been known for their reliability, and East Thames Buses replaced to replace those on the 108 (and 132) with Caetano Compass bodied Dennis Darts surplus to requirements at Connex bus (now Travel London).
Recently, the route has been revised, with buses crossing straight over from Westcombe Hill to the Greenwich Peninsula instead of running through Woolwich Road and Blackwall Lane, to avoid traffic delays and to increase bus services through the Greenwich Millennium Village. The service also now runs all night.
Previous route 108s in LondonEdit
The route number 108 had been used once prior to its current use.
- In 1913 for a Elephant & Castle <to> Epping Town via London Bridge, Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Dalston, Clapton, Lea Bridge Road, Whipps Cross, Woodford Green and Buckhurst Hill (Thursday & Sunday only) Route 108
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