35px London Buses
38This route has the ibus AVL system installed.
Operated by Arriva London
Garage Ash Grove
Vehicle VDL DB300 Wright Gemini 2
PVR 68
Start Clapton
Via Hackney
Piccadilly Circus
End Victoria
Length 7 miles (12 km)
Level Daily
Frequency About every 4 minutes
Journey time 45-68 minutes
Day 5:30am until 1:30am
Night Night Bus N38
Adult single fares
Oyster 90p
Cash £2.00
peak vehicle requirement
Transport for LondonPerformance

London Buses route 38 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, United Kingdom. The service is currently contracted to Arriva London.

In many ways the 38 was the last "proper" Routemaster route, in particular having for some time been the last to have exclusive use of Routemasters, the other Routemaster routes all having one-person operated journeys in the early mornings, evenings or on Sundays.

The higher capacity of a Citaro compared with a Routemaster allowed the peak frequency to be reduced. Fortunately, lessons have been learnt from the earlier conversions, and this time the reduction is more reasonable at 8 buses. The resultant frequency should need no more than 100 passengers per bus to maintain capacity, which is far more realistic than earlier plans based on the nominal capacity of 140.

The route is still the most frequent in London with a bus every 3 minutes in the morning peak, and still has one of the highest peak vehicle requirement in London, a distinction shared with routes 25 and 73.


The 38 was introduced on 16 June 1912 as a Monday to Saturday route between Victoria and Leyton Green via Angel, Islington, Dalston, Clapton and Lea Bridge Road and between Victoria and Epping Forest (Rising Sun) on Sundays. It was operated from Leyton Garage, which opened on the same day, and to which the 38 was always closely associated until the early 1990s. In 1913, a 38A was introduced, taking over the Sunday service and operating between Victoria and Epping Forest(Warren Wood House), this route had run in previous summers as route 54.

World War I restrictions saw many changes to the 38 and 38A including withdrawals over certain sections for short periods. The most important of these occurred on 15 May 1916 when the 38 and 38A exchanged their eastern branches permanently. The 38 being withdrawn between the Bakers Arms and Woodford(Castle) and re-routed to Walthamstow (Hoe street station). The 38A vice versa. In 1919, a 38B was added, running through to Loughton (Crown), with the 38A only running as far as Woodford(Castle). The 38A disappeared in 1921.

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, as can seen by the following list of the routes that replaced the 38, 38B buses.

38 group routes:- 38 remained 38, Victoria to Epping Forest (Wake Arms) via Chingford; 38B renumbered 138, Victoria to Loughton(Crown). This was further complicated in that these routes had short working suffixed journeys, The 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 138A, 138B as well as 38E, which was the main daily route Victoria Station to Chingford (Royal Forest Hotel). The plain route number 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, The 38, 38A and 38E became plain 38. The 138 became 38A.

Everything now remained stable until the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, except for an Experiment in "Localisation of routes" in 1938. As from the 5 January 1938, On Mondays to Fridays only, the 38 was reduced between Leyton and Chingford and the 38A withdrawn completely. In replacement a "more local" 38B was introduced between Loughton (Crown), Woodford, Leyton, Walthamstow to Chingford (Royal Forest Hotel). The experiment was not successful and as from 3 August 1938, the 38B was withdrawn, the 38 and 38A returning to normal.

As a wartime economy Routes 38 and 38A were re-routed between Clapton and Dalston via the direct route via Cricketfield Road (avoiding Hackney) as from 5 May 1943. The previous situation was partially re-instated when on 15 April 1959, as part of Stage two of the "Buses for trolleybuses" scheme, the 38A was re-routed via Hackney station thus replacing the withdrawn trolleybus route 581 completely. From 1946 until 1965, the 38 also had a "summer Sunday only" extension from Chingford Station to Epping Forest (Wake Arms) via Rangers Road and Epping New Road.

On 1 September 1968, the first section of the Victoria Line was opened between Walthamstow Central and Highbury & Islington, six days later on 7 September 1968 a large scale re-organisation of London Buses took place. The 38A was withdrawn completely, being replaced by three new routes; Red Arrow route 505 between Victoria and Piccadilly Circus, as well as the 48 between Dalston and Whipps Cross and the 20 between Leyton and Loughton. Between Dalston and Hackney the 38A was also replaced by a re-routed 38, which was also cut back from Chingford(Royal Forest Hotel) to teminate at Walthamstow Garage, being replaced by the 69 over this section.

Just over a year later on 25 October 1969, the 38 was further cut back to terminate at Leyton Green, being replaced on the Walthamstow section by the newly introduced 55. This change was followed by eighteen years in which there were no changes at all to the 38 or its routing. The Sunday service was converted to one-person operation on 6 June 1987.

On 24 February 1990, the 38 was controversially cut back on Mondays to Saturdays from Leyton Green to terminate at Clapton Pond. It was replaced over this section by the newly introduced 56. The Sunday service through to Leyton Green was also withdrawn as from 19 July 1997, severing the link between the 38 and Leyton Garage that had existed since 1912.

The combined frequency in 1936 was every 2 minutes - whilst, as is typical, the frequency has dropped considerably in the intervening years, an increase ready for the start of congestion charging in July 2002 brought the peak hour frequency, at least, almost back up to that level. Also in 2002, the Sunday service was converted back to crew-operation as from 2 June. This lasted until 29 October 2005, when the route was finally converted to one-person operation with the so-called "Bendy Buses" Mercedes-Benz Citaro type vehicles. After an absence for four years, the route was converted back to double decks using 68 Volvo DB300 Wright Gemini

Current routeEdit

Route departing ClaptonEdit

Route departing VictoriaEdit


Previous route 38s in LondonEdit

This has been the only route to carry the number 38 on a motor-bus route in London.

There were also in London:

Route 38 TriviaEdit

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of the first post-war RTs at Leyton Garage in 1947. A special X38 service using preserved vehicles operated from Aldwych (Covent Garden Museum) to Leyton Green for one day only in May 1997.

Grime MC and Bow, E3 resident Wiley has mentioned the route 38 in his lyrics. An example of which is "I'm like the 38 bus cos i never turn up!".

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

List of bus routes in London

1-99 | 100-199 | 200-299 | 300-399 | 400-499 | 500-599 | 600-699 | Letter prefix | Night only

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