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The Demise of Bus Route 87

When bus 87 passed into history in Barking and Dagenham, on the 24/03/2006, it was a particularly sad event, as it spelt the demise of a long standing route within this borough. This compelled me to write its brief history. For those readers who missed the original item a copy of this is shown below.


It was this which I sent to the London Bus Magazine, which is published by The London Omnibus Traction Society (LOTS), of which I am a member. They were very enthusiastic about this, and thought that the history of such a long standing route should be commemorated in their pages. They duly expanded on this adding further details, and listed other buses with connections, like the 287 and 387. This item was called: 'Barking & Romford will never be the same again", and appeared in THE LONDON BUS MAGAZINE, Winter 2006-07, Number 138, pp11-26. 



The local press was also pleased to receive and place an article based on my original work in their local paper. They also used the pictures which accompanied the story I had sent them. The Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 16th March 2006, Number 5568, page 24. This was entitled: "Wheels come off historic bus route".



Withdrawal of the 87 Bus Route by Ian Vickers


On the 24th March 2006 route 87 will run for the final time, between Barking, London Road and Romford Market, before it is replaced by service 5, which will take up its operation, running from Canning Town through to Romford Market.


This will be your last chance to catch the 87 in action after over 71 years of running continuously in the borough, mainly from Barking Bus Garage. This is a bus that has become synonymous with the district, and it is with some sadness for bus enthusiasts and many passengers alike who will lament its passing.


Below is a brief account of the service highlights over these years. I am able to produce this with the assistance of Les Stitson-- the information officer of the London Omnibus Traction Society [LOTS] who has passed many useful comments, and my own research.

In fact it began its life almost over four years prior to this as Independent route 293 (which was noted in 1929), being operated by the Renown/Miller Traction Company running a circular Monday to Saturday operation between Beacontree Heath (Merry Fiddlers) and Dagenham (Church Elm) via Church Elm Lane, Ripple Road and Heathway. 


These buses were known as 'pirates' as they poached much of the London General Omnibus Company [LGOC] trade, which was a forerunner of today’s companies. On 05/11/1930 the 293, was operating a Monday to Saturday [M-St] service.


On 10/11/1933 this pirate business was transferred to the newly formed London Passenger Transport Board [LPTB]. It then functioned briefly using ‘nulli secundus’ [NS] style vehicles from Barking Garage [BK]; these vehicles had a top speed of around 20mph. The route was later converted to ‘Long T’ [LT] type in 1934, still running M-St.


It was renumbered to 87 on 03/10/34, and by 09/12/1936 was running from Beacontree Heath to Rainham (War Memorial) via Church Elm. The 17/02/1937 saw it lengthened from the Heath to Romford and Gidea Park, and from Dagenham to Rainham now via New Road (A1306). 


Its operation became daily for the first time on 13th December 1939, when a Sunday service was added, Beacontree Heath to Dagenham in the morning and between Romford and Rainham in the evening.


During the Second World War years there was little stability on the buses, and the 87 was no exception. It was a time of petrol rationing and blackouts. During this era it predominantly ran from Romford to Rainham, with journeys to Ford’s plant in Dagenham.  Many journeys were withdrawn or truncated or did not run on Sundays.


From October 10th 1945 BKs famous, or as Les Stitson states ‘infamous’, Guys put in appearance on the route, although by the spring of 1949 the whole allocation had become ‘Regent Leyland’ [RTL]. The route was extended from Gidea Park to Brentwood on 20/08/1958 (replacing the withdrawn 86), and was running from Rainham in the east. 


To give an idea of the length of this journey, we find that three buses cover this today. BKs entire allocation of RTLs was swapped for ‘Regents’ [RT] on 26/11/1958, and from 15/08/1962 the section beyond Beacontree Heath to Brentwood was withdrawn on M-Fri, being covered by new route 287 (which is different from today’s route). The route was revised yet again on 31/12/1966 being withdrawn entirely from Brentwood and running daily between Rainham and Harold Hill, Gooshays Drive (Dagnam Park Drive on Sundays from 30/08/1969). From this latter date North Street Garage, Romford [NS] gained a small Sunday RT allocation.


In 1970 the hourly Sunday service was withdrawn from White post Corner, Rainham, being curtailed at Parsonage Farm Estate, Rainham. Further alterations took effect on April 20th 1974 when the M-S route was running in two overlapping sections: Harold Hill to Barking and Beacontree Heath/Barking Garage to Rainham, Abbey Wood Lane. Hence from this time journeys were withdrawn to White Post Corner, and this ceased to be a terminus.


The first of the legendary ‘Routemasters’ [RM] entered the fray on 23/3/1975 running on Sundays only from Romford Garage [NS]. The 23/7/1977 saw the route extended in Harold Hill from Hilldene Avenue to Dagnam Park Square. From 28/10/1978, the BK allocation was converted to RM. On the 7/4/1979 it was completely converted to RM operation on Saturdays from RT.


This RM operation was short-lived, and on the 17/02/1980 it was converted to crew operated ‘Titan’s’ [T]. These vehicles could carry 90 passengers, as opposed to the RMs 64, RTs 56 and the NSs 52; however, we should point out that much of the extra quota was made up of 20 standing.


In the infamous 04/09/1982 programme the 87 was withdrawn between Barking and Rainham, with the current 287 taking over this section.  Its route was now Barking (Linton Road) to Harold Hill (Dagnam Park Square). The NS routemaster allocation on Sundays to Titan vehicles was completed by 29/10/1982. 


On Saturday, 23/04/1983, one-person operation began, the crew operated Ts became driver only, when the conductors were withdrawn, as part of London Transport’s cost-cutting exercise, 'To save money without cutting services'  It was viewed in a local paper of the day as ‘ritual murder’ being one of the last remaining reliable services in Barking & Dagenham. This system though had reached the borough in the early 1970s, and the 87 was one of the last to be converted.


As of 20/03/1993 it was withdrawn between Romford and Harold Hill.  From 25/091993 and 01/04/1995 it was extended to Beckton (Savacentre) but from then has established itself as Barking to Romford Market. Stagecoach holdings took over London Buses Ltd East London on 6/9/1994, and they operate the route today. 


The Titans gave way to Tridents [TA], with the first in service from Barking Garage on the 7th June 2001, and being fully replaced by 7th September in East London. The 87 was reallocated to NS from 20/07/2002.


As a conclusion Les Stitson writes, ‘I am always sad to see long standing route numbers disappear, and it just won’t look right seeing this number in South West London’.

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