Not so superloopy about our Superloop route into London

BERNARD WINCHESTER stuck his hand out at a request stop on the main road into London and wasn’t altogether impressed by the rebranded bus that pulled up

New branding: bus shelters (which are common on London pavements outside Croydon) have been getting a makeover recently

If you have been travelling on the 468 bus this week, you may have been struck by the Superloop roundels which have suddenly sprouted on all of the bus shelters between West Croydon and West Norwood.

What’s more, the bus stops are now showing SL6 labels and Superloop banners. TfL’s gone a bit superloopy about the whole thing.

What’s going on? Isn’t the Superloop an orbital circle of fast buses around London, a sort of bus M25?

Well, in the main yes, but there are one or two Superloop bus exceptions that run radially – into and out from the city centre.

The SL6 is the most notable of these as it’s the only one which goes right into the centre of London.

In the 1960s, there were many routes which ran all the way from Croydon to the heart of London, but they have been broken up into ever-decreasing, shorter sub-routes.

Take the 68, for example, which ran from South Croydon to Chalk Farm in the north London borough of Camden. Covering this route today are the 68, the 168 and the 468, not to mention the N68 at night and the express X68, which was devised in 1986 to give a direct link once more from Croydon to central London in the rush hours.

New routes, or just a costly rebranding exercise?: the SL6 is one of three radial routes included in the Superloop revamp

Does the SL6 mark a reversal of the fragmentation policy, the beginning of a trend back to long routes into the centre? Hardly: Transport for London claims that there is over-provision of bus routes in the city centre and has been steadily reducing the quantity of buses running there since lockdown.

No, the SL6 is simply a re-branding of the X68, which it replaces from this Monday , July 31. The only difference is in the number: the route and the timetable remain completely unchanged.

This begs the question of what, then, the re-branding will achieve, given that it is a costly exercise for the near bankrupt TfL?

In the case of the X26 to Heathrow, which is being relaunched on August 19 as the SL7, it is clear that the route is being given a new identity, with a doubled frequency, as part of a circuit of express buses running around the perimeter of London. Not just the London Loop, but the London Superloop!

Similarly, a new express bus running every 15 minutes from Croydon to Bromley is proposed as the SL5.

With the SL6, though, none of this applies.

Small potatoes: how the less-than-super SL6 will be running from Monday

It isn’t part of the loop, it isn’t new, it isn’t frequent and the buses can’t even be branded like other Superloop buses, because outside the rush hours they have to be used on other routes. Like the old X68, the new SL6 will be a minor route, with 12 buses running into town in the mornings, and 12 buses running out again in the evenings. Very small potatoes compared to the vast majority of TfL services.

The new number would appear to bring more confusion than clarity; the X68 has been part of the 68 family for 36 years, and so users of the main 68 and 468 routes will have an idea of where it will go. But the SL6: orbital, surely?

As the noted blogger Diamond Geezer wrote last week, “This is TfL absolutely determined that these buses get noticed, and a Mayor absolutely determined to have something to point at when drivers kick up a fuss about the ULEZ extension.”

The whole exercise starts to look like a bit of a publicity stunt, all style and no substance…

Read more: Lick of paint and a new logo won’t get our axed bus routes back

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2 Responses to Not so superloopy about our Superloop route into London

  1. Annette Carter says:

    Most of the bus shelters in Addiscombe have been removed with a promise of replacement a year ago but that’s never happened so no place for posh roundels here.

  2. Andrew Pelling says:

    The SL5 is proposed to be on a new route to Bromley via Bethlem hospital and Langley Park and will be a single decker.

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