TfL’s fastest bus route which ends up at Winston Churchill’s country retreat in Kent

TfL’s fastest bus route which ends up at Winston Churchill’s country retreat in Kent

Transport for London (TfL)’s 700 route-strong bus network has a solid reputation for frequent, reliable and well connected service. With the capital’s streets more congested than ever, it’s unfortunately also gained a reputation for being rather slow, with the average bus travelling at an average of 9.7mph according to TfL’s own latest data for January. It can often be quicker to cycle or walk, especially in Central London, than stick your hand out for a red double decker.

In Outer London, things look slightly better, especially in South East London, which is home to almost all of the fastest bus routes in the TfL network. One route which is on the extreme outskirts of the capital, spending much of its journey in neighbouring Kent, has been near-consistently the fastest daytime bus route on the network for around a decade. Recording an average speed of 17.8mph, route 246 between Bromley and Westerham/Chartwell runs at almost double the speed of the average TfL bus route and nearly three times the speed of the slowest, which after a long period of being route 14, is now route 11 between Fulham Broadway and Liverpool Street at a snail’s paced 6.1mph.

The 246 is unlikely to be the truly speediest bus route in the entire capital – that is more likely the 614 or Oxford Tube, which both run a large portion of their routes on motorways. As they are not TfL services their average speed data is not reported on in the same way and not publicly accessible although one can calculate a timetabled journey on route 614 should be 17.9mph (20.2mph on some journeys) and the Oxford Tube 28.5mph.

READ MORE:The lost London bus routes that once ran well into the countryside

The gorgeous countryside retreat of Chartwell in Kent is served by TfL bus route 246

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The 246 benefits from running along country roads with much free-flowing traffic beyond the Greater London boundary on its southern flank. It is one of the only remaining TfL bus services to have a seasonal extension – on Summer Sundays, it continues beyond its usual terminus at Westerham to Chartwell, the country retreat of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which is now a popular National Trust location to visit on weekends. The 246 runs non-stop down the small country lanes from Westerham right to the front door making for a rather nostalgic scene where an iconic red London bus meets a chocolate box England vista over the Kent Weald.

Sometimes the country nature of the 246 can also have unintended consequences – as well as being the fastest route, it’s also reaches the highest natural point in Greater London just after it stops at Graham Hall Coachworks on Westerham Hill. This is more commonly known as Westerham Heights and is a popular destination for walkers who hop off the 246, take a short walk to the summit and look back towards London. The Shard (the now highest point overall- at 309 metres) is still visible. In 1998, a bus driver found a goat tied to a bus stop there, untangled it and took it on the bus to Bromley North, where it was given to the RSPCA.

The other route which occasionally snatches the fastest TfL route crown is the current second fastest, the 464, which like the 246 runs through country roads on the border of South East London. A number of night buses in the area (notably the N119, N321, N472 and N64) also have high average speeds but their daytime routes are significantly slower, so for the purposes of this article, they are excluded.

The 246 runs every 30 minutes on Mondays to Saturdays and every 60 minutes on Sundays and public holidays.

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