A real river crossing campaign – run the 108 to the Olympic Park

108 bus

Amid the row over Greenwich Council’s dumb Bridge The Gap campaign, a little opportunity to improve cross-river links is looking set to be squandered. Ever one to leap on board a passing bandwagon, this website is today launching an “all-out” campaign to extend the 108 bus to the Olympic Park.

You what? I’ll explain. Transport for London’s launched a consultation on which buses should run into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park when people start moving in later this year. It suggests seven services, including a night bus, should run into the park.

All well and good. But one’s missing. Why can’t we have a bus from south of the river to the Olympic Stadium?

General bus map, 1930The 108 is one of London’s oldest bus routes – it’ll celebrate its centenary in March next year. In 1930, it schlepped all the way from Clapton to Crystal Palace, charging a shilling if you were mad enough to want to ride all the way, but there was never long to wait – double-decker buses ran every three and a half minutes through the Blackwall Tunnel back in those days.

The route’s shrunk, grown, shrunk again, gone 24-hours (a lifesaver) and been tweaked since – the double deckers vanished in the late 1960s, but the Stratford to Lewisham service has been the sole bus service through the tunnel for decades. For many years, it was the only public transport link across the Thames east of Rotherhithe. Back then, it actually wasn’t a bad service, if the tunnel was behaving itself – in the mid-90s, when I lived in Greenwich and went to college in Clerkenwell, it only took 20 minutes or so to get me to Bromley-by-Bow station so I could get a Tube to Farringdon; making it pretty much the equal of taking the train.

But while other transport links have got better, the poor old 108’s been left in the shadows – an enforced diversion around the Millennium Dome building site months before North Greenwich station opened ruined it as a commuting route to anywhere but North Greenwich, but despite the idiotic transport arrangements around the Dome, it still carries healthy numbers through the tunnel each day. Remember, it’s a damn sight cheaper than the Tube.

I’ve heard loads of horror stories of endless waits for people in Blackheath who depend on it for travel to North Greenwich – they desperately need extra buses, but instead those get thrown into the schedule late at night for chucking out time at the O2. It’s time for someone with felt pens and a bus map to get to work and rearrange matters – but so far, there’s no sign of progress.

But there’s one change to the 108 that could gives us a real – yes – Olympic legacy, and might also improve the service. Tweaking the end point so it ran into the Olympic Park, rather than Stratford bus station, would still enable it to serve Westfield and the massive transport interchange there; but would also get it away from the awful traffic in Stratford, bring a 24-hour bus service from south of the river to the Olympic Park, and help us get to and from events there.

It’s a change that’d cost very little, but would make the regenerated Olympic Park feel a bit closer to us in an area that’s not been left with many physical reminders of the Olympics (especially once the mud goes).

Obviously, I’ll now be arranging a photoshoot with various pub landlords, kebab house magnates and the Stratford Westfield Massage Angels as part of my “all out” campaign to bridge this gap, but in the meantime, if you want to suggest it to TfL, head to its consultation page – it closes on 22 February.


  1. Great idea – look forward to the photoshoot. See if you can grab a Softheads van to complete the line up while you’re at it.

  2. Excellent plan. It only takes 3min to complete the survey including writing in the comment

    Extend Route 108 to Olympic Park and Stratford International

    We should all support this – let’s ask Royal Borough to support it

  3. I could go on about this for hours. When I was working in Whitechapel in the early 1990s I used to wait hours for the 108 – in those days it was either 108 to Bromley and the District line, or 177 to New Cross and the East London Line – and some days the journey took 2 hours. The 108 is more reliable now but it still does a ridiculously convoluted route – twice round the Bow roundabout!! And it is frequently packed full

    I have never understood why there is only one bus route through the tunnel. There is a real need for a bus which goes to Homerton, Hackney Wick and Mare Street – at the moment you have to change at Bromley by Bow station for single deckers which take equally convoluted and slow routes – or walk back to one or another part of East India Dock Road. There is also little in the way of interchange. Stations were built at Hackney Wick and Homerton in – I think – the 1970s – but there is no bus route through the tunnel to them.

    At the moment the 488 bus – which is a single decker – comes from Dalston and passes stations at Clapton (rail access to Enfield Lock, and Broxbourne) and Hackney Wick (rail access all the way round to Richmond) – and then ends up at Bromley by Bow. Why can’t that go through the tunnel to the Dome??

    The issue of the buses down to the Dome is something else I could go on about for hours – but leave that for later along with the issue of bus connectivity to the DLR.

    Happy to raise this – or any issues – at the Council. Let me know.

  4. Extend the 488 to Charlton station, and you’ve got an extra bus to Charlton Sainsbury’s when that’s built too. Job’s a good’un.

    Mary, is this even on the council’s radar? It’s something that I’m sure could make a real difference (so long as there aren’t too many people who depend on going to Stratford Broadway).

  5. No – its just me! Might be worth – with both of these issues – raising with Greenwich GLA member, Len Duval. He is closer to TfL at the London Assembly and it might be useful to find out what he has to say.

  6. Don’t forget to tell the council that “community leaders” have called for the 108 bus to be rerouted.

  7. Hmm, well as long as no-one wants to go to the Olympic Park during morning rush hour from anywhere between Blackheath Standard and North Greenwich as the over-crowded 108 rarely stops at those bus stops.

  8. Perhaps community leaders and the council could restate the case for the 202 to be extended at the same time to relieve some congestion!

  9. The current idea is that the 202 would go to Charlton Sainsbury’s – but TfL have rejected that.

    I reckon you’d need a brand new route that’d follow the 108 from North Greenwich to Blackheath, then head on somewhere new and useful, like Brockley or Bromley, to ease those problems.

  10. Sounds good to me. What about the usless 129 going there as well? Might help to give it some purpose other than a backup bus for the lazy Millennium Village people who never walk to the tube.

  11. Yes, it would be nice if we could have a direct link from N.Greenwich to Bromley.

  12. As the proud owner of a freedom pass I’ve taken to using the 108 from Blackheath village to North Greenwich this winter. I’ve found the service normally reliable. The total journey time to Blackfriars is a few minutes longer than via Southeastern, without the frustrations. If the indicator at the stop outside the drycleaners shows a long wait I head off to Blackheath station and reluctantly pay Southeastern £3.20 with my Oyster.
    But the 108 is hugely crowded between the Standard and N Greenwich – there’s clearly a need for some extra services there. Even a shuttle.
    BTW my wife lost her teddy bear on a 108 through the tunnel in around 1952. It answers to the name Rupert. If anyone’s seen it please let us know.

  13. Speaking from the other side of the tracks, the 108 already goes to the Olympic Park. The stop at Warton Road is right next to what will be a major entrance to QEOP, with the Olympic Stadium a five minute walk away.

    As for the 108’s “ridiculously convoluted route – twice round the Bow roundabout!”, I’m one of the people that diversion serves, and it’s really useful. Sorry to the rest of you!

    But the idea to extend the 488 through the Blackwall Tunnel is brilliant. I’m amazed nobody’s suggested it before.

  14. It’s an interesting thought. I think the reason the 108 is the only route through the tunnel is simply to isolate delays to one route when the tunnel gets blocked. TfL will no doubt argue that reliability on the 488 would suffer for existing passengers if extended.

    Is there scope for better bus priority between North Greenwich and the Tunnel? I’ve not been west of the O2 for a while but would a bus gate off of the north bit of Tunnel Avenue to miss out the schlep back to the flyover work? I’m thinking this would allow buses to jump the queue by joining the A102 where the tunnel entrance arch is by running via Millennium Way, Ordnance Crescent and Tunnel Avenue – might not be popular with Blackwall Lane users but thought I’d throw it out there.

  15. @scperi – Route 129, if I recall correctly from posts by Marry Mills, was set up years ago in response to petitions and pressure from people in the Trafalgar road area for a route which would go to Sainsburys. Not sure if there is any scope for an extension, that’s up to TfL.

  16. From memory, the 129 was originally going to be the 228 which was proposed by TFL several years ago to run from Lee to North Greenwich via Blackheath and Greenwich. As I live in Lee but work in Greenwich I was hoping this would happen but it never did!

    I regularly see the 129 and it rarely has more than a few people on these days, and they seem to have upgraded the buses to brand spanking new double deckers, what a waste of money……

  17. It’s an interesting thought to extend the 108 to Stratford City. Whilst I can see there’s merit in connecting Lewisham, Blackheath & North Greenwich with Westfield and the new park, in practice (as Diamond Geezer says) it’ll pass one of the main entrances off Warton Road and there’s limited gain to be had extending it just for the other end of Westfield as the route would likely still need to serve Stratford mainline. If there’s a way to make it run past or terminate at Stratford International that might provide more useful connections.

    The 129 was born from a proposal called the 228 originally. I suspect the original intention for the 129 was to run beyond the town centre to the new developments along Creek Road. Whether that will happen, who knows.

    Mary, the 108 loop round Bow High Street is necessary for the local community. Otherwise it would be quite a difficult walk to Stratford High Street for the next nearest bus stop. Having said that, the new ‘tesco village’ proposed for the eastern side of A102 at Bow might mean things change in the future. The 488 is single deck and will remain so as long as there’s low bridges, which preclude double deck buses, in Fairfield Road, Kenworthy Road and Wick Lane. That does perhaps make it ripe for an extension through the tunnel (providing links to Bow, Homerton, Hackney and Clapton).

    North Greenwich, Bow and Stratford are (or will be) undergoing significant development. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bus network adapts to match that rise in population and altered road network.

  18. “Speaking from the other side of the tracks, the 108 already goes to the Olympic Park. The stop at Warton Road is right next to what will be a major entrance to QEOP, with the Olympic Stadium a five minute walk away.”

    …and the Stratford Bus Station terminus is across the road from the Westfield entrance.

    Apart from maybe moving the bus stops closer to the Greenway footbridge, isn’t this proposal already a done deal?

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