Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Peckham, UK

This blog's 15th post isn't about a city.  It's about SE15, a district within a city.  Peckham, in south London.  What's so special about Peckham?  It's where I live. 

Peckham has had its high points.  It was once one of South London's premier shopping destinations.  It has had its low points too, gaining a reputation over more recent decades for housing estates blighted by crime. This inner-city district was the setting for a long-running TV sitcom "Only Fools & Horses" (although it was actually filmed in Acton, West London).

But what is Peckham really like?  Perhaps these views of its local buses will give a flavour of Peckham in 2012.

Peckham is less than 4 kilometres from Tower Bridge, within 5 kilometres of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as well as the Bank of England, and less than 6 km from both Buckingham Palace and Charing Cross.  However it not served by London's famous "tube" network.  The Underground serves little of south London, with most of the network to the north of the River Thames.  An extension to the London Overground is due to serve Peckham from December 2012.  This will complete an orbital rail link through London's inner suburbs.  However, it comes at a price - a reduction in existing suburban rail services at Peckham's two stations.

There was a proposal to build a tram linking Peckham with Central London.  That was scrapped by London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, shortly after he was elected in 2008.

Peckham is hugely dependent on its bus services.  The bus network is controlled by Transport for London (TfL).  Four private operators (Abellio, Arriva, Go-Ahead and Stagecoach) run the buses under contract to TfL.  A diagrammatic map of Peckham's bus services is here. (PDF)

Most bus routes serving Peckham are now operated by double-deck buses.  It was not always so.  Some routes had been operated by single-deck vehicles, or even by small midibuses, while two of the busiest routes were operated using articulated vehicles until Autumn 2011.  Now, single-deck buses are only to be found on two routes serving Peckham town centre.

The main road through Peckham comprises Queen's Road, Peckham High Street and Peckham Road which lie on an east-west axis. 

The clock tower (left image) belongs to the former Jones & Higgins department store.  The store closed in 1980.


Route 12 is one of London's oldest bus routes.  A route from Rye Lane to Oxford Circus was established in around 1850.  Today the route continues a couple of kilometres south of Peckham to terminate at Dulwich.  In years gone by, it has extended considerably further south beyond Dulwich (and west from the other end of the route at Oxford Circus).  Today, route 12 is operated by a mix of conventional diesel and hybrid double-deckers.

Routes 36, 136 and 436 are related.  Route 136 was formerly route 36B, an offshoot of the 36.  The 36B once crossed Central London alongside the 36. As route 136, however, it is now a suburban route starting from Peckham and heading deeper into South East London.

At the time route 136 was created, its parent route 36 was operating in overlapping sections with buses generally not running the full length of the route.  This arrangement continued until 2003 when, in preparation for the Congestion Charge, capacity on the bus network was increased significantly.  Route 436 was a new number for the leg of route 36 which ran from Paddington to Lewisham.  Introduced with articulated buses, the 436 was converted to double-deck buses in 2011 with a mix of conventional diesel and hybrid buses.

Rye Lane is Peckham's main shopping street.  The northernmost section of the street is restricted to buses and cycles.

Further south, the street is open to local traffic as well as buses, although a short bus-only section limits access at the end of the street. 





Routes 63 and 363 are related.  Route 363 was created in 2003 by splitting the 63 into two overlapping sections.  The busier (and more frequent) northern section retained the 63 number, while the 363 number was used for the southern section.  The two routes overlap from Elephant & Castle through Peckham to Honor Oak.




Beyond Rye Lane, buses continue onto Peckham Rye.

Although they share the same roads through Peckham town centre, routes 12 and P12 are not related to each other.

The modern face of Peckham is represented by buildings which include the award-winning library, designed by Will Allsop, which opened in 2000.

Route 381 is a remarkably indirect route, which more-or-less doubles back on itself two or three times on its journey between Peckham and Waterloo.  Few people would use it for an end-to-end journey, but the 381 provides a number of local links as it twists and turns through inner South London.  Now double-deck, route 381 was previously numbered P11 and at one time operated with midibuses.

In this image, a bus on route 436 passes another modern addition to Peckham, the Peckham Arch.

A reminder of Peckham's history is a path following the route of the Surrey Canal.  Bus routes 63 and 363 use this bridge to cross the canal path.


Peckham used to have a bus garage in the centre of the town.  The site was redeveloped in the 1990s and is now occupied by a supermarket, a car park and a bus terminus.

The bus garage itself has moved a short distance out of the town centre, to an industrial area.  Buses based here are operated by Go-Ahead London and operate on four routes through Peckham.


To the south of the town centre lies Peckham Rye Common.  Several bus routes run alongside the common.


Amongst the routes serving Peckham Rye Common is the 484, which doesn't serve Peckham town centre.


To the east of Peckham Rye Common, buses operate along streets which are more residential as they head towards Nunhead or Brockley and beyond.

To the west of Peckham Rye station, route P13 also explores residential streets and the community of Bellenden Road.


To the north of Peckham lies the North Peckham Estate.  This area, characterised by high-density housing, lies more than 1 kilometre from any rail station.  This is further from access to rail services than almost anywhere else in Inner London.  Surprisingly, bus services in this densely-populated area are relatively few.  Overcrowding is an ongoing problem during peak travel times as buses struggle to cope with the number of people wanting to travel.

Two routes, the 63 and 363, serve the eastern flank of North Peckham.

Despite its high population density, the western side of North Peckham is left to depend on just one route, the 343.

Peckham Space, an art venue in the centre of Peckham, is currently showing 343 Perspectives, a film project which explores the lives of people living in the area served only by the 343 bus.  It's open until 18th November.


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