London Buses route 108 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Stratford International and Lewisham, it is operated by London Central. Route 108 is considered to be one of London's most difficult routes to operate. The unusual feature of the route is its use of the Blackwall Tunnel, a source of severe delays which makes the route the least reliable in London.
Route 108 commenced operation on 29 March 1914, running from Bow Bridge to Blackheath via the Blackwall Tunnel, Woolwich Road, and Westcombe Hill. This was the second time the number 108 had been used for a motorbus route.
By the time of the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 108 had been re-routed to terminate at Bow Road Station and a supplementary route 108A had also been introduced, operating daily between Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) and Woolwich Road (Blackwall Lane) to cater for tunnel traffic. By the end of the war, the 108A had disappeared and the 108 reduced to run between Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) and Greenwich (Ship & Billet).
On 1 December 1924, a new system of route numbering on London buses came into force which made the Metropolitan Police responsible for bus operation and route numbering in London. By this time, the 108 had been extended at both ends to run from Clapton Pond to Crystal Palace. Route 108 remained 108, working daily from Clapton Pond to Crystal Palace; 108A was a daily short working Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) - Greenwich (Ship & Billet); while 108B, 108C, 108D, 108E, and 108F were reserved for short workings.
This situation remained until 3 October 1934, when the newly constituted London Passenger Transport Board instituted its own numbering system. By this time the plain 108 had been withdrawn; routes 108A, 108B, and 108E became 108, running between Bromley-by-Bow and Crystal Palace. The 108D became route 208. At the time, the 108 was double deck. Two batches of double deck buses were specifically built for use in the Blackwall and Rotherhithe Tunnels, with specially shaped roofs to improve clearance on the corners. On 14 April 1937, the last solid-tired AEC NS-Type bus in London operated on route 108. On 28 May 1937, forty STL-type buses with convex-shaped roofs made with Blackwall Tunnel in mind were used on routes 108 and 82 and allocated to Athol Street (C) garage in Poplar.
On 19 April 1944, a route 108A to Well Hall Circus was introduced. Initially, it ran peak hours only but was expanded to a Monday to Saturday then daily operation. It was briefly extended Eltham before being retracted to operate Eltham - East Greenwich only.
On 12 October 1960, the 108 was split only on Monday to Friday, the main service becoming Lower Sydenham to Bow only, with a new 108B running from Crystal Palace to the Greenwich (Blackwall Tunnel) on the south side of the tunnel.
The 108 was converted to a single-deck one person operation as from 26 October 1968. Further restructuring took place on 24 January 1970, with the 108A withdrawn and replaced by an extension of the 108 from Blackheath.
The 108 was extended to Stratford on 23 July 1977.
On 21 June 1986, the 108B was reduced to run only between Crystal Palace and Lewisham, with the 108 extended to Lewisham and new route 286 taking over the Eltham - Blackheath section of the 108 and the Blackheath - West Greenwich section of the 108B. On 16 January 1988, the 108 was further extended from Stratford to Wanstead, replacing part of route 10.
On 1 April 1989, the route passed to Boro'line using a batch of new Leyland Lynxes. Boro'line subsequently sold its London operations to Kentish Bus. The 25 September 1993 Stratford area route scheme saw the section north of Stratford withdrawn, but service frequency improved to every 12 minutes. The Lewisham scheme soon after in 1994 saw the introduction of Volvo B6 buses operated from Ash Grove garage.
On 19 April 1997, the route passed to Harris Bus with 11 new Optare Excels. Buses were initially operated from the firm's base in West Thurrock. The operation was later transferred to a new depot in Belvedere. Harris Bus ran into financial difficulties in December 1999, and as a result operations of its contracted routes were taken over by a new subsidiary of London Buses itself, trading as East Thames Buses.
East Thames Buses initially ran its routes north of the Thames from the former London Forest garage in Ash Grove, along with the Harris base at Belvedere.
Since the takeover by Harris, route 108 has been diverted via North Greenwich, but reverted to a more direct route across Blackheath via Prince of Wales Road; the frequency has been further enhanced to every 10 minutes, utilising four earlier Excels made redundant by the loss of car park services at Lakeside Shopping Centre, but this is still not as good as the 5-minute double deck service provided in 1933.
The 108 became the first bus route to serve the Millennium Dome at the Greenwich Peninsula during construction. The stop was initially inside the security area and was used by staff only. Recently, the route has been revised, with buses crossing straight over from Westcombe Hill to the Greenwich Peninsula instead of running through Woolwich Road and Blackwall Lane, to avoid traffic delays and to increase bus services through the Greenwich Millennium Village. The service also now runs all night.
In November 2003, the Optare Excels were replaced by Caetano Compass bodied Dennis Dart SLFs.
In September 2004, the Caetano Compass bodied Dennis Dart SLFs were replaced by Volvo Merit bodied DAF SB120s.
On 3 October 2009, East Thames Buses was sold to London General, which included a five-year contract to operate route 108.
On 1 May 2010, the route was transferred to London Central operating from their New Cross (NX) garage and double deck journeys using Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs were introduced.
In June 2010, Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied Dennis Dart SLFs were introduced.
In 2011, MCV Evolution bodied Dennis Dart SLFs were introduced.
In 2014, Increased capacity was introduced.
In July 2014, brand new Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 Darts were introduced.
In August 2015, Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaros were introduced.
In July 2016, a brand new Wright StreetLite demonstrator was introduced.
On 1 October 2016, the route was retained by London Central and was re-routed between Poplar and Bow via Violet Road, Carpenters Road, and to Stratford International via Stratford City, instead of Stratford. The route was converted to full Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro operation at the same time.
In October 2016, the Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs were replaced by Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs.
In December 2016, Irizar i2 EV electrics were introduced.
On 29 July 2017, the allocation was transferred to Morden Wharf (MG) garage (except for the double deck trips and 2 electric bus workings which remain at New Cross (NX) garage).
Route 108 operates via these primary locations:
- Stratford International Station International Way
- Stratford City
- Bow Church Station
- Devons Road (for Devons Road Station)
- All Saints Station
- Blackwall Tunnel
- North Greenwich Bus Station
- Millenium Village
- Greenwich Peninsula
- Westcombe Park
- Blackheath Royal Standard
- Stratheden Road
- Blackheath (For Blackheath Village)
- Lewisham Shopping Centre