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This is why London bus routes are numbered like they are

Written by
Hayley Spencer

Whether you've got a regular bus route, only begrudgingly step near one when there's a tube strike, or just use them to catch some Zs after a night out, you've probably wondered at some point why the heck London's buses are numbered the random way they are. It might not seem like there's any logic behind it – though we're very thankful for those idiot-proof 'N's when we've missed the last tube home – but there's actually a pretty solid reason why each route has its digits.

We've found out the answer thanks to a blog by The Gormandizer who wrote to TfL to ask the question we've all wondered but never bothered to ask. And lo and behold they came back with a pretty detailed response.

The email explained: 'It is possible to trace the lineage of sections of existing routes back to their identically numbered predecessors from horse-drawn days, with the 29 route about to celebrate it's centenary.' Happy birthday, 29! Party bus ride to celebrate?

It goes on to explain that the same goes for routes which echo those of old trolleybuses or trams, which were usually given the same numbers as their predecessors. And now with 700 plus London bus routes serving Greater London, TfL maintains this system if a new or altered route is added by trying to create a new number which relates to the 'the last digit or digits of the historic "parent" route'.

As for those letter prefixes like Ps and Cs, they came to be from 1968 when TfL started running low on numbers for new central routes. 'The idea is that the prefix letter should designate the place around which the routes cluster – P for Peckham in the case of routes P4, P5, and P13; E for Ealing in the case of E1 to E11, for instance. The C in C2 stands for Central. The prefix 'N', however, denotes a night bus.' Well, that's one thing we'd managed to work out on our own.

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