Thursday, 24 October 2013

The RV1 Route

Tower Gateway to Covent Garden
Thursday October 24th 2013

There was some debate between the two of us (Mary having a prior commitment to help a daughter due to move overseas) as to what ‘RV’ might stand for – Random Vehicle was my guess, whilst Jo went for the more realistic River Valley.  I expect one of our helpful commentators will come up with a totally reasonable if less fanciful explanation.

In any case it seems to be a ‘Billy-No-Mates’ bus with no companions with  of the same rubric. Also notable about this route is that some vehicles are  hydrogen powered – ‘you mean I am sitting on a bomb?’ I remarked to 63 regular. ‘No more explosive than a load of petrol, came the reply.

In fact we found it much quieter – slight tendency to whine a little perhaps but that seems a small price to pay for all those non-carbon water emissions. Technicalities apart it is a splendid route, and as a tourist route it almost out-performs the faithful Numbers 15 and 100 into whom we bumped today.

There is a slightly inauspicious start under the rail bridge that carries the lines into Fenchurch Street station in a road now known as the Minories.  Jo thought they might be small as in lesser Monks but they prove in fact to have been Lady monks – ie nuns belonging to the order of St Clare and like everyone else were dispossessed during the reign of Henry VIII. On we glided  to Royal Mint Street but of course the Mint
moved to newer premises in Wales in 1967. I can remember a Primary School trip to the old coin works but little detail.

The same cannot be said of visiting the Tower of London (no Londoner ever calls it anything but ‘the Tower’) which is one of the most visited of the London sights; the view from even the single-decker RV1 was excellent and at one point we had the Tower, the Shard and an aeroplane in one photograph. From major fortification through to prison for many and execution site to major tourist attraction its massive bulk can just about compete with the looming Shard. From the other window a glimpse of St Katherine’s Dock, with its pretty boats.

Jo leaned hard to capture HMS Belfast, one of her former workplaces. Tower Bridge of course looks at its best from anywhere else (in front of City Hall for example) not crossing it but the views are excellent.  Turning right the RV1 follows the Thames as close as vehicles can but as every inch of land is built on we did not really glimpse water again until the next bridge. One of the developments going up is 1 Tower Bridge, (not to be confused with 1 London Bridge and 1 Blackfriars Bridge also on this route) which had taken over an old red-brick building  ?(a courtroom) for its Sales centre just adjacent to Potters Field .  We had not been along here since the infamous 343. It is something of a blessing that this open space has been retained and not built on, though some websites maintain these were previously burial grounds for the poor.

Just outside a hotel a guy got onto the bus and told the driver that there was a family of five coming – rather nobly, we thought, the driver waited as the raggle taggle family loaded their luggage bit by luggage bit. Perhaps the RV1 drivers have special ‘Be nice to tourists’ training, tourists seeming to be the daytime mainstay of this route.
Tooley Street is of course rich in history and places to visit – Hay’s galleria, a former tea warehouse and wharfside depot, has been quite sympathetically converted and gives a good idea of how the buildings would have looked when dock activity was at its height. The Old Fire Station, which is now a trendy bar bistro etc (small plates/large drinks) called Brigade, reminded us that the people down the Road at City Hall had decided London did not need quite so many fire stations, though I would guess this one was de-commissioned some time previously. The RV1 which had kept up quite a good pace was beginning to slow as the street narrowed towards the end of London Bridge and the driver had to cope with pedestrians spilling everywhere as they went from London Dungeon to the London Bridge Experience to London Bridge Station  (having a makeover) and even trying to cross London Bridge. It is strange to think that for much of London’s history this was the only crossing point and accounts for much of the area’s history as folk hung around waiting to cross or selling beer and victuals to those crossing into the City.

The railway lines do dominate quite a bit and Borough Market , which in a very few years has gone from a genuine ‘buy your loose vegetables here’ kind of market to a street foodie destination in its own right is very much squashed under the arches.  Not surprising then that the bus was really busy here.

Still following the river, we continued along Southwark Street passing what must be a ‘new’ pub ‘The Barrow Boy and the Banker’ which cliché kind of sums up the area. Just past the The Hop Exchange, which we thought had been cleaned since we last came this way (August 2012 on the 381), is now a party venue (corporate events!) 

We had been invited to coffee with the folk at the London Councils at their offices at 59 ½ Southwark Street and  who have been very supportive of our efforts, rides and blogging, and who of course administer the excellent Freedom pass scheme. Last time we were here there was a certain amount of media activity so it was nice just to sit and catch up.  We also heard about Stephen who has retired, but is walking and blogging about our city, post code by post code, here 

Refreshed, we boarded another Hydrogen bus and continued along Southwark Street – it does cross Southwark Bridge Road but the river is too far at this point and Southwark is a very retiring crossing only hosting 1 bus route. If the Hop Exchange had smartened itself up for corporate functions we guessed that the ubiquitous RBS might be one of its customers --- though quite why they need a huge building here as well as the one in Bishopsgate I am not quite clear??

There was plenty to glimpse down the side streets – The Oxo Tower, Tate Modern (with the new extension already underway) and just past  the Blue Fin Building, a glimpse of an older Southwark – Hopton's Almshouses still providing sheltered housing for more vulnerable residents and complete with a cattle trough in front!

By now we had arrived at Blackfriars Bridge with a major interchange to negotiate. At this point we were on a diversion as correctly the bus should run along Upper Ground, closer to the river and Royal National Theatre (Happy Birthday: 50 this week but not quite old enough for its Freedom Pass) but instead took the Stamford Street route, now largely colonised by King’s College from across the water.  The residents of Coin Street had to fight hard to retain their right to residency and their now not so new homes have weathered slightly better than the theatre buildings.

At the south end of Waterloo Bridge the RV1 rejoined its rightful route and trundled along the nearly (but not quite) pedestrianised Belvedere Road, taking in South Bank Shell,  Nelson Mandela in statue form, the Festival Hall (recalling the original Festival of Britain) and the BFI; film always being a bit of an afterthought it has a rather low level – underneath Waterloo Bridge – but we all know film buffs live in a permanent twilight zone. 

Once the RV1 reaches the old County Hall  – a fine civic building – by way of magnificent views of the London Eye it turns back on itself down York Road and heads across Waterloo Bridge, as so many bus routes do. I’ve raved abut the views at least 14 times before so will leave the photos to speak for themselves.

We crossed the Strand and should have pulled into Catherine Street pointing more or less at he Royal Opera House but current roadworks meant we stopped, rather to the surprise of those tourists on board, along Aldwych itself.
Handy for the India Office though. 

A fine October day had given us 25 minutes of sheer London pleasure – a tourist route to rival the famous Number 11 but with an altogether more South of the River perspective that takes you from St Katherine’s Docks to Catherine Street .  Doubtless we had missed innumerable other points of interest along the way but we shall just have to ride it again and almost certainly have an equally enjoyable if different experience.



  1. I think Jo's theory on the River Valley definition is almost there regarding the RV1. I'm sure I've read somewhere it was promoted before it's launch as as the Riverside Bus or something along them lines, meaning the RV would stand for Riverside.

    As a visitor to London earlier this year, I found the service very useful indeed. Your blog post certainly reflects the diverse amount of visitor attractions along the route. I look forward to reading some more of your posts later on today.

  2. The RV1 was originaly going to run as EcoBus, using the (then) greenest vehicles. These eventually arrived Mercedes Citaro buses.
    The first three hydrogen buses were used on RV1 for a couple of years until the trial period finished.
    Six of the eight Fuel Cell buses are now generally available each day, with one awaiting fitment of the vinyls, and the last one being away for repairs.

    1. Forgot to add that RV1 is derived from Riverside Bus, and I believe that the initial buses carried branding to that effect

  3. Thanks for this great post of a route I knew so well when working at London Councils at 59½ Southwark Street. RV definitely stands for Riverside. At one time a few years before Hydrogen buses, the buses actually had "Riverside" written on their sides.

    (Thanks also for the link to my blog (Walking London one postcode at a time) which is kind of inspired by your great effort.

  4. RV means River View as most of the route is along the river.

  5. hello.. just want to ask, how much does the RV1 bus cost?
    and is it can be used with oyster bus&tram pass?
    thanks :)