Red RF routes

Kenwood Concerts Express Service

Page last updated  5 March 2018


How we believe the RF blind looked when first produced.  We have been unable to locate any photos of the buses in service - can you help?


Summer open-air Saturday evening concerts at Kenwood House long caused difficulties for London Transport with over-loading of route 210. In 1960 to 1963, a special RF-operated express service operated to Kenwood for the summer concerts. This followed the route of the 210 between Golders Green and Archway Station, stopping only at Jack Straws Castle and Kenwood. Little has been published about this operation. Thanks are due to Andrew Colebourne for discovering file LT001300/007 in the TfL Archives, information from which has been combined here with other data.


Dates of RF operation
Saturdays: 11 Jun to 16 Jul 60, 10 Jun 61 to 22 Jul 61 (but see below), 2 Jun to 14 Jul 62, 1 Jun to 20 Jul 63.
The service operated with hired coaches in 1965 and 1967 - see below.


RF Garages

MH   Muswell Hill

EW   Edgware (1963)

Sullivan Buses now operate the Kenwood Shuttle.  Trident TN3 is seen at
The Spaniards on 26 Jun 2010.
Photo © Andrew Colebourne
The Kenwood open-air concerts, by Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, started in 1951 and are a popular feature of north London summers. The nearest road to the concerts was, and is, served by the 210. In July 1959, six unscheduled extra buses were operated on the 210 between Golders Green and Archway, after the end of concerts running out of service from the terminus to pick up at Kenwood; this was the maximum possible with available staff. About 5,000 people, attended each concert and despite the extras, the 210 was 'under heavy pressure … and some extended waits did occur'. The frequency on the 210 at that time (it remained the same through the 1960s) was every 8-9 minutes. The NW Divisional Superintendent requested to Broadway that consideration be given to scheduled extras for the 1960 season, with service from 18.30; concerts commenced at 20.00 and after meal reliefs, a full service was required between 21.40 and 22.45.
In 1960, a new Express service was introduced by London Transport; the service is not mentioned in the timetable books or the LT allocation books. RFs from Muswell Hill (MH) were used, displaying special blue blinds front and rear. Buses ran non-stop between Golders Green or Archway and Kenwood (using the existing bus stops there), except that (initially by local decision) buses also stopped at Jack Straws Castle. No specific timetable was operated, departures being controlled by local officials, and 'journeys are to be made as quickly as practical'.
In 1960 it was noted that, due to the double-decking of route 212, there was a shortage of RFs available for the 'forward traffic', with three buses scheduled, but this was increased to five for the return, available following the normal run-in at Muswell Hill. The same pattern was followed in subsequent years.
For the first year, a flat fare of 6d (child 3d) each way applied, the same as the normal fare on the 210. No return tickets were issued.
Usage varied due to the weather and availability of crews. The 1961 correspondence states that, in 1960, 'weather conditions were unfavourable and maximum traffic was not carried'; fares were increased for 1961 to a flat fare of 1/- (child 6d) for any journey - presumably a change was made to the blinds. However, the staff position deteriorated, and on 10 June and 22 July no service was possible; on 24 June only 4 of the 5 planned buses operated and the service on 15 July did not operate due to wet weather. In 1961, the PSV Circle recorded that the service operated between 18.30 and 24.00.
Service in the same format operated in 1962.
In 1963, the service was approved, with two buses 'forward traffic' from Edgware (EW) garage and five buses 'return traffic' (2 EW, 3 MH). However, the worsening staff position made the operation from Edgware particularly difficult, and the Divisional Superintendents 'would endeavour to operate extra buses for the return traffic only'. The service was experiencing losses, having not operated 6 July due to bad weather but the staff were paid.
Due to the dire staff situation, no service operated in 1964.
David Carpenter, a resident of Hampstead Garden Suburb until 1970, remembers the service: 'I do have recollections of the special Express service to the Kenwood Lakeside Concerts. As I recall it ran for several summers, but am unsure of exact dates. It was always red RF worked [note that, had Edgware provided buses before 1963, these would have been TDs, as EW had no RFs until October 1962]. Certainly the blinds were white on blue, with the wording “EXPRESS” in bold capital letters being the most prominent. I think but not 100% certain, the blinds were displayed on the back as well. Whenever I travelled on it, it was always very busy, with long queues both at Golders Green beforehand and Kenwood (Hampstead Lane) afterwards. Even in those days the road traffic was very heavy whenever the weather was good and caused considerable delay to the bus service, particularly after the event when everyone was trying to get away at the same time. Journey times in excess of 30 minutes to Golders Green were not uncommon!'. Many thanks to David for the detailed memory.


Stuart Perry confirms that the service did not operate from MH from 1964 onwards, and that the RF blinds in use at MH in late 1963 did not include the service, although they did include the 251, which had moved away that spring. This ties in with details from blind records provided by George Jasieniecki. He records that, in 1960, a special RF blind was produced for Muswell Hill garage, with just one panel (as well as the obligatory 'blank', but no 'Private'). The records show that 12 sets were produced, dated 10/6/60. The schedules didn't actually state that the printed panel was blue. The wording on the panel was arranged in four lines, with 'Express' at the top. The second line read 'To & from Kenwood &', third line 'Golders Grn or Archway' and 'Single fare 6d' in the fourth line. All lettering was in capital letters at that time. Although sometimes loosely referred to as the '210 Express', and having used the same roads, the blind details confirm that the workings were not regarded as part of the 210. The fact that they were individual blinds, rather than an extra panel added to the normal service RF blind means that the buses would need to run out from the garage specially for this working.


Stuart Perry adds 'My experience of concerts at Kenwood [from 1964] was that you left Archway or Golders Green with a standing load, often with much grumbling from the queue, but I have no memory of getting help from any "extras".  I do know that if the weather was good a lot of passengers used the 271 to Highgate Village and enjoyed the walk from there.  If the weather was bad there were a lot less passengers anyway as of course the concerts were all open air and only the hardiest bothered to turn out.  I always got the impression that those who supported the concerts were choosy about the weather which was the major factor in how busy we were during the evening.'


The lack of a special service in 1964 was noted by the LT Traffic Committee, who recorded that waits on the forward journey were up to 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes on the return; especially difficult were fine days when the audience could reach 7,000.  Accordingly, arrangements were made for two hired coaches to operate a special service on Saturdays 12 June to 24 July 1965.  A review during the season noted that fare receipts (still at 1/- single) did not cover operating costs, but that the additional capacity was essential, despite weather generally not being good. 


In 1966, the staffing position again precluded an LT service, but with the World Cup at Wembley, it was considered that private coaches would not be available.


For 1967, three hired coaches (at £27 per day each) operated the service from 3 June to 22 July, but despite fine weather, the overall loss on the operation at £96 was so great that it was decided that this was too costly to be repeated.  There was a vague hope that operation might be possible using one-man buses from Wood Green garage, but nothing came of that idea.


There then seems to be no record of operations until about 2004.  Andrew Colebourne was local and does not recall any special operations for the concerts from the mid 1960’s to 1988, and notes that any augmentation that there might have been on the 210 did not involve unusual workings.


George Jasieniecki comments 'Personally, I would not be surprised if it failed to re-appear as a London Transport operation for a while. There were extreme staff shortages around that time [the mid 1960s], and all resources available were concentrated on running normal scheduled routes with numbers. Private Hire, and special services for other events, such as Race Specials, football and so on, were contracted out and operated by commercial private coaches. Even the Round London Sightseeing Tour lost its Routemasters from New Cross, and was run by private coaches for several years. Bad for LT's image, of course, but they would have been criticised just as much if the resources on RLST were not redeployed.'


A special service for Kenwood has been revived in recent years, but now operates to and from Golders Green and East Finchley stations.  This service has been operated by Sullivan Buses since about 2005.  Andrew Colebourne notes that although in theory there are two routes, from/to Golders Green and from/to East Finchley, in fact the buses run through from one to the other.  They only carry passengers to Kenwood before the concert and from Kenwood afterwards.  Dean Sullivan provided the following details in early 2010:


'Yes we do run the Kenwood Shuttle and have done so for about five years.  The PVR is a minimum of 4 depending upon the concert. If it's busy, we put extra buses out. The bus is normally SLF double deck but Routemasters have regularly appeared. Other than the Routemasters, all SLF DD’s carry Kenwood displays.  The loadings do vary with the concert. One weekend when they had Simply Red and we were VERY well loaded. Golders Green creates the majority of passengers, roughly about double the loadings from East Finchley.


English Heritage [owners of Kenwood] run the free service for two reasons, firstly the 210 is unable to cope with the loadings at tip out, even though they now run double-deckers. There are also concerns expressed about the concerts by the local residents.  The concerts were cancelled in 2007 due to noise, and there are issues about the parking on event days.  The bus services are an attempt to reduce this problem.'


In 2011, the service operated on Fridays and Saturdays, 24 June to 16 July.


RF route in detail
GOLDERS GREEN STATION, North End Road, Spaniards Road, Hampstead Lane, Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate High Street, Highgate Hill, HIGHGATE Archway Station.

Terminal working at Archway: from Junction Road via Hargrave Road and Brookside Road.  Garage journeys from Muswell Hill to Golders Green via North Circular Road.

RF allocation

PVR 1960, 1961, 1962: Sat 5 (MH)

PVR 1963: Sat 2 (EW), 3 (MH)