Your Chariot awaits: Californian startup launches four new bus routes in ‘under-served’ parts of London
A San Francisco-based mobility startup owned by Ford has launched four new morning and evening commuter bus routes in South London.
Chariot, which already runs similar projects in several cities in the United States, has begun operating the buses in Battersea, Wandsworth, Nuxley and Greenwich. The routes have been designed to serve relatively unconnected parts of the city, connecting residential areas to their nearest London Underground or main line train station.
The scheme means passengers in these under-served areas complete the first and last mile of their daily journeys in a minibus rather than on foot, on existing local buses, or by taxi. The Chariot buses will run through these densely populated areas and on to transport hubs such as Clapham Junction or North Greenwich.
Passengers book and pay for the service using an app, which guarantees them a seat. The buses are 14-seater Ford Transit vehicles with wifi, air conditioning and storage for small bags. Some are wheelchair-accessible.
Crucially, the vehicles are entitled to use London’s extensive network of bus lanes, reducing journey times and aligning the project with existing routes along parts of the journey. In many parts of London, buses are overcrowded and unreliable during peak times; in others, there just aren’t any useful routes.
“As well-served as London is by public transport, the daily commute can still be a bit of a slog for some in the city,” said Sarah‑Jayne Williams, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Europe.
“Chariot is one way of providing residents with reliable, safe and affordable transportation.”
The four main routes, named the Battersea Bullet, the Wandsworth Wanderer, the Nuxley Navigator and the Shooters Hill Shot, will run as follows:
- Battersea Bullet: starts at the recently developed Battersea Power Station area, close to Battersea Park. It heads south on the A3216, then left onto Battersea Park Road. It passes near Battersea Park station (trains to Victoria) then under the bridges and past the Dog’s Home. It continues on the A3205 as it becomes Nine Elms Lane, navigates the Nine Elms junction, passes Vauxhall station (Victoria Line and trains to Waterloo) then heads down Harleyford Road towards Oval (Northern Line). It then turns left onto the A3 heading North-East and continues to Kennington tube station (Northern Line).
- Wandsworth Wanderer: starts in the ‘Riverside’ development between the Wandle and Wandsworth Park. It then heads south on Putney Bridge Road and onto the A3, down Wandsworth High Street and onto East Hill before heading down St John’s Hill towards Clapham Junction (trains to Waterloo, Vauxhall and Victoria; Overground to Dalston Junction, Willesden Junction and Stratford).
- Shooters Hill Shot: starts on Plum Lane near Plumstead Common before meandering south through Dallin Road, Eglinton Hill, Moordown and onto Shooters Hill. It then heads through Kidbrooke via Broad Walk, Dursley Road, Begbie Road, past Hervey Road sports field and onto the top of Shooters Hill past the petrol station. It then heads north on the dual carriageway to North Greenwich (Jubilee Line, Emirates Air Line cable car, Thames Clipper river ferry).
- Nuxley Navigator: starts at Carlton Road near Erith and District Hospital before heading west towards the cemetery. It then turns north opposite the Great Harry Pub and then west onto Stream Way and then Bedonwell Road. It turns onto Orchard Avenue, Glenview, Brampton Road and up Knee Hill. It then terminates near Abbey Wood station (Canon Street, Charing Cross, future Crossrail route).
The routes will then run in reverse in the evenings.
A single Chariot fare will cost £2.40, which is almost a pound more expensive than a single £1.50 bus fare on existing TFL routes. Purchasing a Chariot monthly season ticket will reduce each journey price to £1.60. Until February 14, passengers can use the service for free (on a first-come-first-served basis) using the Chariot voucher code HELLOLDN in the app.
Reactions to the launch have so far been positive, with one Twitter user saying that his commute to and from North Greenwich was "one of the nicest in ages" and that it only cost 90p more than the "stinky" bus.
Another expressed delight at the friendly driver, comfy ride and proximity of the bus route to her house, adding that it costs "less than £1 more than the awful 486 bus".