Route 3 is a very long standing route. It started operation 1 November 1908, when a daily unnumbered route operating between Brixton Station and South Croydon was allocated the route number 3. Shortly afterwards on 19 November 1908, the route was altered at both ends to run between Oxford Circus and South Croydon (Swan & Sugar Loaf). In 1909, the 3 seemed not yet to have established itself. From April it was first extended on Sundays to Purley, then in August further to Whyteleafe. But on 16 September 1909, The 3 was extended northwards to Camden Town (Britannia), being also withdrawn between Streatham Common (Greyhound) and South Croydon/Whyteleafe at the same time.
1910 saw the route extended to Hampstead Heath over the Easter period, but of more importance, on 3 March 1910, the 3 had been withdrawn between Brixton (Lambeth Town Hall) and Streatham Common and re-routed via Effra Road to Brixton (George Canning). Thus not serving any of the original route. From 16 June 1912, the 3 became a Monday to Saturday route only, being replaced by the recently introduced 59 on that day.
On 11 May 1913, a new daily route 3A was introduced between Camden Town and Crystal Palace via the 3 to Brixton, then via Water Lane, Herne Hill, Croxted Road and South Croxted Road. The 3 and 3A only ran as such until 17 July 1913, when both routes became daily and exchanged numbers. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the 3A was withdrawn as an economy measure, but was quickly re-instated in October 1914. The 3 was extended from Crystal Palace to Upper Norwood in November of the same year. By the end of hostilities the 3A had been withdrawn and the plain 3 had settled down to work its "Traditional route" from Camden Town to Crystal Palace.
On 1 December 1924, a new system of route numbering on London buses came into force under The London Traffic Act of 1924. This made the Metropolitan Police responsible for bus operation and route numbering in London. The new system was designed to make route numbering easier to understand for the travelling public. In fact, the reverse was the result.
3 group routes:- 3 remained 3, the 3 short workings from Camden Town to Brixton were renumbered 3A. The plain route number being only used for journeys for the whole length of the route. This situation continued until 3 October 1934 when all 3A journeys were renumbered 3.
The 3 had by then, become a very stable route, changes occurring only very rarely. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War on 3 May 1939, the 3 was withdrawn on Sundays. A new Sunday only 3A route was introduced to cover, running over the 3 from Crystal Palace to Oxford Circus, being further extended via Baker Street, Swiss Cottage, Hendon, Watford Way, Mill Hill to Edgware Station. This ground-breaking extension was withdrawn after service on 15 October 1939 as a wartime economy, never to appear again. The 3 became a daily route at this time and there followed a long period, in which, apart from vehicle type changes, the 3 remained a Camden Town to Crystal Palace route.
In the early 1980s, the inhabitants of Parliament Hill successfully campaigned for a bus service from that area to the West End. As from 26 April 1981, the 3 was extended on Mondays to Saturdays from Camden Town to Parliament Hill Fields. This extension proved to be short-lived and was withdrawn on 27 October 1984, being replaced by an extension of Route 53. The retreat away from Camden Town began on 21 June 1986, when the service between Oxford Circus and Camden Town was reduced to Saturdays and Sundays only, as the section was now covered by recently introduced route C2, being completely withdrawn on 4 April 1987.
On 11 February 2012, 22 Alexander Dennis Enviro400H double deckers were introduced.
Route departing Crystal Palace
Route departing Oxford Circus
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