The route was started on 13 April 1987 on behalf of Chelsea Harbour Ltd, marketed as the Chelsea Harbour HOPPA, running between Chelsea Harbour and Earl's Court. Four minibuses painted in a dark blue livery were used. The allocation moved from Battersea depot to Victoria Basement (GB) on 12 September 1987. When GB closed the route reverted to Battersea, by then an outstation of Stockwell rather than a garage in its own right.
The route was then tendered, and initially retained by London General with extensions at both ends: at the south, to Sands End Sainsbury's, and at the north, during shopping hours only, to Kensington High Street. In 1989, the original minibuses were withdrawn, being replaced by more stylish Optare CityPacers cascaded from route C2. In 1990, the Kensington extension was withdrawn, but the route was further extended at the south across Wandsworth Bridge to Clapham Junction Station via Grant Road, including a deviation via Plantation Wharf. The vehicle allocation was again changed to Optare MetroRiders.
A new contract starting in September 1996 saw various changes. The route was revised to operate direct via York Road, and then via the full length of Plough Road and St. John's Hill to approach the Clapham Junction terminus from the south. An evening and Sunday service was also introduced for the first time. Operation was transferred to Putney garage, and new ML-class Marshall Minibuses were introduced. The type proved unreliable and, combined with severe staff shortages, prompted London General to surrender the contract. It was taken over by Limebourne in October 1997.
Limebourne went into receivership in October 1998, but the local bus business was sold to local management under the name of Independent Way Ltd. Having had its vehicles re-possessed, replacement vehicles were sought, and a batch of ex-Metroline DT-class Dennis Darts was obtained for the C3. The Limebourne business was sold to Connex bus on 7 July 2001. The Darts were soon replaced by new Optare Solos as part of a new contract, restoring low floor operation to the route, but these did not last long as Dennis Tridents were transferred in to convert the route to double deck operation. Connex sold its London bus operations to National Express Group, which re-branded them Travel London and painted the vehicles into allover red. The operation was re-awarded to Travel London shortly before the operation was sold by National Express to become Abellio London. The route was increased in frequency in July 2008 following the introduction of the western extension to the London congestion charge.
On 16 December 2009, a bus operating route C3 was struck by a lorry carrying metal pylons. The incident happened at around 8.30am in Battersea Plough Road at its junction with St John's Hill. The bus mounted the pavement and toppled over. Three people were taken to hospital with serious injuries, including the bus driver, and 14 more had to be treated for minor injuries.
Route departing Earl's Court
Route departing Clapham Junction
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