London Transport
Point Identifiers

Last updated
Information contributed by Andrew Colebourne and Mike Harris.

London Transport used “point identifier” schemes in major centres throughout London, and also in towns in the country area. In the Central Area they used as many letters as necessary to provide one for each stop in question, but not always sequentially as sometimes they left gaps here and there. Originally the letters I and O were not used because of their similarity to the numbers 1 and 0, and Q was only used if absolutely necessary. If an area needed more than 24 stops identified, like Tottenham Court Road or Victoria (there weren’t many), they would go to double letters, and this was normally done by having stops AA and AB adjacent, or BA and BB or whatever. Over time, in some areas, more stops were needed with the advent of more “split” stops, and rather than poke in an unused letter somewhere or re-letter the whole scheme, they might for example take stop F and split it into FA and FB. In a couple of cases there might have been triple splits such as BA, BB and BC.

DRL 171
◀ This picture disproves that the letter I was never used, although I suspect it might have been an “infill” letter. It shows the bus stand sign outside Hounslow Garage/Bus Station, with Mobility Bus black-on-orange “E stickers”. The flag evidently had “E” plate runners at one time, but I suspect it had a G6 plate saying ALIGHTING POINT FOR BUSES TERMINATING AT HOUNSLOW BUS STATION or something similar. The flat point identifier was presumably added when it became a stop for Mobility buses—a Bus Stand would not need a point identifier. In the background brand-new London United DRL 171 (for Plaxton Dart, Reeve Burgess body, 9.0 m Long) [L171CKH] heads for Hounslow on 22 May 1994 while working the H37.
Photo courtesy Andrew Colebourne.
DMS 447
▲ Brixton Station was one location where the letter Q was used. DMS 447 [OJD447R] was caught there in the late 1980s. This B(C)E6 stop flag has “E” plates for routes 50, 59, 95 and 133.
Mark Pitman photo, courtesy of London Bus Routes.

▲ Bus stops in the vicinity of Golders Green station. I believe the unmarked spot between stops GG and GW is an alighting point only stop.
© 2007, Transport for London

Nowadays it is all different, and lettered schemes are springing up all over London: many for use on the internet, some in the most unlikely places, and many of them butt up to the next scheme. So as to avoid duplication within a small area, there is much greater use of double letters as a result. At Golders Green every single stop is double lettered, such that they go from GA to GW (including GI and GO) clockwise from the station forecourt.

The original disks are approximately 25 cm (10") in diameter and 4 cm (1½") thick. The newer one are about the same diameter, but much thinner (in the neighbouthood of 5 mm or 316"). There are two sizes of letters: the ones on the older, enamelled disks are larger; and the later ones used on vinyl sitckers are smaller but slightly bolder, so that the letter strokes remain the same width. I think the flat discs are relatively recent (post 1980s?). To bring the story up-to-date, the present bus stop fittings include moulded discs looking much like the traditional fittings except that the faces are curved. Incidentally, I noticed a stop opposite Holborn Station that has a flat identifier disc, ’though one designed to fit the top of the Truform post, so they are not all as described above. I take it this is an earlier type.

In recent years TfL has extended stop identification enormously, combined with the production of Undergound-style colour coded route diagrams for all “busy” areas throughout London. In bus stations points tend to be shown on the stop flag itself (or a similar wall-mounted sign), the letter disc replacing the roundel. The COACHES stop flags have matching dark blue point identifiers and in central London these are usually numbered rather than lettered. I think there is a common number sequence for all central London coach stops but, as ever, there are exceptions e.g. coach stops with red lettered identifiers.

An obvious (but so far unanswered) question is when were they were first used? I think the circular stop-identifiers might have been introduced during the early- to mid-1960s (but don’t quote me). Certainly they were in use when the Red Arrow routes were introduced in 1966.

RML 903
Oxford Circus’ stop “JA” was the weekend stand for route 13, as well as for the 113 at all times. This B(C)E3G3 stop flag carries “E” plates for both routes, a “G” plate instructing intending passengers to FORM QUEUE THIS SIDE, and a vinyl sticker affixed over the enamelled flag.
Photo courtesy the London Bus Routes web site.

Country Area

The Country Area was different from the Central Area in that firstly the point identifiers were mainly (but not exclusively) white on black, and secondly they were numbers instead of letters. (There would obviously be no confusion with route numbers, as country routes were numbered in the 3xx, 4xx, 7xx and 8xx series.) This type was used at Windsor and elsewhere. No doubt there are far fewer surviving examples of these. I do wonder why Country Area identifiers were different; there’s no obvious reason why letters could not have been used, or why they needed to be a different colour.

2

This is a very old plate which would have been positioned on top of the old aluminium style shelters, and would have come from a Country Area bus station.

Depth:10"250 mm
Width:10½"270 mm
Weight:2 lbs915 g

It’s worth mentioning that the bus stops outside Uxbridge Station (both those in the bus station and the one in the forecourt) went through three successive types of point identifiers as follows:

1. Numbered white rectangles (as the figure 2 above) mounted on the stop flags (dating, I believe, from the mid-1950s onwards);

2. Numbered Country Area type post-mounted discs (white on black) (from the mid 1960s-onwards?) - see for example;

3. Lettered Central Area type post-mounted discs (from the 1970s onwards).

Since then the bus station has been redeveloped (with a new adjacent garage), and the more modern types of lettered post-mounted point identifiers have been used (and I believe are still in use). These stops were, of course, served by both Central and Country buses. So as they say, there is an exception to every rule!

Country Area MB (Merlin Bus) 85 [SMM85F] was one of the earliest to enter service at Reigate [RG] in March 1968, and therefore retained its SMM—F mark. It was transferred to High Wycombe [HE] in October, and was caught on the 305 at Uxbridge Station. Regrettably, I can’t make out the plates displayed on this BCE6G3 stop, other than the FORM QUEUE OTHER SIDE G3 plate.

MB 85
Richard Cains collection
from aec.fotopic.net
SM 484
Andrew Colebourne photo

Like Uxbridge, it seems that Windsor was originally provided with the square white-on-black flag-mounted point identifiers, but later gained the post-mounted disc type as well. Page 30 of London Country Buses: A Colour Portfolio by Michael H.C. Baker has a 1970s picture by Geoff Rixon showing that point 15 retained the earlier type. Stop 1A previously had the square black-on-white flag-mounted point identifier. There is a post-1961 picture of it on page 190 in RT by Ken Blacker. The suffix is in superscript, like LT would show suffixed route numbers on blinds.

The Country Area also had letter suffixes for split points. SM (Short Merlin) 484 [DPD484J] is at point 1A at Windsor Bus Station, outside the garage, working the 353. The BCE3 stop has “E” plates for routes 335, 353 and 458. There is also a small black FARE STAGE disc (like the one shown below) on the post. Note that on 7 April 1977 it is still a London Transport flag, but that was not to last much longer—see page 111 of RF by Ken Glazier for a picture of the same location just eight months later. The point identifier is still there but the flag has been replaced with the standard MoT type.


Similar (but smaller) disks with the mounting fitting on the side, rather than the bottom, were also used for Fare Stage disks.

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