Arriva London bus LT6 (LT12 FHT), route 38, 5 May 2013.jpg
A New Routemaster double-decker bus operated by Arriva London on the route in May 2013
OperatorArriva London
GarageClapton (CT)
VehicleNew Routemaster
Night-timeNight Bus N38
StartClapton Pond
ViaEssex Road
EndVictoria bus station
Length7 miles (11 km)

London Buses route 38 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Clapton Pond and Victoria bus station it is operated by Arriva London.


AEC Routemaster at Victoria bus station in August 1998
Arriva London Mercedes-Benz O530G on the corner of Tottenham Court Road & Shaftesbury Avenue in July 2008
Arriva London Wright Gemini 2 bodied VDL DB300 at Clapton Pond in June 2011

Route 38 was introduced on 16 June 1912 as a Monday to Saturday route between Victoria and Leyton Green via Angel, Dalston, Clapton and Lea Bridge Road and between Victoria and Epping Forest on Sundays. It was operated from Leyton garage, which opened on the same day. In 1913 a 38A was introduced, taking over the Sunday service and operating between Victoria and Epping Forest.[1]

World War I restrictions saw many changes to routes 38 and 38A including withdrawals over certain sections for short periods. The most important of these occurred on 15 May 1916 when the 38 and 38A exchanged their eastern branches permanently. Route 38 was withdrawn between the Bakers Arms and Woodford and re-routed to Walthamstow (Hoe street station). In 1919 a 38B was added, running through to Loughton, with the 38A only running as far as Woodford. The 38A disappeared in 1921.[1]

On 1 December 1924, a new system of route numbering on London Buses came into force under The London Traffic Act of 1924. Route 38 was unchanged; route 38B was renumbered to 138. Both routes had short working suffixed journeys numbered 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 138A, 138B as well as 38E, which was the main daily route Victoria Station to Chingford. This situation remained until 3 October 1934, when the newly constituted London Passenger Transport Board instituted its own numbering system. The 38, 38A and 38E became plain 38. The 138 became 38A.[1]

From 5 January 1938, on Mondays to Fridays only, route 38 was reduced between Leyton and Chingford and route 38A withdrawn completely. In replacement a route 38B was introduced between Loughton, Woodford, Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford. From 3 August 1938 route 38B was withdrawn, and routes 38 and 38A returned to normal.[1]

As a wartime economy routes 38 and 38A were re-routed between Clapton and Dalston on the direct route via Cricketfield Road (avoiding Hackney) on 5 May 1943. On 15 April 1959 route 38A was re-routed via Hackney Central station to replace withdrawn trolleybus route 581. From 1946 until 1965, route 38 also had a summer Sunday extension from Chingford station to Epping Forest via Rangers Road and Epping New Road.[1]

Following the opening of the first section of the Victoria line between Walthamstow Central and Highbury & Islington; on 7 September 1968 a large scale re-organisation of London Buses took place. Route 38A was withdrawn, being replaced by three new routes; Red Arrow route 505 between Victoria and Piccadilly Circus, route 48 between Dalston and Whipps Cross and route 20 between Leyton and Loughton. Between Dalston and Hackney route 38A was also replaced by a re-routed 38, which was cut back from Chingford to Walthamstow Garage, being replaced by route 69 over this section.[1]

On 25 October 1969 route 38 was further cut back to terminate at Leyton Green, being replaced on the Walthamstow section by the newly introduced route 55.[1] The Sunday service was converted to one-person operation on 6 June 1987. When London Buses was divided into 11 subsidiaries operation of route 38 was taken over by London Forest. London Forest was wound up in 1991; the route then became a joint operation between Leaside Buses and East London, before being transferred to Leaside Buses.[2]

On 29 Oct 2005, route 38 was converted to one man operation with the AEC Routemasters replaced by 46 Mercedes-Benz O530G articulated buses.[3][4] Double deck buses were introduced on 14 November 2009 as part of the Mayor of London's policy to withdraw articulated buses from London. The frequency of the route was increased to every 2–3 minutes.[5]

Eight prototype New Routemasters were introduced in February 2012[6][7][8] Full conversion to New Routemasters occurred on 10 May 2014.[9] On 12 November 2016, Arriva London commenced a further contract.[10][11][12]

In 2015/16 it was the seventh busiest TfL bus service, with 12.3 million passengers.[13]

In 2021, the maximum frequency of the route was reduced from 15 buses per hour to 12.[14]

Current route

Route 38 operates via these primary locations:[15]

In popular culture

Grime MC and Bow resident Wiley mentioned the route 38 in his lyrics. An example of which is "I'm like the 38 bus cos I never turn up!".[16]

Connan Mockasin expressed similar sentiments in his song "Forever Dolphin Love" with the lyrics "The 38 that took too long to Dalston".

An AEC Routemaster bus with route 38 blinds is displayed in the Falkland Islands capital of Port Stanley.[17]

The bus and its route is central to the children's book Gaspard's Foxtrot by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew, listing many of its stops and landmarks along the way.[18] It has been adapted as a concert work by the composer Jonathan Dove.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Warren, Kenneth (1986). The Motorbus in Central London. Shepperton: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 82–84. ISBN 0-7110-1568-6.
  2. ^ McLachlan, Tom (1995). London Buses 1985-1995: Managing The Change. Venture Publications. p. 61. ISBN 1-898432-74-0.
  3. ^ A trip down memory lane for last No.38 Routemaster The Times
  4. ^ Wharmby, Matthew (2016). The London Bendy Bus. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-78383-172-2.
  5. ^ Next set of bendy buses to leave London Transport for London November 2009
  6. ^ New Routemaster bus unveiled in London BBC News 16 December 2011
  7. ^ "New route for Ballymena's new 'Boris bus'". BBC News. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  8. ^ "'Cleanest, greenest' bus runs from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico". ITV. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  9. ^ Routes 8 and 38 now served by New Routemaster buses Transport For London July 2014
  10. ^ "Arriva big winner in latest tender round" Coach & Bus Week issue 1241 17 May 2016 page 10
  11. ^ "Tender News" Bus Talk issue 40 June 2016 page 11
  12. ^ "Arriva does well in route awards" Buses Magazine issue 736 July 2016 page 24
  13. ^ https://tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/bus-service-usage.xlsx[dead link]
  14. ^ Mortimer, Josiah (21 December 2021). "The 41 London bus routes that have quietly been cut in 2021". MyLondon. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  15. ^ Route 38 Map Transport for London
  16. ^ The Essential...Wiley FACT, Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Don't mention the war The Daily Telegraph 17 March 2007
  18. ^ "Gaspard the Fox — ABOUT". Gaspard the Fox. Retrieved 9 January 2021.