Few Londoners can claim to have a bus that takes them directly to their door. That is not the case for residents of Kenley though, who have once again been provided with dedicated ‘hail a ride’ service passing right through the leafy Kenley heights. 

“It’s great,” said Ann after gathering her shopping trolly and walking stick after a morning’s shopping on the Purley Way.

“I can just press the button and get taken right to my door after a day of shopping. The only problem is waiting for it in the first place.” 

The 439 is the newest addition to Croydon’s bus network, arriving on the scene as part of TfL’s latest bus review last Friday (March 2).

These changes also saw the removal of long-winded 455 bus route between Wallington and Purley, which has now been replaced by the S2.

Despite its brand new fleet of EV Metrobuses, the 439 covers no new ground.

Instead, it starts its life in Waddon and passes through Purley and the old 434 route atop Kenley Valley finishing over the border in Whyteleaf.

I decided to ride this new service on its first working Monday to see how TfL’s latest addition fared.

Firstly, a disclaimer. I took this bus during off-peak hours so it’s safe to presume it will eventually get busier. 

After alighting at Waddon station, I took a short walk to the bus stop just along from the Fiveways Corner, a location familiar to many disgruntled Croydon motorists.

The access to nearby transport hubs along the route immediately struck me. 

Five minutes down the road, the route begins at Waddon Marsh Tram stop.

This placement gives passengers an easy link into both Croydon and Wimbledon town centres as well as the big IKEA and Purley Way stores. 

Despite this connectivity, one thing that becomes glaringly obvious for all potential 439 users is the journey will involve a lot of waiting around.

With services scheduled for every 30 minutes and scant timetabling at the stops, this bus is not one to rely on for speedy transit. 

After watching endless packed 289 services pass on the way from Elmers End to Purley, the 439 service finally turns up, late.

However, I soon forget about this once I step aboard the brand-new electric Metrobus.

The new 439 buses are decked out with comfortable seating, charging points, and nifty screen displays that tell you how far from your destination.

The pleasant absence of the hum of a combustion engine almost makes you forget the controversy surrounding electric buses. 

The other notable feature was the sheer lack of passengers. I boarded in Waddon to find just one other passenger riding towards Purley. 

While this may have been due to me riding during off-peak hours, my fellow passenger believes it will only be a matter of time before it becomes more popular.

Purley resident Susan told the local democracy reporting service (LDRS): “It’s a nice route, people will definitely catch on soon.

“This is my second time on it. When I rode it yesterday on the way back from Purley Way there were a few people on it who had been shopping. Most people just get the 289 though because it comes more often.

“I like it so far though, it’s quite nice being the only one on the bus for most of the journey and it takes me right to my house in Purley. I’ll be using it a lot I reckon.”

After passing Purley Way landmarks like the Wing Yip Pagoda and Colonades with relative ease, we encountered our first bit of traffic.

Traffic is almost inevitable for anyone hoping to take a trip via Purley town centre, and this trip was no exception. 

Despite this, Purley also saw the 439 pick up a few more passengers on its way towards Kenley.

Upon passing under the Purley railway bridge, the bus swings a hard right and climbs up steep Kenley Valley.

At this point, the bus starts to pass along the previous domain of the 434 route, which has been rejigged to serve the main road along the bottom of the valley.

As of last Friday, the 439 now operates a hail-a-ride service from Purley Cross, across Northwood Avenue, Oaks Road, Kenley Lane, Valley Road, Beverley Road, and Whyteleafe.

Once on these roads, 439 passengers can enjoy great views across the valley.

Particular highlights include the Kenley common and chalk cliffs in the distance. 

It’s just as well that this part of the journey is scenic because the bus certainly isn’t going anywhere fast.

Rampant on street parking means the bus crawls at a snail’s pace, and is forever waiting to pass cars coming from the other direction.

I was also particularly unlucky, being stuck behind a bin lorry for the majority of my time on Oaks Road.

Despite this, my fellow passengers seemed to be happy to have a service that took them straight to their front doors.

Kenley resident Ann told the LDRS: “It doesn’t come too often, but I can’t complain. How many other bus services can you get from right outside your house.”

As the bus crossed the Surrey border into Whyteleafe village, a small number of passengers filed out en route to the nearby sports centre.

Once again I was alone on the bus with two stops to go. 

However, as the bus left the leafy valley roads for the largely commercial A22 towards Caterham I realised why I was the last remaining passenger.

The 439, as Susan told me earlier in my journey, ‘drops you off in the middle of nowhere.’

In this case, nowhere is Wapses Lodge Roundabout.

While I know most people would have already embarked before the terminus, it does seem a strange place to end the route.

As the high-spirited bus driver waved me off before completing his lap around the roundabout, I realised I had to trudge a quarter mile back along the dual carriageway where I would have to wait yet another 30 minutes for the bus back to Waddon.

However, despite the speeding cars and depressing road side aesthetics, I did notice I had been dropped right outside the striking facade of Ann Summers UK headquarters.

Maybe that’s why the 439 ends there. 

Overall, the 439 is a nice addition to Croydon’s bus network. It provides a great hail-a-ride service for Kenley’s elderly population and has a comfortable and high-spec fleet to match. 

I would, however, make an effort to memorise the timetable. This is one bus that you won’t be catching on a whim.