|Peak vehicle requirement||22|
|Night-time||Night Bus N3|
Route 3 started operations on 1 November 1908 between Brixton station and South Croydon. On 19 November 1908, the route was altered at both ends to run between Oxford Circus and South Croydon. From April 1909 it was extended on Sundays to Purley, then to Whyteleafe in August 1909. A month later, route 3 was extended northwards to Camden Town, and was withdrawn between Streatham Common and Whyteleafe. On 3 March 1910, route 3 was withdrawn between Brixton (Lambeth Town Hall) and Streatham Common and re-routed via Effra Road to Brixton. In the same month the route was extended to Hampstead Heath. From 16 June 1912, route 3 became a Monday to Saturday route only, being replaced by the recently introduced 59 on Sundays.
On 11 May 1913, a new daily route 3A was introduced between Camden Town and Crystal Palace via route 3 to Brixton, then via Water Lane, Herne Hill, Croxted Road and South Croxted Road. Routes 3 and 3A only ran as such until 17 July 1913, when both routes became daily and exchanged numbers. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 3A was withdrawn as an economy measure, but was re-instated in October. Route 3 was extended from Crystal Palace to Upper Norwood a month later. By the end of hostilities route 3A had been withdrawn and route 3 ran between Camden Town to Crystal Palace.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. As a result, the short workings of route 3 from Camden Town to Brixton were renumbered 3A. This situation continued until 3 October 1934 when all 3A journeys were renumbered 3.
Just before the outbreak World War II, route 3 was replaced on Sundays by a new 3A route, running from Crystal Palace to Oxford Circus and on to Baker Street, Swiss Cottage, Hendon, Mill Hill and Edgware station. This was withdrawn after 15 October 1939 as a wartime economy measure. Route 3 returned to a 7-day operation and remained virtually unchanged for the next 40 years.
On 2 January 1993, it was converted to one man operation with the AEC Routemasters being replaced by 24 Optare Spectra bodied DAF DB250s until 1999, when upon being tendered, the contract to operate the route passed from London Central to Connex, who introduced Alexander ALX400 bodied Dennis Trident 2 low-floor vehicles.
Route 3 was included in the sale of Connex to Travel London in February 2004 which in turn was sold to Abellio London in May 2009. It is operated out of Battersea garage with a peak vehicle requirement of 22.
On 8 February 2016, New Routemasters were introduced on the route. On 15 July 2017, the route was withdrawn between Trafalgar Square and Oxford Circus. In June 2019, the route was further cut back to Whitehall.
Route 3 operates via these primary locations:
- Crystal Palace bus station
- Dulwich Wood Park
- Gipsy Hill
- Croxted Road for West Dulwich station
- Herne Hill station
- Brixton station
- Kennington for Oval station
- Imperial War Museum
- Lambeth Bridge
- Westminster station
- Warren, Kenneth (1986). The Motorbus in Central London. Shepperton: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 43. ISBN 0 7110 1568 6.
- Aldridge, John (August 1999). "New kid on the block". Buses. Ian Allan Publishing (533): 12.
- Blacker, Ken (2007). Routemaster: 1970–2005. 2 (2nd ed.). Harrow Weald: Capital Transport. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-85414-303-7.
- National Express buys 200 London buses The Daily Telegraph 27 February 2004
- National Express Group plc agreement to sell Travel London National Express Group 21 May 2009 Archived 2 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- NedRailways acquisition reinforces long term commitment to UK transport market NedRailways 9 June 2009 Archived 18 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
- Carr, Ken (May 2015). The London Bus Guide (5 ed.). Boreham: Visions International Entertainment. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-9931735-3-0.
- Bus services Abellio London
- New Routemaster Archived 25 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine Transport for London
- Route 3 Map Transport for London