Tuesday 6th April 2021
It’s not often TfL’s bus stop contractors manage to install new bus stops in time for the start of extensions to bus routes. (Readers will recall my recent ride along new route 456 featuring ‘dolly stops’ and temporary flags despite plenty of notice before the service started.) But in Wandsworth, they’ve gone to the other extreme, installing bus stops with no sign of a bus route being introduced.
I was recently alerted by a blog reading resident of Wandsworth telling me two new bus stops had been installed in Osiers Road, Wandsworth and could I help with any information as to when buses would start operating along the road. Local residents are naturally intrigued why they’ve been blessed with two smart bus stops, fully signed with stop names, direction panels and route numbers, yet no bus route.
Sadly the timetable case panels don’t give anything away, instead imploring potential passengers to make contact with TfL through the usual channels.
Route 485 currently terminates in Wandsworth ‘s oversized one-way system at Ram Street and provides a half hourly service to Putney and Barnes before continuing towards Hammersmith. Prior to the bridge closure it terminated at the bus station in Hammersmith, but now has to turn short on the south side of the bridge, giving no useful destination for passengers, especially since the bridge has been closed to pedestrians as well as all other traffic and cyclists.
Back in pre bridge closure days, when buses were allowed to travel over it (one-by-one so as not to weaken the structure further), TfL launched one of their consultations seeking views on plans for improvements to route 485 including doubling the frequency to every 15 minutes, re-routing between Putney and Wandsworth to use Upper Richmond Road and West Hill (already served by the 37 and 337) instead of Putney Bridge Road (also served by the 220 and 270) and, pertinent to this blogpost, extending the route beyond Wandsworth town centre to serve the expanding “Wandsworth Riverside Quarter” along the aforementioned Osiers Road and terminating in Enterprise Way.
That consultation was back in March 2018 and as readers will know, proposals for bus route changes in London move along at a snail like pace, so no surprises nothing has yet happened. Nevertheless the consultation explained with some optimism: “the changes to Route 485 would be introduced in two stages. The first stage would be the increase in service frequency, and the diversion from Putney Bridge Road to the new route via Putney High Street, Upper Richmond Road and West Hill later in 2018”. While the “extension of the service to Wandsworth Riverside Quarter and replacement of Ram Street as the service terminus by Osiers Road would follow in 2019”.
2021 and nothing, with no word on either of the two stages and their implementation. Except, of course, two bus stops have appeared to mystify and intrigue everyone.
To satisfy my own curiosity I had my own investigative Wandsworth wander the other day to see the bus stops for myself as building continues apace in the expanding “Wandsworth Riverside Quarter”.
I had a look further along Osiers Road towards Enterprise Way to see if the new ‘terminus’ bus stop had also been installed, as shown in the diagram in the consultation but the contractors hadn’t made it a triple intrigue and no flag could be seen.
This might be because the lay-by (which looked as though it might be the location) was being used by the contractor.
I’m guessing TfL had a rethink about plans to improve the 485 following Hammersmith Bridge’s closure to traffic in April 2019; and frankly, since August 2020 when it was closed to pedestrians too, the approach road from the south called Castelnau is deserted since there’s nowhere for traffic or people to go, and not surprisingly buses on the 485 (as well as other routes – 33, 209, 419 and 533) are carrying lots of fresh air. But whilst that may have changed the thinking about doubling the frequency, I can’t see why it’s caused a three year delay on the rerouting plans between Putney and Wandsworth, nor for a two year delay for the extension into “Wandsworth Riverside Quarter” where new residents will by now have made alternative travel plans, notwithstanding the new bus stops.
I sent an enquiry into TfL to ask when buses might serve these new bus stops, and will update readers when I receive a reply.
Interestingly “Wandsworth Riverside Quarter” was one of the destinations identified by Ford as ticking all the boxes for their ambitious Chariot minibus ride sharing routes introduced in February 2018 and which were going to revolutionise transport for everyone, until it packed up after a few months.
While in the area, I took a look at the impact of the bridge closure on other bus routes. It’s quite devastating. TfL have introduced two new routes to compensate for the loss of through services across the bridge. Route 533 runs from the south side heading west through Barnes and Mortlake before crossing the River Thames over Chiswick Bridge and then doubling back on the north side of the River to Hammersmith. It’s a five bus an hour timetable taking seven buses. Then there’s route 378 which links Mortlake through Barnes to Putney Bridge as an alternative to the 209 which used to run from Mortlake through Barnes to Hammersmith and now terminates on the south side of the bridge running four buses an hour. The 378 runs at a frequency of eight buses an hour and takes seven buses (although it links with the 209 needing 10 buses overall).
I thought I’d catch a 378 in the rather delightful Barnes, alongside the picturesque pond by the shopping parade. The only trouble was, there’s no bus stops heading towards Putney to board the bus. Whereas the 209 continues along Church Road with well established bus stops north of the pond, the 378 turns into Mill Hill Road, so doesn’t reach those stops, and sadly no replacement stop has been introduced.
The distance between the stops at Barnes Bridge and the next in Mill Hill Road at Beverley Road is shown on these maps. It works out at 790 metres (860 yards) which is quite some distance.
And ironically is more than double the distance from Putney Bridge Road (served by routes 220, 270 and 485) and the proposed terminus in Osiers Road, Wandsworth.
Which just goes to show there’s no guessing what the policy might be when it comes to catching a bus from a bus stop in London. Just don’t try catching one in Barnes to Putney Bridge – because there isn’t a bus stop, but there is a bus, nor in Osiers Road, Wandsworth where there are bus stops, but no bus.
I also spotted a helpful notice on a bus stop at the northern end of Castelnau advising the complicated alternative arrangements now in place for bus travels from south to north of the river ….
… which was rather confused with an out-of-date spider map on display in the shelter, especially as it’s for the wrong area.
Still, at least there was a spider map.
At a busy bus stop alongside Clapham Junction station there was no spider map at all. Just a street map showing bus stop locations in the immediate vicinity, but not their code letters nor what routes serve them, nor to which destinations. Which makes for a pretty useless map.
Meanwhile over in Wandsworth, I’m sure customers for National Express will be pleased to see “coach travel is back” in …. July.
But, Flixbus to Portsmouth is available as an alternative. Apparently.
I felt like I was living in a 2020 time warp.
The dire state of bus information in London is probably the worst it’s ever been.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.