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Aldwych to Aldenham via Whitechapel

Wednesday 1st September 2021

Apologies for the London and South East centric blogposts of late. That’ll change in the next few posts, but here’s just one more featuring a quick tour I did on Monday to check out three recent transport developments in the Capital.

Aldwych goes two-way

On Saturday 21st August Aldwych became a two-way road to allow The Strand to be pedestrianised. It’s a sensible move from Westminster City Council as there’s plenty of room for all the traffic on the new two-way semi-circle and it’ll enable a nice pedestrian friendly environment to be created on the bottom straight bit of road on The Strand.

The Council are very excited about the opportunities now created. “Strand Aldwych aims to bring the inside out – celebrating the wealth of cultural and educational offer in the area, whilst providing a new green oasis in central London to relax, play and come together”, so says the Council’s dedicated Strand Aldwych website.

It’s been in the planning for some time with a consultation back in 2019, so you’d hope everything would be in place for day 1 for bus passengers. I decided to give the new arrangements a week or so to bed in and paid a visit on Bank Holiday Monday.

I was surprised to see pairs of orange high-viz vest wearing “Event Stewards” and “Security” at every junction thinking there might be a cycle race or charity fun run about to pass by.

But asking one of them what the event was he was stewarding the bored looking young man explained he and colleagues were there to marshal construction traffic as it enters and leaves the site to create the new pedestrianised piazza.

Which all seemed a bit excessive especially as being a Bank Holiday no construction was taking place. There wasn’t a hard hat to be seen. Presumably someone forgot to cancel the deployment of the stewards not realising the contract involved a bank holiday.

I’m pleased to report the flags on the two now out-of-use bus stops on the Strand (R and S) are covered over with ‘not in use’ signs …

…and even more impressive the spider map in the shelter is up to date and there’s a special notice added to one of the glass panels showing the location of the new bus stops.

Someone’s put a ‘Bus stop closed’ poster in one of the timetable case frames and a handy summary of the changes …

… but inexplicably left details of departures in one of the other frames on both the former bus stop R (just night bus N11) and bus stop S (the full works).

Which is a pity as we could do with it around the corner at one of the four new bus stops which have been erected on the new westbound arc of Aldwych on the southern side of the road.

Sadly three of the four bus stops (new bus stops R and S as well as new bus stop G) aren’t showing any timetable information despite each having generously been given a three panel frame structure.

However, new bus stop H at least has been blessed with a timetable for routes 6 and 9 (but nothing for route 87 which also stops there) so a little effort was obviously made by the timetable putter uppers, which is something to be grateful for.

Also, positive news that bus stop flags are all installed with the correct route numbers on ‘E plates’ but nothing in the timetable department to tell you where and when buses go.

Sadly it’s not been possible to coordinate bus shelter introduction for three of the four new stops either, although lucky new bus stop H has been endowed with one.

While there’s plenty of room for a shelter at new bus stop R …

I have my doubts whether there’s room for a shelter at new bus stop S in between the tree and lamppost …

… and new bus stop G has got some serious bollard infrastructure in the way.

So it looks like it’s work in progress on bus stop facilities at Aldwych.

Bus layover spaces which used to stretch for much of the length of the former offside of Aldwych facing east have now been relocated to the eastern end of the now closed Strand (five spaces)…

… and three spaces in Melbourne Place which is now used by terminating buses to return back into Aldwych.

Whitechapel Station

I moved on to Whitechapel to take a look at the revamped entrance to the Underground and Overground station together with a vastly expanded interior in preparation for Crossrail. This opened on Monday 23rd August after cramped temporary facilities were introduced in January 2016 to allow for construction to take place.

Photographs are on display to show the extent of the work that’s been taking place over the last five to eight years…

The original entrance on Whitechapel Road is still the same size as before but it’s now a bit of a Tardis fronting a huge transformation through its doors with wider steps and passageways everywhere and a whole host of new lifts to ensure it’s fully accessible.

Posters above the entrance depict “We are the women of TfL” including a 39 year gap in achieving “equality, opportunity and progress’”
Steps up to the new ticket hall from the main Whitechapel Road entrance

It’s quite a transformation now offering a spacious area between platforms on the District and Hammersmith & City lines …

Steps down from the ticket hall to the Underground platforms

…with access from there down to the Overground platforms which are under the Underground here …

…as well as a new glass fronted long corridor from the ticket gates to the latter which also leads to where the Crossrail platforms will be accessed.

There was a familiarisation session going on for Crossrail staff when I visited who’d just been through the closed off area to take a peek at the new platforms. They all looked suitably impressed.

Back at ground level an understated new entrance to the station has been created from Durward Street at the rear of the station….

… where construction work for Crossrail is still underway, although hopefully this is just the finishing off touches.

This entrance has long opening hours but misses the extremes of operation.

There are signs all in place ready to show where to go to access Crossrail, but for now, they’re covered up…

… or await details.

There’s no doubt Crossrail is going to open up a whole new era for spacious stations in London and if you thought the Jubilee Line’s Stratford extension was revolutionary in its time, Crossrail promises to take space to a whole new frontier.

For a great write up and more images of the reborn Whitechapel see Diamond Geezer’s recent blogpost.

Route 324 extended to Elstree

My third and final visit on Monday was to check out the newly extended TfL bus route 324 from its former northern terminus at Stanmore Station to the Centennial Business Park, built on the site of the famous Aldenham bus works, and developed over 20 years ago.

Route 324 is operated by Metroline from Cricklewood bus garage and provides a daily 20 minute frequency along back roads in the Boroughs of Brent and Harrow between Brent Cross and Stanmore via Hendon Central and Kingsbury stations. The nine minute, 2.2 mile extension to Centennial Park began on Saturday having been on the stocks since TfL’s review of bus services to hospitals across London in 2017. TfL held a formal consultation about the proposal last November and December.

The main justification is to provide a link from Stanmore Station to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital on Brockley Hill (previously only served by route 107 from Edgware Station as well as Borehamwood and Elstree) but it made sense to continue the 324 to Centennial Park, just over the border in Hertfordshire, as not only is it somewhere convenient to turn the bus round but also provides a bus service for the thousands of employees at the businesses and hotel located there.

It’s a big site (as Aldenham was of course) alongside the M1 and A41 stretching for half a mile from Elstree Hill to the far end where the bus now turns round.

I was impressed to see TfL’s contractors had been hard at work updating the timetable panels throughout the route from Brent Cross as well as adding a 324 E-plate to the bus stop flags beyond Stanmore at the six new bus stops within London now served by the 324 as well as the long standing 107 after Canons Corner and along Brockley Hill.

Sadly Hertfordshire County Council, who unlike Kent, Surrey, Berkshire and Essex didn’t take up TfL’s offer many years ago that it would look after bus stops and timetable displays where its routes penetrate, hasn’t got round to installing updated information in the two bus stops within the Business Park heading towards the terminal point which were still claiming they’re “not currently served by any local passenger buses” on Monday (after the Saturday introduction) when I visited.

Nor were there any bus stops installed on the opposite of the road for outbound buses from the Park leaving potential passengers flummoxed about where to wait, assuming they’ve ignored the timetable misinformation.

No one travelled from Stanmore Station on the journey I made but Jim the very friendly driver I encountered, and a regular on the 324, said he had taken a couple of passengers out on a previous journey.

And then while we were chatting at the terminus, right on cue, two passengers appeared wanting to return to Stanmore asking where they should wait.

Hopefully Hertfordshire have got arrangements in hand to install two new bus stops this week and will have updated the incorrect displays by the time you read this, and the hiccup was only caused by the bank holiday.

The two bus stop flags already installed on the inbound side of the road are presumably a hangover from when route 615 operated by uno bus ran morning and afternoon peak journeys via Centennial Park as a short diversion on its route between Stanmore and Hatfield some years ago. That ended due to a lack of passengers.

TfL’s route 107 has always gone past the end of the entrance road along Elstree Hill, even in Aldenham days, but never diverted in, as it would be too much of a deviation for through passengers.

Regular commenter ‘greenline727’, with knowledge of the extension from when he worked at Metroline, explained in a comment on last weekend’s blogpost on TfL’s frequency cuts the new bit of route has cost an additional bus in route 324’s schedule resulting in an increase in annual operating costs he estimated of around £200,000.

It’ll have to attract quite a few passengers across the long operating day of nineteen hours from 05:05 to 00:08 seven days a week (06:05 Sundays) to justify that. Especially as it’s been so long without a regular bus service.

Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

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.

11 thoughts on “Aldwych to Aldenham via Whitechapel Leave a comment

  1. Rather like the problem with the AZ1 service in Kent, Centennial Park is not part of the public highway, and the road is controlled by the site owners.

    As a result, Herts’ bus stop people are unlikely to be able to just go in and erect stops, but will have to obtain permission from the site owners/agents. Sometimes this is quick, sometimes this is not….

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  2. The Uno 615 did actually serve Centenniel Park on Sundays, although I think later it might have been cut to the peak only service you described. I recall catching a very busy Sunday 615 from Hatfield, with almost a full load going all the way to Stanmore (got the impression they might have all been to an African church in Hatfield) and recall several people boarding at both stops in Centenniel Park, and being rather surprised how full the bus was. I guess the 324 will mean the free taxi service between Stanmore Station and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital will no longer be needed. On the rare occasions I have seen this, it has always been full, and even leaving behind, albeit running about every 15 mins, so there should be some custom there for the 324. The shuttle used to be a minibus, and also had Edgware journeys. Cannot recall if it was free then or not, but was interesting in doing a tour of the hospital site, which the taxi might have still done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. UK: Privatized Bus System Failing Passengers, Undermining Rights

    Government’s new strategy grossly inadequate, says former UN Rapporteur Philip Alston
    New York (July 19, 2021) – Privatization of the bus sector in England outside London, Scotland, and Wales has delivered a service that is expensive, unreliable, and dysfunctional, said New York University human rights expert, Philip Alston, in a new report. The former UN Special Rapporteur criticized the government’s new national bus strategy for England, which he said merely tinkers with the existing system, offering ineffective half measures that fail to address the structural cause of the country’s bus crisis.

    The 38-page report finds that many people have lost jobs and benefits, faced barriers to healthcare, been forced to give up on education, sacrificed food and utilities, and been cut off from friends and family because of a costly, fragmented, and inadequate privatized bus service that has failed them.

    “Over the past 35 years, deregulation has provided a master class in how not to run an essential public service, leaving residents at the mercy of private actors who have total discretion over how to run a bus route, or whether to run one at all,” said Philip Alston, who authored the report with Bassam Khawaja and Rebecca Riddell, Co-directors of the Human Rights and Privatization Project at NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. “In case after case, service that was once dependable, convenient, and widely-used has been scaled back dramatically

    Click to access Report-Public-Transport-Private-Profit.pdf

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  4. There are three stops at Centennial Park, two on one side and one opposite the hotel on the other side of the road. This particular stop is protected by double yellow lines rather than cage markings so may not have been so obvious.

    Man of Kent is absolutely right in that sometimes privately-owned roads can be a challenge but I am happy to report in this instance the management were most helpful. Indeed, most issues seem to be caused by motorists removing cones so they could park and preventing the access required to paint the bus stop markings, which were undertaken by Hertfordshire.

    Timetables are imminent for these stops. They are included as part of a batch of around 2000 stops that need updating for the start of September with some being updated again at the end of the month to reflect Covid-related contract changes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A ‘local passenger bus’….. There’s an interesting new bit of terminology. Must be Enhanced Partnership lingo as it’s HCC, so presumably will become England-wide best practice very soon. Does that means it’s a local bus for local people?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My thanks to Bob for providing this “report”. I’ve only skimmed through it, and regret the 20 minutes I’ve just wasted. I refute all of it.
    1. Out of 4.5 billion passenger journeys made in a full year, they’ve undertaken 72 interviews with passengers (their numbers). Really? That is, in no way, a representative sample.
    2. The report was compiled by two human rights researchers from a university in New York. Oh goodie . . . I’m glad that they’ve thoroughly immersed themselves in the subject matter; plenty of personal research so they can thoroughly understand the subject.

    I’m not going to waste any more of my life on this “report”, except to say the following:
    A. Deregulation did not “fail” . . . it revitalised a failing industry. Passenger numbers grew overall for almost 20 years.
    B. I accept that deregulation (and privatisation) had a dodgy start, but from the early 1990’s, passengers DID benefit from competition in many areas by service levels increasing and fares being lower than might otherwise have been the case.
    C. In fact, the industry was held back in the 2000’s by outdated and increasingly irrelevent Government legislation, which prevented bus companies talking to each other . . . such conversations would have removed barriers to sensible co-ordination of timetables and fares.
    D. During the 2010’s, many LTA’s were unable to keep up their role in the industry by failing to secure socially-necessary services due to the considerable financial strictures placed on them by the Treasury. Many operators tried to maintain these services, but couldn’t continue to do so . . . some of these operators failed because of the burden.
    E. The Gordon Brown fiasco with senior citizen travel concessions, and then the failure to properly fund said concessions placed a huge burden on operators . . . what other industry would accept that 50% of their customers would only pay 50% of their product price?

    In summary . . . if Government had actually done what they said they would do . . . leave the bus industry to organise itself; plan relevent service networks and charge appropriate fares; force LTA’s to keep up their part in supporting the socially-necessary services . . . we’d be in a much better place now.

    My apologies to Roger for hijacking his blog post . . . but I couldn’t let this “report” pass without comment . . . I can only hope that it gets buried, but my fear is that it won’t.

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  7. Sorry but we can’t have a comment like “Deregulation did not “fail” . . . it revitalised a failing industry. Passenger numbers grew overall for almost 20 years.” standing uncorrected.
    The DfT statistics make it very clear that the overall growth in passenger numbers was driven by London which was not deregulated. There were other individual areas (Brighton for one) which increased their passenger numbers, but overall the trend in passenger numbers outside London was terrible.

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  8. Terrible? No. DfT produces many statistics which permit annual comparisons: these are available at
    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/bus01-local-bus-passenger-journeys.
    Numbers every 5 years are (in millions of passenger journeys per year) {table BUS0101}.:
    1990/1991 = 4,845m. 1995/1996 = 4,489m. 2000/2001 = 4,420m.
    2005/2006 = 4,699m. 2010/2011 = 5,164m. 2015/2016 = 5,023m.
    For the sake of completeness, although not fully five years later . . . 2019/2020 = 4,524m.
    To put these numbers is context . . . 1970 = 8,643m. 1985/1986 = 5,635m.

    IMHO . . . the numbers since 1990 do not show a “terrible” fall. I agree that London may skew the numbers slightly; I’m no statistician . . . perhaps someone else can perform the relevent calculations?

    I stand by my assertion that deregulation did not fail, and that without dereg. we’d have a much poorer industry now.
    Perhaps we should now be discussing how to rebuild passenger numbers, but not by simply saying “run the buses and they will come” . . . we need to target improvements where they can do the most good . . . not just taking the easy answer of “more evening buses” and “more rural buses”; that will set buses up to fail again.

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  9. With further apologies to Roger, I suspect that greenline 727 is right when he worries that the “Private Profit” report won’t go away. Otherwise why is Bob now bringing it up, when it was launched on July 19th? One of its authors, Bassam Khawaja, wrote a piece on it for the Guardian the following week, which is where and when I read about it. That article is still available on line, along with 729 comments. While many comments were sympathetic to the argument, as you would expect in a left-leaning paper, many pointed out the inadequate research. In particular, no-one in regulated Northern Ireland was interviewed despite the report referring to the UK.

    We all have our own opinions on deregulation, but it was 35 years ago and there have been lots of changes to the way we live that have affected transport since then. As a passenger rep on my local council’s bus partnership, I agree entirely that we should be concentrating on how to attract passengers back to buses rather than re-hashing old arguments.

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