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