An extension and a curtailment

Thursday 21st July 2022

As TfL advised “do not travel” due to the record breaking temperatures, Monday also saw the much anticipated 2.8 mile extension to the Overground from Barking to Barking Riverside open for business. It brings a 15 minute rail service taking a scheduled seven minutes to the huge 179-hectare brownfield site on the north bank of the Thames. Until now planning conditions have severely limited the number of new homes which could be constructed to 4,000.

Originally planned for opening in December 2021, then reprogrammed to December 2022, it’s rather cheekily being billed as an opening “ahead of schedule”.

That twelve (reduced to seven) months delay has been blamed on “issues diverting utilities combined with Covid-19 restrictions”. These “issues” included “unchartered utilities” identified as a Thames Water pipe and telecoms cabling.

Now the extension is open, and pretty much trumps bus route EL1 which has been operating to Riverside with a 25 minute journey time from central Barking since way back in 2013 and Thames Clipper’s (aka UberBoat) peak hour weekday service (all day at weekends) introduced earlier this year, it’ll be full steam ahead building thousands more houses and flats (6,800) destined for the site of the former Barking Power Station.

The extension was originally budgeted to cost £260 million but has come in at £327 million due to the aforementioned unexpected engineering problems and the need to change working methods at the height of the pandemic.

Renwick Road circled

What’s called “passive provision” has been made for an additional station on the extension at Renwick Road when another planned housing development for 11,000 homes to the north of the area becomes a reality.

Possible site of an intermediate station

The new tracks leave Barking station on the southern most platforms (7 and 8) used by c2c trains to Rainham and Tilbury.

Overground trains from Gospel Oak now use these tracks for one and a half miles before taking a new spur through DB Cargo’s terminal rising to a new viaduct and over Choats Road.

The new tracks continue for about a mile where you can see the current terminus of bus route EL1 and the homes that have been built….

….. continuing to the new elevated station south of what’s planned as a retail area with shops, healthcare services and commercial outlets.

Residents destined for central London now have a choice of connections at Barking – c2c to West Ham (for the Jubilee line) and Fenchurch Street or the Hammersmith & City line. Another option is to stay with Overground to Blackhorse Road and change there to the Victoria line.

With the heatwave abated I popped over to have a look at the extension yesterday morning. It was good to see around half a dozen or so passengers getting on and off trains but as befits the surrounding barren land it was generally eerily quiet.

The new elevated station has a central platform with tracks for terminating trains either side. As the actual journey time only takes four to five minutes instead of the scheduled seven a train arrives from Gospel Oak just seconds before the previous one leaves which saves time waiting for the crossover to clear.

Two lifts and/or a two-part staircase take you down to ground level ….

…. where there’s a gateline and an entrance hall with ticket machines and office.

Not surprisingly there are no retail outlets yet and I was a bit surprised buses on route EL1 which pass close by ….

….. haven’t been rerouted into the drop off circle immediately outside the station where there are two ‘loading bay’ spaces with a 15 minute limit (“no grace period” – it’s “private land”).

Just right for a bus stop

You’d also have thought TfL could have arranged for bus stops to be much closer to the new station. They’re quite a long walk away. As it is the nearest bus stops haven’t even been upgraded from their temporary status. Still.

A poor show for integrated travel which TfL are supposed to be leaders in.

But, no expense spared for cyclists ….

…. who have their own secure parking facility ….

…. although I’m not sure how it works to have turnstile access when that shutter door is closed?

There’s the usual posters, next train(s) signs around the station and generally it’s all to a good functional as well as attractive design and will serve the growing Barking Riverside population well.

A shout out to TfL and their joint venture partners Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure and VolkerFitzpatrick for completing an impressive project.

It’s just a shame about that poor bus interchange.

As Barking Riverside is set to enjoy its frequent new rail service, adding about five minutes to the network, over in the far south east corner of London, five minutes is being lobbed off a bus route that’s being cut back from Saturday.

The cut is pretty minor involving just three bus stops in the rural area bordering Kent through the hamlet of Maypole close to Chelsfield village.

TfL states the stops are only used by an average of 16 passengers per day. I’m surprised it’s that many when you look at the sparsely inhabited area on Google maps.

By avoiding the circular route via Maypole and it’s rather quaintly named Bo-Peep pub and instead taking a shorter return journey in Chelsfield village itself…

From Saturday buses will turn from the road on the right where the bus is at the current terminus to the road on the left by the Five Bells pub.

…. it’s hoped the half hourly route R7, which continues through to Chislehurst after Orpington with a 50 minute journey time will become more reliable while causing minimal inconvenience to the small number left unserved.

The clockwise loop via Bucks Green road, Maypole Road and Hewitts Road is very rural and narrow by TfL bus route standards….

Stagecoach operated the R7 when this photo was taken in early 2019

….. including passing by Bo-Peep pub.

I had a ride on the route back in 2019 but took a ride again yesterday afternoon for one last time around the circuit and although three passengers boarded at the terminus we didn’t pick anyone else up at the three soon-to-be-abandoned stops.

Although it was touch and go as we passed by Bo-Peep pub where there was a huge crowd waiting by the bus stop and I could sense the driver’s alarm as she saw them all and began to pull up at the bus stop thinking they’ll never all fit on the bus.

Luckily they must have just been pausing on a ramble of some kind and let the bus go by.

It took us five and a half minutes to do the circuit so that’ll be time in the bank from Saturday to make the service more reliable. Mind you the current timetable already allows for ten minutes layover by the Five Bells pub in Chelsfield Village during which time you could easily walk to the first about-to-be-abandoned bus stop in Bucks Green Road.

TfL says there’ll be a new timetable from Saturday presumably adding some, if not all, of the five minutes saved due to the curtailed route, to the layover at Chislehurst which is also currently 10 minutes. So in a two hour rounder there’ll now be 25 minutes layover which sounds a bit generous to me, but probably about right for TfL and its penchant for inefficient layovers.

It’ll be interesting to see if the new timetable is posted at bus stops from Saturday. You’d hope so, but on past experience I’m doubtful.

It would have been helpful to post it in one of the two vacant spaces at the same time as putting up the yellow notice about the change. But that’s not how things work these days.

It’s instructive to note TfL, as befits its mandate, went through the usual full blown consultation procedure to assess public responses to Saturday’s change a year ago in July 2021. Unsurprisingly the consultation didn’t attract a very big response with only 167 replies (including 6 stakeholders) and as expected TfL reported “from the responses we received to the open questions, there was general opposition to the proposal from both the public and stakeholders.”

TfL know a thing or two about consultation responses – people impacted are hardly going to welcome the withdrawal of their bus service – so ignored the responses and go ahead with the changed route from Saturday.

And in a classic of its genre of why consultations such as this are really just a ‘tick box’ and ‘going through the motions’ exercise, TfL adds “we would like to provide assurance that all comments are taken into full consideration when proposals are being developed. We use consultation to make a better informed decision. Often consultation will highlight issues that we may not have considered as part of the planning process. The consultation also forms part of a wider decision making process that includes looking at impacts on passengers across the whole service. It is not always possible to accommodate every request and suggestion.”

So there you have it. What TfL gives to Barking Riversiders it takes from Maypolians.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

18 thoughts on “An extension and a curtailment

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  1. You are quite right about TfL’s attitude to bus-rail integration. From your experience in the industry, and as someone who obviously still takes a great interest, is this because there is a bunker mentality, where the bus people don’t talk to the rail people (and vice versa)? Is there still an attitude that the people who use buses and the people who use trains are separate groups, with no overlap?

    More important, what should be done to put this right? Group (sorry, team) visits to Switzerland? – Making senior staff take regular journeys around their territory by public transport? – Appoint an ‘Integration Tsar’? – Lessons in publicity (actually, the Underground do that fairly well; maybe get them to spend a month working on bus way-finding signs etc.).

    I do think that public transport in outer Greater London needs some new vision. What is it for? Almost everyone I know who lives outside the Overground circle thinks that a car is essential for their daily life. Is it important to change that? – surely it is, with climate change, poor air-quality and congestion becoming bigger issues all the time. Better integration could be an important part of a new approach: giving people more and better journey opportunities would increase passenger numbers, and revenue. The Chelsfield area – population 14,000 per Wikepedia – has a bus network of mixed 20/30 minute frequencies at best, but you can walk many journeys in very little more than the time taken to travel by bus, and it takes a fraction of that by car.

    Is what we have really the best that public transport can offer?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. In a response to TfL during the R7 consultation, I made the point that absurdly there is now no bus link whatsoever between Bromley/Orpington and the adjacent town of Sevenoaks. The trunk 402 was withdrawn almost without comment four years ago, and it’s limited replacement (431) by Go-Coach withdrawn at the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the nearby R5/10 trundle around car-sodden villages in both Greater London (Pratts Bottom and Cudham), and Kent (Knockholt and Halstead) carrying virtually nobody these days as the headways have progressively widened. A far cry from thirty minute headways both ways round on the famous 471 “Pratts Bottom Circular” and the hourly STL/RT worked 431 linking most of the route with Sevenoaks. Not to mention both the 402 and 704 providing four buses per hour via Badgers Mount and Polhill.

    The R7 (still using four vehicles!) similarly carries fresh air for most of the time either side of Orpington, and surely it would have been sensible to sit down with the Kent County Council and integrate both these services into at least re-creating a meaningful link with Sevenoaks once more. Even Dunton Green, which once had so frequent a service to Sevenoaks it required a summary timetable at the rear of the local book (remember those?), is bus less these days.

    I have always been given to understand that the TfL remit is not just to provide services for Greater London residents, but to allow for those wishing to travel into the area, but clearly both TfL and neighbouring local authorities are simply not interested in co-operating. The rail link may be fine if close to a station, but with the lack of buses twixt Station and Town in Sevenoaks, you need to be pretty fit to make the climb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just picking up on a couple of points you made.
      1. The lack of patronage on the R5/R10 is not helped by the irregular 70 minute headway. Could these routes be interworkwd with some of the other routes terminating at Orpington Station to provide a regular 60 minute headway?
      2. At the start of Roundabout services back in the 1980’s, the R6 did run to Sevenoaks, but was dropped, presumably either due to poor patronage, or lack of Council support from Sevenoaks/ Kentt CC.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Am I right that TfL doesn’t want to interwork routes? – doing so would mean two or more routes needing to be contracted to the same operator, and delays on one could affect the other. But otherwise seems sensible for a number of efficiency and connectivity reasons – all sorts of savings can be had with little or no effect on journey time or frequency

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A similar situation is about to befall Crockenhill, with Arriva’s decision to withdraw the 477 (Go-Coach are providing a replacement service but not south of Swanley). Kent County Council really should get together with TfL and work out how they are going to support services in the rural Oprington hinterland. A willingness by Kent County Council so spend some of its BSIP money on this would be appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The BSIP money is ring fenced and cannot be used to support existing bus services

      There is a massive problem across England with Cross boundary services. No one wants to pay for them. London once had an extensive network of bus services to and from the home counties but they have no all but disappeared

      Liked by 2 people

  4. There’s only 1 or 2 journeys a day which are scheduled with less than 5 mins stand time at Chelsfield on the R7 with the current loop working, so the withdrawal of the loop is totally unnecessary for the other 17 hours of the day, every day as PLENTY of recovery time is ALREADY built in – the cutting out of the loop will save no buses and no drivers… I pointed all this out to TFL along with their previous policy of providing a bus service within 400 meters of all their London council tax paying residents, which is the areas around all of the three bus stops concerned, but as is usual, and has been suggested, it’s all just a rubber stamp exercise anyway.

    Considering the green st-Dunton- Sevenoaks, and swanley-Orpington corridors used to enjoy frequent services of double deckers even with conductors back in the day, to be reduced to school trips only and no services for the rest of the day by the end of 2022, shows that both KCC and TFL couldn’t care less about the travelling public, and bus back better appears to be bus back b*ll**ks!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We have yet to see the impact o the Withdrawal of the Covid support for buses at the beginning of October. Without new funding there are going to be some pretty significant cuts

    In theory bus companies have to give 6 weeks notice of cuts so Mid August is the deadline. The Traffic Commissioners though seem very lax and frequently allow short notice changes for no real valid reason


  6. I popped along to Barking Riverside today . . . impressive!! It’s a shame about the electricity transfer station next door; that rather dominates the landscape, although the station is trying hard to dominate instead!!
    The signage to Barking Riverside Pier seems to be confused . . . I followed the signs and ended up walking about 3 times as far as I needed to!!
    Passenger numbers were low, but as (I think) Yerkes said (about the Edgware tube line) . . . “build the houses, and the passengers will come!”.
    Is the circle outside the station intended as a bus layby?? Whilst waiting for my train out, I observed an LT bus using the new road that is fended off at the north end of the station . . . obviously on some sort of route test. Maybe that’s why the bus stops on Route EL1 by the pier are dolly stops . . . is a re-routing anticipated soon??

    I also had another ride on the Elizabeth line today . . . it was reporting severe delays due to a defective train at Plumstead. These things happen, but whilst I was waiting, two trains failed to operate, but the PIS counted down to the arrivals, showed “due” . . . and then disappeared!!
    There were no announcements at Liverpool Street/Moorgate during this time . . . but at Paddington, there were relevent announcements about the service situation.
    Some “normals” were commenting about the Ghost trains; somewhat bemused . . . when a train did arrive (a 15 minute gap) . . . it was rammed!!

    And finally . . . frankly, if I lived in the Orpington hinterland, and needed a shopping centre . . . I’d head for Bromley, not Sevenoaks. Sevenoaks is reasonable for fashion, coffee and cake, but to actually buy anything important . . . nah!! Sevenoaks has the bus service it deserves now . . . and if GoCoach do move up to Swanley (SJ) garage, then I’d expect the Sevenoaks services to wither away . . . they’re hardly comprehensive now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GoCoach already use the old Swanley garage in addition to their other premises. And indeed, Bromley may be a draw for shopping, but few living beyond Pratts Bottom can get there! People didn’t just use the former 402/704 later 706 solely for shopping, as it was quite feasible to make a journey to Sussex seaside resorts by just two buses, not to mention a trip to Tunbridge Wells until finishing times gradually became earlier.

    There are now a number of places, probably soon to be many more where County boundaries have become an impassable barrier for no valid reason. Barnet-Potters Bar and Tewkesbury-Upton upon Severn spring to mind as recent examples.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I may use route R7 from Chislehurst to Petts Wood and back once a week and journeys from Chelsfield rarely run to time on a weekday between the peaks. Perhaps it will be better next werk.


  9. Did you notice a poster at Barking Riverside saying that on Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri of first week, the 0618 train would start at Barking ? Odd !


  10. Wednesday turned out to be the first day of a decent service, as a signal failure at Walthamstow on Monday lunchtime suspended the whole line for most of the rest of the day. And on Tuesday s failed train at Wanstead Park suspended services west of South Tottenham for most of the day.


  11. On the R7 drivers fear delays making the right turn onto Orpington By Pass will negate any saving of not serving Maypole. Also at Chelsfield Village, the bus stand does not have any parking restrictions opposite, so if a car is parked there, the road gets blocked anyntime a bus is on stand.


  12. Not sure why a train to Barking needs interchange with a bus to Barking? Interchange shouldn’t be made for the sake of it.


  13. Tuesday 26th July: The timetable frame outside the school/five bells looks exactly as it did when you took the picture, though rumour has it there is NO CHANGE to the timetable, so perhaps the buses just leave there 3 or 4 mins late in order to be on time for the new next/2nd stop in Court Road.

    All three of those bus stops from which the service has now been withdrawn, are still in situ, complete with the now fictitious list of departures on the two which had them.. so, no, unsurprisingly, nobody has been to remove the now redundant street furniture… don’t hold your breath!


  14. I am a resident of Barking Riverside and I was looking forward to the new station opening but it has been bogus and disappointing to me. I had to take the EL1 bus from Shearwater Close to the Barking Riverside station and I sometimes had to wait up to 10 minutes for the bus to arrive. Once on the bus then the sad thing is that the bus doesn’t stop outside the station entrance so I ended up having to walk to the station!!!!!! A few more minutes wasted unnecessarily! Then if I don’t catch the overground train, once on the platform, on time then I have to wait upto 15 minutes for the next one to depart for Barking station… All in all I always end up losing about 15 to 20 minutes. So I just take the EL1 bus straight from Shearwater Close to Barking Station instead as it takes roughly the same amount of time all in all (18 to 20 minutes). This station doesn’t have any benefits time wise although it is the closest station to my residence. Luckily for me I am driving these days so I don’t need to rely on public transport as much 😉


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