Farewell 48 after fifty years

Friday 11th October 2019

IMG_0955.jpgTfL’s next round of reductions to bus routes servIng central London begins tomorrow. This one is much less extensive than in June, involving changes to just a handful of routes, most significant of which is the complete withdrawal of route 48 between London Bridge and Walthamstow Central station.

Introduced as part of the big ‘reshaping’ change in September 1968, route 48 replaced parts of long standing routes 35 and 38A in the shake up to coincide with the opening of the Victoria Line. Now, just over fifty years later, route 48’s time is up and the nineteen buses it takes to run its ten minute frequency (12 minutely on Sundays) will be saved from the schedule; except it’s not a complete saving as there’ll be compensatory increases in vehicles needed for a short extension of route 388 from Liverpool Street down to London Bridge and, at the northern end, route 55 gets extended from Leyton Green up to Walthamstow Central while route 26 which parallels the 48 between Liverpool Street and South Hackney goes from every ten minutes to every seven-and-a-half minutes throughout its route between Waterloo and Hackney Wick.

I took a ride on route 48 yesterday for one last nostalgic time to see what the implications of all these short extensions and alternative parallel running might be.

IMG_0870.jpg Notices letting everyone know about the 48’s demise are stuck to the bus shelters in London Bridge and all reference to the 48 has been removed from the bus stop flag and timetable case. The notices explain the options of catching a newly extended 388 as far as Hackney, but as that routes uses Bethnal Green Road instead of Hackney Road between Shoreditch and Cambridge Heath, the suggestion is to hop off a 388 (or 149) and on to a 26 at Bishopgate (late correction on the notice by the look of it too!).

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 20.08.05.pngRoute 55 is the main alternative for the 48 once you hit the junction of Old Street and Shoreditch High Street as it parallels the 48 all the way to Leyton and as mentioned above will now continue on to Walthamstow Central.

Whereas the 55 runs every 7-8 minutes, the 388 is only every 12 minutes so passengers heading into and out of London Bridge face a reduction of one bus per hour compared to now, and ironically on my off-peak journey yesterday morning, that was the busiest part of the route as we took passengers towards Monument, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street and Shoreditch.

IMG_0871.jpgI noticed the bus stop route number tile removal contractors had already been along the route taking any reference to the 48 down and shuffling all the other tiles neatly along and up so the blank appears in the bottom right, but as always they left a few random bus stops untouched which I’m sure they do deliberately just to create anomalies and wind people like me up.

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There were already two New Routemaster buses screened for route 48 laying over at London Bridge when I arrived at about 10:20 yesterday morning and my bus pulled forward to the bus stop after another five minutes with twelve of us getting on board for the 10:27 departure.

IMG_0868.jpgI bagged the upstairs nearside front seat, with the offside seat already occupied by someone even more fanatical than me who was obviously going to miss the 48 so much he was videoing the whole journey for prosperity on his mobile phone through the front upper deck window; so that made at least two of us, as well as the driver, making the full journey through to Walthamstow Central.

The first stop at the southern end of London Bridge saw us pick up about another ten passengers making for around twenty or so on board. Heading north along Gracechurch Street towards Liverpool Street station and Shoreditch at a sedate pace it was soon evident we were going to have ample time in the schedule to complete our journey.

IMG_0878.jpgWe passed Liverpool Street at 10:39 arriving at Shoreditch Church at 10:44 which turned out to be six minutes ahead of our scheduled 10:50 departure. But it’s all about headway in London rather than strict adherence to a scheduled timetable, so we pressed on with no word from the controller to check our timings. We probably now only had about ten or a dozen on board as we continued north along Shoreditch High Street before turning east on to Hackney Road where we joined parallel route 55 (as well as the 26 which had been with us since before Liverpool Street) and pass close to Hoxton Station on the Overground East London line to Highbury & Islington.

Hackney Road brings us to Cambridge Heath station where our trajectory changes from heading east to due north again as we parallel another Overground line towards Enfield, Cheshunt and Chingford.

IMG_E0923.jpgA bus on route 55 overtakes as we stop to pick up a passenger and I was expecting we’d shadow each other for the rest of the journey except when we arrive at Hackney Town Hall at 11:00 the inevitable “the driver has been instructed to wait at this bus stop for a short time to help even out the service” announcement comes over the PA.

IMG_0917.jpg‘A short time’ turns out to be four minutes and as we reach Hackney Central Station a minute further on at 11:05 I notice we’re still four minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time of 11:09.

IMG_0925.jpgAnother bus on route 55 passes us as we round the Clapton Pond roundabout to head east again at 11:13 (scheduled time 11:18) keeping our sedate pace along the Lea Bridge Road and with around a dozen on board losing ones and twos here and there and gaining ones or twos who eschew the 55 in preference to us instead.

As we get closer to Leyton’s Bakers Arms more passengers catch us in preference to the 55 just in front as they obviously want to travel all the way to Walthamstow.

Our total load doesn’t increase very much and we pull into Walthamstow Central Station at 11:33 with sixteen passengers alighting including my offside front seat videoing buddy who’s captured the whole 66 minute journey and may even have uploaded to YouTube by now.

IMG_0942.jpgOur scheduled arrival was 11:45 so we made it to the Walthamstow terminus twelve minutes early and as a 48 was just leaving back towards London Bridge, my bus went to join two others on the allotted layover stand with a departure back south for my bus not until 12:01 making for a rather generous 28 minute layover!

IMG_0943.jpgAt Walthamstow there were more posters explaining the 48 would soon be a route of the past giving details of alternatives (including the 26 and 388 which go nowhere near Walthamstow of course) and a new 55 timetable panel was already in situ, but no mention on the bus stop flag – presumably another contractor does that.

IMG_0946.jpgI’d also spotted at London Bridge the spider map hadn’t been updated but the ‘where to catch your bus’ panel had….IMG_0869.jpg… whereas at Walthamstow Central, bizzarely, the opposite was the case with a new spider map (minus the 48) but a yet to be updated ‘where to catch your bus’ panel.

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IMG_0948.jpgPerhaps a different team look after central London to the suburbs, and yet another team do spider maps to the ‘where to catch your bus’ panels team. That would explain it.

From tomorrow the surplus New Routemaster buses from the 48 will start appearing on the 19 between Battersea Bridge and Finsbury Park as part of a mixed vehicle type allocation, which should confuse passengers about which door to board.

Aside from the 10 which bit the dust almost a year ago, the 48 is the next lowest route number to be lost from TfL’s non existent bus map but in reality, based on today’s experience, it isn’t going to be missed that much, provided the 388, 26 and 55 can do the business, which it looks as though they can.

It’s certainly a luxurious way of running buses having five of a route’s nineteen vehicle allocation standing idle at the termini at any one time together with sixteen minutes slack in the off peak running time; but that’s the unpredictable nature of traffic and the way contractual incentives in a franchised regime work in London for you.

Roger French

Decent London route branding (at last)

Friday 20th September 2019

Well done UNO Bus, operator of TfL bus route 383 between Woodside Park and Barnet, for today’s community led launch of the first decent route branding on a London bus route for a few decades.

The 383 may be a backwater north London bus route which takes a circuitous route east of the Great North Road between the Spires shopping centre near Barnet Church at its northern terminus and Woodside Park Underground station in the south, but it’s now the most professionally promoted route in the network.

Running only every half an hour the 383’s route meanderings take in New Barnet, Oakleigh Park and Friern Barnet with a 36 minute end to end journey time meaning three buses are needed to run the service – smart four year old Enviro 200s.

The 383 is the only TfL contracted bus route operated by Hatfield based UNO Bus – they’ve held the contract since July 2015 – so it’s a very welcome development to see MD Jim Thorpe and the team take this initiative to give the route a much higher profile.

It’s not easy to work out where TfL bus routes go. The inexcusable absence of a network bus map either in printed form or online (other than the independently produced map by Mike Harris) is an absolute scandal so anything that provides a clue where bus routes actually go is to be applauded.

IMG_4233.jpgAll the more so as recent ‘trials’ of route branding introduced by TfL during the last couple of years in the Barkingside and Hayes and Hillingdon areas are excruciatingly embarrassing due to their amateurish application. Well designed they’re not.

IMG_4237.jpgThis new 383 branding introduced by UNO has all the hallmarks of the excellent work produced by Ray Stenning and his Best Impressions design agency. It’s to their consistently high standard.

A lovely stylised route map on the lower back panel is an excellent idea although sadly looks as though it might suffer the fate of being usurped by an advert for a third party company in the frame. Let’s hope not, it would be such a shame to see a promotional bus route map covered up by an advert for a car dealer!

Inside the buses on the 383 are panels to create interest in the local area as well as another geographic route map.

Sullivan Buses – another small well presented bus company based in Hertfordshire who run a growing number of TfL contracts in north London – also use these panels to give background historical information about each route to generate interest.

I hope the larger bus companies who dominate London’s contracted bus market are taking note of these positive initiatives and hopefully TfL will approve more schemes of this kind and give up those appalling attempts at route branding in Barkingside and Hayes.

It’s also encouraging to hear this 383 brand launch has been introduced with customer focused training involving all the regular UNO drivers on the route.

Imagine if proper branding, as just launched on the 383, was applied to all the high profile routes through central London. What a positive difference that would make. It might even help turn around the downturn in passenger journeys being experienced across central London and encourage new passengers who might stand a chance of understanding where bus routes go.

Roger French

GoSutton Go

Tuesday 13th August 2019

IMG_7390.jpgTfL’s first foray into the new fangled world of App based Dial-A-Ride (aka Demand Responsive Transport) in Sutton is now in its twelfth week and yesterday a rather impersonal email popped into my inbox announcing an exciting extension of the area served by the swish exec style wishy-washy liveried Mercedes Sprinter minibuses.

GoSutton hit the streets for the first time at the end of May when I sampled a few rides and wrote about it here. From yesterday, the operating area centred on Sutton now extends eastwards beyond Hackbridge and Wallington to include the Beddington Lane area of retail sheds, light industry and the residential areas of Beddington and Roundshaw and in the west includes more residential roads in Cheam, with the A24 Epsom Road, GoSutton’s new western boundary. The area served now stretches from the A24 across to the A23.

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TfL flagged up the idea of a possible eastern extension in its original consultation in March but the area now included is slightly larger than in that proposal while the extra roads out west weren’t originally flagged up but TfL admitted feedback from the consultation saw requests for more of Cheam to be included, so now they’ve delivered on that.

Another exciting change announced yesterday was a temporary reduction in the single journey fare from the usual pricey (by TfL bus fare standards) £3.50 to a more tempting £2. This applies for the rest of August and is clearly designed to stimulate interest and attract newbie travellers who are otherwise put off by the significant price differential to taking a conventional bus for just £1.50 (including hopper options).

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You’d think therefore there would be lots of promotional activity surrounding these new developments, especially that 43% price reduction, yet I had a look at the bespoke GoSutton website last night and while it included the updated map with eastern and western extensions, there was no mention of the new reduced fare, still quoting £3.50 a ride (point 3 above).

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I always find it ironic that for a service that’s supposed to be all about using technology the operators are so tardy at using it themselves to convey updated timely information. I’m pleased to report the website was updated today and now refers to the £2 a ride offer (see above, spot the difference); although the TfL official website still fails to mention it.

And the 44 page (!!) “easy read” manual explaining how to use GoSutton still quotes £3.50, including showing cash on page 22 … except you can’t pay using cash.

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Quite how TfL expect potential passengers to find out about this fare offer is beyond me; it’s no good just sending an email to existing customers; there needs to be extensive promotion among non users.

Intrigued by yesterday’s email I decided to give GoSutton another try out today to see how loadings are doing in the newly extended area and take advantage of the August holiday bargain basement £2 fare.

I began my adventure at the Ampere Way tram stop in the new north eastern top corner of the extended area and ordered a journey down into the far south western corner of the new western extension in Cheam, because I’m like that as a customer.

IMG_7180.jpgA minibus was close by at IKEA dropping a passenger off so I was given a convenient pick up time just five minutes away and the little map showed me where driver Shane would be coming from after that drop off.

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The thing was though the little minibus icon didn’t move for about five minutes. ViaVan’s software algorithm picked up something was wrong and sent me an auto-text advising of an (indeterminate) delay.IMG_E7178.jpg

In the interests of research I stuck with it and sure enough Shane began to move and arrived with me at 10:25 rather than the promised 10:16. A total wait from ordering at 10:11 of 14 minutes, just 4 minutes outside TfL’s target of ten minutes.

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I was a bit surprised Shane didn’t mention anything about the delay as I boarded so I broached the subject asking if he’d been held up – it turned out the passenger being dropped off was unsure where she’d be picked up and needed reassurance.

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We took a straight forward route through Carshalton and Sutton over to Cheam with an ETA showing of 10:51 as we set off.IMG_7203.jpg

It’s still an odd feeling to be on a bus in London driving past passengers waiting at bus stops, providing a slightly superior feeling of being in a special mode of transport that’s got no time for stopping hither and thither for conventional bus using folk.

IMG_7244.jpgDuring the journey the SatNav gives explicit directions even where the route has the right of way at junctions; eg turn left… on a bend to the left in the main road, if there’s another road off to the right. And every instruction is given twice; once with a precise assessment in feet of how far ahead the manoeuvre is and then at the actual location. It can all get a bit annoying background noise when sitting in the front seats.

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Interestingly at one point Shane chose to ignore the SatNav’s advice of where to turn right and continued to the next junction. He wasn’t told to do a “U-turn” though!

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We arrived in North Cheam after a twenty-seven minute journey at 10:52, just two minutes later than the originally predicted arrival of 10:50 as we set off from Ampere Way.

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I took a bus on route 93 up the A24 Epsom Road to the junction with Sutton Common Road which is in the extreme north west corner of the expanded operating area and called up my second ride at 11:11

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I thought I’d head over to the newly extended southeastern corner just off the Purley Way, not far north of Purley itself. This was becoming Extreme DRT Bus Riding; I was beginning to feel like a Guerilla DRT Tester.

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I was given two options of a minibus in either 9 or 20 minutes, but in the time it took to think about that (and take a screenshot) a message came back the options are no longer available – you have up to 30 seconds to decide; so I tried again and got the same options but with a more convenient pick up point exactly where I was rather than having to cross the junction.

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The minibus would be with me in six minutes. In the event it was 11:21, after ten minutes when Ivan appeared.

IMG_7260.jpgWe set off on a diagonal route right across the area, avoiding the centre of Sutton and using a number of residential roads not used by standard bus routes.

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We got to the edge of the area in a rather well-to-do leafy part of Purley arriving after just 22 minutes travelling at 11:43.

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Although the newly extended eastern boundary frustratingly doesn’t reach the A23 Purley Way I noticed there’s a small blip on the map to include the large Costco outlet by the former Croydon Airport and opposite the Colonnades retail park on the east side of Purley Way. I thought that would make for a good starting point for my next journey.

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I took a 289 the short ride north to this location and at 12:40 ordered my third GoSutton ride to take me north to the Beddington Lane tram stop – both my origin and destination being within the extended eastern area.

IMG_7321.jpgIt’s odd that you can only summon a minibus to appear on the far western side of Costco (at the bottom of the Google aerial shot below) rather than by the more logical and busy Colonnades on the eastern side of the A23 …….

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 18.39.48.png…… as it has to use Purley Way to get to Costco so could easily pick up at the Colonnades too.

The App gave me a pick up time of twenty minutes – the longest wait yet and double the TfL target. Alexandru was the driver of the nearest free minibus right over in Sutton.

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He arrived as expected at 13:00 and once we’d established how to turn round (using Costco’s car park was the best option) ….

IMG_7370.jpg…..we headed north taking just fourteen minutes instead of the predicted sixteen and I was dropped off at the official TfL bus stop used by route 463 south of Beddington Lane tram stop – I’ve noticed the algorithm likes dropping you off at official bus stops.

IMG_7373.jpgAlexandru then headed off to await his next passenger.

IMG_7374.jpgAnd I wandered up to the tram stop and headed back to East Croydon and home.

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It had been an interesting three hours. Three journeys. Three different minibuses. Three pleasant drivers. Three smooth journeys. Just me riding solo on each journey. Total wait time 44 minutes. Total ride time 63 minutes. Total minibus time devoted exclusively to me 1 hour, 47 minutes. At £2 a journey; TfL took £6 in revenue from me.

After almost three months which is a quarter of the way through the twelve month trial, it’s not looking very financially sustainable to me.

BUT before I close …… and just to show ride sharing can work I need to also report on a quite astonishing experience I had just a couple of weeks ago when I passed through the area and gave GoSutton a go.

IMG_4860.jpgIt was a gorgeous hot sunny Monday afternoon at the end of last month as I got off the train at Carshalton station and fired up the GoSutton App to order a minibus to take me over to the Royal Marsden Hospital in the south-western corner of the original operating area.

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I was well impressed to receive a reply reporting a minibus would pick me up within three minutes and sure enough it duly arrived pretty much three minutes later and not only that but another passenger was already on board.

IMG_4883.jpgNot only that but I became intrigued as the journey continued that we weren’t deviating from the expected route to the Royal Marsden to drop her off somewhere. It turned out my fellow passenger was also travelling to the Hospital, where she works, and had boarded just a couple of minutes before me up the road in Carshalton.

IMG_4887.jpgIt was the first time she’d used GoSutton and was understandably impressed with the convenience of only a short wait and then a ten minute direct journey; and what’s more she couldn’t believe as a Freedom Pass holder it had been a completely free ride for her.

Now how about that? What are the chances of my random arrival at Carshalton station at 13.30 on a Monday afternoon and choosing a destination to travel to completely at random which coincided with another person making pretty much exactly the same journey at the same time. The algorithm must have been in software heaven, not believing its luck. This is what the ViaVan techy geeks had been dreaming would happen during years of ride sharing software formulation. And on the afternoon of Monday 29th July, it finally delivered.

But the thing is, impressive though that was, and I’m still blown away at the coincidence of it all, my £3.50 fare together with the reimbursement contribution from the London Boroughs for my fellow passenger’s free ride (if there is indeed such reimbursement for the GoSutton trial) will not have gone anywhere near to covering the operating cost of providing that journey, let alone the set up development costs of the algorithm itself!

Two people riding around on a conventionally operated bus would mean instant withdrawal as it being hopelessly uneconomic; let alone one passenger paying £6 for over an hour and forty-seven minutes travels as I did today.

Meanwhile the Ealing trial begins shortly.

Roger French

Two cheers for TfL

Saturday 15th June 2019

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Today saw the much heralded cuts to a large number of central London bus routes including many changes to termini and amended routes.

I previewed the changes in a post on 5th June foreseeing a major challenge as getting bus stop plates, timetables and spider maps updated.

Having had a good wander around central London today I’m pleased to report TfL’s bus stop team have done a reasonably good job bearing in mind the scale of changes.

Inevitably there are some inconsistencies and discrepancies but on the whole it was impressive to see just how much had been updated ready for day 1.

Here are some examples of what gets a big bus stop tick and what needs further attention.

Yellow ‘Bus stop closed’ hoods covering up discontinued bus stops have been regularly deployed in London for some years now to cater for temporary changes due to roadworks and diversions. Sadly the consequential deployment of ‘Dolly Stops’ as replacements is much more rare these days but that’s another matter.

Team Cover Up have been out in force with their yellow hoods overnight after Friday’s last journeys. First up I found them deployed at bus stops uniquely served by the withdrawn route RV1 from Covent Garden ….

IMG_0658.jpg…. via the South Bank ….IMG_0648.jpgIMG_0646.jpg…. including a poignant tribute at the Royal Festival Hall ….

IMG_0655.jpgIMG_0653.jpg…. to the Tower Gateway terminus.

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The Covent Garden bound stop at Oxo Tower on the South Bank has been out of action for some weeks, and the long standing notice erroneously implies the RV1 will be back later this year which to avoid confusion should really be removed now lest it gives anyone false hopes of a RV1 revival…..IMG_0649.jpg

IMG_0650.jpgIn better news ‘E’ plates showing which bus routes serve each bus stop along the route have also all been updated with any reference to the RV1 removed and the 343 added where appropriate on its newly extended section of route to Aldgate replacing the RV1 between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Indeed so on the ball were the ‘E’ plate amendment team for the RV1/343 switch that they even updated the bus stops on Tower Bridge approach itself which are no longer in use due to the protective barriers now installed. Still at least that out of use bus stop has accurate route numbers for buses which can no longer stop there.

IMG_0630.jpgIMG_0631.jpgOn the other hand I spotted an erroneous RV1 plate on a bus stop not served long before yesterday’s withdrawal in Great Tower Street which must have been in place from a former old routing…

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The same hooded status was noted on the withdrawn section of bus route 341 in New Fetter Lane/Fetter Lane which are no longer served by buses so that change was sorted correctly too….

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…including the removal of ‘E’ plates for the 341 and the timetable from the stops in Holborn….

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Similarly yellow hoods were properly deployed on bus stops in Fenchurch Street no longer served by any bus routes following the diversion of route 40 to terminate at Clerkenwell Green instead of Aldgate.

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However, the job of updating stops on the new section of route 40….

IMG_0579.jpg……is best described as ‘work in progress’ as ‘E’ plates were incorrectly showing route 45 and 388 (both now withdrawn) rather than the newly diverted 40 in Blackfriars Road …..

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….even though the timetable below had been updated with the 45 and 388 correctly replaced by the 40….

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and in Farringdon Road a new ‘E’ plate had appeared for the newly diverted 341 (but not the 40) ….

IMG_0563.jpg… whereas the timetable below showed the newly diverted 40 but not the 341….

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Meanwhile on bus stops a little further north of Clerkenwell where its just the 341 which needs adding, the stops do have both a timetable displayed and correct ‘E’ plates…..

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The fourth section of road to become newly bus-less is Pall Mall which said farewell to route 9 which has now been diverted back into the parallel Piccadilly. Sadly Team Cover Up hadn’t been there when I visited late this morning and the bus stops on either side of Pall Mall looked very much open for business as usual ….

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…. although someone had taken out the route 9 details from the timetable case ….

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….and added a new timetable and a new ‘E’ plate on the newly served stop in nearby Piccadilly….

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Back in Pall Mall I explained to the waiting passenger she was in for a long wait for a Number 9 but she seemed happy to know the new stop was by Fortnum & Mason and headed off in that direction!

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As well as Team Cover Up these changes also call upon the services of Team Uncover Up as the 14 now diverts from its previous route from Putney Heath at Tottenham Court Road station to operate via the British Museum and terminate at Russell Square instead of via Tottenham Court Road to turn at Warren Street station.

This new bit of route via the British Museum hasn’t seen a bus since route 10 was withdrawn last November so the bus stops have either been left to just Sightseeing buses (as here outside the museum)…

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…. or closed as at the next stop in Montague Street….

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Unfortunately it was still covered up today even as buses went by on the newly diverted 14.

Even more bizarre someone had been out to install a new route 14 timetable in the timetable case at the stop outside the British Museum but hadn’t taken down the bus stop closed sign! Surely there aren’t two teams at work here, one to put new timetables up and another to take down ‘bus stop closed’ signs?

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On the opposite side of the road you’d have to be very knowledgeable to twig the 14 now uses that stop and be prepared to jump out into the road to let the bus driver know as he passes the Sightseeing bus by.

IMG_0497.jpgIMG_0513.jpgOver in Tottenham Court Road references to route 14 (and the 134 – also now withdrawn from that road) were still on bus stop flags ….

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…. but someone had been round and removed all the timetables and for all the routes too! Or, perhaps they haven’t yet been installed to these relatively new southbound stops, but then why install new timetable cases? Anyway, it’s another ‘work in progress’ here.

And more even more bizarre at the erstwhile route 14 terminus at Warren Street, now used by the 134….

IMG_0376.jpg…..someone had been out to add the new 134 timetable but had left the now incorrect 14 one in place…..

IMG_0374.jpg….. nor did they change the ‘E’ plate from showing 14 to 134. I wished I’d brought a spare 3 with me to do the job!

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Talking of the 3, that route no longer serves the northern most stop in Whitehall as the route has been cut back from terminating at Trafalgar Square to Horse Guards Parade and it was good to see everything updated correctly there.

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Over in Aldgate another update success is all references to the 67 are now changed to the 242 both on bus stop plates….

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….. and timetable cases……

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So, another job well executed there.

Similarly over on the Euston Road the stops between Kings Cross and Euston have all had references to the now withdrawn 59 and 476 removed from bus stop flags….

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It’s just a shame that an important and busy stop right opposite St Pancras International has no timetables for daytime bus routes at all…

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The diversion of route 4 at St Paul’s Cathedral to operate via Queen Victoria Street and terminate at Blackfriars instead of running along Fleet Street and Waterloo Bridge to Waterloo was another success with bus stops updated …..

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…. and new timetables at bus stops along the route….

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…. except that the ‘towards Elephant & Castle’ bit of the bus stop is out of date as that used to apply to the 388 when it ran on there, but now the 4 heads no further south than Blackfriars.

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The same issue with ‘towards’ on bus stop plates applies further back along the route where bus stops still display ‘towards Aldwych’ which it no longer does.

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A neat piece of technology was using the iBus system to show a scrolling message just before the new piece of route at St Paul’s advising passengers to alight and change to a bus on route 76 for Waterloo. Old habits die hard and most passengers didn’t notice this and carried on until the bus turned along the new route and then they got flustered and alighted at the next stop.

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I was also impressed to see a number of spider maps had been updated with references to where routes had been altered or withdrawn.

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However, these new style spider maps are not so easy to use, since they no longer show a colour coded route index. For example, the old style map still on display at the old RV1 bus stop in Covent Garden…

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… has the old style route index….

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…but the new style maps colour code the route numbers alongside each destination in the index of places served. I don’t find this so helpful, as the route index was a quick way of telling you for each route the bus stops it serves nearby which was useful if you already knew your route number. Now you have to look up a destination first, to find the route number and the bus stops served.

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Despite the inconsistencies noted today I was pleasantly surprised at how much had been achieved and it’s clear a lot of thought and hard work has gone into the updating.

My concern is that those discrepancies I came across will not be corrected and will languish for many months, if not years. I hope I’m proved wrong and a wander around again in a few weeks time will show everything being displayed perfectly.

Let’s see.

Roger French

New Keep Fit regime for commuters at Victoria

Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station is renowned for its deliberate policy of directing unfamiliar passengers via strategically placed signs to take the longer circuitous route from Kings Cross National Rail station exit via the northern ticket hall and barriers to reach the deep level lines.

Those in the know ignore the signs and within  a few strides are through the barriers in the original southern ticket hall, down the escalator and on the platform.

TfL’s attempt to spread the load by nudging passengers by clever signage works well as time precious commuters know how to avoid leisurely wheelie suitcase carrying dawdlers.

No such luck at the new look expanded Victoria Underground ticket hall which showed off its new subterranean route march to weekday commuters this morning. We’re all forced to take the longer route to the platform while the old escalator down side stands idle and taped off. Even the announcements playing out regularly over the PA warn it’ll take three minutes to walk to the platform.

And after two escalators and what seems like a mile of passageway you arrive at the same crowded platform except at its northern end rather than the southern end. Those of us who knew the trick of using the Circle/District Line entrance and easily nipping down to the Victoria Line platform are now thwarted as that’s where everyone else now arrives after their labyrinthine journey.

It was always obvious that with virtual continual tube running on the Victoria and ever over-crowded peak hour platforms, the only thing a new entrance would bring is a way to stop the queuing in the ticket hall backing up to the main line station and instead occupy everyone on a bit of a walk underground for a few minutes. Still, at least it gets the step count up. And should work for another few years until passenger numbers grow and the queues build up again along the new passageways. Just remember to allow for that extra three minutes in your commute.

Roger French (live from Victoria Undergtound station).     27th August 2018

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