Cube Routes: Day 1 x 1 x 1
Bus 1: Centre Point - Canada Water Location: London southeast, inner Length of journey: 6 miles, 35 minutes
The first bus in London begins its journey, appropriately enough, at Centre Point. It's London's 20th tallest building (well, it was last time I checked), a 35-floor concrete tower dominating the eastern end of Oxford Street. At its foot, up an obscure sideroad, a queue of number 1 buses wait to begin their journey from the middle of everywhere to the middle of nowhere.
I boarded the first bus outside Argos on a busy Saturday afternoon, clambering up to the top deck where there was the unnerving smell of fish. We headed east along mostly-deserted roads straight through Holborn and south towards Aldwych. A bespectacled librarian came and sat behind me, commentating on the view throughout the journey for the benefit of his Japanese lady visitor. He was keen to tell her that London's buses are amongst the most successful in the world, with passenger numbers back up at 1969 levels thanks to Mayor Ken Livingstone's ambititious Transport Strategy. I could have hugged him for making such a pertinent comment just two paragraphs into my week-long exposé of the capital's bus network, but he was an ugly old git so I thought better of it. He went on later to point out a market stall full of plaintains, or "crooked nanas" as he called them, so I think I made the right choice.
We crossed into South London over Waterloo Bridge, with one of the best views of the Thames spread out to either side (so long as you don't look too hard at the concrete mess on the South Bank). Passenger numbers picked up outside the ghastly Elephant and Castle shopping centre (pink, what were they thinking? and the range of shops inside is poorer than poor), and then it was on towards the Old Kent Road (rightly the cheapest property on the Monopoly board). At the Bricklayers Arms (a giant traffic square-about) we headed off into deepest Bermondsey (also poorer than poor), skirting the edge of the Congestion Charge zone.
There was the sound of shouting, nay yelling, from downstairs. The driver had forgotten to stop at the last stop, or maybe these two women hadn't pressed the button in time, but clearly the whole thing was now 'the other person's fault'. The driver inched the bus forward on a go-slow as the haranguing continued, before finally letting the harpies disembark and carry their Safeway carrier bags grudgingly back up the road.
It's not a long journey this one, so just a few more railway viaducts, street markets and one-way systems for the bus to negotiate. Straight past the new Surrey Quays shopping nirvana and on to our final destination at the new CanadaWater transport 'hub'. An oval glass atrium sits beside a new bus station, and atop a new tube interchange between the Jubilee and East London lines. Where once were the old Surrey Docks, this new bus station/station has made Rotherhithe an area where people actually want to live. So I'm told. And just a short bus/tube ride from where the real action is.
• Route 1: anorak-level bus information
• Route 1: anorak-level route information
• Route 1: timetable