diamond geezer

 Saturday, June 26, 2004

Round the bend

The 25 is one of London's busiest bus routes (absolutely jam-packed it is, even on a Sunday afternoon), following a pretty much arrow-straight route from Ilford to Oxford Circus (via my house). 'Busy and straight' are the perfect conditions for a takeover by huge 18m-long bendy buses so, as of dawn this morning, the huge 18m-long bendy buses have taken over. Overnight the Mile End Road has been hijacked by road-hogging articulated vehicles that can't manouevre particularly well. There's more space inside than on the old double deckers but there are now fewer seats. Passengers have a choice of three doors to board through but they have to buy a ticket before boarding or else they get kicked off. It's all a bit scary. I've been out for a Saturday morning ride on these new urban monsters, just to see how they and the travelling public are coping, and initial reports are not good.



The 25 starts its ten mile journey into civilisation just opposite the Oxfam shop on Ilford High Street. I hopped on through the rear door, just for the novelty value, and perched on a raised seat near the bendy bit in the middle. The bus smelt like the inside of a freshly purchased new car, deceptively spacious but still clean and gleaming. Hydraulics tilt the bus slightly towards the pavement at each stop to increase accessibility, the bell rings with a satisfying non-artificial ding, and none of the on-board Oyster card readers beside the second and third doors are yet functional. It was clear that our driver wasn't used to driving a 60 foot snake, so he edged gingerly round the narrow bends on the Ilford one-way system. "You've just got to keep thinking thin," he said to the bus company operative keeping a careful eye on him.

At the second stop outside Ilford Library a young Asian lady tried to board without having bought a ticket. The driver sent her back to the machine on the pavement and kindly waited while she tried desperately to stick a pound in. "It's only a machine, you only got to put money it!" said our driver, helpfully. Except this machine wasn't working properly and it took ages for her to extricate a small piece of paper from the slot at the bottom. By the time a second passenger had gone through the same rigmarole we were already running four minutes late. The driver learnt his lesson and whenever ticketless passengers tried to board later in the journey he sent them packing and drove off without them.

The bus chugged on through Manor Park and Forest Gate, slowly filling up with Saturday morning shoppers. Soon all the seats were taken and it was standing room only, although nobody seemed to want to stand on the bend in the middle for some reason. Passengers hadn't quite got the hang of being allowed to board through all three doors and so most queued up at the front door, only to squeeze on and discover that most of the remaining space was right down at the back. It's a long and difficult walk down a crowded aisle full of strap-hangers, eventually an impossible one, and as we approached Stratford the bus soon became front-heavy. It wasn't the most pleasant travelling experience for those forced to stand.

All this waiting around while passengers try to board isn't helping the buses to run regularly. The 25 is supposed to run every 6-8 minutes but instead these bendy buses appear to be bunching up with big long gaps inbetween. They seem to be running in pairs most of the time, the second emptier bus too cumbersome to overtake the first. At one stage I saw no buses passing the other way for about quarter of an hour, then six buses all within two minutes. The photo below shows four 25s queued up outside Bow Church, like a solid wall of red approaching the flyover. The front bus was packed, the second busy and the rear two almost empty. What a way to run a service.



Along the route a number of Transport for London employees were standing around in special red baseball caps handing out leaflets, generally at the least busy bus stops. One of them poked her head in to ask the driver if he'd tried out his ramp yet. He hadn't. In fact our only semi-disabled passenger had boarded at the rampless front door then struggled to hobble on crutches down the gangway, muttering "'kin assholes" under his breath. Given the speed that the swish new electric doors slam shut I wouldn't be surprised if these buses create more wheelchair-bound passengers than they transport. A ticket inspector climbed aboard along the Whitechapel Road, failing to find anyone who'd sneaked on without paying. It won't last.

We sped through the City, always deserted at weekends, until we were diverted off down an awkward sidestreet behind St Paul's to avoid major roadworks. Our driver took it slowly and thought thin. Down Oxford Street we joined the usual bus-jam, our now half-empty juggernaut taking up vastly unnecessary roadspace. The Olympic torch would be passing this way later in the afternoon, holding up the traffic even more. At Oxford Circus we followed the new 25 route left into Regent Street (because these lumbering buses aren't very good at turning right) before pulling to a final stop outside John Lewis. It felt a very long way from the Oxfam shop in Ilford, and a very long way from the horse-drawn omnibuses that used to drive into London down the Mile End Road 150 years ago. I took the tube home - I fancied a seat.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream