Monday, May 26, 2008
Bus 135: Crossharbour (Asda) - Old StreetThe first part of my 135 journey was a mind-numbing waste of time. It's only half a mile, direct, from Crossharbour to Canada Square, but we took 20 minutes via the indirect not-quite scenic route. It would have been far quicker to walk. Even threading between the gleaming towers at Canary Wharf seemed to take forever, not helped by having to pause at jobsworth security barriers while private vehicles ahead of us were lightly scrutinised. Only when we escaped out onto the Commercial Road did our progress finally quicken.
Location: London east
Length of journey: 7 miles, 50 minutes
A new bus to link Canary Wharf to the City. It's amazing there hasn't been one before. So they launched it on a Saturday on a bank holiday weekend, presumably to give the drivers three days to get the hang of the route before the passengers turned up. Everything should be working fine by Tuesday.
I stood for nearly half an hour outside the Asda superstore on the Isle of Dogs, waiting for a 135 to whisk me away. Lots of 135s arrived and proceeded to circle the car park, but none ready for the beleaguered shoppers of E14 to board. Most of Asda's bus-bound customers were either old or obese, struggling from the entrance laden with carrier bags filled with toilet rolls or pushing a tartan trolley piled high with 3 for 2 tins. Not all of Docklands goes to Waitrose. Time passed. A 135 stopped by the bus stop so that an inspector could push a rubber strip back beneath the door-opening mechanism. They're brand new these buses, which is why the vehicle I eventually boarded smelt like fresh rubber rather than sweat and chips.
And straight into a stretch of roadworks, and off on diversion. The 135 will normally be scheduled to run round half of the Isle of Dogs, but my bus managed to tour the lot. All the way round the Thames loop from top right to top left, with barely a river view in sight. Passengers waiting in Manchester Road were perplexed. Not only was our 135 an unknown quantity, it wasn't supposed to be passing their stop anyway. The on-board audio description service also failed to cope with the change of route. Rather than announcing the next stop, a disembodied female voice repeatedly declared <This bus terminates here> until, thankfully, the driver switched her off.An aside:Is it just me, or does anybody else find these "route-related service information" announcements really annoying? <135... to... Old Street> I don't mind being told what the next stop is, that's rather useful. <West India Avenue> But I am pig sick of being told, every single time the bus stops, what number it is <135... to... Old Street> and where it's going. <135... to... Old Street> Yes, I know it's a bloody 135 to Old Street, I wouldn't have got on board otherwise. <135... to... Old Street> Shut up! Some of these audio systems even operate in persistent nagging mode, repeating a limited repertoire of nannying announcements inbetween every stop. <Please take all litter with you when you exit the bus> <If you see an unattended bag, please tell the driver> <Closed circuit television is in operation on this bus> <Vandalism on London buses is a criminal offence> <135... to... Old Street> And TfL think this is a good thing? I am increasingly tired of being treated like an ignorant criminal every time I travel. <135... to... Old Street> Please, somebody make it stop.
In Limehouse I spotted someone I'd always believed existed but had never previously seen - the Bus Stop Route Number Updater. He was a cropped tanned bloke with a fag in his mouth, sitting in the back of a scruffy truck by the roadside. In his lap was the "Exmouth Estate" bus stop information board, and in his left hand a plastic bag full of fresh shiny "135" tiles. As I watched he shuffled the existing numbers around, a bit like one of those 4×4 plastic puzzles you find inside crackers, until the top row read "15 115 135". Jackpot. His handiwork can now be seen at bus stops all along the route - each with one gleaming new tile amongst a stack of weatherbeaten old squares.
And so to the City, whose highrise ostentation came in sharp contrast to the mean streets of Shadwell. Beneath the iconic Gherkin, round a gaping hole which will one day support 36 floors of world class office space, and past the fresh-spiked peak of the Broadgate Tower. What with Docklands earlier, TfL could market this bus to hard-pushed tourists as "the skyscraper tour". Or maybe not. There wasn't much towering above the end of the route, skirting the edge of Shoreditch to pull up outside Old Street station. Unsuprisingly, I don't believe that any of those Asda shoppers followed me this far.
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