diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 15, 2010

X26: Heathrow - Croydon

X26 departing HeathrowWhile most Green Line coach routes from the company's heyday have long since bitten the dust, one sort-of survives as an ordinary red London bus. I say ordinary, but in truth the X26 is TfL's only orbital express. Boris promised to introduce more of these when he was trying to get elected as Mayor [see pages 3, 6, 11 and 20], but so far there's still only the one. The X26 is a truncated version of Green Line's 725, which looped south round the capital from Windsor to Gravesend [route history]. Pruned back gradually over the years, it now runs half-hourly for 21 miles between Heathrow and Croydon, which is pretty good going for a two quid bus fare. The Heathrow end is frequented by airport travellers with big suitcases, especially those overnighting somewhere cheap in south London. "How much Kingston Upon Tims?" they ask, whilst struggling to pay with unfamiliar coinage. By Hatton Cross the bus is rammed full, leaving some to take the alternative 285 which shadows the route but more slowly. The X26's on-board destination display isn't much use if you don't know where you're going. Is "Broad Street" in Kingston? Or is "Wood Street"? Guess wrong, and the express will take you miles past where you really want to go before there's another opportunity to alight. After Bentalls a more local clientèle boards, heading home from the mall to the suburban streets of Sutton. New Malden, Worcester Park and Cheam - each merits a stop, and only by the latter are any spare seats available. On leaving Wallington the next stop switches to "East Croydon station", where most remaining passengers wish to alight. First-time riders edge towards the doors with their baggage, then get to stand there for quarter of an hour while the bus creeps the long way into town. There are rare views across central Croydon from a viaduct no other bus gets to use, then finally the 90 minutes are up. It's not the speediest express in the world, but London could do with far more four-wheeled shortcuts like this. Go on Boris, you promised, how about it?

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