diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rail Replacement Safari (part 3)

Overground replacement bus service: Hampstead Heath → Stratford
And finally, the granddaddy of TfL rail replacement buses. This one's been running so often over the last few years that local residents must think it's a permanent service. Rest assured it won't be around forever - the engineering works on the old Silverlink line are scheduled to end in May, heralding an improved, more frequent Overground service. But in the meantime, sorry, orbital rail passengers face four-wheeled double deckers for several more weekends yet. They really ought to have arrangements perfectly sorted by now, you'd think. You'd think.

I arrived at Hampstead Heath by Overground - the driver having urged everyone to get off one stop early for the rail replacement bus. Now all I had to do was find one. A poster in the ticket hall told me to go to Bus Stop A in Constantine Street, which was no help, and included a map, which sort of was. I attempted to match the map to my mental image of the surrounding area, and rushed off down the hill. I'd probably have spotted the blue directional signs attached to lampposts quicker if it hadn't been dark. I then had to run the last bit because the bus was about to leave. Some idiot had scheduled the replacement bus to depart almost immediately after the train arrived. Only by being the first person off the platform, and the first person out of the station, and the first person round the correct corner, had I managed to board it on time. Some further research later revealed the reason for this lunacy. Eastbound Overground trains arrive at Hampstead Heath every 15 minutes, but eastbound rail replacement buses depart Hampstead Heath every 20 minutes. There is bugger all attempt to synchronise the two services to assist through-travellers, just two disparate systems existing in mis-timed silos.

I wasn't looking forward to this particular journey because I've made it before. My enduring memory is of battling through the treacly backstreets of Islington trying to get close to a station nobody really wanted to get off at. Good news, TfL have streamlined the route. No jobsworth regulations here insist that buses must stop outside stations. Instead we missed Gospel Oak by seven streets, Kentish Town West by 300 metres and Caledonian Road & Barnsbury by a full mile. Brilliant for those of us passing through, it speeded up the journey no end - but not quite so good for those at bypassed stations attempting to work out where the scheduled bus stop was.

It being dark, and with windows steamed up, it was often quite difficult to work out where the bus was. To assist passengers our driver yelled out the name of each station as we reached it, and the sound just about carried up the stairs. He yelled in a language resembling English, but I was eventually able to decipher "Keshdownwet" and "Durlstenking" after a few seconds thought. Meanwhile the electronic iBus display at the front of the top deck was firmly switched off. Over the last few years we Londoners have got used to being spoilt by instant scrolling displays announcing the name of the next stop, and here it would have been exceptionally useful. I know that not all rail replacement buses have this system fitted but, for those that do, would it really be so difficult to program the route and turn it on?

One thing that struck me was the number of people on their mobiles uttering the immortal phrase "I'm on the bus". They were apologising to friends, mostly, because when they'd set out on their journey they were expecting to be "on the train". But no, they'd completely missed the fact the Overground was suspended until it was too late, so found themselves rumbling slowly towards social events they were going to arrive late for. TfL do try hard to invite travellers to check for service disruptions, especially at weekends, but most people obviously don't. These days there are far too many planned engineering works for even the hardiest geek to remember, so what hope for the general public? They still wander round clutching paper maps of the weekday network, so lengthy bus detours always come as a surprise.

I wish the girl who sat behind me at Dalston Kingsland had been using her mobile for a late apology. Instead she seemed to be having some sort of emotional breakdown, by phone, in public, with someone who was no longer her beloved. By Hackney Central she'd told the top deck how her plans for motherhood were wrecked, by Homerton she was considering pissing off abroad for six months unable to cope, and by Hackney Wick she was blaming it all on her au pair. You don't get this kind of comedy soap opera on trains. I was semi-delusional by this point, so was more than pleased when we finally reached Stratford station. And then, alas, drove straight past it to the official alighting point, so that everyone had a two minute walk back again. Even at the end of ten and a half hours of rail replacement purgatory, there's always one last unpleasant extra.
Hampstead Heath → Stratford: normally 32 min, rail replacement bus 76 min (+140%)

Lessons learned
13) On railway lines with a less frequent service, it shouldn't be rocket science to synchronise the replacement buses with the trains.
14) After dark, if the bus's destination is only written on a small piece of cardboard in the front window, that's not very useful is it?
15) If there's a 'next stop' display system aboard a rail replacement bus (and I know there isn't always), please switch it on.
16) Many of the problems here aren't the fault of the bus companies providing the service, they're the fault of whoever it is at TfL that writes their contracts.
17) Those "planned engineering works for the week ahead" posters on display at tube stations are misleading. They show an amalgam of Saturday's and Sunday's closures, not the closures in effect today, which makes them less than practical for instant use. One day in the far future these maps will be on an electronic screen, not a sheet of paper, and that'll help no end.
18) However much TfL tell people there's rail replacement work coming up, people still aren't listening.
19) People of London - if you're travelling at the weekend, always check for planned engineering works first. There's probably a quicker way to get around them if you plan ahead. And, really, you don't want to get stuck on the bus.
20) If anyone ever suggests riding every rail replacement bus in London to see what it's like, query their sanity.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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