It's served well, has Stratford bus station, ever since the canopy went up in 1994. Architects designed an array of inverted conics, each individually lit, although to you and I they better resemble windblown umbrellas. Four shelters beneath, where the public could wait, and a large turning circle beyond, where Destination Stratford services could rest up. Most forward-looking it was, as befitted a then up-and-coming corner of East London. But no match for the greatest show on earth. The Olympics are coming, so it's time for a change.
You've been to nicer bus stations. The roof is great, but the layout beneath rather less so. The four bus shelter segments act as glass-walled prisons, ideal for those golden days when passengers used to queue, less well suited to a scrum. When certain buses arrive they turf folk out onto tiny ledges of pavement, or into the middle of long-term roadworks. The toilets down the far end, where the Greenwich Meridian slices through, have been closed "due to illegal activities". The cafe (called Well Food, presumably to encourage those with a rock-bottom reading age) serves biryani and every kind of low-cost canned drink imaginable. Cars pull up illegally, regularly, to allow lazy station-users to jump out. The central passageway narrows awkwardly outside the newsagents, opposite the unwelcoming travel centre window. It's not ideal, Stratford bus station, especially when the world's due to arrive this time next year.
So, tomorrow, the bus station is to be sealed off so that restructuring work can begin. All four bus stops will be closed, and travellers will have to walk further to board outbound services. A lot further, in some cases. You can see the full details of Stratford's bus stop shift in this helpful pdf. There's no news yet on where terminating buses will stop, nor how far away, but let me summarise outbound services below.
Bus Stop A (towards Leyton/Leytonstone): 69, 158, 257, 308 - walk up Great Eastern Road to bus stop U (250m) or bus stop P (400m) Bus Stop B (towards Ilford): 25, 86 - walk up Great Eastern Road to bus stop P (400m) or through Stratford Shopping Centre to bus stop S (450m) Bus Stop C (towards Bow): 108, 425, D8 - walk through Stratford Shopping Centre to bus stop E or bus stop L (both 350m) Bus Stop D (towards Plaistow/East Ham): 104, 238, 241, 262, 276, 473 - walk through Stratford Shopping Centre to bus stop G (300m) or bus stop S (450m), or up Great Eastern Road to bus stop P (400m)
Don't worry, there'll be helpful TfL staff out to guide lost souls tomorrow, and I'm guessing there'll be a lot of souls lost. It's only for eleven weeks, but I wouldn't want to be elderly or lugging suitcases (or both) during that period. Stratford's one-way system makes interchange less than perfect at the best of times, and many passengers have always faced a long walk to reach their designated stop. But from Monday, that's everybody. The best-connected station in East London is about to get the least-connected bus service.
Midway through this hiatus, however, a brand new bus station opens. That'll be Stratford Citybus station, on the opposite side of the railway alongside the mammoth Westfield Shopping Centre. Westfield opens on Tuesday 13th September, but the bus station opens early on Saturday 10th for a special three days of serving absolutely nothing. We know so far of two buses whose routes will be extending to terminate at Stratford City. One's the 97 from Chingford, arriving via Angel Lane, and the other's the D8 from Docklands, arriving via Wharton Road. Westfield promise two more services arriving later, the 241 from the Royal Docks and the 339 from Shadwell. Here's a map, still speculative, showing what's likely to happen.
And maybe there'll even be a proper bus service to Stratford International, the ghost station on the High Speed line, currently linked to the world via a wholly inefficient meandering shuttle. Expect the DLR extension to finally (finally) arrive on Monday 22nd August, so I'm reliably informed. One day they'll finish Stratford station, one day. But not yet.