diamond geezer

 Friday, March 14, 2014

20 things I've learned from orbiting London by bus

» There are few better places to see the capital than from the (front of) the top deck of a London bus.
» Most of London is around the edge, not in the middle. So there are few better places to understand the capital than by taking an orbital bus ride.
» My bus rides took about 12 hours altogether. Having said that, you couldn't make the entire journey in 12 hours because of all the waiting inbetween. Indeed, with some of those gaps being potentially over an hour long, I don't think it's possible to make my journey in one day.
» I actually made the journey in six bits, across six days. Hopefully you didn't spot the join.
» If you fancy going round the edge of London by bus, you don't have to go my way. Indeed there are several corners you could cut along the way if you choose (like missing out the 499, or taking the 418 to skip Chessington), or several additional deviations to follow the border of London more closely.
» With my travelcard, 21 of my 25 buses have cost me nothing, and the other four fares totalled just over a tenner.
» Some places around the edge of London are considerable urban centres, places like Kingston, Uxbridge and Romford. Other places remain fantastically rural, which'd probably come as a surprise to anyone who never leaves inner London.
» We are damned fortunate that buses go almost everywhere in London. TfL aim to operate a "comprehensive" bus network, which they define as running "within about five minutes walk of homes... this is about 400 metres at the average walking speed". Hence the existence of far flung occasional buses like the R8 and the 347, because even far flung Londoners merit a comprehensive service.
» When the time comes for TfL to cut its budget, however many months or years into the future that may be, some of the buses I've been riding will be the first under threat.
» People do still use cash to pay their bus fare. Maybe not so often in the middle of town where Oyster has mass penetration, but more so on the outskirts where people make more occasional journeys. Going cashless will disproportionately affect Outer Londoners, especially those without contactless bank cards.
» Whoever it was who turned off the on-board notification of "Hail and Ride" sections on buses is an idiot. How are passengers supposed to know where they can ding at will, and where they have to wait for the next stop, when there's misleading information on the scrolling display?
» Hurrah for London bus drivers. They rattle repeatedly through the streets, they negotiate awkward traffic situations, they deal with stroppy and bemused passengers, and they still get us to where we want to be in one piece and generally in good time.
» Hurrah for London buses. When you've ridden some of the older less well turned-out vehicles just over the border, you realise just how good a deal we get.
» I would have linked to TfL's new interactive bus route maps, like this for the 347 and this for the 166, but at the moment they're only available on the beta website, and the URL will be changing imminently. If you're reading this in a couple of months time, try tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/492
» Taking a photo of every different bus on a journey round London is hard. Either you're blatant, and get some funny looks, or you have to hold your mobile as if you're checking something very important as the bus arrives.
» Some bus stops have brilliant names. I didn't get off at enough of them.
» You may be fascinated by several consecutive posts about buses, but my general readership are not, and visitor numbers are down by at least 10%. Those figures could be worse, but some people are silently begging me to stop. Good news, I'm stopping.
» If there's one thing more stupid than travelling round the edge of London by bus, it's writing about it, every mile of the way.
» The London Underground gets hugely more attention paid to it than the London bus. Given that far more people make bus journeys than tube journeys, perhaps it's time for the media to redress the balance a little.
» You can't go round London by train. You can go round London by bus. But probably just the once.

The complete orbital journey on three pages:
492 >> R11 >> R8 >> 464 >> 64 >> 412 >> 166 >> 467 >> 71 >>
>> 216 >> 441 >> U3 >> 331 >> 8 >> 142 >>107 >> 84 >> 313 >>
>> 179 >> 275 >> 247 >> 499 >>347 >> 370 >> X80

• The average speed for the whole circuit was just over 13mph. (161 miles in 12 hours 16 minutes - although as DG was usually only timing to the nearest five minutes that could be out by anything up to an hour either way)
• The fastest leg of all was route 84, which did three miles in eight minutes - an average of 22mph, although on such a short hop the error bars will be quite big. This was also the oldest bus, with a 51 reg (late 2001)
• Longest leg was the first, the 492 - 13 miles in just over an hour. The shortest was the two mile hop on route 179. This also tied with the 275 for the newest bus (both 63 reg, or late 2013) The average age of the buses was just over seven years (i.e a 56 reg). (this average does not include the 216, as its registration plate was not visible in the photo)
• Surprisingly for such a suburban, or even rural, itinerary the majority of the buses (thirteen out of 25) were double deckers, but as they tended to be on the shorter legs they contributed only 43% of the itinerary (by time and distance).
• The route numbers summed to 5797, including 102 from the "letter" routes. The digit "5" appeared only once.
• Thirteen buses crossed the GLA boundary, five of them more than once: there were 22 crossings altogether. Ten buses were entirely within the GLA area, the final two being the only ones entirely outside it.

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