diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 09, 2016

 Route 508: Stratford City - Wanstead Park
 Length of journey: 3 miles, 25 minutes [map]

You'd hardly know this bus exists, and maybe that's the idea. It runs at wildly irregular times, it's barely advertised, and passenger usage is likely to be very low. But it has a proper route number and it meets a genuine need, indeed it's a perfect example of TfL's commitment to a comprehensive and reliable bus network. The residents of Albert Square might very well be lost without it. And it's all Crossrail's fault.

The situation is this. The 308 runs from Clapton to Wanstead via a circuitous route, dipping down to Stratford around halfway to make connections there. For part of its journey it runs along the northern side of the Great Eastern Mainline, specifically between Maryland and Forest Gate stations, along which section it is the only bus. However, intermittent Crossrail work at Forest Gate station requires part of the road outside to be acquired for works vehicles, every now and then, and this prevents buses from passing the full length of Forest Lane. The 308 is then diverted via Romford Road, which leaves seven bus stops unserved, hence the introduction of temporary route 508. But only at weekends. And only certain weekends. So good luck if you fancy catching it. I gave it a go on Sunday.

The 508 starts its stumpy journey at Stratford City bus station. Nobody seems especially proud. There is a 508 tile at Bus Stop W, but there's no timetable on the pole, and the 508's not shown on the map in the shelter, hence it's impossible to know where it's heading and when. I stand and wait. The next 308 whisks all the Wanstead-bound clientele away, so when the 508's unconvincing single decker spins around there's nobody else waiting. All the bus obviously says on the front is 'Special Service', which isn't useful, but evidently it wasn't practical (or economically viable) to add bespoke blinds. Look more closely and there are two A3 laminated sheets in the window, both of which say...

Stratford City &
Wanstead Park

...except the bottom of each card is obscured beneath the bottom of the window, hence the bus's destination is practically invisible. If you were attempting to run a secret bus to Ssssh Not Telling, you could hardly organise things better.

Not surprisingly nobody other than me chooses to board. A couple of people try, but this is because they think this is the rail replacement bus that's supposed to be departing from the same stop this weekend. "Are you going to Goodmayes?" "Are you going to Romford?" But no, we're stopping well short, so it seems the secret bus is all mine. Even better it appears to be free. I touch in my Oyster but the light is red, indicating either that the reader is switched off or that it hasn't warmed up yet. It soon becomes clear that the onboard iBus system isn't working either. Normally the electronic system chips in to announce the next stop, but no, it looks like nobody's been bothered to program this either. Thus far, nothing about the 508 is looking competent.

It takes a while to escape Westfield Stratford City, blighted as it is by several over-zealous traffic lights. But eventually, on the one-way system outside Stratford library, we pull in for actual passengers. A husband and wife board with several bulky bags of shopping and attempt to plonk these down at the front. There is then a slight altercation when the driver asks them to pay - it seems the Oyster reader has woken up. "But this is a free service," pleads the woman, "I'll show you the email if you like." The driver tries to ask again but she's having none of it. "No, it says online it's a free service!" I've tried my damnedest to find evidence of this since but there's almost nothing out there, indeed the 508 is conspicuous on the TfL website by its absence. At this point the driver gives up - the customer is always right - and we continue.

Around the corner lots of people are waiting, but not for us. No, hang on, a middle-aged gentleman seems keen to step aboard. He engages in some kind of conversation with the driver, as far as one can without a language in common, and beeps his card as normal. The shopping couple look on, but wisely say nothing. As we move off our latest passenger starts looking somewhat uncomfortable, there being few clues as to where the bus is actually going, until we stop again and he gets off. That's probably £1.50 wasted, mostly through ignorance. At the foot of Water Lane a second passenger does the same thing - boards for a one-stop journey - but in this case he's a seriously elderly gentleman with a stick, and the 508 has performed an immensely useful public service in getting him to within hobbling distance of home. There are genuine reasons why the secret bus exists.

Turning into Forest Lane we are greeted by large red signs warning 'Road Ahead Closed'. From here onwards we're entering the 508's exclusive domain, the community part-cut-off by Crossrail, living up a run of tightly-packed Victorian streets to one side. Ding! The shoppers are getting off at the first stop. I'm mildly surprised because the stop they boarded at is less than half a mile distant, via the direct route this bus hasn't followed, and I could probably have walked here faster in the time it's taken the bus to arrive. But they couldn't, of course, hence the 508 is again doing its job by providing a delivery of cereal boxes, loo roll and fresh veg almost to the front door. The woman makes a special point of waving her phone at the driver to show him her email before she alights. And look, this is the stop for Albert Square, the Newham street I've written about before, and which bears little resemblance to its fictional counterpart.

There's nobody else left to alight along the remaining stretch of road, although there are people waiting on the opposite side of the street, directly overlooking the railway cutting, for our driver to return. They can expect a long wait. Turning a bus round in this warren of streets isn't going to be easy, especially with the far end of Forest Lane irrevocably blocked. With the barriers fast approaching I wonder how we're going to do it, but at the last minute we turn left up a sidestreet rather narrower than TfL's diversionary planners would like. A chain of parked cars runs along each side of Field Road... clearly our luck is eventually going to run out when we meet something driving the other way.

It's not long before we meet something worse - a greedy parker. His Ford Galaxy is sat slap bang in the central gap, with the passenger door wide open and his hazard lights flashing as if this is somehow a suitable apology. Whatever the elusive passenger is doing, it clearly isn't quick, and it looks like we may be here some time. A local resident takes the opportunity to step over to the driver's cab and enquire when the next bus in the opposite direction might be. The driver explains that there isn't a bus stop here (this isn't some Hail and Ride zone, it's wholly unsuitable) and off she goes. And then she comes back, because the parking manoeuvre ahead is taking much longer than expected, and the driver relents and says if she waits right there he'll pick her up on the way back.

Eventually, after some sheepish reversing, we continue onwards in an attempt to escape this residential maze. I'm not entirely certain where the bus is going next because the only map of the route TfL have produced is chopped off after this point... but it does say "towards Wanstead Park" so I assume we're heading to the station. Not so. After two hopeful-looking right turns we suddenly head left away from the Overground, and I'm deposited rather further away than I'd like to have been. The last stop is at the bus stand on Bective Road, opposite Wanstead Flats, and if I'd genuinely wanted a bus to here I should have caught the 308 instead, because from this point onwards the diversion is over. Indeed I'd have been quicker getting off ten minutes ago and walking through the Crossrail parking lot, past where Forest Gate station is currently a hive of industry.

Which leaves me wondering how the 508 has been advertised to those who live along the key section of its route. I therefore walk back to the penultimate bus stop in the hope of finding a timetable, but all I find is a map of the diverted route, and a table listing which days the 508 bus is actually running. The last four Sundays in January, every Saturday and Sunday in February and March, back to Sundays in April and May, not at all in June and July, then approximately half the remaining Sundays until the end of the year. Oh, and always starting at 8pm the night before, and finishing at 6am the morning after. Has there ever been a more complicated bus schedule than this? But as for an actual timetable, TfL haven't chosen to provide one. I know the 508 runs every half an hour and when, because I've found this listing online, but in real life there's bugger all.

In some ways the 508 is a model service, running from before 5am until after midnight to keep a handful of residential streets connected. Someone's also done a perfect job adding fresh white '508' tiles at every bus stop along the way. But the remainder of the information provision, and the user experience itself, are considerably more substandard. Well, it wouldn't be a secret bus if it wasn't secret, eh?

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
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    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards