diamond geezer

 Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Back in January I blogged about London's ten shortest bus routes. At number 8, the 209.

Route 209: Mortlake → Barnes → Hammersmith
London's 8th shortest bus route
Length of journey: 2.70 miles (15 minutes)

On 10th April Hammersmith Bridge was closed indefinitely and several bus routes curtailed or diverted. The 209 was stopped short at Castelnau, just south of the bridge, purely as a stopgap solution. Then on 18th May TfL officially rejigged buses in the area, not entirely successfully. The 209 was unexpectedly wrenched away from its normal route towards Hammersmith Bridge and diverted towards Putney Bridge instead.

Route 209: Mortlake → Barnes → Putney Bridge
London's 7th shortest bus route
Length of journey: 2.60 miles (12 minutes)

TfL's rationale for the change was to continue to provide a direct link between Mortlake/Barnes and a tube station, They thought residents would appreciate this, rather than being dumped on the wrong side of Hammersmith Bridge and having to walk 15 minutes to Hammersmith. But residents proved them wrong. They generally gave the rerouted 209 a wide berth, and continued to use less frequent buses to get to Castelnau and walk across the bridge anyway.
"We understand that not all of the changes we made have benefitted everyone and so we have been taking feedback from local stakeholders via public meetings and this web page. Following feedback, passenger surveys and data collection, we are making some additional changes from Saturday 3 August 2019." [map]
So last weekend TfL responded to passenger demand and made two significant tweaks.

They sent the 209 back to Castelnau, on its original route, terminating just before the bridge.

Route 209: Mortlake → Barnes → Castelnau
London's 2nd shortest bus route
Length of journey: 1.85 miles (10 minutes)
   They kept the new route to Putney Bridge - for ten weeks the 209 - and renumbered it 378.

Route 378: Mortlake → Barnes → Putney Bridge
London's 8th shortest bus route
Length of journey: 2.60 miles (12 minutes)
 
Mortlake's so-called bus station is little more than a drivers' relief hut and a turnaround. Suddenly it has two routes terminating rather than one, so if too many buses turn up they overspill into North Worple Way. The 209 runs every eight minutes, which seems unusually frequent for a stunted service terminating the wrong side of a bridge, but at least you won't have long to wait.   Mortlake's so-called bus station is little more than a drivers' relief hut and a turnaround. Suddenly it has two routes terminating rather than one, so if too many buses turn up they overspill into North Worple Way. The 378 runs every twelve minutes, which seems unusually frequent for a service that's already proven less than popular, but at least you won't have long to wait.


 
The spider map in the shelter is of June 2018 vintage, so still shows three local bus routes sailing through to Hammersmith. One of these is the 209, which until last week actually went to Putney. Alongside is a big poster announcing Bus Changes from 3rd August, but this only shows the area either side of Hammersmith Bridge and where to catch the 209 if you're travelling in completely the opposite direction, so is useless. And this institutional incompetence is why the Phantom Bus Change Announcer (from the Twitter account @LDNBusUpdates) has been busy producing a genuinely useful map showing the new route and stuck it up alongside. It may be a guerilla production held in place by sticky tape, but it quite puts TfL's professional bus information team to shame. At least the timetables are up to date.   The spider map in the shelter is of June 2018 vintage, so only shows one local bus route connecting to Putney, whereas there are now two. The 378 does not appear. Alongside is a big poster announcing Bus Changes from 3rd August, but this only shows the area either side of Hammersmith Bridge so the 378 does not appear here either. The much more useful poster from @LDNBusUpdates does have a map of the route, and also announces that new vehicles fitted with USB charging points will be introduced on the route in two weeks time. The current buses are ten year-old stock and don't have the number 378 on their blinds, so the route number has to be displayed on a laminated sheet propped up in the front window. It looks woefully unprofessional, and isn't easy to read from a distance, At least the timetables are up to date.
 

 
Within one stop the 209 has reached Mortlake High Street, close to the river. From here routes 419 and 533 head to Castelnau six times an hour, so an accountant might argue the reintroduction of the 209 is unnecessary, but it seems the public like familiarity. We stop by the Rick Stein restaurant. We stop by the station. We don't stop again until we reach the big pond on the green, because bus stops in the centre of Barnes are inefficiently spaced. I spy three successive buses on three different routes heading in the opposite direction with a grand total of six passengers between them. I have this 209 to myself, which is nice, if financially inefficient.
   Initially I am the 378's sole passenger, but a young couple board at the second stop and five others join us throughout Barnes. This isn't bad for a new service, even if the 378 is really an old service with a new number, but at least everyone seems to have worked this out. Most of these passengers could have caught the 485 instead, because this doubles up alongside the 378 for the majority of the route, but it only runs every half hour and doesn't run on Sundays. In Central London TfL are busy cutting back on routes they deem to have excess capacity. Here in Barnes they're adding extra buses along several routes already served, with generous abandon.
 
At the Red Lion we get stuck behind a fledgling learner driver who fails to advance on a green light, and then after the next traffic light cycle fails again. This time our driver deftly nips past and overtakes, but without this delay we'd have managed an end to end journey in only eight minutes. At the next stop a first passenger boards, and further up Castelnau a second, because if you have a Freedom Pass even two stops is quicker than walking. The main road is magnificently empty, thanks to the closure of the bridge ahead, so we whizz up the once-necessary-but-now-pointless bus lane.   According to all of TfL's online collateral, the 378 stops only once between Barnes Bridge station and the far side of Putney Common, a distance of over a mile. On a bus route that's only 2½ miles long, that's a heck of a long way. In fact a temporary dolly stop has been added on Station Road to try to keep the gap down, but this is missing from the 378's online map, missing from the helpful map on the Permanent Bus Changes webpage and missing from the map in the current Hammersmith Bridge bus routes consultation, because the online team have no idea what's happening on the ground.
 
The 209 terminates at bus stop J outside the shops on the parade before Hammersmith Bridge. Two jacketed staff are being paid to sit in the shelter to offer helpful advice to passengers, but they offer me none, not even when I stop to look quizzically at the spider map. The spider map is still dated August 2018 because, even though Complete Transformation Of The Local Bus Network has taken place, nobody has thought to update it. The spider map at Bus Stop K across the road is still dated April 2013, and no timetable has been provided, because TfL's Bus Information Team are incompetent wastrels.   If you were hoping to use the bus to get to Putney Bridge station, bad luck. The 378 terminates on the bridge rather than outside the station because there isn't any room for additional vehicles there, so that's an extra three minutes walk. In good news the spider maps on the bridge have been updated this weekend and do show the 378 linking from here to Mortlake. In bad news the spider map outside the station hasn't been updated and still shows the 209 starting here. I have to wonder, if TfL can update one of their Putney spider maps, why are those in Mortlake and at Castelnau still woefully out of date?
 
The 209 is London's new 2nd shortest bus route, perhaps until Hammersmith Bridge is finally fixed.   The 378 is London's newest bus route, but more a community kindness than an essential connection.

LONDON'S SHORTEST BUS ROUTES (updated)
1389Barnet (The Spires) - Western Way1.65 miles
2209Mortlake - Castelnau1.85 miles
3327Waltham Cross - Elsinge Estate1.87 miles
4507Waterloo - Victoria2.24 miles
5379Yardley Lane Estate - Chingford2.26 miles
615HTrafalgar Square - Tower Hill2.36 miles
7W7Muswell Hill - Finsbury Park2.48 miles
8378Mortlake - Putney Bridge2.60 miles
9R9Orpington - Ramsden Estate2.65 miles
10346Upminster - Upminster Park Estate2.70 miles


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