Route 718: Morden to Rose Hill Location: London southwest Length of journey: 2 miles, 12 minutes (×2)
A new London bus route started yesterday. The most interesting thing about the 718 is that it has a route number in the seven hundreds. This is extremely unusual, indeed several people will be keen to tell us precisely when this last happened in the comments. The 718 isn't permanent, it's temporary while a bridge is repaired. It has a very short route and only runs every half an hour. You will never need to ride it, nor should you go out of your way to try, so there is no need to read any of what follows.
The problem is Bishopsford Road Bridge, an old arched span above the Wandle on the main road between Mitcham and Sutton. Merton council closed it for three months of repairs back in April, which required the temporary diversion of two bus routes, the 118 and 280. But flooding in June caused significant damage to the bridge, undermining the foundations and causing the northern arch to partially collapse, which forced those route diversions to continue for a lot longer than planned. In July the council removed a traffic island to allow the 280 to return to Bishopstone Road, via a tireseome wiggle, but the 118 couldn't follow suit. Hence the 718, which exists to give residents of Wandle Road (and adjacent streets) a link to Morden station. [map]
Only one vehicle is being provided. Nobody's forked out any cash to display 718 on the blind, so instead the driver has to place a small yellow card inside the window. On the outward journey it says 718 Rose Hill and on the way back it says 718 Morden. This labelling is at odds to the timetable and the route's digital presence, both of which insist that the 718 is a circular route starting and finishing at Morden. In fact it's two miles out and two miles back along almost exactly the same roads, with a spin round the Rose Hill roundabout at the far end, so in reality it's only a circular in the minds of those at TfL Towers.
Each 'loop' takes just under half an hour, allowing TfL to run what they're describing as a half-hourly service. Unfortunately at certain times of day the loop takes fractionally longer, due to traffic, which means the "every 30 minutes" interval falls inexorably out of sync. For example buses depart Morden station at 10 and 40 minutes past the hour on weekdays, except between seven and nine in the morning and two and six in the afternoon when it's every 35 minutes instead, which makes remembering what time to go out and catch your bus a bit trickier.
I arrived at Morden station just in time for a 718, which was fortunate because if you just miss one it's probably quicker to walk. I was not the only passenger. We followed the normal 118 route past Morden Hall Park before turning off down Wandle Road, where the other passenger got off. We reached Bishopsford Road Bridge with a minimum of fuss. In an ideal world the 718 would turn round here and go back but it can't, so it has to turn right and continue for an extra mile to the Rose Hill roundabout. This is great news for residents of Bishopsford Road who don't normally have a bus to Morden but now suddenly do. I alighted at the roundabout rather than stay on and come back the same way. It was not an exciting ride.
In good news, all the 718's bus stops appear to have 718 timetables. All the bus stops also have 718 tiles, which you'd think would be good but a peculiar jobsworth foible intrudes. Tiles on bus stops heading towards Morden just say '718', but tiles on bus stops heading towards Rose Hill say '718 towards Morden', because technically it's a circular and they are. At the farthest bus stop the 280 and 718 have to share a tile and it looks like they might both go to Morden, which the 280 utterly doesn't, but that's what happens when rules are applied religiously. Never mind, it won't affect you, and the 718 should be gone by August anyway.