diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 15, 2014

Around 1990 a whole suite of Docklands 'D' buses was introduced to make connections with the Isle of Dogs. The DLR wasn't so extensive in those days, and the Jubilee line had yet to be extended, and bankers needed a network of buses to help get them to work. The current D3 wasn't one of those, it was introduced a decade later using a redundant number, and followed pretty much the same route as it does today. And that's a wildly twisty route - barely three miles end to end as the crow flies, but over ten on the bus. Only the driver, or a fool, would ride the lot.

 Route D3: Bethnal Green - Crossharbour
 Length of journey: 11 miles, 50 minutes

London buses flock to hospitals like moths to a flame, with the D3 drawn to two. It kicks off in the leafy avenues surrounding the London Chest Hospital, deathly quiet at weekends, and a short walk from Victoria Park. Only two of us are waiting, the other considerably younger than me but with the inner confidence of a regular traveller. I climb aboard and wave my Oyster card at the reader... which doesn't beep. "Take a seat, it's not ready yet," says the driver, in a weary yet particularly trusting manner. The iBus display also has yet to kick into action, and I mention this only because it will turn out to be significant later. In fact quite soon.

We squeeze out of the sidestreets onto Cambridge Heath Road, where suddenly many passengers pour on board beside the exit from the Central line subway. And as we turn onto Bethnal Green Road, Emma Hignett's automated voice kicks in with an unexpected lie. "This bus is on diversion. Please listen for further announcements." We very much aren't on diversion, we're going the completely normal way, past a bustling selection of shops and the general E2 massive. I can hear the sound of much beeping from the front cab as the driver attempts to reset the system. The iBus display gets one stop right and then fails again, as Emma's dulcet tones continue to fib about our diversionary status. We pass the house built on the site of the house where the Krays used to live, and a bus stop called Fakruddin Street, which Emma usually pronounces extremely carefully.

The majority of passengers alight as we graze the Royal London Hospital, where we should be carrying straight on except there's a red metal sign blocking the middle of the road. The driver yells to confirm the news, that this bus is about to go on diversion, and suddenly everyone else skedaddles. They've judged how long the alternative route is going to be and wisely escaped, leaving only me to enjoy the mile-long Aldgate deviation. And unexpected silence. It's finally Emma's moment to shine and make her diversion announcement properly, except she doesn't, despite having made it repeatedly and inappropriately earlier on. I smile, because this is narrative gold and means I won't have to spend eight paragraphs simply repeating what I can see out of the window.

Out of the window I can see all sorts of things I wasn't expecting - the textile shops of the Whitechapel Road, the pristine skyscrapers of Aldgate and the luxury flats being erected where News International used to stand. I decide that this extended loop is a good time to touch in, so surprise the driver by appearing behind him and beeping. He kindly checks that I'm not being too greatly disadvantaged by the diversion, and then continues with my one-man tour of the East End. I'm expecting someone else to join us, surely, as we finally rejoin the correct route on The Highway, but no, it seems I'm about to get Wapping all to myself too.

The D3 is one of two buses to serve this compact riverside community, its cobbled backstreets notorious for their narrow twisting nature. But the driver's clearly well practised and hurtles along, judging the gaps between the speed bumps perfectly so as not to have to slow down. A pop-up dockside market is underway, where a small girl hiked up on her father's shoulders waves to us as we zip by. Back on the main road we continue to make up for lost time, taking advantage of an empty bus lane to undertake the Limehouse traffic. But then my solo run is up, as a diminutive shopper flags us down and drags her spotty wheely basket aboard... for two stops only.

There is no rush of bankers heading for Canary Wharf today, only the temporary company of an oversized man in a graceless parka. The estate's security guards raise the barrier for us as we approachWestferry Circus - they look as if they're glad to have something to do this far outside normal working hours. Alone again after the DLR drop-off I realise I'm about to be treated to my second private detour. A major development on Heron Quays, and a plethora of water nearby, means a riproaring alternative route is temporarily required. We dip underneath the new Crossrail station, head briefly onto the dual carriageway and then, really, up the backroad past the cinema? I've never been right to the end before and down into the tunnel, where Canary Wharf's secret delivery entrance leads off beneath the towers. It's been good this special diversion, if a proper timewaster... and no, of course Emma hasn't mentioned it.

At last we're back on the proper route, and about to undertake a spiral round the Isle of Dogs. The D3 exists to distribute the residents of Millwall and Cubitt Town around the peninsula, but two other buses do the same and today they're clearly taking all the strain. This and the fact that if you really wanted to go to Asda at the end of the route you could walk faster that the looping path we're tracing. I can sense the driver edging up to bus stops in a "you don't really want me, do you?" manner, and accelerating triumphantly when body language indicates "no". Eventually two ladies call his bluff and actually get on, though again not for long, more like they couldn't be bothered to walk for a few hundred metres.

The rim of the island is a fascinating mix of habitats, from shiny apartments paid for by annual bonuses to out-of-sight out-of-mind council flats. We also kink into the interior for a bit up the delightfully named Spindrift Avenue, where actual dockers would have lived back in the day, and where a "20 Slow Down" sign lights up as we pass through. No chance. Light loadings and lack of traffic on Manchester Road allows the driver to speed up to the extent that the seat in front of me vibrates and hammers repeatedly against my kneecaps. It therefore comes as light relief when we finally pull into the 1980s technovillage on Marsh Wall, and curl round to the supermarket car park where several buses terminate. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed my chauffeured private dash through Docklands, but the D3 is a route that feels like it's on diversion even when it's not.

» route D3 - route map
» route D3 - timetable
» route D3 - live bus map
» route D3 - route history
» route D3 - The Ladies Who Bus

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream