diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 01, 2015

This is a post about three bus stops on Bow Road.

These are the three eastbound bus stops immediately before the Bow Flyover. They're my local bus stops. They're served by 45 buses an hour on half a dozen different routes. They're currently being re-engineered because of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade. And with the transition well underway, I have to say the temporary arrangements aren't entirely ideal.

Buses are supposed to stop at either bus stop E or bus stop G (which are quite close), and then at bus stop M, before proceeding round the roundabout. But by the end of the year the needs of the Cycle Superhighway mean that bus stops E and M will be closed, and all passengers will need to wait at bus stop G to catch their bus. It's going to be a busy one.

Stop E

The first roadworks along the pavement by Bow Church began at the end of July. During August bus stop E started to be downgraded, with the removal of the Countdown display inside the shelter and the removal of the bus stop flag. A temporary sign was put in place on a nearby lamppost, announcing ALL BUSES STOP HERE, but this wasn't initially the case. Some drivers still carried on to bus stop G, which at that point hadn't quite been closed, leaving passengers waiting in vain until another bus turned up. That swiftly sorted itself out. But the temporary sign doesn't give the numbers of the services that stop here, and there are no timetables, which isn't terribly helpful. It's been like this for at least five weeks. TfL have said they'll close this stop permanently "from late October".

Stop G

Bus stop E has been very busy since late August because bus stop G is temporarily closed. Planners decided that of all three stops along this stretch of road only G could accommodate a bus stop bypass, and that transformation is well underway. It began two months ago with the realignment of the kerb and an awful lot of digging. What used to be the inside lane of the A11 has become a bus stop bypass island, with space for cycling carved through the pavement behind. Soon this section of Bow Road will be only two lanes wide, rather than three, but cones and roadworks have meant that for the last month it's been only one. If you're on a bike this has been particularly bad news, because you've had to take your chances sharing a much narrower flow of traffic. That'll improve dramatically once the bus stop bypass opens, but tantalisingly it hasn't yet. The upgraded bus stop has been almost ready for a while, except there's still a lamppost in the middle of the new cycle lane so the safe route can't be opened yet. Until the old lamppost is removed and the new lamppost alongside is switched on, freshly-spacious bus stop G remains closed.

Stop M

Poor old bus stop M. It's the last stop before the roundabout, and used to be served by all buses. Then planners decided the 25 should be diverted over the flyover to make up time elsewhere, an iniquity I've moaned about elsewhere. Now the 25 speeds by, and will continue to do so forever subject to the results of a consultation which ends on October 16th. So I was particularly surprised to walk past the stop last Wednesday and see that the number 25 had been removed from the routes displayed on the bus stop. Up until this point the 25 had been crossed out with red sticky tape, pending discussion, but suddenly the tile had been removed altogether as if the outcome had already been decided. Bloody hell, I shouted at the bus stop, talk about pre-judging your own consultation.

When I returned on Friday, I was even more surprised to discover that the bus stop had disappeared. Not the shelter, and not the painted lines in the road, but the pole on which the bus stop sign hung had vanished. Had bus stop M suddenly been terminated, as the Cycle Superhighway roadworks drew too close? The inside of the shelter still contained a bench and bus map, but there was no roundel on a pole, no list of route numbers and no set of timetables. Potential passengers also looked confused, waiting where they'd always waited and discovering that buses weren't stopping. When I walked past late on Saturday evening, an elderly lady was sitting in the bus shelter clutching a bag of shopping, wondering where the next bus might be. She too was waiting in vain, the poor woman, and this was after eleven o'clock at night. Bloody hell, I thought, someone has really bodged this up.

I had hoped the confusion would be only temporary, but when I walked past yesterday evening nothing had changed. The bus stop is still pole-less and roundel-less, and there's still no sign saying "This bus stop has closed" to confirm the outcome. On this occasion there were five people waiting, who looked particularly pissed off when a 276 whizzed by despite their desperate waving. Some deduced something was up and headed off up the road to bus stop E... only to be even more pissed off when a 425 pulled up and picked up those who'd decided to stay. Later in the evening I saw a 488 pull in to drop off some passengers, this despite the fact the onboard iBus display was already showing the next stop as if this one had been deleted. Bloody hell, I said, they've created a ghost stop that only half exists, through a mixture of incomplete planning and incompetence.

According to a letter TfL poked through my door in July, "bus stop M will be closed permanently from late December." Have they really shut it three months earlier than expected, and without telling anybody either? Do they expect regular users to spot that the pole's not there so this isn't a bus stop any more, despite never once putting up a sign announcing closure? Or is it in fact still functional, or is this week maybe a temporary blip before a couple more months of service? Not even the bus drivers seem to be sure. The TfL website still shows next departures from bus stop M, even though there aren't any, while a different webpage suggests the bus stop has already been moved uphill concurrent with stop G. This is how unwanted bus stops die, not with a bang but with a befuddled whimper.

Stop G

Which brings me back to bus stop G, which will imminently be Bow Church's only surviving eastbound bus stop. It has a brand new shelter awaiting first passengers, and also a brand new bus stop pole... which looks familiar. The letter on the top is the big giveaway - this used to be the pole for bus stop M and it's been relocated 200m up the road. And that would be great, except the list of buses no longer shows the 25, and the 25 will definitely be stopping here because it's the last stop before the flyover. I trust someone'll be adding the 25 before the bus stop goes live, and I hope they'll be adding that Countdown display they removed from bus stop E up the road too. Of course I mustn't grumble about bus stop G as yet, it's not operational, and there might be final tweaks yet to come. But trust me, I'll be back to blog about bus stop G some more - I mean, a bisected bus stop bypass, whatever were they thinking...?

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