diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Before I leave TfL's database of 19937 bus stops well alone, allow me to reshuffle one last field. Every bus stop has an official title, a Bus Stop Name, displayed on the flag beneath the roundel. By rearranging these into alphabetical order, it's possible to uncover the complete A-Z of London bus stops. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the first stop on the list was only a short walk from home...

The first London bus stop in alphabetical order: Abbey Lane
[bus stop ID: 54140] [routes served: 25, 108, 276, 425, D8] [borough: Newham] [postcode: E15 2SE] [map]

If you were hoping for Abbey Road, apologies. There are seven Abbey Road bus stops in London, but Abbey Lane in E15 pips the lot. You'll find it about halfway along Stratford High Street, approximately where the Greenway crosses, at what'll one day be the southern gateway to the Olympic Park. Abbey Lane heads off across the marshes to towards the site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey, once ecclesiastically huge in these parts, and the reason why this particular bus stop tops the alphabetical list. Alongside is Albert Bigg Point, one of the few tower blocks round here erected as long ago as the 20th century, while elsewhere a febrile state of developer-mania has taken hold. Stratford High Street is fast becoming a skyscraper boulevard, with one particularly lofty beast attached to the former Yardley factory fractionally up the road, and a brand new pile of flats shooting up immediately across the road on the site of a former tyre depot. Where once this bus stop served a minor council estate surrounded by light industry, it's now the departure point for thousands of professional incomers in concierge-served studios. And joy of joys, it's also slap bang on Cycle Superhighway 2. This bus stop was one of the first anywhere in London to get a bus stop bypass, indeed the design's barely changed since, with the carriageway narrowed to provide room for a bike-friendly chicane, and passengers waiting patiently on a thin island midstream. A thoroughly modern patch of pavement, every other London bus stop follows on behind.

The last London 'bus stop' in alphabetical order: Zion Road
[bus stop ID: -] [route served: 198] [borough: Croydon] [postcode: CR7 8RG] [map]

The very last entry in the TfL bus stop database, alphabetically speaking, is in Thornton Heath. But the details listed in the database are sketchy - the stop doesn't appear to have an SMS code, nor a postcode, neither does it show up as a dot on the TfL website. So I had a theory what I'd find when I reached Zion Road, and on arrival my suspicions proved correct. Zion Road is a terraced backstreet parallel to the main drag, and brief enough that no scheduled bus service would choose to pass this way. While homeowners bustle in their doorways on one side of the road, the other is taken up by Strand House, the Croydon Adult Learning and Training Centre. It's big and blocky, but has the major advantage that nobody lives here nor needs to park a car outside, so there's plenty of room to park a bus instead. When double deckers on route 198 have finished their haul from Shirley they pull in here, one way only, and stack up in the bus stand painted on the road. There's room for at least three. TfL have even provided a tiny cubicle for ablutions, locked by PIN code, on a scrappy patch of grass at the street corner ahead. And then at the appointed time drivers accelerate off to the first official stop in Nursery Road, and start the entire circuit again. So as I suspected Zion Road is a Bus Stand rather than a Bus Stop, and entirely off-limits for passengers. So it doesn't count. So let's go travelling again.

The last TfL bus stop in alphabetical order: Zig Zag Road
[bus stop ID: 51477] [routes served: 465] [district: Mole Valley] [postcode: RH5 6BY] [map]

Here's a turn-up, the bus stop at the other end of the alphabet to Abbey Lane also has an Olympic connection. It can be found at the bottom of Box Hill, specifically at the bottom of the the hairpin ascent that gave the 2012 road race some oomph. The gradient on the Zig Zag Road is approximately 5% throughout, which thoroughly tests the thigh muscles of the besaddled, and offers a stunning view in the upper reaches of the ascent to boot. I loved it as a walk, so long as I kept out of the way of puffing bikes. But in November I suspect it's less fab, so I was relieved to have already visited earlier in the year, and taken a photo of the bus stop at the bottom of the hill because that's the kind of guy I am. Not only is this a remote spot on a country lane, serving a handful of hideaway villas, but it's also a very long way away. The 465 runs further south than any London bus, beyond Leatherhead, beyond Westhumble, all the way to Dorking. Which means of course, that Zig Zag Road lies far beyond Greater London. So it doesn't count. So let's go travelling again.

The last London bus stop in alphabetical order: Zangwill Road
[bus stop ID: 76899] [routes served: 386] [borough: Greenwich] [postcode: SE3 8EL] [map]

If we can't accept a bus stand, and we mustn't accept somewhere in Surrey, then the last London bus stop in alphabetical order is that at Zangwill Road, SE3. And this is more like it, a mundane turn-off from a better known thoroughfare, very close to the top end of Woolwich Common. The street name you'll know is Shooters Hill Road, here running down to the foot of the aforementioned hill in the approximate vicinity of Hornfair Park. Also close by is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, whose out-of-town presence demands the services of at least half a dozen buses, one of which is the 386. This tortured workhorse follows a perversely convoluted route from Woolwich to Blackheath, seemingly ticking off every housing estate it passes, in this case suburban avenues to the east of Kidbrooke. Zangwill Road mixes postwar semis with even poster-war flats, and is seemingly named after the Jewish author Israel Zangwill. Somewhat appropriately for an end-of-alphabet feature he was a keen Zionist, indeed a leading light in paving the foundations for the nation which bears his name. And so now does the bus stop at the end of the road, although this wasn't always so. Until relatively recently this stop was called The Brook, after the pub on the corner, but when this closed (and was bought up by the Co-op) TfL were forced to rename it after a local road instead. So Zangwill Road is now the final valid entry in the alphabetical bus stop database... unless, bugger, does Z space S come before or after Zan?

The last London bus stop in alphabetical order? Z S L London Zoo
[bus stop ID: 49306] [routes served: 274] [borough: Westminster] [postcode: NW1 7SX] [map]

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