Passengers on bus route 25, I have good news and bad news.
If you live beside the Bow Flyover it's good news, because buses on route 25 won't be whizzing over the flyover any more. Instead they'll be going via the roundabout, like they used to, which means they will be stopping at your local bus stop, which means you will be able to catch a 25 again.
They started disappearing over the flyover on Monday 16th March 2015. East London was in the grip of Cycle Superhighway works at the time, which were seriously slowing down the traffic, so buses on route 25 were diverted over the flyover to save a little time. By missing out a couple of bus stops, the traffic lights and some jams, it was possible to make up a few minutes lost queuing through roadworks in Aldgate, and elsewhere. It left a half mile gap in the middle of the busiest bus route in London, but the sacrifice of the few aided the travel experience of the many.
Eastbound the Marshgate Lane bus stop was skipped, and eastbound the Bow Flyover bus stop on the opposite side of the dual carriageway. It's OK, said TfL, all other buses will continue to stop here, so you won't be without a service. It's OK, said TfL, it's only for three months. But after three months they extended the diverstion "until further notice", and after six months they proposed to make it permanent. "No!" screamed the public in the ensuing consultation, so TfL relented and said they'd return the 25 to ground level "as soon as the current major roadworks on the route are complete". But these completed in June, and nothing happened.
If you'd turned up at the Marshgate Lane bus stop during the last 18 months you'd have seen a red cross stuck over the number '25'. You'd have seen all the buses on route 25 speeding past over the flyover. And you'd have seen a particularly rubbish diversion notice telling you where the "nearest alternative stops" were. Westbound the nearest was apparently "stop K on High Street near Warton Road", and eastbound "stop A on Bow Road near Bow Church Station (DLR)". Had anybody bothered to check they'd have discovered that these weren't the nearest stops, they were the third nearest, and both were ten minutes walk away. But nobody checked, and this drivel was left up to advise passengers for 570 days.
Residents living near to the omitted bus stops became increasingly incandescent about the diversion, there being no obvious reason for its continuation. They emailed, tweeted and complained, as you do, but TfL revealed nothing. The 25 continued to sail over the flyover throughout the summer, and throughout September, and nobody official appeared to be able to say anything. And then finally this Thursday, a full 81 weeks after the diversion began, local residents were sent this email.
From Saturday 8 October, there will be changes to bus route 25, which runs between Ilford and Oxford Circus. Following the completion of roadworks, buses will no longer be diverted over Bow Flyover and will once again run via Bow Roundabout.
The sticky red crosses came down on Thursday, and the ridiculous yellow diversion notice disappeared too, so everything looked promising. Passengers turning up yesterday were very confused, of course, staring at the 25s on the flyover then double-checking the bus stop, because the timetable switch had happened a day too early. But today they'll be able to board properly, or if they're travelling home get off at the correct stop rather than having to walk for an unnecessary extra five minutes.
A new timetable really did start this morning - I've been out to check! No longer do 25s take the high road over the flyover, they take the low road round the roundabout. Passengers at Marshgate Lane are once again able to board a frequent bus to Stratford and beyond, and are already doing so. Normal service has finally been resumed.
I said there was bad news, and for everybody else there is. If you don't live near Marshgate Lane, then the last 18 months have been excellent. Your journey on the 25 has been faster by at least a minute, often more, because the bus hasn't had to queue up for the traffic lights. Also the view from the top of the flyover has been better - far across the Olympic Park and down the Lower Lea Valley - and from the upper deck much better still. Now all these bonuses have been taken away, and the 25's journey is slower, less reliable and fractionally less interesting.
Indeed buses are always faster if they don't have to stop at places you don't want to go. The ultimate bus route skips loads of stops and whizzes you to your destination much quicker as a result. The catch is that the ultimate bus route is a taxi, and a London full of taxis would be a jammed-up nightmare.
So it's excellent news that the 25 is stopping again at Marshgate Lane, because the aim of any good bus service is to serve the communities through which it passes, not to miss them out. Several hundred people have been inconvenienced for a year and a half so that TfL can run an efficient timetable, but now their needs are once again being taken into account. And with tens of thousands more people due to move in by the Bow Roundabout over the next few years, everyone'll be best served by having the busiest bus route in London stopping close by. Come on down!
BOW ROUNDABOUT UPDATE
When pedestrian crossings were added to the Bow Roundabout in June, TfL stuck numbers to five of the flyover's pillars to indicate 'Exits'. Due to flimsy construction and poor adhesion these numbers then mostly peeled or fell off. Yesterday contractors came back and peeled the rest off, replacing them with proper permanent plastic numbers. These won't fall off, they're solid stuff, but they probably won't persuade many more of the public to cross via the new crossings either.
BOW BUS UPDATE
Bus Stop W (Marshgate Lane): Buses on route 25 are stopping again, but the timetable is three years old so shows incorrect frequencies. There are still no maps in the bus shelter. [MAP HAS APPEARED, end of October] Bus Stop P (Bow Flyover): Buses on route 25 are stopping again, but there's no timetable. The Countdown display shows all departures except those for route 25. [25 ON DISPLAY, end of October] Digital Bus Stop W:Doesn't yet show buses on route 25. Digital Bus Stop P:Doesn't yet show buses on route 25.
Routes 108/D8: Timetables at bus stops have not yet been updated (all stops, entire route) [TIMETABLES UPDATED, two weeks late] Routes 108/D8: Spider maps at bus stops have not yet been updated (all stops, entire route) [MAPS UPDATED, end of October] Routes 108/D8: Spider maps online have not been updated (so still show the 108 and D8 going via their old routes) [MAPS UPDATED, end of October] Route 108: Northbound buses still say 'Stratford' on the front, not 'Stratford City' or 'Stratford International Bus Station' (confusing passengers when the bus doesn't actually go to Stratford) Digital Bus Stop M:Doesn't yet show departures on route 108 (although the Countdown display at the stop works fine) [108 SHOWN, mid-October]
Digital Bus Stop K: Still nobody's switched the N205 nightbus from Bus Stop K to Bus Stop J. Digital Bus Stop L: Still nobody's switched route 8 from Bus Stop L to Bus Stop J. [ROUTE 8 SWITCHED TO BUS STOP J, mid-October] Digital Bus Stop G: Still appears on the TfL digital map, even though it hasn't existed for a year. Digital Bus Stop E: Still appears on the TfL digital map, unlabelled, even though it hasn't existed for a year.