diamond geezer

 Monday, October 29, 2018

Route 384: Cockfosters to Barnet, Quinta Drive
Location: north London, outer
Length of journey: 7 miles, 50 minutes

Some London bus routes are linear, heading from A to B with a minimum of fuss. But other bus routes are twiddlers, meandering through backstreets to keep communities linked to the bus network.

The 384 is an absolute twiddler, bending back on itself several times on its journey from Cockfosters through the estates of Barnet. This makes it a lifeline for some, but bloody slow for others, which previously has been an acceptable balance. But TfL now have plans to dekink the route, removing almost all of the twiddles, whilst simultaneously extending it to Edgware. Overnight the 384 would become much more direct, a new orbital route for the outer suburbs, conveniently linking the ends of three tube lines. But at the same time it would cease to serve a dozen residential roads, most of which have no other bus service, stranding some residents beyond the 400m limit TfL normally deems acceptable. For a map of the proposed changes, click here.

A consultation is currently underway, indeed it's recently been extended by two weeks to allow additional input. The response form kicks off with the leading question "Do you support our proposals to extend route 384?", to which the answer is obviously yes, but naughtily never asks about the detwiddling. Not unexpectedly, local people are not happy at being bypassed, especially those who rely on the 384 to get them to the station, the surgery, the supermarket or simply back home. A campaign has been launched and, well, let me tell the story by taking a ride...

Weekday afternoons in Cockfosters aren't generally busy, although the traffic's bad, and the incoming 384 is running late. While the driver takes a brief rest I spot a laminated notice stuck to the station wall - Save the 384 bus! - giving details of the consultation and urging passengers to make their voices heard. Somebody's been busy. This end of the route will be hit the worst, the first decapitated twiddle being only a few minutes ahead, so it makes sense to alert potential losers to the fight. Four of us are aboard when we depart, plus another three picked up from the shopping parade down the road, which isn't too bad when the timetable is "every 20 minutes".

A lengthy Hail & Ride section kicks off almost immediately, up an avenue of latticed semis optimistically-named Mount Pleasant. A cheery elderly gentleman in a bow tie waves his stick for the bus to stop, and then we wait while he hobbles over to the point where our driver thought it safer to pause instead. Just past the roundabout are the mournful ruins of The Jester, a pub closed in 2013, then reduced to ruins by a mysterious arson attack earlier this year. Here the 384 breaks off for its first twiddle round the Bevan Estate - total duration two minutes - benefiting folk whose houses back onto woodland and the Pymmes Brook. We pick up three people on Northfield Road, two of whom are children who look like they'd benefit from more exercise once the bus is rerouted.

Our next twiddle is the only one TfL intend to keep, a proper loop up to the gasholder and back via Westbrook Crescent. The reason for its survival isn't to save the very farthest resident a half mile walk, but because the Jewish Community Secondary School is tucked away up here, and its students are 1400 potential passengers. It being half term we only pick up two old ladies. I time the detour at 2 minutes 30 seconds, which is all the faff that future orbital travellers will have to endure if and when the 384's route is streamlined.

Twiddle number three is just over a mile long, rather than the quarter mile it could be if the bus went direct. The fortunate beneficiaries are residents of Crescent Road, and the cul-de-sacs beyond, but also anyone who wants to go shopping on East Barnet Road. Here is the big Sainsbury's many local people shop at, soon to be joined by an Aldi, which the 384 will no longer go anywhere near. On my journey the stop outside Sainsbury's saw most of the passengers alight, and very few get on, because four other buses ply this road and they all head for High Barnet without twiddling.

Our next wilful deviation is the other side of the railway, as the only bus which goes past New Barnet station. Tracing the devious route we're about to follow it's easy to view the 384 as a kindness, a zigzag drawn on a map to provide a convenience most other London suburbs don't receive. It made sense in 1990 when the 384 was introduced as a nippy minibus covering previously unserved roads, but in 2018 with a single decker such benevolence might appear over-generous. The roads are narrow, and meeting a Tesco van coming the other way could be a challenge, but our driver is well practised and we get by.

Eventually we reach Barnet Hill, where the 384 is one of several routes climbing towards the tube station. By my calculations we could have got here 10-15 minutes faster by following TfL's proposed route, with a trio of twiddles taken away, but we also wouldn't have picked up half the passengers currently on board. There are quite a few now, and before the top of the hill some of them will be standing, which isn't bad for a route the consultation claims has "low" passenger numbers. I've checked the data and the 384 isn't in the lowest 10% of London's least used bus routes, which appears to give TfL's planners a lot of leeway for future fiddling elsewhere.

It's at this point, somewhat unexpectedly, that the campaign to Save the 384 bus! storms aboard. By this I mean that a young gentleman with a bagful of printed collateral pays his fare, checks with the driver that what he's about to do is OK, and proceeds down the bus handling out leaflets to all. It doesn't take long for informative discourse to ensue. "They want to take the 384 away from this list of roads." "We're trying to encourage people to write in and complain." "We don't mind them extending it to Edgware but we don't want them taking it away from here." "No, they're not getting rid of the bus entirely." "Ask your mum to see if she'll sign the petition."

Most passengers are interested, others alarmed. Joshua has to reassure some that their specific journeys won't be affected. One elderly gentleman, who sounds like almost everything makes him very cross, growls about how terrible this is, how badly parked those cars are and alights cursing at the next stop. We're now passing through Barnet's main shopping area, rounding the Spires, and passengers who want to travel beyond the town centre are starting to receive leaflets too. At which point, without warning, the driver plays the "this bus is on diversion" message, followed by "this bus terminates here", and immediately turfs us all off. Traffic delays earlier on our journey have disrupted the service.

Much grumbling ensues. But Joshua takes full advantage of the delay, producing a roll of black sticky tape from his bag and attaching a couple of leaflets to the bus shelter, then holding court with a group of interested passengers. My scepticism regarding the effectiveness of these actions is quashed when a fresh arrival at the bus stop spots the new poster, gets out a notebook and starts jotting down the petition's URL. The proposed change won't affect her, given where she finally alights, so I suspect she'd been unduly worried by the poster's title. But this level of instant engagement could produce strong feedback which might just possibly persuade TfL to amend their plans.

Eventually the following bus arrives and we bundle politely aboard. What follows is the last potentially severed twiddle, where the intention is for Alston Road and Strafford Road to be bypassed eastbound only. That's a few more Barnet residents with a bit further to walk to catch a bus, but seemingly a relief for some of those on Alston Road, one of whom has commented that the 384 is "causing traffic congestion and slaloming between residents' cars" and "the vibration of the revving and accelerating is causing our houses to shake". It must be horrible to have a bus go past your house when you're a misery who'd never dream of catching one.

We're heading for Barnet Hospital, where the 307 terminates, its route from Cockfosters so close to the straightened-out 384 that you wonder why TfL are bothering to make the change. Joshua is one of a handful of passengers to alight here, leaving a pile of leaflets in the luggage rack and preparing to inform further travellers on a return trip. But most of those aboard are staying on to be dropped off at the final stops through the final housing estate, including the terminus at Quinta Drive. The name sounds mysteriously evocative, but in reality the bus pulls in outside an off licence with a stack of Andrex in the window.

If all goes to plan, the 384 will be extended from here to Edgware. This is a considerable extension, almost five more miles in total, which is why the current bus route needs to be untwisted to make it viable. At present to make the same journey takes two more buses, the 107 and then the 292, so that's what I attempted to do next. I had to walk up the road to catch the 107 and wait, which took some time. I had to change buses outside the Morrisons at Stirling Corner, waiting patiently for a 292 to arrive, which took some time. I got to sit in a traffic jam on the A1, which took even more time. And by the time I finally reached Edgware station it'd taken me an extra hour, suggesting that one bus would indeed be much better than two.

The sting for residents of Borehamwood is that TfL intend to cut the frequency of the 292 to pay for the extension of the 384. It currently runs every 15 minutes and will drop to every 20, because TfL don't mind if Hertfordshire residents get a worse service. I'd even say they could be setting up the 292 to be completely scrapped, because its northern section is outside London, its middle section will be perfectly paralleled by the extended 384, and the southern section to Colindale is duplicated by the 32. A simplified streamlined network with extra orbital connections comes at a price, as the proposed detwiddling of the 384 plainly proves.

Joshua would be delighted if a strong response to the consultation stalled the proposed straightening of route 384, although this would no doubt be at the expense of an extension because there's no money to do one without the other. The local MP is on the case, as are the Barnet Society, and a couple of popular petitions are also doing the rounds. Best not go diving in if this isn't your fight, because it's local voices which have credibility, rather than distant bus fetishists sending in crayoned maps detailing how they'd run things better. But the battle is a very real one, the prioritisation of orbital links over neighbourhood accessibility, and if the 384 falls, are any twiddles safe?

Tuesday update: a long comment from Joshua!

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
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