diamond geezer

 Monday, January 07, 2019

Route 129: Greenwich to North Greenwich
London's 10th shortest bus route
Length of journey: 2.85 miles (15 minutes)

The 129 is an oddly stunted bus route, always intended to go further but which as yet never has. It was introduced in 2006 to give residents of the Millennium Village a bus link to the centre of Greenwich, with an eye to extending it onwards through new developments to Peckham. But those new developments still haven't been built, and a further proposal to extend it to Lewisham has been held up by Crossrail shenanigans, so the 129 continues on its minimal trajectory unabated.

The eastbound journey starts near the Cutty Sark, at a bus stop clearly labelled "Buses must not stand here". But my 129 is definitely standing, and flashing its hazard warning lights as mitigation, because the driver got here early and there's a set departure time and basically the system doesn't work. Eventually the flashing stops and on we pour, at least three of us, and damn the other two have nicked the top deck front seats. This used to be a single decker, but recently got doubled for reasons which aren't entirely clear. That said, the 129 manages to transport more than a million passengers a year, which is pretty impressive for a sub-3-miler.

We zip off round the Old Royal Naval College, picking up tourists who think we're the quickest way to the tube, but should have caught a 188 instead. At the BP garage an old red Routemaster is queueing up to use the pumps, but is stuck behind a Routemaster in midnight-black Ghost Bus Tours livery. Trafalgar Road is a motley mix of laundrettes and takeaways, nail bars and tattooists, once-a-week wine bars and old-school boozers, thus far resisting the trickledown effect of waterside development. The largest modern intruder is Greenwich Square, a silver-clad fortress on the site of a former hospital, after which a more down-at-heel vibe returns. Quite what foreign visitors make of their tour of East Greenwich, and the concrete pillars of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach, I'm not sure.

Your Sainsbury's has moved, says the big orange sign by the petrol station. And indeed it has, the award-winning eco-building flattened so that IKEA can build a big blue shed instead. It's almost finished, and will be opening in precisely one month's time bringing who-knows-what kind of gridlock to local roads. In the meantime diggers and construction workers have taken over half of the roadway out front and we can only proceed when the man with the swivelly Go sign says so. Some passengers alight for a film at the Odeon, or a cheeky Nando's, but B&Q is proving less of a draw.

Twenty years after it was rehabilitated, the Greenwich peninsula is a curious mix of construction and abandonment. Some city blocks are fully apartmented, some have allegedly temporary use as car parks and others remain fenced-off grassy waste. The traffic light system continues to assume complete development, and so we wait on red for absolutely no cars whatsoever, negating the provision of a segregated busway. At the paradoxically named Oval Square the two front-seat-hoggers alight, heading back to their matchbox stack (and giving the local wellness facility a wide berth).

In a fit of unconnectedness, no bus stop has been provided adjacent to the Dangleway. The fountains beside the final set of traffic lights have been uprooted and a temporary wooden viewing platform plonked on top. The last patch of land before Peninsula Square is being swallowed up by a densely-packed Design District, currently a mess of soil and half a dozen diggers. Even before we reach the edge of the bus station our driver has already played the "This bus terminates here" message, and then plays it again on the final approach, and then plays it two more times after we've stopped to make sure everyone gets the message. The journey really has been that short, we really do have to alight here, and so the yo-yoing Greenwich shuttle continues.

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