Continuing the current trend for getting rid of gyratories, the eastern end of the Strand (past Somerset House) has been just been pedestrianised. All traffic now goes round the semi-circle of Aldwych instead, which has become two-way, and the de-vehicled stretch will be properly landscaped later. One necessary consequence is that the westbound bus stops have been shifted from outside King's College to outside Bush House, but Bus Stop R is still for buses heading down the Strand (11 15 91 N11 N15 N21 N89 N91 N199 N550 N551) and Bus Stop S is still for routes heading over Waterloo Bridge (1 26 59 68 76 168 172 188 243 341 521 X68 N1 N26 N68). Meanwhile seven routes which start here at Aldwych (6 9 87 N9 N44 N87 N155) now depart from a new Bus Stop H instead, which means R and S are no longer among the top 10 most-served bus stops in London (a list still topped by the three Strand stops between here and Trafalgar Square).
Yesterday you could ride a bus from Romford to Epping and Harlow, but from today you can't. Route 575 (not a TfL service) has just been withdrawn because hardly anyone wanted to ride it because the service was so poor because hardly anyone wanted to ride it. For much of the 20th century you could have caught regular bus 250, and for a time Green Line 724, and later the 500, keeping these Essex towns connected. But when the 500 was withdrawn in 2008 TfL only reinstated a bus as far as the M25, and attempts to run a skeleton service over the full corridor have repeatedly faltered. The 575 was the last throw of the dice, initially running twice a day and more recently just the once - south from Harlow in the morning and back from Romford in the afternoon. But a change of operator means no spare vehicle is available, and passenger numbers don't justify continuation, so the 575's just been scrapped. Roger took a final ride this week which you can read about here, along with copious backstory, and there's more historical information here. The extraordinary consequence is that you can no longer get any form of public transport north out of Romford into Essex, other than the dead end 375 which turns back before making any useful connections. This'll be why so many people outside London drive everywhere.
By contrast, today's the day TfL extend one of their existing bus routes beyond the Greater London boundary into Hertfordshire. Admittedly it's not very far into Hertfordshire, barely 200m from the border, but it is most unusual for TfL to be improving services outside the capital. The lucky bus is the 324 which until yesterday meandered between Brent Cross and Stanmore but has now been extended to the Centennial Park business park near Elstree which, crucially, lies just beyond the M1. The 107 already runs past the entrance but the 324 will veer inside down the spine road, turn back at the roundabout and terminate outside the Spire Pathology Services building. Bus nerds should note that Centennial Park used to be the site of Aldenham Bus Works, the enormous London Transport bus overhaul site (1956-1986) (as seen at the start of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday). Tube nerds should note that this would have been the location of Elstree South station had the Northern Heights extension been built in the 1940s, so I like the fact that TfL have finally got round to providing a service to the site.
The 324's extension is two miles long so requires an extra vehicle, which some might think a peculiar use of funds. But along its additional journey it passes the gates of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, a 220-bed very-specialist facility, which means patients here now have a quick connection to the tube at Stanmore. It's all part of TfL's recent mission to improve bus services to hospitals, a social priority which also explains their newest bus route in nearby Enfield. It's therefore not entirely deliberate that the Home Counties now have a new Oyster-enabled bus service, but it does give me a good excuse to update my definitive list of London Buses That Exit London.
142, 258 → Watford
107, 292 → Borehamwood
324 → Centennial Park
Meanwhile in the centre of town, TfL's quest to remove buses from Oxford Street continues unabated. They've already cut the number of routes dramatically over the last five years, and today two more are extinguished. Between Selfridges and Oxford Circus we're now down from thirteen routes to just five.
One of the casualties is route 113, a lengthy route connecting Edgware to the West End. Back in April 2017 it was extended from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus to make up for the removal of route 13, but today it's being cut back to Marble Arch again. The other affected service is the 159 which has run between Streatham and Marble Arch since 1999 but is now being trimmed back to Oxford Circus. Switching termini is an easy way to shorten routes without running out of stand space, and will remove about 40 vehicles an hour from Oxford Street.
TfL are also taking the opportunity to reduce the frequency of route 113 from eight buses an hour to seven, while another Oxford Street service, route 7, has its daytime frequency culled from every eight minutes to every twelve. A number of significant frequency reductions are taking place this weekend and next weekend affecting routes 2, 9, 16, 27, 30, 43, 49, 148, 253, 254, 507, 521 and N9. The two five-hundred-and-something cuts are because a lot of office commuters still haven't come back to their desks, and the N9 cut (from every 20 minutes to every 30) suggests that the late night airport run hasn't revived either. As things stand, reduced frequencies may become more commonplace in central London over the coming months.