diamond geezer

 Monday, October 11, 2021

Where in London is furthest from a bus route?

Very few places are very far away. This is because TfL have a commitment to a 'comprehensive' bus network, ensuring that at least one route runs within 400m of the vast majority of homes. This is why so many bus routes twiddle round housing estates and the suburban periphery - a deliberate attempt to keep as many people as possible within five minutes walk of a bus route.

But there are parts of the capital where the distance is 500m, 600m or even further, and unsurprisingly they tend to be places where hardly anyone lives.

To try to work out where these places are we need a map of London bus routes. TfL abdicated their responsibility on this five years ago, but they do have a private skeleton map which the Deputy Mayor for Transport once kindly tweeted so I'm going to use that.

Most of the capital is (very) well covered by bus routes, but there are a few gaps here and there, notably around big parks and in more rural corners. Having measured the largest voids I've come to the impressive conclusion that only one row of cottages in Greater London is more than one mile (1600m) from a bus route. It's on the outer edge of Havering not far from the M25, and here it is.

Just over one mile from a bus route (purple blobs)

Aveley Road, Havering
The Greater London boundary meanders wildly around the gravel pits, sparse lanes and young forest south of Upminster. This desolate landscape (which I once described as the Hacton Void) is spurned by TfL and also by Thurrock's Ensignbus, I suspect rightly so given how very few people live here. Much of the area is just within a mile of route 370 on Ockendon Road but one short stretch of Aveley Road misses out, south of the crossroads on the way to Belhus Woods Country Park. A couple of so-called farms are actually hotbeds of lowkey commercial activity, where Karen's Wedding Studio hires out prom dresses, The Coffee Shop serves drinks with cake and Plant Perfection caters for all your garden and pet needs. But a single row of six longstanding cottages abuts one bend in the road, which along with a detached neighbour are the only homes in Greater London to be more than a mile from a bus route. It's fine, everybody here drives, and probably has a penchant for engine-tinkering if the adjacent yards are anything to go by. These houses really should be in Thurrock, and very very nearly are, but their anomalous presence makes them London's sole bus outlier.

Aveley Marshes, Havering
There's no point sending buses to the Rainham landfill site beyond the silt lagoons south of the A13, as you'll know if you've ever walked the final stage of the London Loop. Not only are there no bus routes within a mile but there are no houses either, plus the landfill site isn't publicly accessible anyway, so this bus 'cold spot' isn't technically relevant. For anyone who works at the riverside industrial estate at Coldharbour Point the nearest bus route turns out to be across the Thames in Erith, but today's post is only about straight line distances otherwise this estuarine spot would take the crown by miles.

Almost one mile from a bus route (orange blobs)

Skeet Hill Lane, Orpington
In deep countryside between Orpington and the M25 are a couple of country lanes and a few isolated farms. One's even called Lone Barn Farm to ram the point home. Crown Wood rubs up against the Kent boundary and is almost a mile from route R9 rounding the Ramsden Estate, although nobody quite lives this far down the lane. The junction with Gorse Road may just scrape one mile from a bus route if TfL withdraws route R7 from Maypole, as a current consultation intends.

Richmond Park
The only way to get almost a mile from a bus route without going to the edge of London is to head to the middle of Richmond Park. I'm ignoring the Wednesdays-only minibus, obviously. The open space north of the Pen Ponds is equidistant from buses in Richmond, Roehampton and Kingston Vale... and all the lovelier for it.

Honourable mentions should be given to the easternmost and northwesternmost points in the capital. Fen Lane in Bulphan is over a mile from the nearest TfL route but closer to an infrequent Essex service, so doesn't count. Meanwhile Springwell Lane by Stockers Lake is a mile and a half from Harefield but ridiculously close to built-up Rickmansworth and a slew of Hertfordshire bus services, so doesn't count either.

Over three quarters of a mile from a bus route (yellow blobs)
(and not on, or very close to, the Greater London boundary)

Trent Park, Enfield (to the north of the big house)
Breakspear Road North (between Harefield and Ruislip)
RAF Northolt (and the A40 dual carriageway)
Osterley Park and Windmill Lane (sheikhs don't catch buses)
Whitewebbs Lane (east of Crews Hill, by the King & Tinker)
Crossness Sewage Works (specifically the Thames Path)
Layhams Road (between New Addington and Keston)
Heathrow Airport (between T5 and T2&3, so entirely irrelevant)
New Years Green, Hillingdon (a miserable hamlet west of Ruislip)
Wimbledon Common (round the golf course)
Darland's Lake (between Totteridge and Mill Hill)

The only place in Inner London to be over half a mile from a bus route is the middle of Hampstead Heath, somewhere near the tumulus.

Yes, there is a serious flaw in measuring distances in a straight line which is that geography isn't that simple, so rivers, railways, roads and all sorts of other obstructions get in the way. And yes, practically speaking the important thing is the nearest bus stop, not the nearest bus route, so everything above is a hideous simplification. But it is desperately impressive that (virtually) every Londoner lives within a mile of a bus route and every Inner Londoner within half a mile... and almost all of us within 400m.

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