I'm used to Bow Road station being closed at weekends for engineering works. During the last two months it's been closed for five of them, including two extended bank holiday weekends, for reasons to do with Crossrail, updated signalling or whatever. Such is life. At least I can always catch the replacement bus service.
This weekend's closure was a brief gap between Tower Hill and West Ham, as it often is. The replacement bus ran non-stop to every station except West Ham, because that's difficult, and then continued to Canning Town and Barking to make connections. Don't get too het up about the route, they've optimised it over the years and the current set-up works well.
The replacement bus is free to ride and frequent enough that it's barely ever full. So it was baffling this weekend to see posters up at stations suggesting you don't use it, you catch a normal bus instead.
And it was even more baffling that this alternative advice was almost entirely wrong.
• Routes 15, 115 and 242 run between Aldgate, Aldgate East and Tower Hill.
Well the 15 does but the others don't. Routes 115 and 242 only run between Aldgate and Aldgate East before heading off elsewhere. Worse, Aldgate and Aldgate East are so close that nobody in their right mind would catch a bus between them, indeed doing so would take longer than walking. The 115 and 242 are total red herrings and have been added to this poster by an idiot.
• Route 254 also serves Whitechapel station.
Well yes it does, but the poster fails to mention any other station the 254 serves so that's absolutely no help either. Nobody has read this poster carefully before printing it.
• Routes 25 and 205 run between Aldgate/Tower Hill, Aldgate East, Whitechapel, Stepney Green, Mile End and Bow Road stations.
Neither the 25 nor 205 go anywhere near Tower Hill so that shouldn't have been mentioned. Everything else is correct, indeed the 25 and 205 are the obvious best alternatives to the replacement bus. But they also stop at every bus stop whereas the replacement bus is fast, essentially an express, so much the better option for a longer trip.
• Route 276 runs between West Ham, Bow Road and Bromley-by-Bow stations.
God no. Route 276 does indeed stop outside West Ham station but it misses Bow Road by 400m and Bromley-by-Bow by 600m. This poster reads like it was written by an underling squinting at a map with no understanding whatsoever of local geography.
• Route 323 runs between West Ham, Bromley-by-Bow and Mile End stations.
Again no. Route 323 does not pass West Ham station, indeed in one direction the nearest bus stop is over half a mile away. It gets tolerably close to Bromley-by-Bow but doesn't stop outside, and you'd be mad to take it from Mile End because it goes all round the houses relatively infrequently.
• Route 425 runs between Bow Road and Mile End stations.
Hurrah they got one right. Or you could walk it in eight minutes. Or you could catch the free replacement bus.
• Route 488 runs between Bromley-by-Bow and Bow Road stations.
No it doesn't. In one direction it drops you 400m short of Bow Road station and in the other direction it stops 400m short at both ends. It'd be absurd to wait for a 488 to make this single-station journey, especially when there's a replacement bus that serves both ends nigh precisely.
I don't know who compiled the information for this poster but they should never be allowed near passenger-facing bus route information ever again.
And I don't know who thought this poster might be a good idea in the first place, all of a sudden, after several years of coping fine without.
If I'm feeling charitable I could assume they were attempting to be helpful, except they mistook 'comprehensive' for 'useful' and bombarded the public with unchecked facts they didn't need to know. If I'm feeling cynical I might instead assume that TfL are trying to nudge passengers off free buses onto paid-for routes to save a bit of money. It might even be to soften us up for replacement buses being withdrawn altogether if the budgetary crisis hits too deep.
There seems to have been a concerted effort this weekend to spread news of the District line closure far and wide. I heard laboured announcements about the closure between every station on the Metropolitan line, for example, even though I was travelling away from it. I even spotted the bus poster beside the gateline at King's Cross St Pancras station where it would be of no use whatsoever.
We're not due another closure of the District line through Bow Road until next month, thankfully. But I hope we'll never see this travesty of a poster again, because nobody needs to be nudged off a free express bus in response to a compilation of misinformation that's far more likely to hinder than to help.