diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 13, 2023

On Saturday the 607 bus is being renumbered SL8 as part of the launch of the Superloop, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

The 607 is an express service which has been running between Shepherds Bush and Uxbridge since 1990. It's a perfectly good route number because it shadows the 207 and also because the trolleybus which previously ran this way was also the 607, but it'll never be the 607 again after tomorrow and I wouldn't have done it like that.

They've already been out and replaced the timetables at the bus stops, or at least at some of them, so they've managed to be both premature and inconsistent and I wouldn't have done it like that.

The 607 is being renumbered because it's becoming part of the Superloop, TfL's new express route brand. A ring of seven express buses is planned and TfL think it'll be super, hence the name Superloop. But it won't be a complete ring, there'll be a gap between the Royal Docks and Bexleyheath, so calling it a loop is a bit of a misnomer and I wouldn't have done it like that.

What's more the 607 won't even be part of the loop, it's a radial route, so grouping it in with the other orbitals under the Superloop brand is logically inconsistent and I definitely wouldn't have done it like that.

I don't know who was in the room when they came up with the name Superloop but I bet someone was jolly pleased with themselves, and I bet someone pointed out that it didn't work for all the routes under consideration, and I bet someone said No I Like It, and I bet someone said remember once we've fixed it we're stuck with it, and I bet someone said look it may be a broken ring with radial spokes but it's the best name we've got so we're going to run with it, and I don't know what name I'd have come up with but I wouldn't have called it that.

The new number for the 607 will be the SL8, a number which still looks really odd every time I look at it. The SL stands for Super Loop, obviously, but that S could easily be mistaken for a 5 if your eyesight's bad. It might have made a lot more sense to use an X prefix like the existing express buses but no they picked SL instead, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

It's also odd that the first special number they're introducing is SL8. You'd think they'd start with a lower SL, I mean presumably SL1 to SL7 are going to be the numbers used around the loop and two of those routes already exist. They could have renumbered those X routes on the same day but no, instead they're launching the Superloop with a route that isn't even part of the loop, and I'm sure the Mayor will grin and say how super it is but I wouldn't have done it like that.

They've also started branding the outsides of all the buses in a wrap that's white on top and red underneath. The word Superloop is written on both sides and on the back, which is of course perfectly practical when the vehicles only get used for one route. The wrap also includes a route map and it's a strange map because it shows all the stops while simultaneously only showing five. Every stop gets a tick but only five are named, namely Uxbridge, Hayes, Ealing Hospital, Ealing Broadway and White City, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

Hayes is odd because the location's not what most people would call Hayes, it's nowhere near the Crossrail station, although historically it has some geographical accuracy. Also Hayes isn't shown as an interchange whereas in fact it's where the SL8 meets the X140 so it ought to be shown as a Superloop interchange, and I wouldn't have overlooked that.

The map has no mention of Southall or Acton, two huge centres of population, nor Westfield which ought to have been a slamdunk. And the only tube stations mentioned are at Uxbridge, Ealing Broadway and White City whereas in fact the SL8 stops outside three others, and essentially they've simplified the map to dumbed-down levels and I wouldn't have done it like that.

And it's not just the buses that have been branded, the bus shelters have too! They've put a Superloop roundel on the top of the roof which is a totally new thing, I've never seen roundels on shelters before. It's clear TfL really want potential passengers to see where the Superloop stops are, which I'd say is an indicator of how seriously they're taking the launch of this project. This new Superloop roundel has hoops in four bright colours which remind me of Tic Tac flavours, and we'll see how long it is before these bright white signs get discoloured or vandalised and I wouldn't have done it like that.

Even the tiles on the bus stop are getting in on the act. They're red, bright red, and they haven't used red tiles before so it looks very odd. It also means the text has to be white and I'm not sure that stands out enough, and I know they'll have done all the accessibility checks before they launched this because they're not ignorant but I wouldn't have done it like that.

And there's more. Every Superloop bus stop now has a special SUPERLOOP tile at the foot of the flag which is just hammering the novelty home. Also they've renamed some of the stops to make it more obvious where they are, so for example 'Christchurch' is now 'Ealing Christchurch' and 'The Grapes' is now 'Hayes The Grapes', and that's actually really sensible but if I'd been tasked with renaming the stops I'd have chosen different names, I wouldn't have done it like that.

I'd have chosen a better name than Superloop and chosen a better number than SL8 and rolled out the changes simultaneously and drawn a better route map on the side of the bus and designed a less fussy roundel and used a clearer colour than blood red on the tiles and not spent quite so much on building a coherent brand image, but even if I had you'd still have hated my choices and found fault in my ideas and picked everything apart because you wouldn't have done it like that either.

See the whole lot together and it's extraordinary, it's Superloop branding overload. This is TfL absolutely determined that these buses get noticed, and a Mayor absolutely determined to have something to point at when drivers kick up a fuss about the ULEZ extension. The Superloop is a significant boost to public transport in outer London, he will say, and he'll probably say it at a bus stop like this beneath a roundel like this having ridden on a bus like this in the hope of spreading the image across as much of the media as possible, because it turns out he would have done it like that.

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