diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 03, 2024

Route SL2: Walthamstow Central - North Woolwich Ferry
Length of journey: 12 miles, 60 minutes

Headline: The new express route that completes the loop.
Subtext: This time last year the Superloop hadn't even been announced. It now circles outer London.
Caveat: It's not a loop, the Thames gets in the way.

Day 1 weather: Intermittently very wet with heavy showers.
Consequence: Windows pretty steamed up, not always easy to see much.

Spod count: Lower than last week, also more multi-generational.
Things spods did: Brought snacks, nipped off to get a badge, nipped off to get a leaflet, unfolded a paper bus map, sat with Mum, told multiple bus anecdotes.

Biggest mess-up: Blinds not ready. No destinations on the fronts of buses, just a blank black space.
Reason: Company that makes the blinds has not yet manufactured/despatched/fitted them.
Reaction: General eyerolling, unwillingness of potential passengers to board the mystery bus.

Branding: Most vehicles still unbranded. Only three buses had the Superloop wrap, the others were bogstandard red.
Substitute: One old vehicle had been drafted in. It was unable to display SL2 on the front so the route number was printed on a bit of A4 paper in the window. A pretty poor launch day presentation.
Grammatical error: The map on the wrap suggests that the SL2 stops near Gallion's Reach station, whereas it should say Gallions Reach instead.

Obligatory SL2 cultural reference: Ey ey, ba day, ba wadladie day, ay um ba day, ba day, ba wadladie day.

Let's go for a ride...

Walthamstow Central: No timetables, spider map not updated. Starts in bus station but ends outside, nearer the station, along with similarly outcast route 34.
Walthamstow Market: Bus stop served by both the SL1 and SL2 (but heading in very different directions).
Waltham Forest Town Hall: Best changeover point between SL1 and SL2, avoiding dawdle into Walthamstow. From here we're shadowing route 123 to Ilford.
Wood Street: Formerly Wood Street Library, but that closed/relocated in 2020 and the site is now an 11 storey block of flats. Ooh look, they're so late adding roundels to the top of bus shelters that the guy with the white van and stepladders has only just turned up.

High Road/South Woodford: Ballardian bus stop in a concrete canyon on the North Circular, which here is ten lanes wide. Not exactly convenient for South Woodford but sorry, we're not wasting time twiddling off into the centre.
Woodford/Roding Lane North: It's about time we stopped again so we do, bang outside the Toby Carvery. Not really Woodford, more borderline Clayhall.
Gants Hill station: First time we’ve stopped at a station since leaving Walthamstow half an hour ago.
Ilford station: Drop off our first angry dinger, who wanted to get off about a mile ago but hadn't realised this was a new express bus.

Ilford/Chapel Road: Driver changeover point. The leaflet hander-outer offered the new driver a pin badge. Countdown display is displaying weird information, seemingly convinced that routes 25, 123, 147, 167, 179, 364, 425, 462 and W19 are also going to North Woolwich.
Barking station: The section between Ilford and Barking is the slow bit, constrained to a busy single carriageway street (although we did manage to overtake two other buses). Barking now has an EL2 and an SL2.
Barking Town Centre: From here it's a fast dash down the North Circular, a route not taken by any other buses. Second time we’ve crossed the River Roding.
Armada Way: That's unusual. Brand new bus stops have been added at the end of the access road to the Gallions Reach shopping centre, but both bus stops are closed... we stop anyway.

UEL Docklands Campus: This is the bus stop with the apostrophe error on the map on the side of the bus. The 366 takes over 20 minutes to get here from Barking but we’ve just managed it in half that.
Pier Road: The useful stop for residents of North Woolwich who don't want to schlep down to the ferry to catch a fast bus.
North Woolwich Ferry: Odd place to terminate, not helped today by the fact the Woolwich Ferry is closed. Ideal place for spods to assemble, mingle and take photos.

To continue the loop: In the absence of the ferry descend into the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, then catch a 472 to Thamesmead.
Alternatively: Walk back and catch the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal, then continue to Abbey Wood and catch the SL3 there.
Alternatively: Don't continue the loop, never do this, it's an entirely impractical discontinuation.

Overall verdict: A useful orbital route, feels properly limited-stop. Can't see it being busy south of Barking. I think I got lucky doing it in a hour, could get severely jammed in several locations. And sort your vehicles out.

Will you be riding the entire loop now it's complete? No I will not be wasting my life in this manner. Last summer I rode just three of the current Superloop routes, those then numbered X, in 5 hours 22 minutes. Seven sequential buses would be purgatory.

...however what I have done is time the entire route virtually. Yesterday afternoon I pretended to turn up at Thamesmead at 2pm and checked the timings of the first SL3 to depart for Bromley. Then I tracked the next SL5 to Croydon, then the next SL7 to Heathrow, all the way round to the eventual SL2 to North Woolwich. It's amazing what you can check online from home these days. Here are the timings for this virtual chain of journeys...

SL3: Thamesmead (14:06)(15:12) Bromley North
SL5: Bromley North (15:18)(15:49) East Croydon
SL7: East Croydon (15:56)(17:58) Heathrow Central
SL9: Heathrow Central (18:11)(19:13) Harrow
SL10: Harrow (19:15)(19:56) North Finchley
SL1: North Finchley (20:15)(20:49) Walthamstow Central
SL2: Walthamstow Central (20:58)(21:55) North Woolwich

So that's 7 hours 49 minutes for the entire loop, or would have been. The SL7 took longest, like it always does, and the SL9 seems to have got delayed in traffic north of the airport. The lengthy gap at North Finchley is because the 20:00 SL1 departure was cancelled. The SL5 was speedy because it's short and the SL1 was speedy because the North Circular's fast in the evening. Overall it would have taken almost eight hours to circumnavigate the capital by bus, and probably a lot lot longer had it been a weekday, so never ever do this. The very last thing you should do is treat the Superloop as a loop.

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