diamond geezer

 Wednesday, April 03, 2024

An exciting new express bus is on its way if the Mayor is re-elected, which he obviously will be, so an exciting new express bus is on its way.
All aboard the Bakerloop!

If I’m re-elected - a new Express bus will help Londoners get between Elephant & Castle, Old Kent Road, New Cross & Lewisham much more quickly.

The new Superloop has been a huge success - & this route will mirror the proposed tube extension.

@SadiqKhan · 9:11 AM · Apr 2, 2024
Nobody's currently able or willing to stump up for the Bakerloo line extension, a multi-billion pound project that'd bring the Old Kent Road and the borough of Lewisham their very first tube connection. So hurrah that after a century of inactivity someone's finally had the idea of introducing an express bus service instead and given it a hilarious name to boot.

We know nothing about this new route apart from what Sadiq's tweeted (and a handful of morsels his spokesperson uttered later). It's not in a Mayoral press release because official channels aren't available while an electoral campaign is underway. It's not in a TfL press release because Sadiq can't make significant transport decisions until he's re-elected. It's not on Sadiq's campaign website because that's a bland manifesto-less desert at present. But hell yes, a new express bus to shadow a non-existent tube line stopping in unconfirmed locations starting on an uncertain date with an as yet unannounced route number on the front. How very exciting.

Bakerloop is such a brilliant name for the new service, instantly conjuring up the purpose of the new route, its alignment and its speedy nature. Everyone instantly associates the Superloop brand with fast buses, so by dropping the 'Super' and keeping the 'Loop' the clever branding association is plainly retained. No matter that the Bakerloop would be entirely radial, not loopy in any way, Londoners have already embraced the idea that the Superloop is one-third non-orbital so wouldn't bat an eyelid. Also the intention is apparently for the Bakerloop to be operated with brown buses, a colour intrinsically associated with luxury and speed, and I for one can't wait to slip into something brown and take a trip.

At present, in the absence of an extension, passengers on the Bakerloo line are turfed off at Elephant & Castle with no onward connection. How much better it would be if a double decker chariot were waiting at ground level to whisk them eastwards. All they'd have to do is walk round to the lifts, elevate to the surface and wait for a speedy brown bus to eventually turn up. It's got to be better than the current situation whereby Lewisham can't be reached on a single bus, instead requiring an intermediate change (or else alighting four stops earlier at Charing Cross and taking a proper train direct).

I tried out the new route yesterday, admittedly in normal buses that stop everywhere, to get a flavour of the upcoming megalink. I caught a 53 running just behind a 172, which was good because the first bus hoovered up all the passengers who might otherwise have slowed us down and generated an excellent idea of how speedy the Bakerloop might be. We couldn't overtake it at the roundabout, nor could we get past while passing Elephant Park, but we did whoosh up and over the flyover at the Bricklayers Arms, a superfast shortcut which no existing bus route uses apart from the one I was already on.

Dozens and dozens of buses head down the Old Kent Road every hour, so the Bakerloop is sadly likely to get stuck behind at least one of them as it speeds ahead along the existing bus lane. Other traffic issues I encountered yesterday included passing police cars, reversing parkers and tediously frequent traffic lights. By the time I reached the big Tesco opposite Burgess Park, where the first station on the new extension would have been built, twelve minutes had elapsed since I alighted my Bakerloo line train at Elephant & Castle. In that time I could have whizzed all the way to Lewisham, had the extension ever been built, but was instead trapped on a sightseeing tour of Southwark aboard a double decker bus.

It was here at Tesco that my non-Bakerloop driver decided to dawdle. He played the message about "waiting for a short time to regulate the gaps in the service" not just once but three times, just to rub it in, and sat there idly for a good four minutes. When he finally restarted he made sure he timed it perfectly to hit a red light, the devious bastard, then played the Hold The Handrails message to really piss us off. You don't get this kind of annoying kerfuffle on trains, only the occasional "we are being held at a red signal", and on a brand new tube extension that'd hardly ever happen. If these delays continue, I thought to myself, the sunny outlook inspired by the Mayor's big brown announcement might just start ebbing away.

I chose to switch buses at unbuilt station number two, namely Old Kent Road, which is intended to swallow up the Lidl at the top of Asylum Road. Unfortunately I just missed a 21, the only bus which currently links from here to Lewisham, and was aghast to discover that the next 21 was supposedly 17 minutes behind. I decided to walk ahead in the hope of catching some other connection but somehow managed to walk for over a mile before the next appropriate bus caught up. I had in fact walked all the way to the next proposed Bakerloo line station, that's New Cross Gate, somehow faster than any bus or non-existent train. Bloody buses, I thought, you never can rely on them, but isn't that always the way in today's underfunded capital?

My new steed pressed on as fast as the New Cross gyratory allowed, which wasn't fast, indeed the queues would have snarled up any brown bus just as much for just as long. It wasn't exactly a short hop to Lewisham either, my journey taking another 12 minutes during which I could again have ridden the entire length of the non-existent tube extension. I know I didn't have the best of luck (nor the advantage of an express bus) but my entire trip from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham, platform to platform, somehow took just over an hour. A brown bus wouldn't exactly be a solution, more a sticking plaster.

It could easily be a decade until the Bakerloo line extension is built, likely much longer, and an express bus is plainly a better way of supporting travellers in the interim than running nothing extra at all. But let's not kid ourselves that it'd be a significant intervention, nor would it transform the lives of millions, nor would it hasten the development of much needed housing. The proposed Bakerloop is just a shiny bauble in a threadbare portfolio which'd benefit a tiny proportion of the electorate and might well have been in the pipeline already anyway. It says a lot about the current state of infrastructure funding that a rail replacement bus is somehow being promoted as an exciting flagship policy.

Set your sights lower, Londoners, because whoever you elect as Mayor the transport coffers are essentially empty.

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