diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 20, 2024

Yesterday's big reveal from would-be Mayor-to-be Sadiq was a major extension to the Superloop express bus network. Phase 1 has ten routes and the plan is to add another ten and call it Superloop 2. There's a map and everything.

The most important thing on the map is the box in the corner which says 'Draft route, subject to change'. These additional routes would need to be subject to public consultation and anything could get tweaked, so best not take every link and connection on the map as gospel. But like Phase 1 it's very much an Outer London project, like Phase 1 it links multiple town centres and like Phase 1 it shadows a number of existing bus routes.

Note that it's not creating a second circuit, with buses mostly outside the existing loop in north and northeast London and mostly inside elsewhere. Good news Havering, you're finally getting something. Bad news Hillingdon, Haringey, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley and Bexley, you got your full allocation first time round.

Superloop 2 has all the hallmarks of a project TfL were planning on doing anyway, or at least have been guided by Sadiq to plan in detail to implement after re-election. The map's too good to be a political backroom knockup, plus it's in the same official style as the original Superloop diagram.

As well as the map, Sadiq fired a press release to trusted media partners which included the following list:
Harrow to Barnet, via Edgware
Barnet to Stratford, via Enfield and Chingford
Leytonstone to South Havering, via Gants Hill and Romford
North Greenwich to Thamesmead, via Woolwich
‘Bakerloop line’: Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, via Old Kent Road and New Cross
Streatham to Eltham, via Tulse Hill and Lee
Richmond to Wimbledon, via Roehampton
Ealing Broadway to Kingston, via Great West Road and Richmond
Hounslow to Hammersmith, via Great West Road
Hendon to Ealing Broadway, via Brent Cross and Hanger Lane
No route numbers were included but the list runs clockwise from northwest London (which is the same rationale as before) so I strongly suspect the routes are in this order for a very good reason. I therefore intend to use the numbers SL11 to SL20 during the remainder of this post, and feel free to come back in a few months' time and see if I was right.

A geographical map would be useful so I've had a go at drawing lines on a Google map. Even as I was doing it I was thinking 'this is probably very wrong', so in many cases my routes may be wildly off the mark. But it's still interesting to look beyond the limitations of a stylised diagram, and it does show that west and northwest London seem to be getting the best deal while south and southeast London's network will be more disjoint.

SL11 Harrow to Barnet, via Edgware [10 miles]
There are many possible routes from Harrow to Edgware so the chosen path is hard to call but I suspect it'll follow the 186, and then the 384 from Edgware to Barnet.
SL12 Barnet to Stratford, via Enfield and Chingford [17 miles]
This'll be a monster of a route, first orbital, then radial. It'll probably shadow the 307 to Enfield, the 313 to Chingford and the 97 down to Stratford. I can see that last section being very popular.
SL13 Leytonstone to South Havering, via Gants Hill and Romford [14 miles]
This'll shadow the 66, a route which follows the often speedy A12 Eastern Avenue. 'South Havering' is a very vague final destination but I suspect it'll thread through Elm Park to Rainham-ish.
SL14 North Greenwich to Thamesmead, via Woolwich [6 miles]
This is a superfast 472, and was flagged in proposals relating to the proposed DLR extension to Thamesmead.
SL15 Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, via Old Kent Road and New Cross [5 miles]
This is the recently announced 'Bakerloop' service shadowing the long-hoped-for Bakerloo line extension. It might get called BL1, but it's fifth place in the list so my bet is SL15.
SL16 Streatham to Eltham, via Tulse Hill and Lee [9 miles]
This has all the hallmarks of a route following the South Circular Road, something not currently possible without a lot of changes. But whereas the North Circular is a speedy arterial, the South Circular is alas anything but.
SL17 Richmond to Wimbledon, via Roehampton [7 miles]
This'll head round the east side of Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, most likely shadowing the 493 and then the 93.
SL18 Ealing Broadway to Kingston, via Great West Road and Richmond [8 miles]
This is plainly an express 65, a busy frequent route on roads often clogged and slow, so it's not clear how the SL18 would be much faster.
SL19 Hounslow to Hammersmith, via Great West Road [8 miles]
The clue here is 'via Great West Road' which strongly suggests an express H91, potentially also using the A4 to skip the traffic in Chiswick.
SL20 Hendon to Ealing Broadway, via Brent Cross and Hanger Lane [7 miles]
This is mostly going to be an express 112 zipping along the North Circular, helping to create an inner Superloop arc across West London.

People who've looked carefully at Sadiq's draft map have noticed a couple of portentous peculiarities. The SL7 (formerly the X26) doesn't terminate at Croydon it terminates early at Sutton, suggesting that the SL5 and SL7 might be being tweaked to become routes of more equitable length. Meanwhile up north the map appears to show two yellow routes terminating at Chingford whereas the press release lists just one route all the way from Barnet to Stratford. Anything here could be an error or a future truth, it's impossible to tell.

Best wait and see how all this pans out, but it looks like Outer London will be getting a much improved speedy bus service and it'll be even more peculiarly numbered and even less like a loop than what we've already got.

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