Friday, 23 December 2016

Another (Nine Three) One Bites The Dust

Mobility routes in London are a dying breed. Only three remain, serving tight-knit communities in London, which currently don't have access to a daily route, and in some cases don't warrant it. Soon, these three will be whittled down to two, as the 931, running from Crystal Palace-Lewisham Shopping Centre will be withdrawn from January 2017, forcing its regular users onto Dial-A-Ride. It runs once a week, with a journey from Crystal Palace Bus Station at 10am, returning from Lewisham at 12:50. It is unique because it runs non-stop all the way from Lewisham-Hillcrest Estate in Crystal Palace, one of two key pick up/drop off points. I do think it's a shame that this route is being axed, as it does have the potential to be useful, especially with the dense housing it serves.

I decided to take a look at the route today. The original plan was to take the 10am departure from CP, but the need to sleep demanded me to take the later departure instead. After a slow Southeastern Networker transported me to Lewisham, I was very early, but found the bus to already be on stand, with four people on board. Only three of them were enthusiasts(!), but two other locals joined the party later on. Unfortunately, one of the locals got carried away Christmas Shopping and got left behind, despite the bus waiting out a couple of minutes until 12:52. No one requested the bus at Morley Road and it was straight to Crystal Palace Park Road from then on.

The 931 immediately turns right to serve Ladywell, which seems like the more upmarket part of Lewisham. Whilst the 122 turns right onto Adelaide Avenue, the 931 continues straight on, past more residential housing alongside route P4. The next area is Crofton Park, which is really a run-down version of New Cross that I often forget exists altogether. This areas has the delight of two routes to Central London (the 171 and 172), which makes up for the poor rail service Southeastern provides to this suburb. The section alongside these double deck routes is brief and the 931 turns right again to serve Honor Oak Park, which is the train station for Brockley Rise.

The Horniman Museum is a lovely looking building, but the view is brief and next up is Sydenham Hill, an interesting road shared with the 363 consisting of many different looking houses and flats. Before the first stop is the Astra Palace Hotel, which could really do with a refresh, and the first section exclusive to the 931. High Level Drive is very tight and the 931 has to crawl around the loop road to avoid knocking any cars. Like the 389, the bus driver is a friend to all of the locals and knows exactly where they live, kindly taking their shopping to the door!

Apart from a Premier convenience store, there isn't much there apart from high density housing, which would benefit form a daily bus service, even though other routes like the 227 are a short walk away. The second loop is Kingswood Estate, which is already served by route 450, although the 931 provides a handy link to Lewisham and delves deeper into the housing, making sure everyone living there can catch a bus, even if it's only once a week. However, the bus does not serve Sydenham Hill Station, which happens to be located at the back of this housing area.

After the two other civilians alighted, there were just four people left for the short run to Crystal Palace. However, some people who had just missed a 3 decided to get on the mobility route to shuttle themselves to Crystal Palace, saving themselves a few minutes. The 931 was a very interesting and unique route, the only one in London to have a hail and ride section as well as a limited stop one. It will be sorely missed by (some) of the people living in Kingswood Estate and High Level Drive, which is a shame as the 931 does have potential to be useful. Perhaps with a re-route through Lower Sydenham, Catford and to Sydenham Hill Station, as well as an extension to Elmers End via Crystal Palace Station. This really is the end of an era, as by the end of 2017, I don't think the other two mobility routes are going to survive. I enjoyed my experience on the 931 very much and I will try my best to ride the other two as soon as possible.

Note: I apologise for the extremely long gap between posts, due to illness and work I returned to the blogging scene later than intended. However, I look forward to riding more routes this Christmas Holiday and a poll is up and running near the top of the page, allowing you to decided which route I will be reviewing next as part of the "random route" series.

Merry Christmas!