Thursday, 19 January 2017

London Buses On The Go-4th Birthday

Four years ago, a fairly inexperienced bus enthusiast decided to document their sights on the London bus network on a website, in brief posts containing pictures that weren't exactly photogenic! Nevertheless, the blog has developed and my photography has improved and somehow this blog still survives today, although posts did grind to a halt for about 18 months in 2015! Before you carry on reading this post, please pay a visit to the successful London Connected blog (they now have the bus blogger's dream, top of the search list of "London bus blog" on google, whilst I'm in measly 7th) who also started their blog four years ago today! Click here to see their celebratory post (assuming it's out already, which isn't at the time of writing). In this post I'll reflect on my year of bus extravaganzas and share the high and low points of everything significant! Enjoy if you can!

In 2016 I rode a lot of enjoyable bus routes, with quite a few entering the almost sacred top 50, which gets increasingly rare as I ride around more of the network! The 180 managed to enter the top 10, but the 199, D7, 240, and W7 all managed to earn their place in the top 20% of routes completed. In general, I didn't ride any atrocious bus routes in 2016 (thanks to careful planning!), although my worst was the E5, which crawled around the depressing streets of Dormers Wells at 10mph and got increasingly boring until Greenford, where I gave up and went to a newsagents, seeing as the other half of the route was already complete.

The E5 managed to score a 4/10 on my route ratings, although 2 of the points are for the excellent Enviro 200 MMCs this route has been blessed with.

I returned to the blogging scene in May 2016, when three local routes of mine changed operator, and one was extended to become a whole lot more useful! I covered the E8 extension to Hounslow in such great detail, that it was impossible to fit it all onto one tiny flickr caption, so I decided to return to the world of bus blogging, even though my monthly viewings had plummeted since 2015! However, the E5/7/9 post came out first, as no other blog had covered those changes as of May 2016. I made a few changes to the layout, updated the polls and introduced the popular new Busageddon and Random Route series posts, which have generated quite a few viewings since their birth. To keep some sense of tradition, the Random Observations series soldiers on, even though posts aren't exactly once a month! The E-route changes were my first bus journey for over a month and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my favourite company (Abellio London) roaming around the streets of Ealing on a regular basis! The E7 and E9 were most enjoyable and I started to look forward to an action-packed summer, rammed full of ventures across every part of London.

My random route series kicked off with the 122, a fairly interesting and long route from Crystal Palace-Plumstead, Bus Garage, where I shared my experience of my trip in the Easter holidays. It went pretty well and since then, routes 483, Breezer 50 (non-TFL), 56 and 180 have been reviewed and hopefully your local will steal the limelight soon! Unfortunately, all of the routes selected have been good ones and I am hoping that the random number generator gives me one where I can have a nice, long rant. In July the Random Observations series kicked off again, with 10 pictures selected from the folder on my laptop. An interesting array of photos were presented for members of the public to read, where I briefly wrote about any experience I had of the route. Generally, I only take pictures of routes I rode (because I always forget to take snaps of observations on other routes), so there's nearly always something about the photo that relates to me!

On Saturday 23rd July 2016, I set off on my first long-haul bus journey since Easter , in which I covered lots of Central London changes, but also ended up in Catford. Due to a last minute cancellation, I was able to leave even earlier, so I got even more done! It was a beautiful sunny day and I discovered many brilliant bus routes. The 53 ride was extremely fun, but the 199 was one of the most enjoyable end to end rides I've ever had. The combination of riverside views, residential sections, thrashy main road sections, tourist attractions (Greenwich always looks spectacular from any bus apart from the 386), gradients near Lewisham and urban high streets. I was not bored for one second and I honestly recommend this route if you love short, but constantly interesting routes around South London. It earned it's place in the top 25, but has now slipped to 27th, with the additions of routes 210 and 180. Being a Summer day, I was sincerely grateful for the powerful air-conditioning on the Enviro 400H City buses allocated to route 26. It was a fabulous day and the start of an epic summer holiday.

Refreshing. 2520 pulls into Waterloo Station/Waterloo Road, on an outbound 26 journey.

My North London trip was another brilliant adventure, which started with a pleasant 113 journey through the heights of North West London and a thrashy experience on the countryside route 107, which I surprisingly enjoyed, even though nature is my nemesis. Bar the horrific experience on the 491, all of the routes were decent, although my highlight was riding the 389/399. These two routes have a combined PVR of 1 (as they share a bus), running from Barnet to two contrasting estates. The 389 runs to the deprived community of Underhill, which really does deserve a more regular bus service, whilst the 399 trundles around upper class mansions in Hadley Wood, where the driver knows exactly where regular bus passengers live! The experience was so unique I wrote a special post about the two routes; I'm nowreally looking forward to riding the W10, the Enfield equivalent of the 399!

Go-Ahead London SEN23 stands at Barnet, The Spires, whilst it flips the number blind from 389-399.

The Kingston temporary routes were interesting and I loved the 65 diversion over Richmond Bridge and through Teddington, although that was quite a low-key day out compared to my next adventure, which resulted in waking up at the unearthly hour of 3am. At this point in the Summer I was rather embarrassed at the lack of East London routes I'd completed, so I organised an extravaganza involving the completion of route N205 and the East London Transit, especially after the tender result which implied that the routes were converted to New Routemaster operation. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, I was shattered by the end of it and desperately wanted to be asleep, which was a shame seeing as I was halfway through a 368 journey to Chadwell Heath. The day didn't start very well, purely because the N7 to Oxford Circus departed Acton Old Town Hall 5 minutes early (this shouldn't be allowed), resulting in a missed connection that was vital to make the N205 from Paddington. Waiting 30 minutes simply wasn't an option, so I had to use initiative and jump on an N207 (which was 10 minutes late) and catch a Circle Line at Shepherd's Bush Market. Unfortunately, I didn't make the N205 at Paddington, but I did manage to intercept the last journey at Liverpool Street, where the beastly E40H took me on a tour of the Olympic Park just as the sun was beginning to rise.

The last N205 of the day arrives at Liverpool Street, Leyton bound.

The buses after that were pretty miserable. The 238 was depressing for most of the short journey and the 5 was rammed in the morning peak. The EL2 was incredibly boring until the last two minutes, which are absolutely brilliant! The road is isolated, with an industrial area looming in the distance, with thrash pretty much guaranteed. The oversized Dagenham Dock Bus Station is in the middle of nowhere and it's going to be really weird having New Routemasters, which were only meant to be deployed on Central London routes, out in Zone 4 in an industrial wasteland! The 387 and 396 were pretty dull and I was really hungry by this point. East Beckton smelled of sewage and I was grateful that the 262 came immediately. The views around Beckton were brilliant, although it was raining by this point and I could barely see anything out of the front window! The 147 from Ilford-Canning Town was my favourite end to end ride of the day, even though I was falling asleep by Custom House. I barely remember the 368 and visiting Barking six times on one day really wasn't a good idea, I was so sick of seeing thousands of ELT-branded Gemini 2's everywhere. TFL Rail came quickly, although the Class 315 train was grim and I couldn't wait for the ride to be over. Just as I was looking forward to relaxing at home, the Hammersmith & City Line decided to have a signal faliure and I endured a 60 minute Scania 205 journey all the way to Paddington. I couldn't even appreciate my favourite route as I had my eyes closed for half of it! Even though the day wasn't as enjoyable as I intended, I've learned now that waking up earlier than 5am is not tolerable and never a sensible idea!

WVL471 stands at Dagenham Dock. Deserted, right?
Before my blogging reduced in September, I ranted about the lack of links from Ealing Broadway- I'm hoping to write a similar post about another area soon, but I'm keeping that a secret until the day of publishing. Despite my sorrowful emotions at the loss of route 83 to Ealing, new local route 483 grabbed my attention and I dedicated a random route post to the long-winded Harrow-Ealing trunk route. After that I enjoyed fantastic rides on the 340, 240 and 153 and it was a fun day, just before the start of a torturous 14 weeks. Halfway through, I sampled the brand new Electric BYD E200 MMCs now working routes 507/521 in Central London and I wrote a very brief review on flickr/the blog. I also managed to get lost in the new London Bridge concourse, which is incredibly confusing! By this point I really didn't have much to write about, although the random number generator threw up the number 50, which wasn't very helpful seeing as the Croydon-Stockwell route is still on my "to-do" list. However, I used my imagination and discovered that there was a number 50 bus service that I rode in the past, I even managed to moan a little about the timetable!

A convertible EvoSeti, without the horrid seats!
Before my month of absence, I published a boring post summarising the upcoming events of December, which all took place whilst I looked through revision notes for 4 weeks. I also managed to sneak in a review of temporary route 563, which was a 3 minute shuttle from Upper Holloway-Holloway, Nags Head, with only 1 stop between the start and end! Sadly, this route has now been withdrawn following the completion of works on Holloway Road (damn, I forgot to update the tenders page).

My first major comeback was the completion of my first London mobility route, the 931, which is up for withdrawal "this month", but TFL still haven't bothered to confirm an exact date or update the consultation yet. A catch-up trip in South London enabled me to ride the lovely new Citaro K vehicles at Quality Line and I also managed to find a brand new top 10 route, the 180. However, my favourite trip of 2016 came at the very end, where I ventured into the depths of East London again, to ride around on some bus routes which were involved in a rather controversial set of changes. I arrived in Docklands at 8am on a bank holiday morning, which was completely deserted. It's a bit like being in the City Of London at weekends, when there are no workers around, except that in the Isle Of Dogs there are no tourists to contend with either!

The view from my bus stop, where I waited impatiently for my 135.
The 135 ride was fantastic, speeding around the Isle Of Dogs completely empty, with constant views of futuristic buildings. I published a post about the D8/108 changes and how they had so many negative impacts, even though the D8 roueting is now quite nice. I discovered two brilliant routes known as the 248 and 275, which unfortunately didn't have any changes so I couldn't write about them in detail, although I remember my experience riding them every day! The day was brilliant because of the reasonable pace, variety of great bus routes and the compulsory Costa hot chocolate- Romford's branch is pretty decent! One final journey on the 7th January covered the 235 contract award and the almost surreal experience of sitting upstairs whilst being driven through Holloway garage on a Not In Service Volvo President! The driver on the number 4 didn't serve the last stop at Archway and left me on board and decided to drive through right to the other end of the garage, the look on his face when I came downstairs was priceless!

Unfortunately I've had to rush this post, as otherwise it wouldn't have been published today, although I hope you've enjoyed this, as it's been very useful for me to reflect over how successful 2016 was for riding buses, even if it wasn't so great in other areas (I think you all know what I mean). Thanks for reading and fingers crossed this blog survives until its 5th birthday in 2018!