Saturday, 24 June 2017

Richmond Town Centre: Evaluating The Bus Network

Unfortunately I've been so busy recently that there simply hasn't been enough time to post about the ongoing changes of the bus scene, although I'm now aware of the events of the past month and ready to provide news and views for you guys. As I haven't been out for a while, there aren't any changes I can talk about, so this post will contain a brief summary of what's happened over the past couple of weeks and then talk about something different, based on my popular Ealing Broadway links post I created last year. Enjoy!

  • In terms of tenders, there have been quite a few announcements recently, as a result of purdah finishing two weeks ago. More detail can be found on the tenders page, but the significant upcoming changes are the 153/214 being lost to Go-Ahead London with electrics (contracts starting in Feb 2018 and August 2019 respectively), the 274 will gain a full allocation of new double deckers from June 2018 and the 138, 284 and 161 have all been lost to Stagecoach with new MMCs from March 2018.
  • TFL have consulted on diverting routes 53 and 363 over the Bricklayers Arms flyover in order to speed up journey times, click here for more detail. 
  • Route 7 will receive new Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH vehicles soon, sending the current allocation to the 4/17.
  • Route 320 has gained a partial allocation of Enviro 400 Hybrid vehicles displaced from the 436. After a shaky start they are seeing daily usage and will be supplemented by Gemini 2 vehicles from August.
  • Route 258 will see a partial allocation of 4 Enviro 400H MMCs for the new contract next year, being the first examples of the type for RATP.
  • As a result of the Central London Bus Consultation, last week the 6 was re-routed to serve Park Lane and Piccadilly, the 242 was cut back to St Paul's with the 172 being re-routed to Clerkenwell Green as a result, the 390 was re-routed to serve Victoria with the 73 being cut back to Oxford Circus. The next set of changes will take place on 15th July, more detail on tenders page.
  • Existing LTs are starting to takeover routes 48 and 254 and route 137 has seen new examples enter service.
  • The first Enviro 200 MMC has entered service for route 411, coinciding with the merging of Quality Line and London United from today. Identical vehicles have entered service at Shepherd's Bush (S) garage for the temporary allocation of route 70, before electric vehicles arrive.
  • New Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH vehicles have entered service for the 120 contract change and these have already strayed onto other routes at Perivale (PA) garage including the 90, 105 and 297. Similar examples are slowly starting to debut at Willesden (AC) garage for routes 260 and 302, sticking to the latter for the time being, as well as other local routes.
  • Since the end of May new MMCs have entered service at Sullivan Buses for route 217 and at Tower Transit the 236 has almost converted to Wrightbus Streetlite operation.
  • It's been confirmed that the 5, 115 and 176 will receive ADL E40H MMCs upon contract their new contracts, the 188 will receive Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH buses and the 22 will receive MCV EvoSeti vehicles.
Quite a lot has happened recently, but now we move on to my analysis of how successful the Richmond bus network is in terms of linking other areas and capacity available. Richmond has quite a large variety of train lines, with the London Overground and District Line both terminating there and taking people to North London and Central London respectively, even if the tube takes quite a while. For those who want a faster option into Central London, South West Trains operate fast direct rail services to London Waterloo as well as longer trips to Reading and Windsor. The bus network is unusual because a lot of the routes follow each other and most of them are single deck, some of them being incredibly busy, with the two daytime exceptions providing valuable links elsewhere. Some routes also see "uncommon" appearances of double deck vehicles, ironically on some of the less busy routes! Unfortunately I don't have pictures of all the routes serving Richmond and some of them might not be of a high quality, but a quick google search should give you a rough idea of what each route looks like if visual representation particularly interests you.

London United DE126 on route 33 to Hammersmith.
The 33 runs from Fulwell, Stanley Road-Hammersmith, via Twickenham, Richmond, East Sheen and Barnes. It's one of four routes running to Hammersmith from Richmond (which is quite excessive) and is the quickest option in most cases, taking a fairly direct route. It's certainly one of the busier single deck routes serving the town centre, running at a decent 8 minute frequency throughout the day and it's also one of the rare SD routes that run 24/7. It doesn't provide many new links, apart from Richmond-Barnes and to some parts of Fulwell, but it's certainly valuable for many people by linking multiple town centres and providing a frequent alternative to other routes.

VH45186 works route 65 on a curtailed journey to Ham. Unfortunately the picture looks blurry on this page for some reason, however if you click on it you should be able to find a clearer version.
The 65 is undoubtedly the most useful route in Richmond and also the busiest by a considerable amount, being one of the two double deck daytime routes serving the area. It also runs 24/7 at an every 6 minute frequency during the day, from Ealing Broadway-Kingston via South Ealing, Brentford, Kew Gardens and Ham. It's popular because it's essentially a North-South trunk route and Richmond is the middle point; there are also no other routes like this serving the town centre. It encounters lots of long distance riders from the town centres of Ealing and Kingston as well as residents who only have this route as a local. It's very direct and without it Richmond would be isolated from much of West London and is in need of some additional support, even with the current high frequency.

Metroline DM969 is curtailed at Hammersmith, before starting a 190 trip back to Richmond. The 190 is the only route that uses this type of bus in London.

The 190 is mostly a single decker route, but occasionally Metroline send out one of their various Gemini 2 vehicles out for the day. It doesn't get particularly busy, partially due to its low frequency of 4 buses per hour. It runs to West Brompton via Chiswick Riverside and Hammersmith and mostly follows other routes, providing one unique section near the infamous Hogarth Roundabout, which causes the route to be frequently delayed, making the 391 more attractive for trips to Hammersmith or West Brompton. Some residents around Chiswick use the service, but for the rest of the public, this service is slow and pretty useless, having quicker alternatives for the majority of the places it serves. The 190, 337, 391 and 419 are the only routes that terminate inside Richmond Town Centre, because there's no stand space elsewhere and routes coming from the West would have to negotiate a complicated one way loop to serve both the shops and the bus station, so only these four routes have gained this privilege, which is why so many routes run empty East of Richmond (more on that later).

A rare working showcasing PVL232 on the 337 to Clapham Junction.
The 337 is the only other full-time DD route in Richmond, providing a few unique links to other town centres in SW London. It only runs every 12 minutes and doesn't get particularly busy, partially because the 33 and 493 follow the route between Richmond and Barnes Common, but afterwards the 337 serves the major transport and shopping hubs of Putney, Wandsworth and Clapham Junction. If South West Trains didn't offer such a frequent, fast and attractive service, I suspect the 337 would be much more popular than it currently is, but it's certainly a useful addition to the Richmond bus network, and I'm sure it can become very busy if the parallel rail line experiences delays. It also terminates at the bus station, avoiding any unnecessary running to the West of the town centre.

An Enviro 200 works the 371 on a rainy day in Kingston.
The 371 is a very indirect route running from Richmond Manor Circus-Kingston, serving all the side roads in Petersham and Ham that are outside of the 65 catchment area, running every 9 minutes. It's a very interesting little route running through some leafy, posh areas and taking a very convoluted route to Kingston, significantly longer than the 65. However, it gets pretty busy due to the large amount of residents who use this service to transport themselves to Richmond and also boasts an eclectic mix of bus types, ranging from the bog standard E200s and Dart Pointers, to the more obscure Hybrid E200s (the only batch in London) and some double deck appearances in the form of ALX400s, Scania OmniCity buses and OmniDekka vehicles. Due to insufficient stand space in Richmond Town Centre, the 371 is forced to run for an extra few minutes to Manor Circus Retail Park, which is essentially a dumping ground for all the Richmond routes that can't terminate in the bus station (the 371, 493, H22, H37 and R70 all do this) as there are multiple stands near Sainsbury's and Homebase. All of these routes hardly pick up any passengers here and shoppers could easily fit onto the 190, 419 and R68 which all serve the retail park. Nevertheless, the 371 is certainly one of the more interesting routes in Richmond and I highly recommend you try it on a DD.

This working only happened once and it shouldn't happen again, whilst the E3 allocation was temporarily used on the 391 whilst its Optare Versas transferred to Fulwell (FW) garage.
The 391 uses a wide variety of single and double deck types, the same ones commonly found on the 371, but the main allocation consists of Optare Versa buses, which are also diminishing in London and I believe these are some of the last examples in London (bar the 283 batch), with the 411/465 buses departing soon. It runs every 8 minutes, from Richmond-Fulham Sands End (Imperial Wharf) via Kew Gardens, Chiswick, Hammersmith and Fulham Broadway. It serves a decent amount of housing close to Richmond before linking the town centre with Chiswick, which is the main purpose of the 391 for the Western end of the route and it's quite a popular link too, with lots of people wanting to travel between the two upmarket town centres. It takes a while to reach Hammersmith and not many people want to get to North End Road from Richmond, but the Chiswick Town Centre link makes the route quite popular and a nice addition to the Richmond network.

Unfortunately, all of my 419 pictures are terrible, but click here for an accurate representation of the current allocation of the 419's current allocation, which is currently full of Dart Pointer vehicles. It's one of the shortest routes in Richmond, terminating at Hammersmith and running through Mortlake and Castelnau, Lonsdale Road. It's not very frequent, running every 15 minutes throughout the day, but it's one of the faster options into Hammersmith and it also provides a handy link to Mortlake and Barnes Bridge, as well as the residential area around Lonsdale Road. Even though I've never used it, I'm sure it has a valuable purpose in Richmond Town Centre for the locals and perhaps it's one of the most suitable routes for extending to create new links, or for swapping to improve reliability. (more on that later).

Abellio London 8512 works route 490 to Heathrow Terminal 5.
The 490 is one of the busiest (and most useful) single decker routes in the area, running from Heathrow Terminal 5 via Feltham, Hanworth and Twickenham, before terminating at Pools On The Park, which is just a couple of minutes away from the town centre, as an alternative to sending the route to Manor Circus. The link to residential Hanworth and the busy broadway of Feltham makes this route very popular and it runs every 10 minutes, which is an attractive frequency that should probably be increased, as this route is currently pretty crowded. A decent number of people use the route to reach Heathrow, especially because there is currently no direct train service. With a frequency increase, the crowding issues should be sorted, so this is certainly one of the most successful routes in Richmond Town Centre for long distance travellers.

An Enviro 200 serves Richmond Bus Station, nearing completion of a lengthy 493 journey.
The 493 has the potential to be one of the most useful routes in Richmond, but unfortunately it seems to be overlooked by the locals, partially due to the single decker buses and lack of advertising of other popular locations. It's quite busy at the moment, but it copes well with an every 12 minute frequency, but I suspect if people knew about the links this service provides, it could be much more popular. After the quiet run from Manor Circus, the 493 follows the 33 and 337 to East Sheen, but after that the routeing is unique, running through Roehampton, Southfields and Wimbledon before terminating at Tooting, St George's Hospital. With the number of useful links that can't be made by train, theoretically this route should be at bursting point in terms of loadings, however it seems that most people prefer taking the car, perhaps due to unreliability or lack of awareness of the route, or maybe I've misjudged the amount of demand from Richmond-Wimbledon and Roehampton. If it was given a full allocation of double deckers, it would certainly encourage me to use the service more and it would have an immediate effect on locals, who would instantly notice the change and (hopefully) research where the route goes. I think this route has so much potential that isn't quite being fulfilled, so hopefully TFL can upgrade the route and make it as popular as it could be, ideally with DDs!

The 969 is the most elusive bus in the Richmond area, only running twice a week, providing one return trip on each day. As a result, I don't have any pictures of the service, but click here for an accurate picture of the current allocation of the service (I've highlighted the most relevant one). It doesn't provide any new links, apart from to the residential area in Whitton and to Roehampton Vale Asda (after taking a roundabout route through Barnes) and it doesn't run frequently enough for anyone else to take notice of it, but it's a unique addition to the Richmond area and I'm sure some elderly residents along the route greatly appreciate the minimal amount of service.

The H22 is another route that has escaped my camera and is also one of my most hated routes in London, for being a particularly tedious residential route running between Hounslow and Richmond, via a seemingly endless assortment of side roads in Whitton and Twickenham Town Centre, using neglected Dart Pointer vehicles. It's definitely worth avoiding and the only useful link it provides is to the area of Whitton, which is only used by local residents. It does terminate at Hounslow, but using the H37 is much more sensible. It can get pretty busy and it runs every 12 minutes, but I tend to just ignore the route in Richmond.

London United OT2 pauses at West Thames College en route to Richmond, Manor Circus.
The H37 is probably the busiest single decker route in Richmond and is one of the shortest ones too. It takes the most direct route possible between Hounslow Blenheim Centre and Richmond Manor Circus, through Isleworth and St Margaret's and some dense residential areas, in which the H37 is the sole bus route, running every 6 minutes throughout the day and all night on Friday and Saturday. It uses unique Optare Tempo buses, the only ones in London, partially to cope with the immense number of passengers that use this route. Even with the high frequency, buses are frequently packed and finding an empty one is a rare treat (apart from at Manor Circus), with the combination of (basically) e2e riders and local users. It's in need of support urgently and I think another route from Richmond should be extended to cover part of this wonderful and unique, yet terrible at the same time route!

Abellio London 8511 works route R68 to Hampton Court.
There are only two routes with an "R for Richmond" prefix, both starting vaguely near the town centre and ending up somewhere in Hampton. The first route is much more useful in terms of links, serving Kew Retail Park and The National Archives, before running down to the popular tourist attraction of Hampton Court via Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington and Hampton. The route gets pretty busy as it serves a decent amount of housing and is faster than the 33 for reaching Teddington, and the unique Richmond-Hampton Court link means that the bus is often filled with long distance travellers. It's certainly useful and if the demand continues to grow it may receive a frequency increase to every 8 minutes.

An Enviro 200 works the R70 to Hampton, The Avenue.

 The R70 runs from Richmond, Manor Circus-Hampton, The Avenue (which is in Nurserylands) via Twickenham, Fulwell and Hampton, taking a reasonably direct route to the residential area. The loadings are inconsistent but sometimes it can get incredibly busy, notably on Saturdays, where residents in the R70-only area come out to Richmond for shopping. It's also the fastest route to Fulwell and Hampton which is why buses can turn up packed if you're waiting in Twickenham. It runs with bog standard E200s at a bog standard 10 minute frequency, but instead of having a fixed turning point in Nurserylands, buses run in a massive clockwise loop around the housing area, providing an efficient method of quickly serving everyone in the catchment area. It can be considered useful and this concludes the somewhat detailed analysis of each route in the town centre.

On the whole, we can infer that each route in Richmond has some sort of functional purpose, from constantly transporting large numbers of people to town centres (65), to serving a few houses and a gridlocked roundabout only (the 190), or only running twice a week for the benefit of a few people in Whitton (the 969). Generally, the bus network in Richmond should be commended, even if some routes are in need of a capacity boost, it proves that the routes are successful and people are recognising the bus as a method of transport for shopping/commuting purposes, even with the high quality train service on offer. Buses often parallel this (four buses go to Hammersmith despite it being on the District Line), although many bus routes cater for where the rail lines don't reach and at an adequate "replacement" frequency. However, there are a couple of missing links and this is what I propose to sort it:

  • Extending the 337 from Richmond-West Middlesex Hospital, via the H37 routeing through St Margaret's and South Street and then up Twickenham Road for a couple of stops to WMH. The route isn't particularly long at the moment and this 20-25 minute extension would effectively cease overcrowding on the H37 and you could possibly cut the frequency on the H37 with this new extension. The link to the hospital would also be greatly appreciated by locals.
  • Double deck route 493 (provided that there are no restrictions, there aren't any low bridges I think) to make members of the public aware of this potentially useful cross-London route.
  • There currently isn't a link from Westfield to South West London, so I suggest modifying the following routes to solve this issue: re-routing route 391 so it runs from Richmond-Chiswick and then runs via the 237 to White City, giving that overcrowded route some well-deserved support. There is also room for an extension further into South West London, although there are multiple options to consider and I don't have time to make a substantiated judgement, so I'm just going to leave it as the core section for now. Then, I would extend route 283 to Fulham, Sands End from Hammersmith (it's very short now and has a similar frequency to the 391) and extend the 419 to West Brompton to Hammersmith, providing a more reliable service on this section than the traffic prone 190, which I would curtail to Hammersmith to improve the quality of service in Chiswick Riverside and ideally make the service more attractive. Even though a number of links are broken, some valuable new ones are created here (North End Road-White City, White City-Richmond etc etc) and I feel that overall, it would improve travel patterns in West London.
My views might be controversial and I have no doubts that I will receive negative feedback on these, but go ahead and comment on one of my flickr page to express your views and see if you can persuade me to change my mind. Thanks for reading and stay safe!