Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Busageddon: Battersea Edition

The area surrounding Battersea Power Station now has more buses serving the area, whilst Central London has lost another trunk route. Following some of the latest TFL changes, route 436 no longer ventures North of the river and the 452 has been extended to terminate at somewhere more civilised than it's former destination. The 436 now runs from Lewisham Shopping Centre to Battersea Park Station using Nine Elms Lane, no longer serving Victoria, Marble Arch or Paddington. As a result, route 36 (which follows the old 436 routeing) has had a significant increase in the number of passengers using it, while 436 carries fresh air. The 452 extension means that it now terminates at Vauxhall, which is a transport hub offering many more onward connections than Wandsworth Road, a small London Overground station between Clapham Junction and Clapham High Street. The 452 follows the 77 and 87 up to Vauxhall, meaning that it now runs from Kensal Rise-Vauxhall.

When the 436 used to terminate at Paddington...
The old 436 was a very busy route, supporting the 36 between Paddington and New Cross, as well as providing a link from the West End-Lewisham, a journey that can't be completed with one bus anymore. However, the homes that will be situated at the site of Battersea Power Station can't be built unless there are sufficient transport links, meaning that a new bus route had to be extended. As TFL wanted to save some money, route 436 was chosen, which is probably the worst example they could've come up with. Although the route has been unchanged for 100 years (and some people may complain about this), I would've extended route 24 from Pimlico down to Battersea Park via Chelsea Bridge, as it would give the area a key link to Central London. Route 24 isn't particularly long, so the extension wouldn't affect the reliability too much. However, TFL decided to re-route the 436 to Battersea Park Station and these changes took place on the 19th November, using Gemini 2 and Enviro 400 Hybrids.

So far, the 436 extension has been unpopular among enthusiasts and the general public, with very few people using the section between Vauxhall and Battersea Park. When I covered the changes on a Tuesday evening, I didn't spot a single bus with more than 2 people on board! If the 156 and 344 don't show up for a while, I imagine the 436 might have some use, but that section will carry fresh air until these homes are built!

WHV16 stands at Battersea Park.
 On the other hand, the 36 has really suffered as a result of the extension. The route has had a PVR increase in the peak hours, but since the 436 doesn't support it North of the river, every single bus is packed. They are impossible to get on and I feel sorry for everyone who has to use that route frequently. However, rich people who can afford luxury flats will always be prioritised over the working class, who rely on the bus service more. Overall, the 436 change has been a failure, and once Oxford Street is pedestrianised I hope they extend the 7 to Vauxhall to give the poor 36 some support!

The other route that has been changed is the 452, which also carries fresh air between Battersea Park and Vauxhall. The service has become very unreliable, with large gaps and bunching a occurring frequently. Additionally, Battersea garage are struggling to allocate the blinded buses on the 452, with 59-reg appearing the route very frequently, displaying Wandsworth Road Station on the front instead of Vauxhall, which is very misleading for the few passengers who want to use it! I waited 14 minutes for one to show up at Battersea Park Station, only to find it had incorrect blinds! The bus was completely empty after Wandsworth Road Station and doesn't serve much purpose along the A306 corridor, merely supporting the 77/87 for a few stops. There is also a driver change at Queenstown Road Station, which makes the journey very cumbersome. There isn't any demand from Battersea Park-Vauxhall either, as the 156/344/436 provide a much quicker alternative.

At Vauxhall, I decided to wait for a blinded 452 to show up, but another 59-reg came after 2 minutes... It was another 17 minutes for the next bus and I was patient enough to wait for it, but the service is very unreliable and the new section is severely underused. Although it makes sense to terminate it at a transport hub with onward tube, rail and bus links, the extension serves no purpose and has made the route almost impossible to use.

After 30 minutes of waiting, this blinded E400 finally decided to show up!
On the whole, these changes have been a failure and TFL seriously need to think about the effects of their actions before putting them into practice!

Poll update: Route 180 is winning by a mile, so if you want your preferred to route to be reviewed, please vote on the poll near the top of the page. There are only 10 votes so far!

Route Ratings update: I finally updated this page with a few routes, so please check it out in case your local/favourite has been updated!

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!