Saturday, 25 March 2017

TFL Destination Discrepancies

The destination shown on the iBus and blinds of London buses indicate the terminus of the route. However, some destinations are far too vague, whereas others are so specific that they are misleading. Others are just inaccurate. Let's go through some examples.

London General E115 on route 57 to Clapham Park.
Clapham Park is a terminus in South London shared by routes 45 and 57. However, I feel that this destination is far too vague, not indicating exactly where the bus routes actually finish. The terminus, near Atkins Road, is very close to Streatham Hill and I would classify the area as South Brixton, as Clapham Park lies to the West of this terminus. This blind also might force people to believe that this route serves Clapham Junction or Clapham Common, as they are the two main town centres there, however neither of the two routes go anywhere close to either of these destinations. I think the blind should be changed to "Clapham Park, Atkins Road" or "Streatham Hill, Kings Avenue."

Metroline TEH2084 stands on Bishops Bridge at Paddington.
In North-West London, the 332 and 92 both terminate at the two attractions at Brent Park, or Neasden. Retail areas are popular destinations by bus, although the two routes display different destinations, despite standing on either side of an IKEA store. I know they seem endless on the inside, but in reality, they're not huge enough to warrant a change in place name. The 92 vehicles display "St Raphael's North", which gives passengers absolutely no clue as to where the route terminates, which could even prevent people from using the route to get to the stores. The St Raphael's Estate is properly served by routes 224 and 232, although the 92 doesn't even attempt to serve the housing area, but terminates just outside it, in the centre of Brent Park retail area, which might cause people in the residential area to think that they have a direct bus from Wembley! I even have a problem with the 332 destination, as the wider area of Neasden (which Brent Park is contained in) is likely to attract more people to the shops, especially as there is a tube station nearby. The new display should say "Neasden, Superstores" for both routes.

Remember when the 521 used to operate with Diesel buses?
Waterloo has several different bus routes terminating there, as well as 6 stands that I can name off the top of my head. The 4, 26 and 139 stand outside The Old Vic (which is nearly at Elephant & Castle), the 243 and 521 stand just behind the station on Mepham Street, the 211 and 507 stand right outside the station on Upper Taxi Road, the 76 stands in Lambeth North but displays Waterloo, the 341 and 381 stand near County Hall in separate locations and the 77 stands on Concert Hall Approach near the IMAX roundabout. If space wasn't an issue then I would create a bus station for all routes that serve the area, making interchange much easier and having a guaranteed spot where each route terminates. However, that's not possible, so I would change the blinds so that they display this: the 4, 26 and 139 show "Waterloo, Old Vic", the 243 and 521 show "Waterloo Station, Tenison Way", the 211 and 507 show "Waterloo Station", the 76 shows "Lambeth North, Baylis Road", the 341 and 381 show "County Hall" and the 77 shows "Waterloo Station, Concert Hall Approach".

A London United ALX400 terminates on route 71 at Kingston, Cromwell Road.
The sprawling town centre of Kingston contains four different bus standing areas, which are Cromwell Road Bus Station (this houses the majority of routes terminating in Kingston), Fairfield Bus Station, Brook Street and the area around Kingston University. Cromwell Road and the University area are at least 10 minutes apart by walking, so different destinations are definitely necessary, considering every route terminating in the town centre merely displays Kingston. The destinations should be changed to "Kingston, Cromwell Road Bus Station", "Kingston East, Fairfield Bus Station" for the 57, 131 and 213, "Kingston South, Brook Street for the 65" and "Kingston South, St James' Road" for the 371 and 85.

We've looked at two examples of vague town centre areas, now it's time to check out a good example. The West London area of Hounslow boasts four different terminating points for routes in the town centre, all with specific details that I mostly agree with.

Abellio London 8158 on the water bus to Hounslow, Civic Centre.
The H20 is the only route that terminates at the Civic Centre, near Hounslow Central station on the Piccadilly Line. Bell Corner is home to the H22 and E8, both of those routes have appropriate blinds. Hounslow Bus Station is where the bulk of routes terminate and the H37 is the odd one out, terminating outside Hounslow Asda. However, the blind displays "Hounslow, Blenheim Centre" as the shopping mall is nearby, even though it contains very few shops and is a smaller version of the Treaty Centre. The Blenheim has a massive car park, so that's the only thing that the locals recognise it for. Personally, I would have the blind displaying "Hounslow Asda, Blenheim Centre" which makes it clear that the route serves Asda better than everything else.

It seems that the specification of blinds are decided by the operator, which can lead to careless mistakes, such as the time when Arriva decided to use home-made blinds and spell the word Ockendon incorrectly, meaning that the 347 buses were running around with "Ockenden Station" on the front for a few weeks until the issue was sorted. Just type in "347 bus Ockenden" into google images and a suitable picture should come up. Unfortunately, I didn't get one in time.

Metroline VWH2214 on route 140 to Heathrow Central, showing vague blinds.
Sorry about the extra large size, the picture comes out really blurry on the medium and large settings for some reason, even though it looks fine here. The issue here is that the 140 terminates at Heathrow Central Bus Station, the gateway for Terminals 2 and 3, even though the blinds only display "Heathrow Airport," which is extremely misleading as it is impossible to reach two of the terminals of Heathrow on this bus, with terminal 4 having terrible accessibility anyway. I simply don't understand why the 140 vehicles display this stupidly confusing destination, especially as new buses arrived in September 2016! Every other bus route displays "Heathrow Central", including other Metroline routes like the 105, which means that there isn't even a consistency in the blinds ordered for all of the Metroline routes serving Heathrow. This makes me think that the 140's blinds were ordered for nostalgic reasons, which is unacceptable as passenger experience takes priority over having a bit of fun, in my opinion. These buses should be reblinded as quickly as possible!

Another culprit for inappropriate blinds is CT Plus, who ordered some controversial displays for the W19 contract back in November 2016. Every other bus route terminating at Ilford's main bus park just displays "Ilford", although the new W19 vehicles display "Ilford High Road, Hainault Street", which is way too specific for its purpose. People along the route probably haven't even heard of Hainault Street; they just want to make sure that the bus serves the town centre so they can get their shopping done. The Ilford High Road part of the blind might just confuse people, making them think that the W19 doesn't serve the town centre at all, even though it passes through the middle of it! CT Plus themselves realised that they made a mistake, as the MMCs for the W11 which arrived in March only displayed "Ilford" when they strayed onto the W19.

I hope that this post has given you an idea of how bus destinations are far from perfect, and that there is a lot of work to be done before blind specificity is at an acceptable standard. Thanks for reading, stay safe!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Random Observations: March 2017

I am extremely sorry for the month-long gap between posts, unfortunately I've had even more heavy exams, but they are over for now, and I can promise that posts will be out every week until June, hooray! I haven't been out much lately, so I thought a Random Obs post would be appropriate in this situation. Enjoy!

Go-Ahead London DOE12 on route 63 to King's Cross.
Putney High Street has become infamous for the overwhelming pollution levels it presents to the general public, so now every single route that travels along it has to be allocated Euro 6 Hybrid buses, which means that they produce very low emissions. At the time of writing (18th March), every single double deck vehicle scheduled to arrive there was Euro 6; well done to Go-Ahead and RATP for allocating vehicles correctly! As a result, the 93 (Putney Bridge-North Cheam) stole the brand new MCV EvoSeti vehicles allocated to route 63, which means that Olympi are travelling around Central London again, which is great news for me.

Stagecoach London 36329 stands at Woolwich, before tackling the 386.
The 386 is definitely not direct, taking over an hour to cover a section which takes 15 minutes on the direct 53. It looks fairly interesting, especially the section by Greenwich Park, although the Blackheath-Cutty Sark section is rarely ever used. The route uses a mixture of 9.3m Darts and 10.2m E200s, although I would keep the Darts on this route as the 291 (which has a common user pool with the 386), gets extremely busy. Typically, an Enviro 200 is seen here on the 386.

VLA106 pauses on the 375 to Passingford Bridge.
Grays garage only had one single decker for a period of time in February, even though they operate 2 single deck routes (yes they both have a PVR of 1). As the 347 has a low bridge near Upminster, sending ALX 400 vehicles on the 375 was the only option. The route serves the village of Havering Atte-Bower before terminating at the glamorous Passingford Bridge Roundabout. I'm sure many people questioned the use of a double decker on this every 90-minute route, although the countryside views were definitely appreciated by enthusiasts. If you every feel the need to ride this route, be aware that there really isn't much in Passingford Bridge. Don't worry, these vehicles still appear on the route from time to time, but make sure that you consult LVF first and make sure that the vehicle listed is either a "VLA" or "DW."

Metroline London TEH2084 on route 332 at Paddington.
The 332 is an average route, running through a mix of residential and semi-urban areas. As all the other routes in Paddington are brilliant, it's my least favourite route there, but it really isn't bad at all. At some point in the future, the complicated one way system at Paddington will be removed and the buses will be re-routed to serve Warwick Avenue in both directions, rather than going via Edgware Road to terminate, and Praed Street on departure.

Metroline VW1038 on route 237.
Metroline have started to refurbish the worn-out 10-reg Gemini 2 vehicles at Brentford (AH) garage and they've done a pretty good job, especially with the brand new seat covers! Removing the black surrounds on the lights makes the bus look strange, but this is something I'll have to get used to. This also explains why two ex-18 former First London Gemini 2s are chilling at Brentford, in Metroline Travel territory.

Stagecoach London 15091 takes a break at North Woolwich.
The 473 provides a stunning view of London City Airport along Connaught Bridge, so if you're into planes and docks, this route is perfect for you. If you're lucky, you'll be able to see planes taking off right by the water, which looks particularly beautiful on a sunny day. However, the 473 gets extremely busy heading out of Stratford from the afternoon, due to the expansive shopping complex known as Westfield. This worsens when the 262 doesn't show up for 14 minutes-this happened when I intended to use the route so I had to let the first 473 go as it was rammed and the front seats were unavailable.

The interior of a Southeastern Class 375 train, Ramsgate-bound.
The refurb Electrostar trains on the long-distance Southeastern diagrams look pretty cool, especially with the new colour scheme on the exterior and inside. My train was completely empty from London Bridge, with only one other person in the carriage on my trip to Orpington. However, be aware that the seats really aren't that comfortable for your back, so it's best to lean forward and focus on the WIFI which will be available from next year. I use Southeastern fairly regularly, although this trip was the first time I'd got a non-class 465 unit, proving that those trains like to follow me around!

Go-Ahead London MHV19 on the lengthy route 35 from Clapham Junction-Shoreditch.
Both times I rode this route end to end I felt disappointed. This route should've been perfect for me, passing through Clapham, Brixton, Elephant and Shoreditch, four areas which I love visiting. I'm not sure if the length disorientated my views on the route, although I was perfectly fine with riding the 83 end to end. Maybe this route will prove itself one day, but I don't have the time to re-try it for a third time, so it has to be useful, or in the right place at the right time for me to try it again. It also looks like the vehicle is open top in this shot, which is rather interesting.

A Mini Pointer Dart arrives at Orpington Station, bound for Biggin Hill.
In February, the two mini Optare Solo vehicles allocated to the R8 both broke down and were off-road for almost a month. Typically, I planned to ride the interesting buses in the half term, when both of them weren't in use. They are also going to be withdrawn in April, so unless the new/existing buses are late, I may never get the chance to ride the unique vehicles. I decided to ride the route anyway and a powerful Dart Pointer showed up, which was fairly well-loaded for a route which spends most of the time travelling through narrow country lanes. I loved going through these nature-filled areas on a London bus, although my journey came to an abrupt halt in Aperfield, a couple of stops away from the terminus. After dropping off some children in Biggin Hill High Street, the bus door randomly opened in the middle of the road and the driver eventually had to stop. It became clear that part of the door flew off in the middle of the road and I had the pleasure of picking it up and handing it back to the driver! She was very friendly and told me that 12 Optare single decks were on order for routes R4, R6 and R8, although I think the poor driver was a bit confused with the StreetLite Wrightbus vehicles that are meant to transfer down to Orpington after their stint on the 462. (Un)fortunately, this means that I will have to ride this route again, although hopefully the Optare vehicles are still around!

An Arriva London E400 City arrives at Liverpool Street Bus Station.
The 133 was recently upgraded to Euro 6 vehicles, in the form of ADL's rip-off New Routemaster. These vehicles are very nice, although I would always prefer a standard MMC. The 133 itself is a very busy route, so I hope that the commuters of Brixton appreciate the new kit.

That's all for now, stay safe and thanks for reading!