Andrew Adonis: London by bus - day four

To understand how London’s bus system works I’m undergoing a week of immersion: riding 50 routes in inner and outer London, including the most congested and popular

Share

North Greenwich didn't exist as a station or a bus terminus 15 years ago. It very nearly didn't exist thereafter. The original plan was for the Jubilee Line extension to go from Canary Wharf to Stratford on the north bank of the Thames. It took a ferocious campaign led by local MP Nick Raynsford to make the expensive route change taking the Jubilee line under the Thames twice to serve Greenwich.

By such fateful transport decisions are communities made and unmade. Today North Greenwich is a major transport hub. The tube station is crucial; it directly serves The O2 (another triumph widely opposed when it was built as the Millennium Dome) and it is making possible the wholesale redevelopment of the Greenwich Peninsula.  However, its impact crucially depends upon the eight bus routes which fan out from the station to serve Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and the communities beyond – including Greenwich Millennium Village, the stunning new development five minutes by bus from the station where Nick Raynsford now lives.

Over coffee Nick told me that his constituency – particularly the poorest parts of it in and around Woolwich – had been “totally reinvented” by public transport over the last 20 years. The latest reinvention is being brought about by the new Crossrail station being constructed in the heart of Woolwich Arsenal. New apartment blocks are springing up all around, alongside the impressive redevelopment for housing of the Arsenal itself.

Here again, buses are crucial. Woolwich Town Centre has been radically redesigned as a town square plus bus interchange, with the Crossrail station, and the existing DLR and Overground stations all a stone’s throw away. 

Some of these buses are ‘Hoppas’ which go through the backstreets to serve communities which would otherwise be isolated, particularly for the elderly. Until it happened I simply couldn’t believe the 386 was going to make it up the steep Vanbrugh Hill, and the narrow streets beyond, some of them parked on both sides with barely enough space for the bus to squeeze through once the traffic coming the other way had reversed out. 

It is the same story at Millwall, which I visited the day before. A huge 3,000 home development around the stadium is being made possible by a new London Overground station at Surrey Canal Road, which transport officials opposed on the grounds that there wouldn’t be enough traffic. Two new bus routes into the stadium development are also crucial (though no one could explain why TfL needs £6.5m to introduce them.)

Similarly, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which I visited later, is now criss-crossed by new bus routes linking the park to Stratford itself and to Hackney and communities in the opposite direction.   

The problem is that the buses too often get stuck. On the approach to Greenwich the 188 stalled in serious bottlenecks thanks in one case to road works and in another to a sudden road narrowing with no bus priority. It was the same the night before, when the number 25 couldn’t even get into the bus lane on Mile End Road because of a lorry blocking the approach to it from a junction; and it was to be same in Hackney on the 254 later, where the gridlock was so bad I got out and walked two stops to catch a different bus because the 254 couldn’t get into a bus lane.

In all three cases, fellow passengers told me these bottlenecks were common yet they aren’t sorted out. The advantages of red routes and bus lanes are scuppered by poorly designed junctions, unlocked bottlenecks and roadworks, which seem to overrun everywhere. Time for a bus bottleneck buster to get to work. 

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas