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


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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
New SNP MP Mhairi Black distinguished herself in Westminster straight away when she made herself a chip butty in the canteen  

The SNP adventure arrives in Westminister - but how long before these new MPs go native?

Katy Guest
The Public Accounts Committee found widespread concern among civil servants that they would be victimised if they spoke out about wrongdoing  

Nikileaks explained: The sad thing about the Nicola Sturgeon saga is that it makes leaks less likely

Jane Merrick
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?