Probably London’s rudest sounding Tube Station! Cockfosters, the eastern terminus of the Piccadilly line, a good example of the elegance of the Frank Pick era of London Transport design.
Having a day off with a late start for work the following day, I decided to have a trip down to London. But, wishing to conserve financial resources, (slightly low due to having just been on holiday-see the “Adventures In Devon 2018” blogs) I decided to do things a little differently getting down there. Normally, I’d have headed to Birmingham Moor Street and buy a Chiltern Super Off Peak return to London Marylebone for £31, then catching the first train that this would be valid on, the 09.55. But the Birmingham-London corridor is one of very few in the UK to have competition between three rail operators. Chiltern is a cheaper alternative to Virgin’s faster service down the West Coast Main Line to Euston from New Street but there’s another, slower alternative over that route, in the form of London North Western’s semi fast service via Northampton. An Off Peak Return on here costs £29.50 (yeah, hardly a saving compared to Chiltern!) but, to get an even better bargain, I took a look on line and found a single ticket (advanced tickets are only sold as singles) down there available for £6! So I bought it!
Now, I haven’t used this service since previous franchise holder London Midland used to run it’s “Great Escape” days, where the whole London Midland network could be travelled on for £15. I love the journey down there, with it’s opportunity to watch the busy West Coast Main Line in all it’s glory but coming back, after a long day’s London bus riding, you arrive back at Euston around 19.00 (the Off Peak Return not being valid earlier) a little tired and see a fast Virgin Birmingham service on the departure boards which looks so enticing but you’re forced to board a full, less glamourous (though I personally prefer a Class 350 to a Pendolino) Electric Multiple Unit for a slower trundle via Northampton. So I did a quick flip to Chiltern’s website and bought a single on the 20.10 from Marylebone for £9! So I’d managed to arrange a return trip to London via two different routes for quite a bit less than a return bought on the day for either route, that would be restricted to that route in both directions!
So I found myself strap hanging on the Midland Metro (CAF 21) into Grand Central, then stepping into New Street Station ready for the off. As I had to be on a specific train (at 08.14), I’d given myself sufficient time to allow for any delays on the Metro but I’d had a smooth tram journey in, so had around forty minutes to chill before getting my train. I made my way down to the Platform and stood on the end to watch trains come and go! Although the upper part of New Street was rebuilt a few years back, the platforms are very much as I’ve always known them! Standing nearby was Virgin Pendolino 390 101, waiting to make a peak journey to London, full of those with large budgets or expense accounts!
Soon, my train appeared in the form of 350 122;
The present day LNWR service has it’s origins from the hourly Birmingham New Street-London Euston semi fast service introduced with the West Coast Mainline electrification when it reached Birmingham in 1967. Operated by Class 310 EMU’s, my earliest memories of this semi fast service is of using it between Birmingham & Coventry in the early eighties, when it was advertised at New Street as terminating at Watford Junction, to encourage London passengers to use the then half hourly Inter City service that was the ancestor to today’s Virgin service. 1988 would see the Class 310s replaced by Class 317s displaced from the Bedford-St Pancras/Moorgate service that was then becoming the new Thameslink service through the reopened London Snow Hill tunnel and onto Brighton using new, dual voltage Class 319s. The 317s were only allocated to the Euston service for around a year, being replaced by new, Network South East branded Class 321s in 1989.
Railway privatisation saw the service pass to Silver Link, run by National Express, who would increase it to half hourly (initially only as far as Birmingham International before a path could be found for the extra train per hour into New Street) as well as the introduction of cheaper fares to attract people who weren’t too bothered about journey time. This made the service attractive to passengers considering the coach, as well as the other two train companies. New Class 350’s replaced the 321’s from 2005 onwards, these being initially jointly owned by Silver Link and fellow National Express subsidiary Central Trains (being used on their Birmingham-Liverpool service) before the franchise map was redrawn in December 2007 when both the Liverpool & London service become part of the new London Midland franchise. the service then being integrated with the Birmingham-Coventry local service, resulting in a complex calling pattern with a degree of “skip stops” being initiated on this busy section, allowing more trains to be fitted in. Although this made the London service a bit slower, it also increased the frequency to three trains per hour.
Recent timetable changes have seen one of these trains split into two at Northampton, and it was this service that my cheap ticket had been booked on, so I had to change trains at Northampton. No big deal, I thought! As a member of the original, 2005 350/1 fleet, I noticed that the original mocquette is beginning to look a bit worn. New trains are due to add to the fleet (which will see the newer, high density 350/2’s returned to the leasing company) and hopefully, the 350/1’s will then enjoy a much needed refurbishment. They’re still pretty much my favourite EMUs on the network but are beginning to look a bit tired!
Heading out of the New Street tunnels, I noticed a sign pinpointing the site of the upcoming HS2 Station at Birmingham Curzon Street (the City’s first Railway Station, before New Street replaced it). On the local news section of BBC Breakfast today, they’d mentioned that the designs for both Curzon Street and the new HS2 Station by the NEC had been released. This means even more choice for Birmingham-London passengers in years to come!
I’ve used this service fairly regularly over the past few years, mostly to reach Coventry to start Stagecoach Warwickshire bashes but those journeys were usually a bit earlier (between 7 & 8) when the trains were incredibly busy, particularly as far as Birmingham International, full of workers heading for the various businesses based around the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham Airport but, although our train had discharged a standing load upon it’s arrival, loadings heading outward were altogether lighter! So it was a comfortable run out, with more people joining us at our first stop, Stechford (the only stop before this, inner city Adderley Park, is only served once an hour). We then called at all stations to Coventry, with countryside replacing suburbia once we’d left Birmingham International behind. After Coventry, it was a fast run to Rugby, there being no intermediate stations on this stretch. Rugby’s a station that I feel looks odd without it’s original overhead roof, which was demolished as part of the West Coast modernisation back in 2008. Reminding me of the past however, was a preserved Class 86 electric loco (86 259?), one of the classes replaced on the West Coast by the Virgin Pendolino fleet in 2003, which was parked in one of the bay platforms, looking resplendent in it’s original electric blue livery!
The Guard came around to check tickets between Coventry & Rugby and explained very professionally that the train was now running around six minutes late. He also explained that my five minute connection at Northampton would be on an adjacent platform, so a quick change could be made. He also said that we would possibly make up time but that he would contact control at Northampton to see if they could hold the train. As we pulled into Northampton’s bay platform 4, I saw the station clock say that it had just turned 09.25, the time of the London train’s departure and, sure enough, there was 350 118 waiting alongside on Platform One. As soon as we slowed for the final stop, 350 118 pulled out! Now, I know a lot of trains have to be fitted into the West Coast Main Line timetable, meaning holding trains willy nilly isn’t practical but by just a minute? Ohh well, at least it gave me another chance to photograph 350 122;
Fortunately, the next train was only twenty five minutes away, at 09.50, which would get me to Euston for 10.46, still earlier than my usual Chiltern 09.55 off Birmingham Moor Street would have, thus still giving me more time in London! I’d not been to Northampton for a while and I noticed that the ticket office had been totally rebuilt, obviously some time ago, as it possessed old London Midland style signage. Looking into the nearby Kings Heath Depot, built by Siemens as the main base for the Class 350’s, I saw that several 350’s were wearing the new London North Western livery, mostly 350/3’s which must be due their first repaint. Soon, 350 125 turned up on a through service from Birmingham;
The train was a lot fuller than 350 122 had been but I found a seat with ease. I was unworried about the fact that my train ticket was specifically only valid on the 09.25 train, as the fact that I missed it was down to my proceeding train’s late running meant that it was the Railway’s fault that I had done so. Therefore, as my ticket was specified for both trains, I was able to take the next train. Don’t think that works if you’ve purchased split tickets (a popular thing at the moment, where many savings can be made!) so my advice for those doing this is to leave yourself a large amount of connection time. As it turned out, it was irrelevant, as my ticket wasn’t checked on this journey!
Soon, we left the Northampton loop, which becomes the slow lines of the West Coast Mainline. This is an exciting bit of Railway, with Virgin Pendolinos & Voyagers thundering past on the fast lines. The three trains an hour from Northampton-Euston have varied stopping patterns and this was the fastest of the three, calling at just Milton Keynes Central, where a Southern Railway Class 377 was waiting on an adjacent platform on the hourly Milton Keynes-East Croydon service, a relic of an early post privatisation rail service that ran from Rugby-Gatwick Airport. It uses the West London line to get around London.
Just after, we joined the Fast lines for the rest of the route. And so it was a fast run to Watford Junction, a busy station with the Class 319 operated St Albans Abbey branch on one side of the station and the London Overground all stop service to Euston on the other, with LNWR and the occasional Virgin train (an hourly Birmingham train) calling at the platforms in the middle, with many more Virgin trains hurtling through non stop! We left Watford behind and headed to Bushey, where the Overground line joins us after serving Watford High Street Station. From here, there are six tracks heading into Euston, with the Overground tracks being electrified with third rail DC many years (1917) before the West Coast Mainline was electrified with overhead wires at 25 KV AC in 1966. At Harrow & Wealdstone, Bakerloo Line tube trains join the Overground on their lines. with Willesden Depot and sidings coming up, there’s plenty for Railway Enthusiasts to see!
Soon, we arrived in a platform at the far western side of Euston;
Unlike Birmingham New Street, Euston is still recognisable from it’s sixties electrification rebuild but that will all change in the coming years, as it’s rebuilt to accommodate HS2.
Another reason I chose to use LNWR was that it bought me a fraction closer to my first planned move of the day. So I found myself walking across Euston’s vast concourse (in his 1979 “Great Railway Journey Of The World” from Euston-Kyle Of Localsh, Monty Python star Michael Palin said that the “new” Euston always reminded him of a giant bath!) passed the built in Underground station that contained the Victoria & Northern Lines, then passed the Bus Station that lies right outside, and then down Euston Road to Euston Square Underground Station. Here, I checked the balance on my Oyster Card, which was £5, so I decided to top this up with another £10, which I felt should be sufficient for today’s needs (it was. By the end of the day, I had just over £7 left on the card.) and then went down onto the platform of what was part of the worlds first Underground Railway!
Part of the Metropolitan Railway’s original 1863 line from Paddington-Farringdon, this section is now served by three lines. The Metropolitan Line still sends trains beyond Baker Street onto it’s London City terminus at Aldgate East, whilst the Hammersmith & City line, originally part of the Metropolitan Line that gained it’s own identity in 1990, runs through from Hammersmith-Barking. Finally, there’s the Circle Line, and it was one of these that turned up first, not that it makes much difference these days, as all three lines use modern S stock, although the Metropolitan’s stock features some forward facing seating for those making longer journeys on that line, whilst the stock on the other two lines features longitudinal seating throughout. I still find it odd to see Underground stock where you’re able to walk through all the carriages!
Just after calling at Kings Cross St Pancras, the line is joined by National Rail’s Thameslink line, which runs alongside as far as Farringdon. This was originally part of what was known as the widened Lines, which allowed access from both St Pancras & Kings Cross (and originally Paddington too!) onto the Metropolitan Lines route as far as Moorgate. Trains from the Kings Cross direction ceased to use the Widened Lines in 1976 (more on their replacements latter) whilst electrification of the Bedford-St Pancras Line in 1982 actually spread onto the Widened Lines, encouraging more through services to Moorgate. Thameslink, starting in 1988, saw most Bedford services move out of St Pancras’s majestic train shed and head along the Widened Lines as far as Farringdon, from where they headed under the City through the reopened (closed to passenger trains in 1916) Snow Hill Tunnel. Trains to Moorgate continued to run in the peaks for many years, until the increase in the size of platforms at Farringdon to take twelve coach trains, as part of the laughably named “Thameslink 2000” plans (laughable because they’re only coming to fruition now, many years after 2000!) project which has seen the reopening of the Kings Cross connection onto the Widened Lines, caused the need to sever the Widened Lines beyond Farringdon due to extended platforms needing to cut across the tracks.
We carried onto Moorgate, where I got off.
At Moorgate, I made my way from the cut & cover underground line of the Metropolitan Line and it’s sisters and down to the deep level tubes which contain the Northern Line’s City Branch, as well as a somewhat surprising outpost of the National Rail network. Built in 1904, the Great Northern & City Line ran from Moorgate-Finsbury Park, where it connected with the Great Northern Railway Main Line (London North Eastern Railway from the creation of the Big Four Railway Companies in 1923), the line uniquely featured tunnels large enough to contain full size railway stock, unlike the other Tube lines, which use trains with a smaller outer circumference to this day. The original aim was obviously to cater for an eventual through service onto the East Coast Mainline but, possibly due to a lack of interest in electrification by the GNR and latter LNER, this never happened, the line becoming a self contained branch of the Northern Line……until 1976! That year saw the start of electrification of the East Coast Main Line, with the by now British Rail standard overhead 25KV AC method being used, with the initial Inner Suburban services (the Class 312 operated Outer Suburban service from Kings Cross-Royston, on the Cambridge Branch, wouldn’t start until 1978) heading from Finsbury Park down a rebuilt Great Northern & City line, replacing the London Transport Underground service.
With insufficient room in the tunnels to erect overhead wires, third rail electrification (replacing London Transport’s standard fourth rail system) needed to be used, meaning that the new trains built for the line needed to be dually equipped for both third rail and overhead operation, a first for Great Britain’s Railways! These new units were classed as the Class 313, and were the first of BR’s new design of EMU, complete with sliding doors, then only found on the Glasgow Blue Train network, as far as BR were concerned. Over the following few years, more variants of this type of unit would appear, with overhead powered Class 314s joining those earlier sliding door trains (Class 303) in Glasgow and Class 315’s taking over suburban services out of Liverpool Street. Meanwhile, the third rail powered Class 508’s would be introduced on Southern Region Inner Suburban services out of Waterloo, though there time here would be short, being replaced from 1980 by the latter designed Class 510’s (soon to be renamed Class 455’s) with the 508’s then heading to Merseyside, to run alongside the similar Class 507’s that had been introduced onto the rebuilt Merseyrail network in 1977.
Alongside the Inter City High Speed Trains, these units are now the oldest trains in regular service on the UK Main Line network and are in the process of being replaced, with the Class 313s due to be replaced shortly by new Class 717 units. Therefore, I’d decided to ride on one, probably for the last time, today.
I made my way down the steps to the lower levels (as directed by the National Rail signs, if I followed them correctly…which I probably didn’t!) and obeyed the instructions by the yellow, onward travel Oyster reader for National Rail passengers to touch in. Not sure if this added to my fare (I spent around £2.60 to reach Finsbury Park, in Zone 2,) more, I suspect, to do with the correct level of revenue being apportioned to the line’s operator, Great Northern. I reached the platform and found 313 026 ready to depart for Welwyn Garden City, so I quickly boarded. Off peak, there’s a ten minute service along the stretch to Finsbury Park, consisting of a twenty minute service up the East Coast Mainline to Welwyn Garden City and a twenty minute service that branches off onto the Hertford Loop, two trains an hour terminating at Hertford North and one train per hour completing the loop and heading a bit further up the East Coast before turning onto the Cambridge Branch and terminating at Letchworth. In the late eighties, the line to Moorgate was closed at weekends, with all trains heading into Kings Cross at that time. Recently though, the fact that there is now more life in the City Of London at weekends (I remember Routemaster riding around there on Saturdays in the eighties, hardly a soul about, in contrast to today when the bars and restaurants keep the area buzzing seven days a week!)
It was shortly after this reduction (which resulted in a large number 313’s transferring to the North London Line and the Euston-Watford DC service, these being replaced by Class 378s when converted to the London Overground. Several of those 313’s are now running Coastway local services for Southern Railway around the Brighton area) that I first travelled on the line, back in 1990, when my old mate John Batchelor & I made a trip in a car John had hired down to Potters Bar, with the intention of riding on an ex West Midlands Volvo Ailsa. Sadly, we were too late for this, as they were in the process of being sold but we bought Travelcard Add On’s (Potters Bar is outside what was then the London Regional Transport area, correspondent to the abolished in 1986 Greater London Council and today’s Transport for London area, as now covered by the Mayor Of London’s powers) and caught a train into London. As a Moorgate train was due first, we caught that, followed by a trip on the travellator between Moorgate & Bank, then a trip on the original stock on the one stop Waterloo & City Line, still run by BR then (LT taking over in 1994), to Waterloo, where John tried….and failed to get his final remaining Class 50 (50 002) in the book for the short run to Clapham Junction (they were on Waterloo-Exeter services at the time). It didn’t turn up, so we made our way back to Kings Cross on a Routemaster on the 73, then getting a Class 317 back to the car.
The second time I would travel on the line would be in early 2005, in the final days of regular Routemaster operation in London. I’d travelled on the 36 all the way from Queens Park-New Cross, just before the route was one manned, then taking the East London line (then still part of the Underground system-it’s now much extended and part of the Overground-and operated by Metropolitan line A stock, quite my favourite Underground trains!) From Whitechapel, I caught a Hammersmith & City train to Moorgate, then getting a 313 to Finsbury Park to catch a Routemaster on the 19 all the way through to Battersea Bridge. So it was a line that I hadn’t travelled on much and the impending demise of the 313’s was a good reason for doing so!
Although the seats were refurbished in First’s corporate style mocquette during the period when the franchise was run by First Capital Connect, the 313’s still feel very seventies, particularly the bright yellow formica around the door areas;
More evidence of the line’s tendency to stick in a time warp is the fact that the station signs still date from the BR Network South East era (1986 onwards);
After here, the line comes out of the tunnel, with the Emirates Stadium of Arsenal Football Club peering down from above. Soon, we had joined the East Coast Mainline at Finsbury Park, where I got off;
Although not as busy as the West Coast Mainline, this is still busy Railway territory, with Great Northern and London North Eastern Railway services charging through the station, whilst Great Northern stopping services call. Several bus services connect into the station but I decided to head north by Tube. Finsbury Park is served by two tube lines, the Victoria Line and the one I wanted to travel on, the Piccadilly Line. I’d travelled to the line’s northern extremity, at Cockfosters only once before, around 2006 when, following the Routemaster’s demise (aside from the Heritage operation) in December 2005, I’d switched my attention to getting London’s Railways in the book (which I more or less succeeded in doing, only a few rarely used spurs and cross boundary lines yet to get in the book, though I’ve got all the Underground system done) and had gone to Cockfosters as part of this. I simply went there and back on that occasion but this time, I wanted to ride on one of the bus routes that passed Cockfosters Station.
As I made my way onto the platform, a train was just pulling out but, as it was a short to Arnos Grove, that wasn’t a problem, with the next train indicator stating that the next Cockfosters train was seven minutes away. So I sat and waited until that train appeared, then I boarded and found a seat with ease. Finsbury Park was the original terminus of what would become the Piccadilly Line and had made a busy interchange with many passengers transferring onto onwards tram & bus services, this prompting the Underground Group to extend the line northwards, reaching Arnos Grove in 1932 and Cockfosters in 1933, the year that the Underground Group (which included all the Underground lines except the previously separate Metropolitan Railway. It also included the London United & Metropolitan Tramways and the London General Bus Company) and all Bus, Underground, (including the Metropolitan) Tram & Trolleybus services (just the London United Kingston network at that point, though it would soon grow into the largest Trolleybus system in the world) within an approximate thirty mile radius of Charing Cross would be merged into the new London Transport Board.
As most of the extensions route was already fully built up, the section as far as Arnos Grove was in tube tunnels, only coming into the open at that point. The section is renowned for the excellently designed Art Deco stations that were a feature of Frank Pick’s (the influential manager who moved from the Underground Group onto London Transport, being responsible for the LT Bullseye logo-again inherited from the Underground Group-amongst much else and had a firm belief that only the very best in contemporary design was good enough for Londoners) vision for London Transport, although these are mostly notable from the outside! From Arnos Grove, the line continues in the open, through leafy, semi detached house clad suburbs that are so typical of the thirties expansion of London. Soon, we trundled into Cockfosters;
I love the globe shaped lights that lit up this stylish, concrete terminus! Cockfosters isn’t the grandest of the Piccadilly Line extension stations but it’s design is certainly pleasant;
I investigated my options for onward bus travel and decided to wait for the twenty minute headway 298 to Potters Bar, which soon turned up in the form of Sulivans Buses Enviro 200 AE 15.
Potters Bar Station
I liked the mocquette, which was similar to that in various operators Enviro 400 Citys and featured the LT Bullseye;
…..as well as the posters that gave the history of the routes that these buses operate. There was a poster further down the bus with the history of pioneer minibus route W9 but here’s a photo of the poster for the 298;
As the poster says, the 298 started in 1968 to replace the northern section of route 29 from Victoria. It also states that Sulivans Buses are proud to be the only independent operator of Transport for London services. They also operate some services outside the TfL area, as well as having a lot of work with film companies, with one of their Routemasters coming under attack from Autons (shop window mannequins that came to life) in the 2005 debut of the revived “Doctor Who” amongst many other appearances!
The bus soon left suburbia behind and headed out into open country, which symbolised that we were heading out of the TfL area, into the county of Hertfordshire. For Potters Bar was one of only two places outside of what became the Greater London Council area(which was abolished in 1986, now being the area covered by the London Mayor’s jurisdiction, and hence Transport for London’s influence) that London Transport had a red bus garage (as opposed to the green buses of London Transport’s Country Department, that passed to the National Bus Company as London Country in 1970), the other being Loughton, which closed in 1986. Potters Bar however, against the odds, still survives and is owned by Metroline.
We soon hit the town of Potters Bar itself, which is a very typical South East dormitory town, not that different from the suburbia served by the Piccadilly Line, full of semi detached and detached houses and mock Tudor rows of shops, one of which, I noticed, contained an appetising looking Chip shop so, as this was just around the corner from the main Railway Station Bus Terminus, I decided to walk back towards it for lunch! There was actually two chippies present but I chose the first I’d seen, the Seaway Fish Bar, as my chippy sense tingled that it looked the nicer. Don’t know what the other one was like but the Seaway was most satisfactory! I ate Cod & Chips on a nearby bench and then headed back to the Railway Station bus terminus.
Being outside of the TfL area means that Potters Bar is subject to the same, deregulated rules that applies to the rest of the UK, outside of London. Not that an area as affluent as this, with it’s consequent high car ownership, would be much of an attraction for the competitive bus market, something that would cause much of the former London Country network (which was split into four separate NBC subsidiaries in 1986 before these were privatised) to disintegrate, the remainder being very much a shadow of it’s former self. One of the operators that covers some of the gaps that this has left is Uno, an operator that evolved from the University Of Hertford’s own bus service, and these operate into Potters Bar on services 610 & 611, from Cockfosters & Enfield respectively, out of the TfL area through Potters Bar and onto Hertford. These are operated by Mercedes Benz Citaros like 361 here;
As the current owners of Potters Bar Garage, Metroline has adopted a special livery for it’s non TfL services, this being shown here on two Enviro 200s;
DEL 857 on the 84 to St Albans & DEL 798 on local service PB1
The long established 84 appears to have been split into two in recent years, as I’d spotted a Metroline Enviro 400 double decker heading towards Arnos Grove when I entered the town. Obviously, this side was a full TfL service, one of three which step their toes out of the TfL area to reach the town. As well as the 298 (which also terminates at Arnos Grove), the other was the 313 to Chingford, which was the first to arrive after I’d got back to the terminus so I decided to board Arriva Enviro 200 ENX 2;
Arriva’s operation of the 313 dates back from when Cowie owned Grey Green won the tender for the route in the early days of London Regional Transport, taking it over from original winner London Country North East following a damaging strike.
The 313 heads out of town along the same route as the 298 but splits away on the edge to serve more green fields. Other than the red bus, the only clue to our proximity to the Capital was the view of Canary Wharf and The Shard, both buildings which stood out in the view looking towards London. Soon, we entered the London Borough Of Enfield. We passed a road called Lavender Hill, causing me to wonder whether this was the road that influenced the title of the classic Ealing comedy, “The Lavender Hill Mob”. One can imagine the meek, mild character that Alec Guinness played in that film setting off from here every morning, heading to his job of accompanying the bank notes that are set to be destroyed by the Royal Mint and concocting an intricate heist!
As we entered Enfield, I was pleased to see that the tree lined bus terminus where I’d twice caught Routemaster’s on the 29, was still there. This was after the 29’s Potters Bar section had been replaced by the 298, with the route latter extended from Wood Green-Enfield to replace what was originally a Trolleybus service. The first occasion I’d caught a 29 from here was with John Batchelor in 1987, when we caught RM 5, the second occasion being with another friend, Joe Moriarty, a year latter when it had been announced that the 29 was to be one manned. Not long after that, the 29 was cutback to terminate at Wood Green again, with Enfield now being served by the 329 to Turnpike Lane.
We passed through Enfield Town Centre, including Enfield Town Railway Station, from which point I’d actually been on the 313 before, using the service to link the Enfield Town and Chingford lines out of Liverpool Street. This section of the route is dominated by a reservoir that the bus runs alongside, although the water can’t be seen as the road is lower than the reservoir. Soon, we arrived at the Bus Station that was built in front of Chingford Station in 1968, replacing the former Royal Forest Hotel Terminus, just around the corner on the edge of Epping Forest. In fact, the first time I’d passed the Bus Station was way back in 1978, during my brief time in the Cubs! We’d made the long coach journey from Telford to the Scout owned Gillwell Park, which was nearby. No M25 then, so the journey also took in Enfield, so we must have followed the 313 route between the two. For me, it was a then rare opportunity to view London buses, which then included a lot of Routemasters!
I now had several routes to choose from for my next move, the decision being made by the sight of what must now be one of the oldest buses still working in London today!
18460 next to E400 10179 on the 179 to Ilford
A Dennis Trident
Whilst very much the leading model in the early days of low floor double decker production and operation, the Dennis Trident is beginning to get a little thin on the ground these days, particularly in London, where TfL are always pushing for newer buses to be introduced on it’s tenders, with particular regard now to hybrid or any other technology that helps to reduce emissions. Therefore, when I spotted that route 97, from Chingford Station-Stratford City Bus Station was still being largely operated by Stagecoach Alexander bodied Dennis Tridents, I decided that this would be my next route. I say largely because the next bus to arrive at Chingford was a 2008 vintage Scania, of which several more appeared as I travelled the route, indicating that these are being cascaded from elsewhere onto the route to ultimately replace the Tridents.
Fortunately, as seen in the photo, 2005 vintage Trident 18460 was waiting time to become the next 97 to leave, so when it pulled onto the stand, I boarded. The route headed out of Chingford, briefly giving a good view of the reservoir that the 313 passed alongside. We then headed towards the neighbouring suburb of Chingford Mount, the whole area being typical outer London suburbia. The 97 heads in a general South Westerly direction, with the suburbs gradually getting a little older and, dare I say it, shabbier, the further in we got! We passed Stagecoach’s Leyton Garage, where the Borismaster operated 55 from Oxford Circus terminates (and also, I believe, the 97’s home). Then it was onwards towards the new development around Stratford.
I’d not been to Stratford since before the London Olympics were held there in 2012, so it was interesting to see how the place had changed, with lots of new housing being evident as we approached. One thing I didn’t realise was that Stratford now has two Bus stations! I was expecting us to terminate at the main Bus Station, alongside the Railway Station that contains a large collection of various train services, with the Great Eastern Main line out to Norwich, with various branches, as well as hosting the Liverpool Street-Shenfield stopping service which should have become part of the new Crossrail (or as officially called, the Elizabeth Line) from December but it’s recently been announced that it’s opening is to be delayed until sometime late in 2019. Nevertheless, the new Class 345 EMUs delivered for Crossrail have largely replaced Class 315s from the line. As well as this, Stratford is served by two Tube Lines, the Central & Jubilee Lines, and two Docklands Light Railway lines, as well as being the terminus of the London Overground North London line.
But the City Bus Station, where the 97 terminates, is the other side of the Railway from the station entrance and is really only suitable for serving one of the many entrances to the huge Westfield Shopping Centre. Several other routes also terminate here, including the 388 to Elephant & Castle.
An MMC Enviro 400 City on the 388.
The MMC Enviro 400 City was originally developed as Alexander Dennis Limited’s (ADL) great rival to Wright’s New Routemaster, which that company had developed as a result of previous London Mayor Boris Johnson’s desire to create a new, iconic London bus to take that mantle from the original Routemaster. Interestingly, whilst a small number have entered London service with Arriva and HCT, most have sold to Provincial operators such as Blackpool & Nottingham amongst other places!
The 388 is operated by HCT, standing for Hackney Community Transport, a community interest company that, in addition to running minibuses for those who can’t use normal public transport, have gained several TfL tenders in East London. 2515 was my stead, and we set off out of Stratford around the Queen Elizabeth Park that had been built as part of the Olympic developments, all in the shadow of the main Olympic Stadium;
…..as well as views of the office blocks on the Isle Of Dogs;
I’d noticed several Wright Streetlites wandering around the Stratford area with “HereEast” fleetnames and the 388 is the only bus route that passes this office complex on the edge of the redeveloped area. Then, we headed into older Hackney, followed by Bethnal Green & Shoreditch, all traditional East End communities full of street markets and a sadly declining number of pie & mash shops! Shoreditch is almost cheek by jowell with the beginning of the City Of London, which was it’s usual bustling self, with the first of the commuters from the financial district heading from their offices towards the various Railway Stations, or maybe heading towards a pub or restaurant to spend the first part of the evening. I got off the 388 by St Pauls Cathedral.
A Heritage Routemaster
Almost immediately, I spotted an Open Top Routemaster running on a Sightseeing Tour, which must have been quite cooling on this unusually warm day for October. But of course, I was after an RM which my Oyster Card could be used on. So I made my way to a 15 bus stop and, almost immediately, RM 2017 appeared, one of the ten RMs that are owned by TfL but leased to Stagecoach, as operator of the Heritage Routemaster route 15, which runs over the Trafalgar Square-Tower Hill section of the New Routemaster (or Borismaster) operated 15 to Blackwall. It’s recently been proposed to reduce the Heritage operation to summer weekends only, one of those proposals that look destined to be fulfilled as TfL struggles to reduce it’s large deficit! Therefore, I’d decided to get a ride on one. It was only a short run to Tower Hill but it took over fifteen minutes due to the high level of traffic. RM 2071 was reasonably well loaded but I couldn’t help thinking that the Heritage routes economics might have been more viable had the Conductor bothered to have come upstairs to scan my Oyster Card. At Tower Hill, I got off and, taking care not to get mown down by cyclists in the adjacent cycle line, managed to take this photo;
I crossed over the road to await RM 2071’s return, buying a rather expensive ice cream (£3 for one scoop!) as I did so. I then sat down on a bench to eat it and watch the comings and goings of the various Commuter coaches owned by firms like National Express subsidiaries Kings Ferry & Clarkes, as well as firms like Redwings and Centaur, all operating commuter services out to Kent.
Also passing were regular Borismaster’s on the 15, one of which was loading when RM 2071 returned, so I took this photo;
…..whilst sticking my hand out to stop the bus……which the driver totally ignored and carried on past the Borismaster! So much for any attempts to keep the Heritage service going! The overtaken Borismaster departed before I’d got my breath back (and indignation under control!) but another, LT390, appeared a few minutes latter. It had now turned five and, having a specific train to catch, I decided it was too risky to wait twenty minutes for the next Heritage bus, so I boarded LT 390. I managed to grab the front seat and, as we headed towards St Pauls, I spotted a Borismaster in the special livery used for East London Link services EL1 & EL2 heading towards me on the 15, so I took a photo of it;
And so it was a slow crawl through the peak hour crowds along Fleet Street and The Strand, before reaching the terminus outside Charing Cross Station, where I picked up an Evening Standard to read on the train home, then catching Wright Gemini/Volvo B5 VH 4512 on the 139, which took me through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, up Regent Street to Oxford Circus, then along Oxford Street. This well bussed thoroughfare is destined to lose quite a few routes when Crossrail eventually opens, which will seem very strange! We then headed up towards the Marylebone Road and I got off after we’d crossed this, then walking to Marylebone Station. I had an hour before the 20.10 train that I’d been booked on (with London’s unpredictable traffic, there’s no way I’d have left it to the last minute!) so I “forced” myself to have a couple of pints of Greene King’s Barmy Army IPA (slightly stronger than the standard Greene King IPA) in the Victoria & Albert before heading to catch 168 005 for a relaxing journey back to Birmingham for just £9! A chilling end to an excellent day!