Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Day 3 Part 1: Bracknell to Romford

Today has been a long, rainy, hard and sometimes frustrating day. Where do we start to tell the story?...

First 702 'Green Line' - To London...
It was an early start. It was also the day we were to cross London out to Ipswich. We had breakfast at 06:45 before a short stroll to Bracknell bus station to catch the 702 ‘Green Line’ into London. Dawn was breaking over Bracknell and it was looking like another nice day.

We were due to meet up with Matthew Wooll of First Group – a photograph opportunity before the off. However, just prior to that news came to us (well, a text actually) that we had a shout out on Chris Evans radio show… he must have heard we bussed past his house! When Matthew turned up, it was not going to be a simple photo of us getting on the bus. Our bags were taken and duly packed onto the bus, hands were shaken and we met not only Matthew but the driver, Andrew, and Simon Goff, the General Manager.

... or John O'Groats
We loved the pre-prepared card the Matthew brought with him to mark the occasion, but also the bus blind, which showed our connection to John O’Groats! The day had started very well indeed. Once on board, the bus was (for a bus) very posh indeed – leather style seats, free wifi… all I needed was a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit and it would have been the lap of luxury. However, the journey into London was fairly slow going and by the time we arrived we had lost about half an hour due to so much traffic.  This was new – we didn’t find that in Cornwall. The weather had also broken as we queued on the M4 and it was raining.

Having said it was a long journey, we were accompanied - from Hamersmith - by Andy Grey. Andy is more used to scheduling Croydon trams these days but I did get the full story about how he replaced Michael (when he left First Group for Omnibus). 
Sir Peter Hendy and the 11 to Bank
Waiting for us at Victoria was Sir Peter Hendy (CBE). Peter is the Transport Commisioner for London, so it was a big deal to get a photograph with him. He was also my ticket across London – with a donation of an oyster card he had loaded in a limited edition wallet for me. After a short chat between Michael and Peter (they go back a fair way) our route plans were altered… perhaps I should let scheduler Michael write the next bit to explain:

The original itinerary involved a 24 to Tottenham Court Road to travel on a New Bus for London then on to a 25 to Stratford. Given it was rain – and since the route was planned the New Bus For London was now to be found on route 11 we hatched a different plan.  Catch an 11 to Bank and then the 25 on to Stratford.  No problems – and that is what we did. Traffic was slow but, this is London, traffic is slow and everything is rush.  Changing at Bank we caught a 25 which claimed to be going to Manor Park.  That was fine as that was beyond Stratford.  On board we were assured it was an Ilford Bus …. Until Whitechapel where the bus changed destinations.. or so the announcement said.  “This is now a bus to Bow Church. Please change for destinations beyond Bow.”  OK, this is London – things do change – but now we needed to as well.  Alighting at Bow Church we soon boarded a 425 that came up behind which took us through to Stratford Bus Station.  

25 to Stratford... or was it???

and the 425 that took us there!
Following good advice, we figured we had time for a comfort break. After all, we were 10 minutes ahead of ourselves. Discovering the the London Olympic bus station seemed to have omitted to include any toilets we visited Burger King… but not to purchase anything.

Having dealt with all that we decided that, as traffic seemed slow so should press on toward Romford and caught an 86 to Romford in the rain some 10 minutes or so earlier than planned.

Jez back again. For what it is worth, I want to say that I really enjoyed my trip across London. OK, Londoners seem a sickly lot – plenty of sniffles and Vicks going around. But then this is as bus as I have seen the buses. The Boris… new bus for London looks and rides like a dream. With all it’s gizmo’s and electronics – it starts off almost silently on electrics which is very weird. It does feel iconic – some may disagree but I can see this being a ‘routemaster 2.0’ with time. What is wrong? Well, the windows seem small and, upstairs at least, it all feels narrow, small and long. However, it fits. And I enjoyed it despite this.

Stagecoach 86 - Stratford to Romford
What of the journey? It all went well and we arrived in Romford a touch (about 5 minutes) ahead of our schedule. Sadly, there was one casualty of our trip today. Having moved from the 25 one of our kind donors, Bernie Elsom, who had made the effort to meet us at Stratford, had missed our connections – thinking we were on the 25. This is sad -  anyone who takes the time and effort to meet us deserves a photo and a chat and to miss someone is gutting. Sorry Bernie – when Michael and I are doing the lecture tours and the film has been made – I will personally make sure you get a mention!

Stay tuned for the next part of our day… though as things have turned out it is 11pm and I need to be up at 5am in order to correct the consequences of the rest of the day. Perhaps over a coffee I can catch up…

Our planned itinerary for tomorrow looks something like this. If it is anything like today, please don’t take it as gospel!!:

06:22 – Depart Capel St Mary on Carter’s (93x)

06:50 – Arrive Ipswich (again)

07:00 – Ride around on Ipswich buses, have photographs and anything Ipswich demand of us – as long as they bring coffee and breakfast!

08:00 – Depart Ipswich on First Bus (88)

08:49 – Arrive in Stowmarket – Market Place

08:55 – Depart Stowmarket on Galloways (384)

10:05 – Arrive at Bury St Edmunds Bus Station

10:35 – Depart Bury St Edmunds on Stagecoach (11)

11:42 – Arrive in Cambridge – Drummer Street

11:45 – Meet up with Alison McCalpin, Omnibus PR guru who will let us know of things we have forgotten to do (or take photographs of)

12:45 – Depart Cambridge (with flea in ear) on Stagecoach (8)

14:44 – Arrive at Peterborough Bus Station

14:46 – Tea and Coffee with Route One Magazine

15:40 – Depart Peterborough on Kimes (9)

17:10 – Arrive in Oakham

17:15 – Depart Oakham on Centrebus (19)

18:36 – Arrive in Nottingham

18:38 – Hopefully meeting up with Trent Barton to do a bit of UK bus industry PR

20:20 – Depart Nottingham on Trent Barton (Red Arrow)

20:50 – Arrive in Derby

21:03 – Depart Derby on Arriva (44)

21:09 – Arrive at Pride Park

21:11 – Sleep… no beer… honest!

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