Friday, 8 October 2021

Harold Would But He Couldn't (4)

Harold Would Have Used The 497, BUT ...

Where once stood the vast Harold Wood hospital complex now sit hundreds of houses.
The estate is known as Kings Park (doubtless after King Harold who used to park his chariot there!). The properties are crammed in and the immediate area lacks any facilities like, for example, shops or a community centre or, horror of horrors, a pub! It is not a community, it is a dormitory.

When the Norfolk Park Estate was being built, it was served by Sheffield Transport buses - obviously. As soon as Park Grange Road was open STD started a works service 122 for the builders. Then, as the tower blocks (now demolished!) were built and occupied the frequency was increased until a 71 bus ran up and down the hill every 6 minutes.

How did it go, then, under the much admired "franchise system" of Transport for London.

Answer: very very slowly.

From laying the first brick (there aren't bricks, of course, the houses come on the back of a lorry) to starting the bus services has taken about ten years!

Snappy, eh?

But lets see where this bus service now runs, having arrived on the scene well after the residents had make alternative arrangements to cope with the non-bus housing development! Here is the fbb network map ...
... and here is a more detailed extract for the 497.
We start at Harold Wood station ...
... and soon turn left into St Clements Avenue roughly where the hospital entrance was.
From the length of the bus stop bays ...
... you must assume that Transport for London (TfL) is planning to introduce articulated buses to cope with the crowds.

The TfL map is, as you might expect, wrong ...
... as it shows the dotty route as missing the bus stop blobs and blasting the 497s through unfortunate residents' homes. Such is the delight of maps drawn by a computer and not by a person who knows where the buses go.

What the 497 fails to serve is the one place on the Kings Park development that people might want to get to by bus, namely the health  centre. It is called a Polyclinic to make it sound special ...
... but it is an awkward walk from the 497 and most folk go by car! So top marks to the planners once again!

The bus then wiggles around a bit until it pulls in to the Tesco car park, where it meets a 499 (see network map above).
Now the Tesco Extra (huge store) is far away across the car park ...
... so any potential shopper will have to trek some distance encumbered with their purchases. As the majority coming by bus are statistically likely to be a bit more decrepit than average, it just wouldn't do to run the buses right up to the door. We know "every little helps" but that would be a step to far. Instead it is a step too far for many potential customers for both Tesco and the 497.

More brownie points for the planners?

We then cross the busy A12, fortunately with the help of traffic lights before turning into the ashton Road "warehouse" park.
fbb guesses that not many will be trotting off to ...
... Trade City by bus!

The 497 then crosses Faringdon Avenue and tuns the length of Chatteris Avenue which looks very much like late 1950s or early 1960s development.

This includes a rather fine shopping centre on Hilldene Avenue ...
...which I think we would say has "seen better days"!
But it might well attract a few customers via the 497 which terminates a little further along the road.
You do wonder, despite the many years delay, why this new service started as the pandemic was building up; and you wonder even more about the economies of the route.
The running time is just 18 minutes and it thus need two buses. But with a round trip time of 36 minutes, this means that the bus and its driver has to hang around for 24 minutes in every hour. This is very poor bus economics!

Not surprisingly loadings have been very light - an average calculated by Roger French for his blog of three passengers per trip!

Roger also tells us that part of this 24 minutes is used to run the bus light to the 174 terminus rather than sit empty and unwanted at the end of Hilldene Avenue.

So Transport for London is consulting - again!

One option is to withdraw the route completely; the other is to extend it in service to the 174 terminus. As there is already a bus every 7 minutes to Dagnam Park, it seem unlikely that this will do anything except dilute the number of passengers a tad on the 174.
fbb reckons there are some more imaginative ideas that can be explored. We know that the route is partially supported by Section 106 money from the developers of the Kings Park Estate but that cash will run out in due course, leaving the 497 even more at risk.

fbb suiggests extending the 499 from Tesco to Harold Wood Station and putting a further wiggle on the already wiggly 496.

But what does an old codger living at Seaon know?

Two snippets from the researches that fbb has undertaken. Google Streetview showed Harold Hill Library in a poor state and looking very closed.
But, thankfullty, there is a shiny new library in the main shopping centre across the road.
Then, back in the 60s, the 174 did not run to Dagnam Park estste but to Noak Hill. For part of its existance in gained an extra LIMITED STOP service ...
It ran every ten minutes over the top of the less frequent "normal" 174.
For more infromatrion on the present crisis for route 497, have a look at the bopg from Roger French which inspired fbb to take a good look at Harold Park (here),

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 9th October 

No comments:

Post a Comment