As part of my new productivity I got started on what would have been this blog entry on my way home from organ playing on Sunday evening, tapping away on the tube in a bid to get ahead before the new week bared its fangs. Little did I realise, however, that the journey from Wimbledon to home, normally ten minutes on the tram, would turn into an epic worthy of its own entry. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.
The first sign of trouble was the announcement on the tram that a replacement bus service would operate between Morden Park and Mitcham Junction, but this was nothing really to worry about. My stop, Phipps Bridge, is the next one after Morden Road, so I was not banking on having too much time added to my journey. This was an incorrect assumption.
As we got off the tram we were led rather efficiently to a bus “in order to continue the journey”, a double decker, no less. Herding being the way it is, everybody was congregating downstairs so I went and sat upstairs, but the first sign of trouble was swift in coming, as the bus was heading in the wrong direction for Phipps Bridge and for Belgrave Walk, the next station along. It was only when the bus stopped for about twenty seconds or so that I realised that not only were we not stopping at either station, but that we were on the wrong side entirely of Morden Hall Park, which is rather large. At the end of the twenty second halt I realised that we had stopped in order to let people off for Belgrave Walk, but that we were expected to walk across the park to get there. It did not matter, however, because by the time I got downstairs we were on the move again, stopping at Mitcham and then at Mitcham Junction. Rather perplexed I asked the driver why we hadn’t stopped at Phipps Bridge and he said “We don’t stop at Phipps Bridge”. Call me old fashioned, but I always imagined that a replacement service replaced the service it was intended to replace. There was no notice, no announcement, no nothing.
Further afield than I had intended, then, I had no choice but to wait for a bus coming back in the other direction. Forewarned this time, I thought I would leap off at Belgrave Walk and trek back from there. However, the driver picked up one of his friends on the way back and was chatting to him for the entire journey, so he stopped at Mitcham…and then drove all the way back to Morden Road, meaning that this time we stopped neither at Belgrave Walk nor at Phipps Bridge. To sum up, after nearly an hour’s travelling I had returned to my point of departure.
I said to the driver “What about Belgrave Walk?” and he said “We’ve gone past it”, to which I replied “I know – why didn’t you stop there?”, and he just looked lost. I imagine that, as he was chatting to his friend he could not be bothered to halt the bus long enough to find out if anybody on board wanted to get off. His friend, who turned out to be the next driver, said that he’d make sure I got off at Belgrave Walk on the way back, but, after an hour spent travelling round in a rather large circle, I had had enough and simply walked home from Morden Road, adding another twenty minutes or so to my peregrinations. The gentleman I spoke to on the tram platform seemed to have no idea what was going on either, and seemed entirely unaware that Phipps Bridge was not being served at all, muttering something about the buses being run by a different company. I think “run” was quite charitable in the circumstances.
I had had a decent day of writing and playing, which I will relate anon, but I need to get this off my chest. London is supposed to be one of the greatest cities in the world, a place which, heaven help us, will be on display to all and sundry in the next couple of months, and yet we travellers (or “customers”, as I believe we are now called) cannot be given basic information in this hi-tech age. It happens at Wimbledon all the time when you sit on the tube indicated to leave first and then watch the one across the way pull out, no information, no nothing. I am sure that some will think that I should grin and bear it, but my money has been funding London Transport through above inflation fare rise after above inflation fare rise year after year, always with the promise of jam tomorrow. If a tram is replaced with a bus whose stops are decided seemingly at random, then what hope is there for any kind of integrated transport system? Woe betide any Olympic visiting tourist who finds themselves out in the wilds of Zone 3 on a Sunday…
I shall be writing to London Transport more in hope than in expectation, also to Boris, although he tends to use a bike, so probably pedals around all these problems. I do not really expect much more than a “meh” in reply, like a very large corporation wiping a noisome insect off its sleeve. For me, though, and for many others today, I would guess, this whole experience has been very, very noisome indeed.