Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Number 105 Route

Greenford Station to Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3

Tuesday September 28h 2010

Definitely bonkers – having spent yesterday getting home from Gatwick I am now voluntarily visiting Heathrow, but in the services of the project you understand. It was good to be a fully re-established team, and good to see some public transport after a week in Italy, where I barely saw a bus. The Italians remain very attached to their (small) cars, which they drive round their historic hill cities with gay abandon, going home for lunch even. It’s difficult to know what came first – public ownership of cars leading to demise of public transport or lack of the latter leading to car ownership?

Anyway back to the less historic ‘borgo’ of Greenford, which as Solar Penguin, one of our followers has kindly informed us, has the first escalator from ground level UP to platform level, which we of course used to access our route of the day. (Plenty of escalators in Italy – to get the public from car parks outside to the attractions within the substantial city walls.)

We left from just round the corner from the station, across the road from The Railway pub, and boarded what seemed to be a rather poorly sprung double decker with thin seat covering making the journey memorable in the wrong way.

Greenford is well served by all sorts of public transport and major routes so is a rich area for housing – mainly post war by the looks of the properties. There is quite a generous sprinkling of playing fields, and the useful local map provided by TfL indicates plenty of open spaces behind the houses. At one point there were enough gaps to see more distant hills but today these were shrouded in rather gloomy low cloud that never really lifted. We saw some allotments too, which were looking fruitful. More flowery were some front garden sunflowers doing their cheering best.
As we approached the Dormers Wells estate, an area we had been through before, the driver was radioed to go straight ahead, dispense with any ‘twirls’ on his route and not stop. He actually came up the stairs to ask if that was OK, so we said that yes, we were gong all the way, but from the clearly distressed and confused pedestrians we passed en route others were not so happy. This gave us time to admire some of the well-cherished properties enhanced by off-street parking, of course, but also rather grand walls and fancy iron fences. Mary wondered if the latter were the choice of the Albanian community as when she visited the country of Albania a sign of prosperity was to build an elaborate wrought iron fence. Who knows? We passed the Lord Allenby again, but I am finding it hard to make a link between his life (bullish First World War military leadership at Mons and then the Middle East) and this quiet corner of London.

By now the bus was filling up substantially as if in Dormers Wells can Southall be far behind. The Town Hall crossroads are always a bit of a traffic bottleneck but we passed through today comparatively quickly. The last time we had been through here it was the eve of the start of Ramadan and everyone was doing their shopping – today it was just ‘ordinary busy’ and we noted the cinema poster but the still defunct cinema. As you sweep over the bridge crossing the railway and Grand Union you see a huge gas container with the letters HR on – apparently put there to indicate to pilots which way to fly if confused?

After leaving Southall behind we approached Cranford and having crossed the M4 the support industries that cluster round Heathrow began to appear – cargo handling, import and export, data management, and we also spotted a large wasteland obviously the site of some major demolition but still awaiting a buyer /developer. They could always build another hotel! Jo suggested we played Hotel Bingo with hotel chains instead of numbers as just about every chain you have heard of is represented along the Bath Road. This is also where the bus earns its keep as many of the passengers were clearly heading to work hereabouts. A large and smart-looking branch of Unite (the union) reminded us that they had represented many of the BA employees in the recent disputes.

There is also a large bowling alley for when all else fails.

This route runs along the Northern perimeter fence but also does a complete circuit round the Compass Centre (which way am I pointing now perhaps?), which gave us ample opportunity to watch several planes take off at very close quarters. Jo, who dislikes air travel because of its negative impact on the environment, was not prepared to take too many photos of the take-offs, but it did add a note of excitement to an otherwise rather familiar route. Actually I discover the Compass Centre monitors noise and is well located to do so, though in fact the evidence of noise on the bus was fairly small. Today the clouds were so low the planes vanished from view almost immediately.

Sadly this was not the most memorable bus of our 3 bus day, the others passing through rather more scenic and new areas than this route, which is doubtless useful to the locals but not very novel for us. It takes well over an hour also but does, like many of its fellows, run through the night.


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