Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Number 403 Route

West Croydon Bus Station to Warlingham (Sainsbury’s)
Wednesday October 9th 2012

A lovely autumn day and by the time Mary and I had boarded this route we had already been to out to Redhill and back again. In fact we were just looking round the bus station information to see which stop hosted the 403 when it rolled up. Though a double decker it was rather old and on the worn side.  Not only had the interior seen better days but the suspension left something to be desired and we lurched our way out of Croydon.**

Interestingly the Saffron Square development, signalled as being for modern living, looks far more like another office block than homes – it seems the future residents will be living behind smoky plate glass. Very soon, as we avoided the traffic turning onto the flyover and held up by roadworks, we were into and through South Croydon, recently renamed the ‘Restaurant Quarter’. For every eating place that opens there seems to be a pub that shuts and certainly ‘The Folly’ looked very derelict.
Perhaps the costs of running a pub, against constant competition, are really too high?
 However, like the 412 this route also heads uphill, initially alongside what look like old workmen’s cottages by the railway and further uphill the grander homes of Sanderstead residents. The hill is quite narrow, steep and car- and tree-lined which made for some interesting sounding branches bopping the bus. Passengers were few and we emerged at the top by Sanderstead Pond and All Saints Church – the key and very lovely landmarks round here.

Sanderstead the far side of the hill is less affluent looking with a steady run of residential areas interspersed with some shops. Apparently the area is known as Hamsey Green (how quaint it sounds – like a children’s TV programme with spotty cows and perky pigs) formerly a farm (there I was nearly right) then sold off for more housing, which is what we were passing. There seems just enough open space left for few pet ponies to be grazing, but that was the biggest nod to country life. 

Warlingham is altogether more impressive having a central Green with a war memorial and village hall, all of which seemed to give it a focus. More housing beyond Warlingham Green and the bus came to a halt at the less than exciting back end of Sainsbury’s. This trip lasted about 30 minutes but the driver only had a 3-minute turn around time – we know because we stayed on. It is probably just as well the 403 takes the route it does as other forms of transport are a long way away. We usually finish our day by taking a nearby train or tube, but having worked out it would probably take us longer to get to Upper Warlingham Station or even nearby Whyteleafe than riding the 403 back that is exactly what we did.    

** I emailed our contact at South Croydon Garage to ask what had happened to the promised ‘hand me down’ buses from more Central and status routes due to arrive in the late Spring for this and the 412 route. The helpful, though sad reply came: 
“Shortly after I e-mailed you in March it was announced that vehicle replacement plans had changed as the result of both commitments for the Olympic Games and tender wins by one of our sister companies which required some mid-life buses to be cascaded out of London. As a result, about 12 or 13 of the older buses are being retained until early next year. We don’t normally use the older vehicles on route 403 as they are a bit under-powered, but one does occasionally creep out.  The replacement policy is effectively controlled by TfL……’’

So there we were on a mid-life bus, just short of having a mid-life crisis. 

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