Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Number 473 Route

North Woolwich to Stratford Bus Station
Thursday August 11th 2011

On a summer’s day that was more like spring in its unpredictability the 473 was our third bus of the day – we being on this occasion Jo, Linda and Sue G. We had arrived by water having taken the FREE Woolwich Ferry and sure enough walked straight off the landing pier to find a double-decker (I was sure it was to be an insignificant little thing) arriving and departing without a pause. 

The 473 takes its first turn at the remnants of  North Woolwich Station, not used since 2006 and now sadly not even a heritage museum as it had been briefly. There was some rumour of it becoming part of Crossrail but I find that difficult to believe. There is a complicated history and even more complicated future which I will not go into as this is a bus blog not a train blog  The tracks between here and what would have been Silvertown station (named for a Mr Silver not the precious metal) have been removed and the wild life, mainly buddleia at this time of year, has taken over in strength. 

With much of the industry defunct and departed the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery still dominated the area (cane and beet delivered by water – sugar and syrup moved on by train I suppose) and the housing eventually provided for workers.

From dereliction to modernity: the bus arrives at the King George V dock, which now has been given a new lease of life partly through the water sports but mainly through the arrival of London City Airport . The dock is a fairly recent one with a short history. 
The 473 route looks as if it is about to cross the Connaught Bridge but first swings under the DLR which looks pretty futuristic from below and nips in and out of the City Airport.  Having  used it we thought it unlikely the typical profile flying passenger would deign to use a bus but presumably it  provides transport for airport employees. It is an exciting take-off and landing due to very short runways but gives fantastic views because of the steep ascents and descents. Opposite the airport is the jolly and colourful campus of the University of East London.
The bus does then cross the Connaught Bridge. (Until I saw this I was not aware it could open,.and there was an equivalent tunnel also) and suddenly we joined a variety of other bus routes that serve the Excel centre and the hotels that have sprung up nearby.  Even more of a surprise was a glimpse of some quite extensive allotments out to the left.

By this time we were heading firmly north up Prince Regent Lane (this part of London seems very historically royal – don’t you yearn for streets to be named after dockers** or at least engineers, not the same old royals again)

Newham has tried to renew facilities where it can and in addition to the library there is a newish Sixth Form centre, hospital and CTRG (short for Canning Town Recreation Ground) park with its wrought-iron gate. 

Less new is the access to the Greenway, which is the grassed over walk and cycleway effectively over Bazalgette’s Northern outfall sewer, the green aspect occasionally tempered by the odd whiff of – yes you’ve guessed it – sewer.

Well, Plaistow was not going to be left feeling like the poor relation to ‘Olympic Stratford’ and today we captured Newham’s baskets (pic) at their very best – it seemed even the chaps from the station were coming out to have a look, or have a break.

The former Plaistow YMCA, built in 1919, was rescued from dereliction and is now renamed Greengate House but still stands out along this road where in the main buildings are unremarkable. There was an undertaker, as usual on the corner for easy side access of the coffins, which led to a discussion of the rising popularity of wicker coffins. Sue swears she has seen a knitted coffin, and indeed this may be a historical fact and more Northern speciality. Jo likes to have a knitting project on the go and since she has likely exhausted the small garments for grandchildren it might be time for a bigger project.

Talking of bigger projects the 473 passes the Olympic Park Legacy Offices. By the time you come to read this the Olympics will be well over and it should be possible to look more closely at the legacy, especially for this part of London.

What is certain is that Stratford will get a renewed bus station linked in with the Westfield Shopping centre; we have been going through Stratford one way or another for over two years (make that four years)  and seen huge changes – today the bus station (pic) was in some disarray awaiting the official opening of the shopping centre. I shall add a postscript in 2012-3.**

This is a comparatively recent bus route, and is short and to the point. 

**Westfield and the Olympics unqualified successes, Stratford now has 2 bus stations; one where it’s always been in front of the station and the other tucked alongside Westfield. This can be quite confusing and you need to allow about a 10 minute walk between them.  The Olympic site is being transformed into the Queen Elizabeth II Park and the Athletes’ flats into ‘affordable housing’ …apparently.

Go further into Beckton and  Docklands and there are streets and buildings named after dockers.

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