Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Buses

Yesterday was the annual Uxbridge Bus Running Day of the highly esteemed Amersham & District Motorbus Society. This excellent group of people, with backgrounds in bus and coach driving, preserve vehicles of yesteryear. With permission from Transport for London, on special days, they run them over real bus routes, carrying for free anybody who cares to step aboard. Mrs. Commuter and I planned a cunning itinerary to make the most of this opportunity to be local tourists.

In glorious sunshine, and just a tad more heat than was strictly necessary, we embarked by tube to Harrow and then by Chiltern Line diesel to Amersham to board our first bus.
This took us back to Northwood, more or less following the Metropolitan line, but with an interesting detour around Rickmansworth where there seemed to be some confusion about the precise route. Then we transferred seamlessly to the service to Uxbridge.
This bus took us on a fascinating detour into Eastcote where the driver and his assistant become confused that High Street (the original heart of the village) is now a mainly residential road far from the modern centre and the tube station and declined to follow the instruction on their schedule to turn into it. They therefore went half a mile the wrong way. They redeemed themselves with a spectacular U-turn requiring the use of two service roads and, with all the passengers shouting "left, left", managed to make the correct left turn and get back on course.

We broke off in Uxbridge for a leisurely lunch break in a pub showing the sensational climax to the Ashes test (England needing 1 wicket, the Aussies 40 odd runs to win - the match won shortly after we left with the visitors just 15 runs from victory) and it was off, crossing both the M25 and the River Thames, to tourist-jammed Windsor. During this journey we tracked Chris Froome's equally sensational stage win on Mont Ventoux in le Tour de France. Our vehicle this time was a double-decker.
This is a type of bus all Londoners know and revere - the Routemaster. With its narrow, twisting stairs to the panoramas offered by the upper deck, its jerk every time the brakes are released and the joy of the open windows that allowed a steady breeze to cool us nicely, there is a tactile experience associated with this design that the modern bus user, insulated and cushioned, can never know.

I rarely write about buses because my commuting experience has always been based on trains - buses are the emergency fallback when the tube is down - but it was a pleasure to go out for a day with some really knowledgeable enthusiasts and to see the care with which these vehicles are maintained.

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