You know when you’re innocently perusing bus service registrations and the entry goes something like: “service extended to World’s End”? That.
Rotala’s West Midlands Diamond operation had just such an entry recently. How can you not be curious about a bus going to World’s End? Is it like Land’s End? Is it somewhere that is really the end of the World?
Now the good folk of Stourbridge can get directly to World’s End. There’s a good few of them gawping at the destination screens of route 142 recently. I bet at least one of them has gone home and asked their good half where “World’s End” is.
It’s actually (in this example) a fairly innocuous roundabout around the back of Quinton where there’s a few shops and houses, amongst the bus shelters. But that doesn’t stop me from randomly hopping on to try it out.
The notice on the stand at Stourbridge bus station is ominous.
“Diamond service 142 is subject to major delays. This is because of a route change and a shortage of drivers. We are working with the operator to try to minimise delays. Sorry for any inconvenience caused”.
The “we” in this announcement is Centro, although what they can do about the price of fish is beyond me, save from supposedly training up a load of new drivers and renting them out to Diamond. I’m also not entirely clear as to why a “route change” (presumably the extension to the “end of the World”) is causing them problems, although it doesn’t state the location of the woes. Maybe extending the 142 to some undefined extra-terrestrial location is the issue.
Who knows? Anyway, I roll up late afternoon after a long day at work, looking for a bit of excitement in my life. This particular journey appears to have no “major delay”. One of those quirky Plaxton Primo midibuses appears on stand, on time. Around half a dozen of us shuffle aboard, me flashing my n-bus one-dayer to a driver who appears either disinterested, or knackered, or both.
And we’re off around the back-streets of Stourbridge and suburbs towards Halesowen, streets abandoned by the major operator years ago. Poorly parked cars threaten our progress at times, but our driver makes mincemeat of them – he’s obviously been around these parts many a time before. The “urban 90” seats are hard and fairly uncomfortable. As dusk gathers and the sun goes down on Halesowen, we meander around a lengthy detour around the one-way roads of the town, as the departure stand is only accessible from one such road. One elderly passenger looks confused and enquires of her fellow travellers what is going on. Not many seem aware of the Worldly extension and I am about to intervene when the drivers head appears from around the cab to fill her in.
Everyone bar me piles off in Halesowen bus station – the previous terminus of the route. I remain seated as no one else joins us for the extension.
Then we’re off again, up the steep Mucklow Hill, with our quirky Primo making a sound like it is a metal being, being throttled. We pass Quinton Cinema, but there’s no sign of 007 on show. Only 99 – passing in the opposite direction. (The bus route. Not a rival secret agent disguised as an ice cream with a flake in it).
Then we head off down towards the huge Quinton Tesco, built on the site of the old Quinton bus garage, and hang a sharp right, then left, then more twists and turns until we reach a roundabout with some shops and some references to “World’s End”.
I’m expecting our man at the wheel to pull up and haul me off but he keeps going, around more streets until he reaches Hagley Road, which I instantly recognise. I try my usual trick of trying to decipher if the driver has changed the route number of the bus by looking at the reflection of the bus in passing shop windows. There are 2 National Express West Midlands rather smart Enviro 400MMCs running in tandem on the high frequency route 9 in close proximity, so I decide to ding the bell and hop off anyway to flag down a trip back to Stourbridge. Our driver pulls up and peers around the cab in bewilderment.
“I didn’t realise anyone was on” he says, unaware that a glance in his mirror might have revealed my rather large bulk in his reflection.
“No worries” I reply. “I only wanted to see where the end of the World was”.
He makes some sort of stifled scoff-cum-minor-laugh and opens his door. I can see now that, having reached World’s End (not the World-is-Nigh), he’s become a 54 and is now off a journey of discovery to West Bromwich.
I meanwhile join the 9, roaming with it’s partner, then swiftly overwhelmed by a load of football fans, who’ve been watching Halesowen in some no doubt blood-and-guts non-league encounter. A few attempt a good old-fashioned sing-song but the majority remain tight-lipped. It’s too far down the league for me to find the result on my smartphone. And I daren’t ask.
I’ve been to the World’s End and made it back to Stourbridge. That’s enough excitement for one day…..