Top Deck Sketch – the x26

x26
Visitors from the other side of the globe may be unimpressed – nay, bemused – with Heathrow’s Central Bus Station. Certainly, the woman clutching the Cathay Pacific goodie bag (or was it an enlarged sick bag?) certainly seemed bemused.
As was I. On one side of the facility, sexy tri-axle National Express coaches – whisking people to all corners of this great isle. In this section, a couple of TfL bus stop poles offering the City’s suburbia.
And there are plenty of red buses. The 105 in particular stands out. Several role up within a few minutes of each other. One in particular with it’s pilot sporting a huge cardigan, as if the route originated from the Outer Hebrides (Zone 114). Another driver looked as if he was questioning his whole life. Should he have worked harder at school? Taken the role of Macbeth in the school play rather than the back end of the donkey in the nativity? This is hardly “Welcome To Britain” stuff. But then, most board brandishing their little plastic Oysters, with the sound of bleeping filling the air. There is no interaction – just contemplation. On the driver’s part, mostly. The woman with the Cathay Pacific bag looks on, still bemused. Maybe Southall Station looks particularly inviting…
I’m here for the x26. A stupendous romp across West London from the window of the World at Heathrow to the suburbia of Croydon (East and West), where a military museum just about beats a shopping mall for foodies as the top reason to visit, apparently.
The end-to-end trip is around 2 hours, but it’s a standard red London bus that does the honours (a Wright-bodied Volvo, since you ask). I take my place on the upper deck, with plenty of other takers – the lower deck contains some large luggage racks, given the flying connection.
I haven’t been around Heathrow for years, and I’m almost startled at the size of the place. As we run alongside the perimeter fence, there is a spectacular vision of planes literally queuing up in the sky to land. We weave our way around huge aircraft hangers with monsters of the sky showing us their rear ends, proudly the sporting red white and blue colours of British Airways.
Then it’s out through Hatton Cross station, still with an aviation feel – once the location of a famous picture of a London DMS box-like bus with Concorde flying overhead in the 70s (worth a Google, if only for nostalgic purposes).
John Prescott was right. We’re all middle class now, he declared, prior to the Blair revolution. God only knows what the house prices are like around here, but it seems not to put people off using the bus. There’s a steady stream of users – middle class or not – and the limited stop nature of the service seems to work (although a tweeter to the @OnThisBusBlog Twitter feed bemoans the fact it doesn’t stop where they want it to. You can please some of the people some of the time, etc….)
We trundle through Teddington, then Kingston, Cheam and Sutton – all names that sound delightful as postal addresses. A load of schoolkids board, but they seem well-behaved enough, and the much-feared mini-riot never happens.
I eventually bail-out at East Croydon, where the trams criss-cross and the main line station carries me and hundreds of others off to the bright lights of our capital City. And for the more adventurous, Bedford.

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