Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Number 423 Route

Hounslow Bus Station to Heathrow Terminal 5
Tuesday August 10th 2010

This was the third leg of a journey, which started in Northolt, but found us round Hatton Cross three times in all.

However, to start at the beginning: we boarded our single decker, as it happens the only one of the day and from the offset pretty crowded. Although billed as starting at Hounslow Bus station, ‘they’ who run said station do not welcome passengers so we were directed round the corner and onto the start of the High Street.  Hounslow seems popular enough as a shopping centre to sustain both an indoor centre ‘The Treaty ‘ and an old High Street, which is now all but pedestrianised with just a small gap for smaller buses. We threaded our way along the chicanes between the widened pavements, where today the passengers were shopping in the dry patches between the quite heavy summer showers.

With only three buses an hour we were lucky not to wait too long and again a diverse crowd joined us, most laden with bags, and on their way home. We are used to passengers with buggies, dogs, even wheelchairs but today we had a lady with her Dyson, which seemed rather better behaved than the average dog. The bus itself made more noise then usual – squeaky as it pulled off and with a shrill noise as the doors opened, not the most soothing of rides.

But most people who boarded at Hounslow were for the ‘short hops’ that this bus offers, initially turning its back on Hounslow Heath and heading down the quaintly named Beavers Lane, where we were rather startled to find extensive and crumbling barracks. I am not sure, as suggested above, that locating soldiers ‘in transit’ here has been thought through unless the Army plan a shuttle service to the nearest Underground stations – whole platoons on the 423 does not compute! Also the local facilities, like the 18th century barracks, have seen better days: for example the local pub, also named the Beaver, is no more. Hardly homes for heroes?

By now most of the local residents had taken themselves home so by the time we swung into Hatton Cross Underground Station bus forecourt there was space to take on what were clearly employees heading in for their next shift at the area’s prime employer – Heathrow Airport. Hatton Cross still looks quite smart and modern having only been completed in 1975 and on the whole is the tube station the workers as opposed to the passengers use.

By now we are firmly under the flight path and find ourselves ducking involuntarily from time to time as the planes are coming in so low, and especially today where the low cloud hides the planes till the last minute.

After passing the farm (the various horses and sheep clearly by now immune to aeroplane noise) we zip along the Bath Road aka the A4 and the north perimeter of the airport.

When the warehouses, depots and support services for the terminals peter out there is a stretch of more upmarket hotels including the Radisson, which were presumably built in anticipation of increased passenger traffic around Terminal 5, and then somewhat surprisingly the bus dives off onto a country lane through the village of Longford, with its most attractive pub.

 From the quaint to the glass modernity that is Terminal 5, though by the time you read this it will probably look dated – if indeed the concept of extensive air travel still exists?
Even in 2010, the drama around the opening of T 5 is nearly forgotten but reminded me that in mad moment back in the winter of 2007 I volunteered to be a T5 guinea-pig, which involved being checked into and disembarking from a variety of ‘imaginary’ flights and transfers so that they could test the check-ins/hand-luggage scanning/passport control etc. before the airport went ‘live’.   We were then de-briefed on our experiences and in turn offered suggestions. What of course they did NOT dry run was the luggage check-in and collection, which is what quickly seized up when the airport opened. Still BA has survived several more crises since then and will doubtless survive some more.

T5 is spacious, so we were able to take a break before boarding our next bus out.   

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