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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Return to Dagenham Dock

Across at the London Bus eGroup (on Yahoo) they've been running a series of conversations about "The last place God made" - triggered by a visit to the new bus station at Dagenham Dock. So far places such as Thamesmead and Penge have been cited, together with, of course, many memories of Dagenham Dock which became the home to the EnsignBus LRT-contract fleet in 1989 and so passed to CNT Holdings Hong Kong as Capital Citybus in 1990.

In those days there was still a peak hour bus service on route 174 to 'The Dock' but the road was awful. It was a private road so not maintained by the local authority. The water table was very high and the drainage poor. At certain times of the year and in bad weather the road flooded and this caused the surface to get even worse with huge potholes.

Heavy lorries to the dock itself and the roadstone plant made it all worse. I was surprised LT continued to allow its own bus service to remain for as long as it did.

We had 24 identical Dennis Dominators, 12 at Dagenham and 12 at Northumberland Park. The Dagenham ones cost twice as much in suspension and steering units!

The level crossing was controlled by a local signal box and freight traffic in and out of Fords caused it to be closed for long periods. Truck drivers seeing the gates closing often used to 'run the gauntlet' and risk it rather than being stuck there. (I am sure our bus drivers never did that!).

It was like a third world country and amongst the worst areas for decay imaginable. On the good side hardly anyone ventured down there either!

But today it has been transformed. The road is now flat and made of something substantial, the area is being redeveloped and there is more industry. We have a brand new depot only half way down the old road (we used to be at the end!) and High Speed 1 dashes through where the level crossing used to be. (It's gone, now, of course!).

Who would have thought, when ELT was born in the early 1990s as an 'intermediate mode' light rapid transit with wires of some kind, it would end up as a more traditional double-decker bus service back to what used to be 'the end of the earth' but now a smart new bus station?

I am grateful to my old friend Bruce Swain for sending me not only some views of the old level crossing but showing withdrawn London trolleybuses headed for export by ship to Spain. Their last journey on British soil down the old road to Dagenham Dock!

Regret do not know who the photograph copyright belongs to. Happy to acknowledge it.


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