Orbit again

For part 1, see here

The main justification for creating the “Orbital” was as a response to concerns that the Royal Preston Hospital was too out of the way, particularly as getting there required changing at least once (at that recently Grade II Listed building I don’t talk about very much any more). The route of the “Orbital” (numbered 88A for the anti-clockwise service, 88C for clockwise) is predominately through built-up housing estates and the suburban outcrops, and for those on the fringes, it does provide convenience of a sort..
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In the last post, I stopped approximately halfway through the route, the RPH itself. Set in the low reaches of Fulwood’s sprawl, the Hospital is an accidental celebration of architectural lowlights from the 1980s onwards, it having been opened in 1983. Its entrance has developed, if that’s the right word, into a congested confluence of traffic, bus stops, ambulance bays and higgledy-piggledy car park. Safe? Possibly not. To be resolved shortly? Heck no.

Preston College is nearby (now rebranded as Preston’s College, if anybody fancies writing 1,000 words on that sort of thing). The service of choice for students leaving PC in either direction is the dedicated hospital number 19, which diverts somewhat from the “Orbital” route but lessens the case for having the anti-clockwise service bobbling around. I can’t possibly snap a queue of young people at a bus-stop, so I scurry on by (although, sidebar note: if you like to know this sort of thing, it seems lads are still perfectly fine with looking like this, so I clearly don’t know anything about society.)

I am told that, when very drunk at a bar in Manchester recently, I began banging on about Preston Bus’ number 23 service with ASDA on its display screen, and that makes me want to go out and punch a cow. Or never drink again. Anyway it exists and I use it for ice-breaking anecdotes so that’s me for you. The 23 and 88s follow each other through Sherwood, newbuild estate with rabbit-warren roads, all faux-red brick and pampas grass and what-have-you. The passengers for this part of the route are a quiet and polite bunch; three young folk wearing various degrees of fashion leave at an unremarkable part of the vast estate of businesses and offices that curl around the M6 motorway, including the HQ of the Lancashire Evening Post.  What that newspaper doesn’t know about chip pan fires, car boot sales and failed planning permissions is nobody’s business.

ASDA is the final big landmark on the route, a vast supermarket bounded by car parking on every corner. Everybody alights, so I do too, as it’s better to be considered strange than completely off-the-tree. Here is where the 23 also terminates, taking on board frazzled looking shoppers. A redundant ‘Real Time’ display stands impotent beside the three shelters for the 23 the two “Orbit”s, as they do alongside numerous bus-shelters across the city. Having persuaded bus companies to sign up to real-time displays, Lancs CC needed to find cost cutting somewhere, so off they went switching them all off, and off they have remained ever since. 20131011_170555

The next stage is the most convoluted, taking in what left over bits of the city exist between ASDA and the Ribble Valley. This begins with the straight path through well-to-do suburbia, built to fill in the gaps Fulwood needed to find during the housing boom. Homes on Squires Wood, one of the rabbit warrens passed on the way, will set you back between £142,000 and ‘offers over’ £155,000. From here it’s over the M6 and faraway, or at least cutting through the many adverts for the single Starbucks Drive-Thru {{sic}} that cannot, surely, attract that much passing trade. This could be just more misunderstanding of modern society on my part of course.

Over the M6 we go again into the Ribbleton citadel. Homes on Ribbleton Avenue are currently on sale for £180k (3 bed semi) and £239,500 (4 bed detached),  The “Orbital” has to take a detour away from the leafier bits as it takes in the post-war estate of Brookfield, where the streets are set out in elongated rectangles with the familiar industrial brown-brick of the time.

The word “Deepdale” is perhaps best known for being the home of Preston North End, where football was first placed in 1878. Insert wags suggesting the food/seating/team have not improved since then here. Deepdale is amongst the most economically challenged parts of the region, not just Preston, ranking highly in the deprivation statistics. Additionally it has one of the highest numbers of Muslim residents in the city, over 3,200 at the 2011 census. Deepdale Road is one of Preston’s most congested, particularly on match days, bringing to a standstill not just the road itself but the grid-pattern terraces to the west (named St George’s Road, St Cuthbert’s Road, St Matthew’s, St Martin’s, St Anne’s and so on) and to the east (names Linnet Street, Goldfinch Street, Falcon, Dove and so on and so on).

A smattering of coat and hat wearing people remain on the bus for the final stretch, some tapping away at their smartphones. This journey has taken me many hours, as I’ve nipped on and off, but for £3.30 it should take the average normal person who wants to stay on the same bus for no reason around 70 minutes. It may serve little tiny purposes for specific passengers, rather than being the Hospital runner it was planned to be, but it is clearly well used and popular. At the bus station, where the service runs around the enforced H&S fencing and one-way-system, passengers could even take advantage of the original intention for the building and walk straight over to a regional or national service without breaking sweat. But it seems everyone has a city centre place to go to, and plod away in the damp to get there. As do I, and this is where the journey ends.

The 88A and 88C, alongside numerous other services, travel across the former Preston to Longridge railway, about which you can read more here via BlogPreston.

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