Sunday, March 04, 2018

The 99.

Drivers who operate the 99 bus service between Bexleyheath and Woolwich, and back the other way are unhappy. In 2011, and then later in 2016 the very popular bus route was upgraded with brand new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 double decker buses such as the example that you can see in the photograph above, which was taken by me last summer. These were modern, comfortable, well designed and had a flywheel based energy conservation system installed, which enabled the bus engine to shut off at bus stops, or when halted in traffic. The system is called Gyrodrive. When the bus comes to a halt, the engine cuts out completely. When the bus subsequently pulls away from the bus stop, it travels for a few seconds in complete silence, before the diesel engine cuts back in. This saves fuel and cuts exhaust emissions. The 99 bus route covers quite a large area, and has a couple of fairly steep hills on the way, the most challenging of which is Bostall Hill where the road passes though Bostall Heath. The Enviro 400 buses equipped with the Gyrodrive system were more than capable of managing this journey with relative ease. Recently the bus company Arriva - which operates many of the routes in South East London and North Kent, decided to replace the Enviro 400 buses with another model. These were sourced second hand from the Midlands (I have heard that Wolverhampton was the original location for the second hand fleet - but if you know better, please let me know). The "new" second had buses are Wright Gemini 2 bodied VDL DB300's, which do not feature Gyrodrive. They are an older design than the Enviro 400 models that they now replace. I have spoken to several drivers on the 99 bus route, and they are very unhappy with the Wright Gemini buses. They are slow and under powered when compared to the previous Enviro 400's, and they have absolutely terrible suspension, with almost no damping. They bang and crash over the slightest road imperfection, and have a very bumpy, unrefined and uncomfortable ride. One driver commented to me that the buses were so underpowered that he almost felt like asking the passengers to get out and push when coming up Bostall Hill. On top of this, the second hand buses are extremely unreliable. Last week I personally saw two broken down Wright Gemini route 99 buses, one of which had stopped right on the junction with Bexley Road and the Fish Roundabout in the centre of Erith. One driver told me that the rate of breakdowns was so bad that the bus garage in Plumstead had no spare buses - the reserves were already in use, covering for the units that had already broken down. It seems to me that Arriva may have been guilty of some false economy when purchasing these used buses. I have no idea where the Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 buses have gone - whether Arriva have deployed them onto another route, or sold them on to another operator. If you have any information, please get in contact with me by emailing me at

After the non - story fiasco last week that featured Erith's KFC Drive Through being featured in a number of national tabloid newspapers, including the Sun, this week The Sun have featured a further non - story in respect of Erith McDonald's Drive Through, which is located directly opposite the KFC. on the corner of Manor Road and James Watt Way. The News Shopper ran a story which they apparently sold on to the Sun, which concerned claims that a fourteen year old girl and her friend had been to buy food at the McDonald's outlet, and that they had been told that they would have to eat outside, as they were wearing school uniform, and the Erith restaurant policy is to only allow two school children in the building at any one time - and two school children were already in the place. The reasoning behind this is that the Erith McDonald's apparently has had some severe problems with anti social behaviour, mainly caused by local school kids. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case - and on Monday when the incident is alleged to have taken place, it was indeed very cold outside, but the news report contains one significant error; as you will see in the screen capture above - click on it to see a larger version - The Sun article clearly claims that the staff at the Erith McDonald's "forced a teenage schoolgirl to eat her food in the snow outside". The only thing is - it was cold last Monday, but there was no snow whatsoever - that did not arrive until late on Tuesday. Once again the Sun is not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. I am not covering the snow we have had recently, as more than enough has been written about it elsewhere already.

It comes as no surprise to me that The London Borough of Bexley did not win, or even come close to winning the London Borough of Culture award for 2019. Twenty two boroughs, including Bexley entered the competition, with Waltham Forest coming first, and with Barking and Dagenham coming second. The London Borough of Brent will take the prize in 2022. A prize of £1.35 million has been awarded to Waltham Forest; among the projects which will now get funding are a laser-light installation in Epping Forest, a two-day film festival in Leytonstone in honour of Sir Alfred Hitchcock — the local boy-turned-Hollywood director, and a 50 square metre solar-powered light show on Walthamstow Marshes. The borough has built a reputation for the arts in recent years as artists priced out of inner London have moved in. The Waltham Forest council-owned Grade II listed William Morris Gallery, which was home to the designer for almost 10 years, was named Museum of the Year in 2013 and the borough is also home to a regular art trail where residents transform their homes into galleries and open them up to visitors. Its bid was supported by names including choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne, who grew up in Walthamstow, and Blur front man Damon Albarn, who lived in Leytonstone. Against such strong competition Bexley did not stand much of a chance, though this may well change in the future. Bexley and the arts have until recently not exactly been great bed fellows. The council does little to support the arts, and most art related enterprise is undertaken by local residents in a voluntary capacity - Erith Playhouse being a prime example. It is fortunate that local arts group The Exchange have now been formed, and since the early summer of last year have been working to promote the arts and local involvement. The Exchange were the people behind the Erith Lighthouse pop - up restaurant (which received much praise from the London Evening Standard at the time) and the associated artwork that was featured in Erith Pier. They have now taken on a truly massive project to refurbish and repurpose the historic Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, and to convert it into an arts and community hub, with space for sole trader businesses to use. I am hopeful that in a few years, that The London Borough of Bexley will lead in creativity and the arts, and be in a position to win a future award.

Although not exactly local, this story strikes me as of being of interest to many readers. One of the most famous landmarks on the River Thames marks its 80th birthday in the next couple of weeks. HMS Belfast, now a floating museum on the River Thames next to Tower Bridge, was originally launched back on March 17th 1938. She was launched by Mrs Neville Chamberlain to the cheers of hundreds of spectators. Since then she has served in the Arctic Convoys, fought in the Korean War, travelled the world and, famously, played a key role at the D-Day landings. one of ten Town-class cruisers, began in December 1936. She was launched on St Patrick's Day 1938. Commissioned in early August 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Belfast was initially part of the British naval blockade against Germany. In November 1939, Belfast struck a German mine and spent more than two years undergoing extensive repairs. Belfast returned to action in November 1942 with improved firepower, radar equipment, and armour. Belfast saw action escorting Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union during 1943 and in December 1943 played an important role in the Battle of North Cape, assisting in the destruction of the German warship Scharnhorst. In June 1944, Belfast took part in Operation Overlord supporting the Normandy landings. In June 1945, Belfast was redeployed to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet, arriving shortly before the end of the Second World War. Belfast saw further combat action in 1950–52 during the Korean War and underwent an extensive modernisation between 1956 and 1959. A number of further overseas commissions followed before Belfast entered reserve in 1963. In 1967, efforts were initiated to avert Belfast's expected scrapping and to preserve her as a museum ship. A joint committee of The Imperial War Museum, The National Maritime Museum, and The Ministry of Defence were established and then reported in June 1968 that preservation was practical. In 1971, the government decided against preservation, prompting the formation of the private HMS Belfast Trust to campaign for her preservation. The efforts of the Trust were successful, and the government transferred the ship to the Trust in July 1971. Brought to London, she was moored on the River Thames near Tower Bridge in the Pool of London. Opened to the public in October 1971, Belfast became a branch of The Imperial War Museum in 1978. A popular tourist attraction, Belfast receives over a quarter of a million visitors per year. As a branch of a national museum and part of the National Historic Fleet, Belfast is supported by The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, admissions income, and the museum's commercial activities. On 17th March, you can meet veterans from across HMS Belfast’s 80 year history and learn about what it was like to live and work at sea. A number of free events on board include the return of Signals at Sea, where families can learn how lights, radios, codes and flags were used to pass messages from ship to ship. You can also learn how to send your own name in Morse Code, as well as a new signal created specifically for the occasion. Amateur Radio group The Royal Navy Amateur Radio Society uses HMS Belfast as its' base, and operates out of the original ship's radio room. They are operating under a special event licence over the 80th birthday period, and they can often be heard on the 2 metre VHF band, calling on 145.500 - S20. The special callsign is GB8ØGGCN. You can discover more about HMS Belfast and her 80th birthday celebrations by clicking here.

Some of the feedback that I get from regular readers is related to technical content on the Maggot Sandwich. Some readers are not keen on it, and tend to skip the occasional technical subject that I write about, but a majority seem to like the technical articles. I am conscious that I cannot please everyone all of the time, and I try and mix and match technical articles with those of a more general and widespread appeal. I have had some positive feedback in the past regarding the articles I have written on technology failures and why they happened. Examples of this include the VHS versus Betamax war of the early 1980's and the well intentioned but ultimately doomed Capacitance Electronic Disk (CED) analogue video disk system. Another technology that emerged in the late 90's and early 2000's that was expected to revolutionise the way people rented and bought movies in the years before streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video were created, but ultimately it failed at the first hurdle, and nowadays very few people are even aware that the system existed. Back in the day when VHS was still the market leading video format, and DVD was a relatively new invention. The film companies were getting very concerned that their long established business model could be in danger. The VHS market was a known, reliable money-spinner for studios. They knew that, around six months after the cinema release of a film, they could release it on video to rent, charging video hire shops up to £90 for a tape. Then, a few months on, they could charge £10 - £13 for a version to buy, the key difference being generally fewer adverts (save for an infamous VHS release of RoboCop from Virgin Video, with half an hour of adverts before the feature), and a smaller box. It all extended the financial life span of a film, and was a golden goose that many were wary of slaying. A US based electronics retailer and a law firm got together to come up with a new rival to the DVD format that would allow them to control how a rental disk was watched. That format was DIVX. Not the digital video codec – that was DivX – rather an alternative, disc-based video rental system that was launching at the same time as DVD. The idea of DIVX was that a disc would cost around $4.50 in the US, against the $25-30 retail price of a DVD. Then, once you played it in your DIVX player – you needed one of those too, and not a standard DVD deck – you had 48 hours to watch it. Ironically, it is the same kind of idea that sits behind digital video rental stores now, such as Sky Store and Google Play or Netflix. The DIVX disc would work for 48 hours, and you could extend this for an extra fee to get another two days of use from it. If you wanted to keep the film, and remove the restriction, you could pay again to upgrade it to a DVD Silver. Retailers were also set to release DIVX Gold discs (basically, bog standard DVDs), but none ever appeared, nor did the DIVX format ever leave the US. For starters, an assortment of retailers backed DIVX, thinking this would maintain the idea of getting two payments for a home format release from consumers (this was before they hatched on the idea of multiple special edition releases of the same film on DVD). Disney, Paramount, Universal and Fox all released titles on DIVX, with around 300 films ultimately made available onto the format. Most were pan and scan releases, lacking a widescreen option, with barely any of the special features that DVDs were being stuffed with. DIVX was clearly being aimed at casual movie watchers, rather than film fans - yet film fans set alarm bells ringing. Fan resistance was vehement against DIVX, and this was a very early example of an internet campaign against a planned format. The quality of DIVX releases was questioned, whilst there were fears that having more than one disc format would lead to consumer confusion. Furthermore, the DIVX system technically had the ability to feed back information over your telephone line as to what you were watching, and some questioned the Big Brother nature of that. That said, Netflix, Amazon etc do that by default now, and barely anyone bats an eyelid. Times have changed. DIVX ultimately failed in 1999, with the ability to view DIVX discs switched off in the summer of 2001. DVD had won the battle. With DVD victorious, so the rental window system ended in the US pretty much on the spot. Stores still offered DVD rentals, but of discs you could buy at an affordable price. More and more people opted to simply buy a film outright on day one, especially as the advent of internet shopping had brought with it some hefty discounts on discs. In the UK, the move away from rentals was slightly slower, held back by one or two video hire companies such as Blockbuster, and some of the film distributors still keen to hold onto some form of window. But then there was a cultural difference. Whereas the American market had regularly seen big titles, even on VHS, go straight to sell-through, in Britain, it was a novelty. It is ironic that, in its own way, rental has made a comeback, albeit through online, on-demand services that let you instantly ‘rent’ a film for a two-day period. But the catalyst there too has been a format change. If video to DVD brought an end to traditional rental and a move to us buying more physical copies of films, the hard disk and broadband-driven era is taking things back a little the other way. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

Now for this weeks local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly a report from Barnehurst ward:- "Barnehurst Ward have suffered a burglary and an attempted burglary in the past week. The burglary took place in Holmesdale Grove on Friday 23rd February. At 05.31pm the victim received a notification from the door bell system informing the victim there was a male at the front door. The male is seen to walk away to join another male at the front of the drive. Both males proceed to walk down the side alley. Moments later at 05.37 a grey Mercedes with blacked out windows appears from the alley and parks in front of the property for a few minutes, it reverses into alley and drives off at speed. The rear door to the property was found damaged and the window had been smashed. Entry was gained and an untidy search was found in the bedroom with items of jewellery of little value strewn across the bed. Nothing had been taken. One male was described to be white, wearing a black baseball cap, black coat, blue jeans and a red scarf was worn across the face. The second male was also white, wearing a black coat with the hood up, black jeans and trainers with a white sole. Also on the 23rd February at 02.00pm victim was at home when a loud noise was heard coming from the rear of the property. As the victim entered the kitchen, an Asian male was seen crouched down holding a crow bar in the rear garden. On seeing the victim he fled with another person exiting through a side gate onto the drive, direction from there is unknown. The Asian male was described as wearing a dark blue jacket and a dark blue woolly hat and was about 30 years old. It is believed both suspects were male. There has also been one theft of a motor vehicle which occurred on Tuesday 27th February whereby a grey Volkswagon Golf, Registration number VX 15 DZB was stolen from Hall Place Crescent. Our next coffee with cops will be held on Wednesday 7th March at 11.00pm in Barnehurst Golf Club. Please come along for a chat with the team. In the meantime stay safe, keep warm and look out for your elderly neighbours who may feel stranded due to the dangerous icy conditions outside. I’m sure some would appreciate a helping hand". Belvedere ward:- "Over the last week, A/PS Green and PC Holmes have been involved in three arrests. The first was in relation to a wanted male who we were alerted to in Erith Town Centre. This male was wanted for 2 separate offences and was further arrested for possession of cannabis which was in his possession at the time of his initial arrest. The second male was arrested in Ambrooke Road as he was wanted for several offences. Subsequently, Daniel Mills, aged 33 of Picardy Street, Belvedere was found guilty at Bromley magistrates Court on 26th February 2018 of making off without payment x 2, motor vehicle interference, possession of cannabis and failing to attend a drugs intervention programme. He was sentenced to 42 days imprisonment, 14 days on license, fined £415.00 and further costs to be paid to victims within the next six months. The third was in relation to a male who had failed to appear at court for environmental offences. He was arrested at his home address in Lower Belvedere. Whilst on patrol in Lower Road, A/PS Green and PCSO Worrall observed a blue quad bike parked on the pavement. Checks were carried out on the vehicle, and the owner of the bike was spoken to at length. Details have been recorded by the team, should this vehicle come to notice in the future. PCSO Worrall assisted Northumberland Heath ward officers in visiting victims of burglary and attempted burglary in Parsonage Manor Way and Matfield Road respectively. Neighbouring addresses at both locations were also visited in order to raise awareness of both incidents within the community. Finally, the team – assisted by officers from Northumberland Heath SNT, Colyers SNT and North End SNT conducted a drugs warrant in Brigstock Road. There were a quantity of drugs seized from the address and also other items discovered within the property. This investigation is currently ongoing". Christchurch ward:- "We are pleased to mention that their have not been any burglaries over the past week . We believe this is as a result of a number of great arrests. But unfortunately we have had one report of an attempted burglary along Broomfield Road on the 16/02/2018. Suspects had walked along the front drive and tried to gain entry to the property. In relation to motor vehicle crime. On the 22/02/2018, we have had one report of a theft of motor vehicle that was taken from the driveway along Freta Road. Also a report of a theft from motor vehicle on the 19/02/2018 along Rochester Drive, number plates were removed from the vehicle. Two reports have been received over the last week where wallets have been stolen from the victims and we have one victim of pick pocketing, below is a brief summary of them: 26/02/2018 – Wallet was stolen from victim whilst they were shopping in TKMaxx 24/02/2018 – Wallet stolen along the Broadway area; 22/02/2018 – Victim was pick pocketed whilst shopping in Pound Land. There was also a report of property that was stolen from outside McDonalds on the 21/02/2018. The team has been conducted some outstanding work whilst also proactively patrolling on a regular basis. We have noticed youths are starting to congregate outside the Bowling Alley and around Methuen Road & Oakland’s Road, the team is engaging with them to reduce ASB. We have been receiving reports of youths on push bikes riding dangerously on busy main roads. We have been told that they slow traffic down by riding in the middle of the streets doing wheelies and also being verbally abusive towards motorists. We have stopped youths on the ward along Iris Road to advise them to be cautious whilst on their bikes and to think about their safety as well as for other members of public. Parental letters have been sent to some Parents. Following residents’ concerns of youth disorder on the Broadway, Police took positive action in implementing dispersal zones in which a number of people were arrested and subsequently we have had positive results at Court. Schools have been fully engaged and are committing in working in partnership with us. We have received complaints of drug dealing taking place along Hawthorn Road and Methuen Road. These streets are regularly patrolled to help tackle this problem. The team is conducting extensive enquiries with regards to the theft of purse from the 97 year old female outside the Conservative Club". Colyers ward:- "We are pleased to say another low crime week for Colyers Ward this week with no reported burglaries and just one theft from motor vehicle. A car window was smashed and a Satnav and purse were stolen from a car in Badlow Close overnight on Monday 26th Feb sometime between 7.30pm and 10am the following morning. Please remember to take everything with you, leaving nothing on view, before leaving and locking your car. Colyers and North End SNT held a joint Crime Prevention event in the Shell garage on North End road on Saturday 24th February. The ward officers have been busy assisting with patrols for the knife point robberies and yesterday (Wednesday 28th) Colyers SNT assisted Belvedere team with a drugs warrant on their ward. Cannabis , cash and other items were seized". Crayford ward:- "Not too many crimes of note this week. A secured moped was stolen from the driveway of a property in Mayplace Avenue sometime between 20.00 on the 25/02/18 and 11.00 on 26/02/18. On 22/02/18 at approx. 22.00, police received a call about suspicious behaviour near a vehicle in Dale Road. On arrival the main group had left leaving one male standing near some bushes. Police were made aware that items had been placed in those bushes. The male was searched and arrested for having drugs and intending to supply and having a police baton. He was further arrested as the motorcycle he had was not road legal as it had no MOT or insurance. We have been dealing with anti-social behaviour near the Europa Gym and Town Hall Square and have now identified some of the youths concerned in this behaviour. We will now liaise with other agencies to deal with them appropriately". Lesnes Abbey ward:- "Burglary - On Monday 26/02/18 between the hours of 03 :10 pm and 06:55 pm a burglary occurred in Wyfold house, Wolvercote Road. Entry was made via the front door. Nothing was taken. Between Friday 23/02/18 and Saturday 24/02/18 a burglary occurred in Manorside Close, the UPVC outer door had been kicked open. Attempted burglary occurred in Glenview between Thursday 22/02/18 and Saturday 24/02/18.Damge to the woodwork and the padlock hasps. Attempted burglary in Brampton Road occurred on Saturday 24/02/18 between the hours of 01 :00 pm and 07 :00 pm, no entry was gained but the outer front porch door had been bent by suspect/s using an implement. Motor Vehicle Crimes - During the early hours of Friday 23/02/18 a motor vehicle parked in Manorside Close was broken into and music sound systems stolen. Between 00:12 am and 00 :30 on Saturday 24/02/18 a motor vehicle parked in Coralline Walk was damaged resulting in the number plate hanging off. A set of anti tamper screws were supplied to the victim for carrying out the repair. On Saturday 24/02/18 a motor vehicle was stolen from outside of a property in Burchabro Road. Good news on the stolen vehicle, it was later found and is now in the police car pound. The owner has been informed. Date for your diary - Have a say day. Any motorists using the BP Connect petrol station on Harrow Manor Way, SE2 9TA on Wednesday 07/03/18 between the hours of 11:00 am and 12:00 midday, pick up some Motor Vehicle Crime prevention information from the Lesnes Abbey team". North End ward:- "Unfortunately 4 vehicle crimes have occurred in the last week. 2 were overnight on Sunday / Monday near each other. Both were Theft from Motor Vehicle, one in Betsham Road, window smashed, items taken from within and the same scenario in Frobisher Road. Paintball guns were the items taken from the vehicle in Betsham Road and ongoing enquiries are being made. On Sunday afternoon number plates were stolen from a car in Betsham Road although the rear one snapped as it was being removed. A motorbike was taken in the early hours Friday 23rd Feb from Hazel Drive, the padlock was cut off the BMW bike which has yet to be recovered. There was also and attempted burglary at Cobham House at some point during the last week, no exact day or time as the victim wasn’t there for a few days but on his return he noticed damage to his door frame. Neighbours have been spoken to but nobody has seen or heard anything at this time. PC James Telfer was working with the Belvedere team on Saturday and spotted a male he knew was wanted for numerous offences, he was promptly arrested by PC Telfer, remanded in custody and given a 42 day sentence on Monday. Excellent work by James. On Saturday evening PC Mark Brookes-Smith and PCSO Mark Pigott had a crime prevention table at the Shell Garage on Northend Road. This was a joint effort carried out with our Colyers SNT colleagues. There was a lot of interest from the garage customers and Crime Prevention advice and leaflets were given out to over 50 people. If you would like any crime prevention information, please let us know and we can arrange to get you leaflets, property marking pens etc and even have a one to one advice session with you if you require one. We have a Community Contact session on Tuesday March 6th from 1pm at Slade Green Library in Chrome Road, please come along and say hi if you are free". Thamesmead East ward:- "One burglary to report this week which occurred on Monday 26th Feb during the early hours of the morning (Harrow Manor Way). The front door was forced open, and electrical items were stolen, including laptops, and mobile phones. During the early hours of Friday 23 Feb, two motor vehicles were broken into, a bag and a wallet were stolen, Southmere Drive and Seacourt Road. Please don’t leave any valuable items on show in your vehicles, even for a short amount of time. A motor vehicle was stolen between 0100 and 0800 hours, at Thamesbank Place. On Monday 26th Feb, the team were out conducting arrest enquiries in relation to suspects wanted who live on our ward. Despite being unsuccessful, word quickly must have got round, because no more than an hour later, the suspect attended his local Police station, and handed himself in. He was subsequently arrested and sent to Court the following morning. If at first you don’t succeed, etc etc. Our base at Limestone Walk, opposite The Taris shop will be open this Saturday 3rd March. Any issues, please feel free to come along and let us know. On the 8th March, the team will be at the Link, Bazalgette Way, SE2 9BS, between 1630 and 1730 hours, again please come and say hello to us".

The end video this week is a short film about Bexleyheath; it is well worth a watch. See what you think and feel free to leave a comment below; alternatively Email me at

No comments:

Post a Comment