No, THIS is the most annoying loading bay in London!

Portland House, SW1. If you’re a courier you’ll probably know and hate it as much as I do.

It used to have one of London’s more user-friendly loading bays. A nod from the security guard, straight down the ramp (wheeeeeee!), across the car park and the lifts are pretty much straight ahead of you. On a good day you could probably be in and out within a couple of minutes.

But not any more. Some facilities manager, in their wisdom, has decided that it’s ‘unsafe’ to let couriers ride their bikes down into the loading bay, so now:

The security guard instructs you to lock your bike up outside the building. You scowl at him. If it’s your first time since they changed the rules you’ll probably also try and have an argument with him about how you’ve always been allowed down the ramp in the past, but he’s heard it all before, and anyway, he didn’t make the rules.

He unlocks the door, lets you into the security office, and gives you instructions to carry on through the door at the back, straight along the corridor, through two sets of double doors, to the lifts on your right. Take the lift down to -2, follow the signs to the loading bay, and ask the security guard there which floor you want for whatever company you’re picking up from. No, he himself doesn’t know which floor you want. You have to ask the security guard in the loading bay.

So you follow his instructions, wander along the featureless white corridors until you find the lift, and descend to the loading bay. Except you don’t get to the loading bay. The lift turfs you out into another anonymous maze of white corridors, there are maps here and there, but it would take you more time than you have to decipher them, and you’ve already lost all sense of direction.

There are signs pointing you to the loading bay, and you follow them, but they’re only sporadically placed, and I’ve never yet managed to find it first time – I always end up having to retrace my steps at least once.

You finally reach the loading bay. Hurrah! Then you try to attract the attention of the security guard. He’s usually over on the other side, at the bottom of the ramp, so you have to climb down off the walkway and walk across the loading bay – thereby exposing yourself to just as much risk of reversing lorries, etc. as if you’d just ridden your bike down there. (Possibly more, because couriers are professional cyclists, but only amateur pedestrians.)

He checks his clipboard. You want the 20th floor. So you recross the loading bay, climb back onto the walkway (because there are steps at the far end, but that would involves walking all the way round the edge of the loading bay, and you really can’t be bothered with that, even if the security guard is going to tell you off), and proceed to the main lift shaft. It’s pretty easy from here, as long as you remember that there are two different lift shafts – one for the upper floors and one for the lower ones.

You pick up the package and take the lift back to the loading bay. Strangely, according to this lift the loading bay’s on -1 rather than -2. If it’s your first time it’ll take you quite a bit of backtracking and confusion to work this out.

And now the fun really starts. You try to find your way back to ground level. (Remembering all along that you could have ridden your bike back up the ramp in a matter of seconds.) You wander haphazardly along the anonymous white corridors for a while, taking junctions almost at random, until you come across a lift. But this is one of those massive buildings that has multiple lift shafts. The first lift disgorges you into an identical maze of anonymous white corridors. You don’t recognize anything, but you’re pretty sure this isn’t how you got in. So you wait for the lift again, go back down, and wander around on -2 for a bit longer, looking for another set of lifts. By now your sense of direction is completely shot to hell.

You find another lift. It looks a little more like it might be the right one. But you’re no longer sure. Everything in this building looks the same by now. You wait for the lift, get back to ground level and wander up the corridor, and then down the corridor, and then stand and look all around you, and then backtrack once again, and you’re finally back at the security office.

You vent your spleen on the poor security guard, apologize to your controller for the lengthy delay, unlock your bike, and are at the other end of town in less time than it took you to get to the 20th floor of Portland House. Seriously. The first time I went there after they changed the rules, it took me 25 minutes to get in and out.

Did you find that boring? You should think yourself lucky. You only had to read it once. I have to go through it in person several times a week.


12 Responses to “No, THIS is the most annoying loading bay in London!”

  1. Cudzoziemiec Says:

    Urrgh! If it’s that bad to visit, imagine how horrendous it must be to work in it every day. Especially as a security guard! Makes me glad I’m no longer working in any sort of office! And it’s a wonderful example of the law of unintended safety decrease and general cock-up in a good cause.

  2. Emmy Says:


    That is all.

  3. Emmy Says:

    Regeant’s Quarter is also pretty annoying as well.

  4. Mellotron Says:

    The instructions he gave me included find the place that smells of egg. Still dont see what was wrong with it before.

  5. zero Says:

    We have a similar building in Manchester: 3 Hardman Street, part of the new Spinningfield development. The security chappy is most friendly, you can see he thinks it’s a stupid arrangement as well. I’ve now told my clients that any deliveries there will not be signed for, but will be left with said security guard for collection at their convenience. It’s working so far….

  6. Brice Says:

    Waiting time…that’s what I used to do. Yeah, I know, clients don’t always comply but sometimes they don’t even know about it. Falls into the same category as embassy, queuing up or waiting for the parcel to be ready, no…?

    • Steffan Davies Says:

      I was going to ask if this sort of nonsense could be counted as waiting time. Seems reasonable to me, and if the client’s charged more it might encourage them to tell the facilities manager where to get off.

      My personal bugbear on this front is the hugely officious but purely theatrical security at a certain high-end datacentre I have to visit. No end of form-filling nonsense to get kit in and out, perpex airlocks on the doors, but all access is by card only – no PIN or biometrics. Farce.

  7. spaceman Says:

    not sure where else to contact you, check HOP for deets of race, further to our mid afternoon chit.

  8. jo Says:


    i forgot how much I hate it! i always feel the need to inform said security man AND the receptionist AND anyone I may pass on my travel how enraged I am every time I go. I usually get zero response.

  9. thatmessengerchick Says:

    I was walking along one of these long, featureless white corridors today, on my way out of Portland House, when I passed another courier going in the opposite direction, on his way in. As we passed each other, without breaking stride, we both let out a spontaneous volley of “god I fucking hate this fucking building etc. etc. etc.!” It was actually quite funny.

  10. Tim Says:

    OK.. but what foxes me is that to get to the 20th floor, first you go to -2 (the loading bay) and from there get in another lift up to the 20th floor. To get back down, you have to go to -1 which also brings you out at the loading bay. I really can’t work that one out. And it is for this reason that I hate that building and yes.. waiting time. If every courier from every company starts charging waiting time then surely they will realise that their policy is not working and will change it.

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