The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC) has asked Transport for London to reverse plans to reduce the service frequency of seven bus routes that run through the area, saying that “many bus journeys are made by older and disabled people” and arguing that fewer buses serving the visitor attraction areas of South Kensington and King’s Road will impede London’s economic recovery.
In a letter to TfL Commissioner Andy Byford following a meeting with him last week, Conservative-run RBKC Leader Elizabeth Campbell and Johnny Thalassites, the council’s Lead Member for Planning, Place and the Environment, say they are “deeply concerned” about proposals for less frequent services on routes 7, 9, 11, 22, 27, 49 and 148 and changes to route 19, and they claim that “neither the council nor residents were asked to comment before you informed us about the cuts”.
The appeal to Byford comes as TfL informs Londoners of service cuts affecting route 149 between Edmonton Green and London Bridge and routes 68, 188 and 168, which follow earlier cuts to routes 507 and 521 out of Waterloo station and to flagship route 38 linking Clapton and Victoria station. TfL’s website page informing passengers of bus “changes” includes a number of references to “widening frequency”.
Campbell and Thalassites add that it was “alarming to hear that TfL’s priority is to protect services in outer London at the expense of inner London”, where the capital’s economic activity is largely concentrated. It has been TfL policy since 2018 to reduce the capital’s bus network capacity, with some redistribution to suburban areas.
Pressure to cut further has increased with the collapse of ridership due to the pandemic and with members of Boris Johnson’s national government team requiring a “review” of demand as a condition of providing TfL with short-term emergency financial support.
This was postponed from July following a campaign by transport-users’ watchdog London TravelWatch and others, but the fear remains that buses, which are the capital’s most-used form of public transport, are seen as a soft target for a central government administration which has seized control of London’s devolved transport body during the pandemic and imposed its own priorities.
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