Transport For London plans to reduce London’s bus capacity by seven percent following a review of the service, which has seen a fall off in passenger journeys in recent years.
The proposals, described by BBC London transport correspondent Tom Edwards as the “biggest bus shake up for a generation“, would see the reduction of total bus service mileage across Greater London as a whole by 2022, affecting 33 bus routes, primarily in Inner and Central London. The process could begin from spring next year.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon has criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who chairs the TfL board, over the cuts, saying that as someone who drew attention to being a London bus driver’s son when seeking election he might have been expected to “protect London’s bus services and even improve them”. Pidgeon also says that the TfL proposals follow on from “specific cuts to bus services that have already started to take place” over the past year.
Southwark, Hackney and Newham would be the boroughs hardest hit under TfL’s plans, losing 12 per cent of bus service capacity, as would the City of London. Barking & Dagenham, facing a ten per cent reduction, would be the worst affected of the Outer London boroughs. Route 48, linking Walthamstow bus station and London Bridge via several stops in Hackney, would be withdrawn completely, though route 55 would be extended from Leyton to the bus station.
The main borough beneficiary of the changes would be Croydon, which is earmarked for an eight per cent increase in capacity. The only other borough that would gain under the plans is Richmond, by one per cent.
The net intended effect of the changes is to reduce services in Central and Inner London by around nine percent and increase them in Outer London by two per cent. TfL says it anticipates “a marginal increase in customer journey times of around one percent”, though these could be greater in some cases.
The routes to be “curtailed”, meaning shortened, would be numbers 3, 11, 14, 19, 45, 53, 59,, 67, 134, 171, 172, 388 and 476 while several others would be restructured. One new route, number 311, would be created, running between Fulham and Oxford Circus.
TfL stresses that the bus network is “crucial to London’s continued economic and social development” and vital to meeting the Mayor’s transport strategy target of 80 per cent of journeys being made using “sustainable transport options” by 2041.
However, there has been a fall off in the number of London bus passenger journeys from a peak of 2.4 billion a year in 2014 to a little more than 2.2 billion following continuous strong growth from 2000, when the service underwent a huge transformation following the creation of the London mayoralty.
The transport body argues that reducing the bus service in the ways proposed would “make the bus service simpler and more efficient” and mean resources are better deployed, pointing out that “the way people travel around London is constantly changing” and that the capital’s public transport network as a whole must therefore adapt to “varying demand”.
TfL also maintains that its investment in walking and cycling infrastructure and improvements in Overground and Underground services are “starting to change how are customers use the bus network”.
However, On London understands that at least one of the capital’s principal bus service operating companies believes a decline in bus usage dating from 2014 is related to the cumulative impact of loss of road space to cycle lanes, an increase in the number of private hire vehicles and disruption caused by large construction projects as the economy has recovered.