Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter September 2022
Bus routes should not be preserved in aspic but the changes currently proposed, whatever rationality they might have, are driven by the government’s insistence that TfL should break even by 2023 despite the devastating effects of the pandemic and despite the fact that London has considerably less government support for its operations than comparable networks in other cities around the world.
Even before the changes 300 buses had been cut by reducing frequencies. Although a deal has now been agreed there is still likely to be another four per cent cut in bus mileage, but this is certainly better than the 18 per cent reduction which could have been necessary without a deal.
The deal also provides for the creation of an additional 25 km of bus lanes (hopefully 24 hours) and for five new bus corridors.
London TravelWatch has made a detailed response to the consultation. It points out that buses are of particular importance to low income families as the fares are so much less than rail fares. Transport for All said how important buses are for people with disabilities because so few Underground stations are equipped with lifts. They also fear that cuts will lead to overcrowding making it particularly difficult for people with disabilities.
In its response, Future Transport London emphasised the increased importance of locating stops near together if more passengers are going to have to change, that Countdown at interchange points is particularly important and that there should be a safe environment around bus stops.
TfL admits that more people will have to change buses to complete their journeys. It estimates that whilst currently 19 per cent of passengers have to make at least one change, in the future 24 per cent will. London TravelWatch points to the serious disbenefit of this. If a bus operates, say, every eight minutes, the average wait at the change point will be four minutes. Added to this is the time taken to walk from one bus stop to another. These minutes soon add up and can add a substantial time to a journey. The necessity of changing buses points to the importance of clear signs including Countdown, bus stops with adequate seats and shelter, and a determined effort to bring bus stops at change points nearer together.
The overall result of these changes is that London will get a poorer service and more people will be forced to use their cars, the exact opposite of what is required to deal with London’s traffic, air quality and the climate emergency.