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Bus changes for Croydon and Sutton

Wednesday 21st October 2020

As the all too predictable battle for control of TfL rages amid the desperate need for further Covid funding from Government to keep the Capital’s transport going, bus passengers in Sutton and Croydon are being asked for their views on a raft of changes proposed for bus routes serving the Boroughs.

At first sight the proposals look fiendishly complex but having taken a good look at the details and taken a few rides around the area on the affected bus routes I’ve concluded while some are a luxury we can do without in the current dire financial climate, quite a few of the changes make good sense.

Highest profile proposal affects route 407 linking Sutton with Croydon and then south to Caterham, operated by double deck buses every 12 minutes. TfL propose spliting the route in Croydon creating two shorter replacements, the original 407 still plying its way between Sutton and Croydon every 12 minutes and a new route 443 running between West Croydon and Caterham with double deck buses at a reduced 15 minute frequency.

Based on my recent trip down to Caterham that reduced frequency looks appropriate for the numbers travelling south of Croydon. New route 443 will also take a slightly different route in Croydon town centre, using the Reeves Corner and Old Town route to the west rather than Wellesley Road and High Street to the east, so perhaps not so convenient for East Croydon but probably makes sense. So this plan gets a tick.

Also in the Caterham neck of the woods, TfL propose extending half hourly route 434 from its current terminus at a nondescript roundabout south of Whyteleafe, to the more logical terminus at Caterham one mile further south.

This will probably mean an extra bus as the route between Purley and Kenley on the way to Whyteleafe is also up for change to a slightly more circuitous route along Higher Drive (shown in green on the map below), where some new houses are being built, instead of its current route along parallel Northwood Oaks.

Meanwhile Northwood Oaks will be served by a new half-hourly route, numbered 439 which starts at Waddon Marsh running down Purley Way to Purley, then via the aforementioned Northwood Oaks, and on to the main Godstone Road to turn round at the aforementioned nondescript roundabout south of Whyteleaf, one mile short of Caterham.

I’m finding it hard to give new route 439 a tick. It looks suspiciously like a kite flyer to me. Adding an extra half hourly service down Purley Way (currently served by route 289 every 12 minutes) seems a bit of a luxury as does adding it to Godstone Road between Kenley and south of Whyteleafe where I can’t see it adding anything effective to the aforementioned new 15 minute frequency on the 443 (ex 407) especially as it doesn’t continue to Caterham.

So the new 439 looks like an expensive luxury serving no particular purpose other than allowing the 434 to serve a few new houses in Higher Drive, where there’s never been a bus route and not surprisingly seems to be full of cars along most of its length.

In the current funding situation, this proposal needs binning.

Before we leave Purley another change to look at is the discontinuation of route 455 which as the map below shows is aTfL ciruitous special appropriately wandering around Wandle. Although this map doesn’t show it, almost all the 455’s Wandle wandering is covered by a proposed extension of route S4 from its terminus at Roundshaw and the sections of route 455 south of Croydon are, as shown, covered by a diversion of route 166 and an extension of route 312.

Residents of Old Lodge Lane will no doubt be pleased to have the 12 minute frequency route 312 rather than the 20 minute frequency 455 as well as a more direct routeing into Croydon but my trip down Old Lodge Lane didn’t generate many other passengers and I have my doubts this frequency increase is justified. So I’m not sure about a tick for this proposal, but I guess it’s a case of: if not the 312, then what?

Moving over towards Sutton, you can see from the map below how route S4 (dark pink) is extended to its new eastern terminus in Waddon Marsh which leaves a short section of route 455 between there and Croydon uncovered, but TfL explains the tram provides the link, which indeed it does. TfL report “approximately 145 passengers who currently use route 455 from West Croydon, Reeves Corner would need to use the Tram to or from Waddon Marsh where they would be able to change to route S4″.

A comment in the consultation implies route S4 will have a frequency increase from half hourly to every 20 minutes, which seems over generous in the current circumstances. “Approximately 1,040 people travelling to and from stops between Wallington town centre and Belmont Station would see an increase from a bus every 30 minutes to one every 20 minutes, Monday to Saturday daytimes. They would also gain a Sunday service.” Although not specifically spelt out, I assume this is the S4 running more frequently, which again, seems a bit of a luxury in the current financial climate.

The western end of route S4 is being replaced by another new route, the S2 which will run from the prisons at Belmont via the S4 route through Sutton to St Helier station. This makes sense, otherwise the S4 will be too long with too many twists and turns. So a tick for this.

The map above also shows some minor changes to route S1 in the Middleton Road area between St Helier and Mitcham Junction. These are narrow roads with parking and frankly I’m surprised it’s taken TfL until now to finally give up trying to run buses in both directions along these roads.

TfL’s consultation makes the point longer buses are planned to operate on the S1 which will make turning the tight corners in this area even more of an issue, so no surprise these changes are proposed and make sense. There are bus stops relatively close by for residents to use.

The existing buses on route S1 are already quite long!

A significant planned development in Sutton is the London Cancer Hub being built on the former Sutton Hopsital site adjacent to the Royal Marsden Hospital about a mile south of Sutton town centre and station.

It’s a twenty year project and will include a new acute hospital too.

The former Sutton Hospital site as it is today.

TfL propose converting route 80 to double deck and curtailing its route at the new site which it currently passes on the way to Belmont’s prisons. This makes sense, so a tick for that.

It’s also proposed to extend route 164 (from Wimbledon) which currently terminates alongside Sutton Station to the new site when developments are further advanced. This makes sense too.

The final proposal sees a shortening of route S3 to terminate (from Malden Manor) at Sutton Station with its circuitous eastern section to Belmont station via Carshalton and Carshalton Beeches transferred to an extended route 413 (from Morden).

Also proposed is a rationalisation of roads served by both routes as well as route 470 in the Sutton Common area giving the S3 a more direct route along Sutton Common Road. These proposals probably make sense.

TfL’s description of the benefits from these proposals also includes the claim “re-routeing the S1 would mean it better serves both the Royal Marsden Hospital and London Cancer Hub as it would serve stops within walking distance of both. This would be particularly beneficial to people in the Banstead area but also people in Benhill, St Helier and Mitcham areas.” I don’t see any proposed re-routeing on the maps as described – route S1 looks unchanged at its southern end, passing the site of the London Cancer Hub so am not sure what they’re refering to here.

The following benefit is also somewhat marginal, I would have thought: “approximately 1,180 passengers travelling between points south of Downds Road (sic)and north of Belmont Station would have a faster journey time of around one minute”. (I think they mean Downs Road.)

Full details of these proposals can be found on TfL’s consultation webpage. Responses are required by Sunday 29th November 2020.

Based on previous experience, it might be some time before any of these changes are implemented, if ever. But in the meantime it’s nice to see some clear maps showing where bus routes go on TfL’s website.

Roger French

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I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

16 thoughts on “Bus changes for Croydon and Sutton Leave a comment

  1. Given that the 443 runs within spitting distance of Caterham, Whyteleafe South, Whyteleafe, Upper Warlingham, Kenley, Purley, Purley Oaks and South Croydon stations, I don’t think passengers are short of options for getting to East Croydon 😆

    I can’t disagree with the sentiment that Kenley is being over-provided for – given the demographics of the area, it doesn’t seem like somewhere that will have a lot of demand for bus travel. Yes, it’s a bit of an uphill hike from Old Lodge Lane to Higher Drive, but unless the new housing is aimed at a completely different market from the existing housing, it is going to be a big diversion to not carry any passengers for.

    “would have a faster journey time of around one minute” … if what they had written was accurate then that would be an incredible achievement and well worth doing … I suspect what they actually meant was a faster journey time BY around one minute, which, as you say, isn’t a lot to shout about!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s obviously a lot of work been undertaken to produce all the figures on affected passengers – which is really useful in understanding the relative effect of the changes. But it isn’t obvious from the TfL document what the numbers actually mean (though perhaps I’ve missed it).
    Are the 1,180 passengers across the Downs Road – Belmont Station section benefitting by a minute distinct individuals who ever make this journey ? Or perhaps regular passengers who travel at least twice a week ?
    Or are they an average of 1,180 single journeys per day, week or month ? Or return journeys ?
    The changes to route 470 mention 500 passengers per day, so it’s likely this applies to the other figures too, but even then it’s not clear whether they are single or return journeys.

    I suppose my real point is, worthy as all this consultation is (and I do mean that), does anyone actually understand it ?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is being reported that the Railways in Wales are to be nationalised. An announcement is expected from the Wellsh Assembly tomorrow. Whether they have the powers to do thi I do not know. I all gets very murky nowadays

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  4. Stagecoach South Wales Special Lockdown timetables

    Stagecoach South Wales has introduced special Lockdown timetables from the 25th October until the 2nd of November
    A few services have been withdrawn but most are reduced level of service. See the Stagecoach Web Site for details

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  5. Cardiff Bus have done the same. Not sure though why the new timetables don’t run from Saturday?

    Here is a Welsh Govt announcement about rail services: https://gov.wales/written-statement-future-rail-update. Obviously there are some caveats: TfW owns the Valley Lines but Nerwork Rail owns the rest; longer-distance services in Wales aren’t run by TfW but by Great Western, Virgin or (a few services ) Cross Country.

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  6. There is a slight rerouting of the S1 proposed in the Belmont area to replace the 80, running via Cotswold Road, rather than Downs Road & Brighton Road. The rerouting of the S1 in the St Helier area has gone down very with a fair few of of the divers at Quality Line in Epsom.
    The S2 should run beyond St Helier Stn to Morden to maintain the links to and from HMPs Highdown & Downview with Morden station and the Northern Line..
    Its also a good idea for the 413 to regain its Belmont extension. The section between Sutton & Belmont was given to the S3 back in 1996.This will provide evening & Sunday services to the Sutton Marsden site for the 1st time.
    The new acute hospital will replace inpatient services at both Epsom & St Helier Hospitals. The aim is to get the new Sutton Hospital up and running in the next 5 years.

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  7. It certainly looks fiendishly complicated at first glance, but on closer inspection, have to agree some changes may be worthwhile, others not. And it looks as if TfL “Boffins” have been doing their sums on passenger numbers who will and will not be affected! But there seems little regard for their precarious £financial situation as always, the mantra being, “We are London, so we must be treated as a special case”. It is little wonder the tin-pot Mayors in other large UK cities (another George Osborne vanity project!) are constantly throwing their toys out of the pram when seeing the sums handed to “Mayor” Khan. The sheer waste and inefficiency in the operation of London’s buses now actually makes me gasp. Any “outside” suggestions to both improve efficiency and lower costs are met with a total blank, current TfL staff clearly only possessing process skills without any forward vision whatsoever. Buses are still timed on many routes at ridiculously low speeds, merely on the basis of “possible” bad traffic conditions, causing most Drivers to automatically think anything more than18mph may land them in trouble. I recently complained of several journeys on the “new” 278, clearly grossly over-timed, only for TfL and operator Abellio to refer my complaints to each other! There is no more a depressing sight, frequently encountered now, of a bus having to idle constantly en route, yet surrounded by a sea of traffic where clearly potential passengers have found alternative means of travel. If buses were run in this way in the rest of the UK, they would cease to exist within a year. And with the lengthy TfL “process”, it will probably be year before anything changes anyway.

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    • I have to agree with you on the TFL customer service. They are dismal. It’s like contacting Sky where you get through to a call centre in India who has no clue of your problem, has no will to fix it and simply passes the blame.
      Arguably, the issue with TFL (and all other PTEs) is that there is no public accountability there. If you dislike your local council or national government, you can vote them out. It’s not a competitive sector either so there is no will to improve. Just keep plodding on, listening to the praise from a few (who the changes benefit) and ignoring the people who actually use the systems and want public transport to work.

      I think until PTEs get proper public accountability, nothing will change. Waste money, dismal customer service and to quote 2 sayings, ‘all the gear but no idea’ and ‘couldn’t organise a **** up in a brewery’

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  8. Concerning running times . . . . we are still in a situation where ALL bus journeys can be monitored on a 1 minute early 5 minutes late basis. If a bus is 6+ minutes late, then it is deemed “non-compliant”, and the operator must account for that delay at a possible Public Enquiry (and must account for ALL such contraventions individually).
    In the bad old days, an operator would schedule running time on an “average time taken”, and if (a) appropriate and (b) thought necessary, then provide sufficient stand time for the bus to “recover” from any unusual delays en route before the next journey.
    This is no longer possible, especially as the bus (from January 2021) will be monitored all the way along the route (one of the benefits / concerns of Open Data), so running times need to be much more carefully calculated. To avoid timing every journey individually (which would create a terrible timetable with no regularity whatsoever), schedulers use “average” running times throughout the day, with perhaps extra time at school times where traffic delays are known. All well and good so far, but inevitably the “average” times used need to be achievable, so will always be over-egged “just in case”. Some drivers will crawl, others will drive at reasonable speeds and wait at timing points (always assuming that point can accomodate a waiting bus for a few minutes without creating a traffic hold-up, of course!!).

    Here’s a case study . . . Metroline Routes 84 and 242, with which schedule I’ve been intimately involved with for 15 years, largely parallel the M25 motorway; and additionally have known school peak traffic congestion spots. The schedules have different running times at school peaks, but to achieve an attractive timetable have pretty standard times between 0700 and 1900 each weekday. We’ve tightened up those times as much as we dare, but the M25 can vary from free-flowing to all-stop within a 30-minute window on a daily basis, so we must allow some “what-if” time on all journeys. We’ve allowed extra stand time at each end to try to soak up any occasional delays, but we’re realistic enough to know that we’ll fail around every 3 weeks or so, as the M25 will simply stop and all traffic will divert onto local roads.

    Since lockdown, we haven’t reduced running times, as we’ve been expecting traffic to return . . . which it has at school times since September. It may well be possible to slightly reduce running times in the peak hours without destroying reliability, but until we really really know what future road traffic will be like, many operators are playing the waiting game. We’re also back to 70 days notice from January 2021, so naturally our stance is “until the unknowns are known . . . leave well alone”.

    In an ideal world, we’d prefer the window to be 1 minute early10 minutes late . . . then we’d be able to speed buses up a little bit. Would passengers prefer a faster journey on 14 journeys from 15 trips, on the basis that the 15th trip might be 10 minutes late? That’s a BIG question!! Now I’ve retired . . . someone else can answer that!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. With the S4 bring greatly under used, we do not want to increase the service & definitely Don’t want a Sunday service

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