Saturday 12th December 2020
If you’re thinking nothing quite matches the lengthy delays between new trains being ordered and when they finally enter service, you’re ignoring the world of bus network developments in London. Today sees the implementation of TfL’s bus review in the Richmond and Twickenham area. It follows a public consultation held way back between October 2018 and January 2019. Originally planned for introduction in May 2019, over eighteen months later the changes are finally being introduced albeit with a few modifications to the original proposals. You don’t want to be in a hurry for a bus change around in London.
You might think these proposals, being out in London’s leafy suburbs, were all about increasing frequencies as envisaged when the central London bus review slashed buses in Zone 1 last summer with the promise of redeploying resources to outer London.
But in fact these original proposals were also all about cutting excess capacity and reducing frequencies to the extent the proposals as originally consulted on were quoted as saving £1,525,000 per annum in a Mayoral Question Time answer.
Route H37, for example, which provides a handy link between Hounslow and Richmond via Isleworth and St Margarets taking 33 minutes, has been cut back from an impressive 6 minute daytime frequency to every 7-8 minutes. This reduces the peak vehicle requirement (PVR) from 15 to 13, making for a nice saving to be banked.
Another busy route, the 493 between Richmond and Tooting via Barnes, Roehampton and Wimbledon (taking just over an hour and a half, end to end – a long one by London standards) has been cut back from its terminus at the Richmond Homebase by Manor Circus about five minutes east of the town centre to instead use the town centre bus station where room has been released by cutting another service. This has reduced its PVR from 17 to 16.
Biggest makeover is to route 110 which has been transformed from a backwater 20 minute frequency U-shaped route running between Hounslow and West Middlesex Hospital taking 42 minutes via Twickenham to more than double its length by subsuming part of route H22 (from Twickenham to Richmond) and a full takeover of route 391 (which has now disappeared) between Richmond via Kew and Chiswick to Hammersmith where it now terminates. New end to end journey time is more than double at around 90 minutes and the frequency is now every 15 minutes.
Route 110 now forges new links in the Whitton area including an unusual characteristic for a TfL route – a non stop section between Twickenham Stadium and St Margaret’s Station using part of Chertsey Road only used by the two-journey-a-week-two-days-a-week route 969.
It’s all a bit confusing for people in Whitton High Street as until yesterday they got an H22 to Richmond on the west side of the road but from today it’s now a 110 on the east side; and to West Middlesex Hospital until yesterday it was a 110 on the east side of the road but now it’s an H22 on the west side. You can imagine the puzzled looks among passengers today; I saw a number caught out by getting on their usual bus, only looking at the number rather than noticing the destination.
Route H22 is now diverted at Twickenham taking over roads previously served by route 110 to West Middlesex Hospital instead of running to Richmond. This was an extra bonus not included in the original consultation, which reported there were quite enough buses already running between Twickenham and the Hospital on route 267, but much to the pleasure of respondents who replied with their concerns, there are now more buses an hour on that section of route than last week, with the H22’s 12 minute frequency compared to route 110’s erstwhile 20 minutely.
I expect, like me, you’re thinking this all sounds a bit confusing and how helpful it would be to have a map explaining these changes. Sadly, this is TfL, and you’re not supposed to want a map to work out where buses go, you have to use a journey planner and not worry your little minds about things like maps.
Luckily there were a few maps in the original consultation in September 2018 which give half the picture of what’s now running.
Here’s a map showing how routes 110 and H22 ran until yesterday.
And here’s a map showing the proposed changes as originally envisaged of how things would look.
Sadly there’s no official map available of how things are actually now running so you have to imagine the green H22 route continues north from Twickenham via Isleworth to the Hospital making for an almost perfect U shape. The map above also shows route 110 taking over route 419 from Richmond (to Roehampton) but this idea was abandoned in favour of taking over route 391 to Hammersmith.
However, thanks to the dedication of our friendly @LondonBusUpdates there is a useful home made map available on social media giving the picture from today, as shown below.
As to how these changes have worked out, despite TfL’s dire financial situation that £1,525,000 envisaged saving has been much watered down. Taking route 391 off saves seven buses while extending route 110 in its place adds seven to its PVR (doubling from 7 to 14) while strangely an extra bus is needed for route H22’s projection to its new West Middlesex Hospital terminus instead of Richmond. But the frequency reduction on the H37 saves two buses and the cut back in Richmond of route 493 saves a further bus making for a net position of minus two PVR.
My experiences travelling around on routes 110, H22 and H39 earlier today concluded the 110 doesn’t need that frequency uplift and its 90 minutes running time is far too slack. We must have spent about 15 minutes waiting at bus stops “to even out the service”.
I only started taking photographs of this after the first two occasions, but as you can see, it was virtually happening every ten minutes. And to cap it all, we waited for a further three minutes just before Hounslow’s commercial centre which would have been hugely frustrating if we’d had a bus load of passengers itching to get shopping, but as it was there was just me on board.
The same annoying practice happened on my trip on route H22, when we were held for four minutes just a few minutes before arriving at the West Middlesex Hospital. This time there were four other passengers on board including a couple going to the hospital who were understandably frustrated at this unnecessary delay.
Talk to anyone in TfL or the operating companies about this practice, and they all think it’s a great thing, which just shows how arbitrary ‘quality contract incentives’ are more important than real life passenger needs – who on earth wants to be kept waiting on board a bus just a couple of stops before the terminus “to even out the service”. It’s a complete load of twaddle.
I also noticed a rather draconian roping off of seats midway at the back of the Enviro 200 on route 110 ….
…. whereas in the lower section, all seats were in use, which just seemed odd.
It’s also a strange time to reduce the frequency of route H37 bearing in mind the maximum capacity per bus is just 14 on this busy route.
I can’t help thinking this long planned cut has taken no account of the current Covid restrictions at all.
Chiswick High Road has got a reputation for traffic delays but it was free flowing when I passed through today – but it’s a shame to see the westbound bus lane has been taken over for a temporary cycle lane.
And this looks set to become permanent, as further westwards it’s now been built with buses stopping at bus stops blocking progress of all traffic behind them, including buses.
However, to end on a positive. For once, it was pleasing to see bus stops have all been updated with amended route numbers and timetable panels inserted. This is a first for TfL and a much welcome development. I only spotted the odd bus stop on route H22 had been missed.
Even spider maps had mostly been updated and on display in bus shelters, and at Hammersmith bus station there was even a large poster explaining the change to route 391 being usurped by the newly extended route 110.
All we need now is a bus map, and things really will be looking up.
This is TfL land where re-arranging the deckchairs as the ship goes down is standard operation. I can never understand this constant fiddling around with the bus services – its not like traffic patterns change that frequently and it tends to smack of the planners getting it wrong in the first place. No-one in TfL land has to answer for their mistakes especially the planners, and especially those responsible for all these superfluous cycle lanes Londons transport is going down the pan, and its very much not helped by TfLs over bureaucratic and top heavy management. Glad I don’t live there anymore.
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I have to be honest. When you first start using London Buses you get seduced in to thinking how much better they are compared to the rest of the country. Largely because of the sheer amount of them you see when you stop off a train at a major termini and only end up paying £1.50.
However, beyond the fare it’s actually no different to the rest of us, if not worse when it to comes to the scheduling side (TfL, if you read this, Interworking is a thing!)
Some services in outer London are worse than similar style routes in commercial areas. The X26 is a prime example of a route which would be branded to eyeballs outside of London. But you just get a plain double decker and working USB if you’re lucky! What an incentive to use it!
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If TfL really thought there was excess capacity between Twickenham and Richmond (I believe there isn’t ) then all they really needed to do was curtail the H22 To Twickenham. An unessecarry complex set of changes for no good reason
I’ve been using these routes for about 30 years. The change to the 493 seems pragmatic and sensible (it’s still probably too long to operate reliably) and the 391 (as was) is still the same except that I don’t have to change buses in Richmond to reach my mates. Good! The main point of the new routeing for the 110 appears to be to give a faster journey from Whitton to Richmond, swapping the traffic jam in Twickenham town centre for the usually smaller on on the Chertsey Road, which is surely a good thing? Whether the H22 needs to go to West Mid is questionable, the 267 always seems pretty lightly loaded for a double-decker, but the H22 will go into the hospital grounds (as did the 110) rather than sticking to the main road (as the 267 does) so that’s good too.
I’m not sure if travel patterns have changed, but numbers certainly have – as is well-known, bus use in London was going down well before the pandemic. So I can’t see why a previous comment thinks that changing the network to reflect that is a bad idea? It’s not like London’s network changes anything like as often as those of many other cities after all. From my real-life experience travelling the section between Richmond and Twickenham it is considerably over-bussed (except at school run times) and the H37 will also cope with its reduced frequency (same caveat). No-one has a clue what’ll happen after the pandemic, of course.
Finally, I was astounded to read that you found Chiswick High Road free-flowing – a rare thing indeed! I’ve walked down most of it twice today (not to spot 110s) and it was solid. And as for yesterday evening…… Its normal state of semi-gridlock must make scheduling a nightmare and Hammersmith’s just as bad sometimes – that might explain some of the slack you experienced if you chose a quieter day. Though I fully agree about the daftness of making busy buses wait just before they get to somewhere useful.
It is all to do with meeting the contract specification . . . if a timetable point is 4 minutes before the terminus, then the bus will be monitored there, and an early departure on a low-frequency service will trigger a financial penalty. When you run buses in a regulated environment like London is, a tightly-regulated contract is all . . . there isn’t any other way for the Authority to be sure that they’re not being ripped off.
“Countdown” at the bus stops is great, but it comes with strict timetable adherence required at all times. Timing points have quietly been added over the past 15 years in order to beat the bus companies with non-compliance and penalties, such that bus routes in London are straying further and further from reality. Having “consultations” that run for 18-24 months before implementation is a nonsense , , , travel patterns can change in that time, which makes the concepts inaccurate.
Maybe we need a whole new way of planning bus routes in London . . . and it would help to take away the “consultations” and political interferences. That’ll never happen, of course, as the one major thing that any London Mayor can control is Transport for London . . . the Boroughs and central Government run everything else.
But TFL are being ripped off all along! Bus drivers dawdling for no good reason and bus operators constantly extending the running times makes for an easier day for the drivers, and more buses required/more lucrative contracts for the operators… the loser is the passengers, which neither the contractors nor TFL really seem to care about… some lengthy running times are utterly preposterous, especially now, but due to the ridiculous contract specifications the passengers are kept waiting umpteen times per journey and next time simply don’t take the bus… it’s been gradually getting worse for years, even turning into the decline in overall passenger numbers which has now been evident for a while… TFL needs to review the whole system but seems to have neither the skills, manpower nor actual will to do so…..
As someone who used to live in Whitton – albeit many years ago – I can envisage much confusion tomorrow onwards from those who used to travel on the 110 from Powder Mill Lane area towards Twickenham, wonder if the H22 will cope between these points?
The diversion of the 110 via Whitton High Street will open up some new links, but the train is still the best option from central Whitton to Twickenham and Richmond which gets you there in a few minutes!
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Mackay . . . that’s exactly my point!! Even back in 2005, I was being told “Nanny (TfL) knows best , , , you just do as you are told and meet the contract specification.” Many years experience of planning and operating bus services in London was being ignored even then. All TfL bus route tender specifications include the asinine words “TfL welcomes alternative proposals, and will give them careful consideration” . . . except they won’t consider them at all until the next contract renewal when, strangely enough, those alternatives find their way into the detailed specifications. By then it’s five years too late, of course.
After a while, even the keenest minds simply don’t bother any more.
Continually bang head against brick wall . . . it hurts more and more . . . best to stop!!
I agree that to hold any bus one or two stops before the terminus is pointless for any purpose associated with customer service – which should of course always be the overriding consideration. If a timing point is that close to the terminus it should be deleted because it is too close. It is also pointless to hold say a 25 at a stop between Bow and Ilford so that passengers can watch while a 425 which shares that route section sails past.
And why is it that many TfL route schedules allow the termini to collect buses on lengthy layovers, rather than sweating the assets by adjusting the PVRs to what is actually needed to run the services at the advertised frequencies?
No doubt that London buses are slower and slower nowadays, which is not entirely due to the traffic, and is up to the non-sense timing pointes being added. What the purpose of running timing point in a frequent city service.
Ian . . . it’s all to do with contract compliance. The contract assumes 100% perfection in all cases, and penalises the operator if this isn’t achieved. Traffic delays are accepted as inevitable, but only on that particular journey . . . it is assumed that the next journey should always depart on time.
Buses are monitored on schedule compliance if low frequency; on excess passenger waiting time if high frequency. Either way, each route has an allocated stand space at each end of the journey (unless one stand is on bus company property, in which case the capacity is limitless!!).
If a bus runs every 7 minutes, and the capacity is for 2 buses, then the schedule will aim to maximise the capacity to reduce delays knocking on to the next trip. This doesn’t always balance out well; in many cases the Central terminal may only accomodate 1 bus, which on a 7 minute headway isn’t very much; although in compensation the outer terminal may allow 3 buses on stand.
Probably part of the problem in re last timing points is that, where a stand capacity is seen as limited, running time over the “last mile” will be slightly inflated to subtly increase stand capacity in theory. This, of course, is magnified by “Covid” running time being excessive when compared with actual traffic speeds, although as car traffic increases back towards usual levels, this should equalise out.
Good schedules should provide sensible timing points at (1) interchange points; (2) major shopping centres; (3) other points of note along the route. Timing points should be 10-12 minutes apart. Anything else is excessive.
Wow! Such unity amongst Contributors as never witnessed before. Disregarding the changes themselves, which originally probably could have made some very cost-effective savings, I am clearly not alone in my ever constant whinge about absurd running times and contract specifications, designed by TfL office-bound Individuals who obviously never use buses. As a lifelong bus Enthusiast, I avoid London Buses like the plague, so I am sure those lacking my enthusiasm do much the same. And why oh why are so many routes in this part of South West London single-deck when not necessary?
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Most bus routes in London run at high frequency so keeping them reasonably evenly spaced is surely more important and lengthy lay overs should not be needed
With the technology available now it should be possible to automatically regulated the service. Trying to do it manually as TfL do is asking for trouble. Manual intervention should only be needed in exceptional circumstances such as a sudden road closure etc
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Think the increase in frequency on the 110 is very welcome, 20 minutes was pretty poor especially as some of the areas it serves don’t really have alternatives. Whether this is negated by poorer reliability on the longer route remains to be seen.
Post covid traffic levels have generally been much lighter so this may explain some of the extended waits, suspect it won’t seem nearly as bad if/when normality returns.
Lots of valid points raised here about timing points & monitoring but there are positives as well. On infrequent routes it used to be common practice for drivers to depart on time then go as fast as they could, this meant that off peak buses could be 10+ minutes early. Not funny if you’re relying on the last bus, I’d rather wait a couple of minutes for time than be left with an expensive taxi or long walk home.
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Of course had the new 110 been numbered 391, then there would have been far less confusion. It would simply have been an extension of the 391, rather than the 110 being changed so confusingly.
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@Surfblue, the timetable should be accurate for buses late at night so there is no excuse for being 10 minutes early. The last bus could also be forced to adhere to the timetable exactly.
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A couple of new bus stops have popped up on Chertsey Road in recent months, claiming to serve the 110 and 969, but buses are currently not stopping at them. Seems the 110 may not be non-stopping between Twickenham Stadium and St Margarets Station in the future.
Thanks for the update.