“London-style” bus cuts continue

Friday 12th November 2021

Tomorrow sees TfL’s route 414 cut back from its current terminus at Maida Hill (that’s close to Maida Vale in the Edgware Road area) meaning it will only run from its unchanged southern terminus at Putney Bridge station via Fulham, South Kensington and Knightsbridge as far north as Marble Arch.

It currently takes 22 buses to run the route’s 7-8 minute frequency with an end to end journey time of around 65-70 minutes. From tomorrow that’ll reduce to about 45-50 minutes and I reckon at least four, if not five buses will be squeezed out of the schedule as a cost saving. Update 13th November: six buses have been saved.

That should save a handy annual sum significantly north of half a million pounds with almost certainly no impact on revenue; so not bad when your finances are in intensive care and there’s currently no certainty how much Government support will be available beyond the next four weeks – the current subsidy support deal with the DfT/Treasury ends on 11th December.

The 414 reduction comes on top of continuing relentless frequency cuts across London’s bus network taking out sizeable numbers of buses pretty much every week over the last two snd a half months. Just under 40 bus routes have been cut back during this time.

For example tomorrow, in addition to route 414, the latest cuts will see route 13 (North Finchley to Victoria) ‘downsized’ in frequency from every 6 minutes to every 8-9 minutes, with peak hour reductions also to routes 63 (Honor Oak to Kings Cross) and 168 (Hampstead Heath to Old Kent Road) which come after 6th November when routes 40 and 188 were reduced; which came after 30th October when route A10 was reduced; which came after 23rd October when routes 19, 42, 68, 88, 133 and 148 were reduced; which came after 9th October when routes 17 and 245 were reduced; which came after 2nd October when route 38 was reduced; which came after 25th September when route 277 was reduced; which came after 18th September when routes 22, 436 and D7 were reduced; which came after 11th September when routes 11, 29 and 59 were reduced; which came after 4th September when routes 49, 253 and 254 were reduced; which came after 28th August when routes 2, 7, 9, 16, 27, 30, 43, 113, 148, 507, 521 and N9 were reduced together with routes 113 and 159 withdrawn from Oxford Street which I wrote about at the time. Interestingly none of the foregoing frequency cuts were subject to the usual “London-style” consultation bureaucracy as buses per hour reductions don’t count when it comes to asking the public and stakeholders what they think; you could change a route from every 5 minutes to hourly and seemingly not need to consult.

Tomorrow’s change to route 414 is an interesting example of the rise and fall of London’s bus network over the last couple of decades which proponents of franchising in Manchester and other conurbations would do well to take note of.

Introduced nineteen years ago in November 2002, three months before the pioneering congestion charge was introduced, in an era when the bus network was going through peak expansion with impressively growing passenger numbers as Ken Livingstone brought in many pro-bus measures during his Mayoral tenures between 2000 and 2008.

Map courtesy of Mike Harris’s Greater London Bus Map

The route effectively duplicated its parent route 14 from Putney Bridge and Fulham as far as Hyde Park Corner from where, rather than continue to Piccadilly Circus and beyond as the 14 does, the newcomer struck out northwards along Park Lane to Marble Arch and along Edgware Road to Maida Vale. It was rerouted slightly and extended a bit further to Maida Hill in January 2005 and has continued unchanged ever since.

The rationale behind the route was to provide new connections between Fulham and South Kensington through to the Marble Arch and Edgware Road areas as well as providing additional capacity on the busy section of route 14.

North of Marble Arch buses have duplicated frequent route 6 running between Aldwych and Willesden and it’s this unneeded duplication which is now being withdrawn. Fewer passengers simply no longer justify the combined 15 buses an hour between the 6 and 414 on this section of route, if they ever did. But whereas in the early 2000s with consistent growth in passenger numbers it was easy to justify expanding the bus network, now it’s the complete opposite with cost savings needing to be banked.

Anywhere outside of London facing such a precarious financial position, would have seen such a change implemented expeditiously ages ago but this being London, and it being a change to a route’s terminus rather than a frequency reduction (even though it is a frequency reduction), means the full consultation caboodle has to be thrown at it.

This includes a full equalities impact assessment including analysing the route change’s impact according to each of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion/belief, sexual orientation and other (eg low incomes/homeless/refugees). The result is a full on 30 page analysis into all these implications.

I wouldn’t say it’s just ‘going through the motions’ but the first bullet point of the consequent assessment under each but the first category ‘age’ in that list, is repeated as: “data on bus usage by individuals who share this protected characteristic is not currently available at any meaningful level”.

Which to me means, it’s a polite way of saying ‘this is all completely meaningless’.

The consultation took place for six weeks last October and November. Over 162,000 emails were sent out to passengers known to travel on routes 6 and 414 and others on TfL’s general database as well as 103 stakeholders leading to responses from just two of those, London Travelwatch and Marble Arch BID, as well as 601 individual members of the public. And just to show the questionable value of such consultations, 84 per cent of respondents “thought the changes would make their journey longer” with concerns raised “with the frequency of route 6” and “additional time with changing buses and extra cost”.

But, notwithstanding these responses, the next steps were inevitable, and with no surprise at all were: “we have decided to go ahead with the proposals and curtail route 414 at Marble Arch”.

The word ‘Road’ has been missed off after Edgware!

I took a few rides on the about-to-be-withdrawn section of route 414 on Wednesday and can absolutely confirm it’s a sensible reduction in bus service provision and should have happened months ago.

Buses on route 6 which will continue to run every 7-8 minutes north of Marble Arch have plenty of capacity to carry the small numbers travelling either within the duplicated section of route or making a ‘cross Marble Arch’ journey – less than five people per journey that I saw, and most of those had alighted or boarded within a couple of bus stops north of Marble Arch. In only one case did I see a passenger travel from west of Hyde Park Corner right through to Maida Hill.

A journey on route 414 heading north along Edgware Road carrying no passengers from south of Marble Arch

Now route 6 operates via Piccadilly and Park Lane (rather than Regent Street and Oxford Street as it used to do until rerouted in 2017), changing from a 414 to a 6 to continue a northbound journey beyond Marble Arch, or vice versa southbound, can easily be done at one of the bus stops in Park Lane, and the hopper fare means no additional costs are incurred.

I was impressed to see timetable cases and bus stop flags along the affected stretch of route had already been updated with any reference to route 414 expunged and one of the usual yellow notices explaining the upcoming change on display.

I did wonder whether anyone will remember to go back and take down the out of date spider maps where displayed, but I hesitate to mention this, as I know TfL staff read this blog and might arrange for just that, as that’ll mean yet another map disappearing from TfL’s information provision since the policy continues to be: ‘leave us all in the dark’ bus map-wise in London.

There didn’t seem to be anything on display inside Abellio’s buses on the route about the change – sometimes I’ve noticed a scrolling message on the i-bus display when route changes are about to be introduced elsewhere.

And I wonder how long it will take to update all the bus stop displays south of Marble Arch to delete reference to “buses from this stop towards Maida Hill”.

TfL make the point staff involved in this project have been away on furlough thus delaying its implementation following the consultation closing a year ago. Such a delay didn’t seem out of the ordinary for TfL timescales to me – a year seems about ‘par for the course’.

The truncated 414 effectively duplicates the 14 over almost its entire route from tomorrow – the 14 extends a bit further south to Putney Heath to turn round, rather than Putney Bridge as used by the 414 – and continues to Piccadilly Circus and Russell Square from Hyde Park Corner rather than the 414’s use of Park Lane to terminate at Marble Arch. In the old days, the 414 would have been numbered 14A to make the association crystal clear.

Notwithstanding a new bus stand’s been established at the top end of Park Lane to accommodate terminating buses on route 414 at Marble Arch from tomorrow I suspect experience will soon show journeys carrying few passengers ‘round the corner’ north of Hyde Park Corner justifying a cut back to that point.

Especially as there’s the frequent route 74 which coincidentally also starts in Putney (but in the High Street at Go-Ahead’s bus garage) and is routed via Earls Court instead of Fulham to South Kensington but from there it continues via Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch to Baker Street.

Then there’s no reason why such truncated 414 journeys couldn’t take the number 14 other than TfL’s obsession that buses on every route must all go the full length with no short workings – except route 166 (in Banstead) and whenever traffic congestion means “the destination of this bus has changed” when you’re actually on board.

Taking it further I suspect it won’t be long before it could be shown fewer passenger.journeys through Fulham and South Kensington mean the frequency of those ‘short journeys’ between Putney Bridge and Hyde Park Corner aren’t all needed and the spiral of decline continues.

Intriguingly at the end of the 414 consultation feedback report, TfL commented on a suggestion made by a respondent to “withdraw route 414 altogether and increase route 14 instead”. The reply was: “we are considering a longer-term scheme that might do this or something similar. However, this requires further analysis”. Don’t expect anything any time soon then.

The terminal point at Maida Hill shared with route 228, but no longer from tomorrow.

Finally, I should clarify I’m not suggesting TfL’s current programme of frequency reductions and route cut backs are not justified, I’ve no doubt they are, it’s just that ironically if the scale of what’s happening to London’s bus network was happening elsewhere there’d be calls for the mythical “London-style” standards of buses to be introduced to halt the decline as the answer. It’s not. Mayor Burnham please take note.

Roger French


23 thoughts on ““London-style” bus cuts continue

Add yours

  1. For a route that barely gets outside of central London it is curious to see TfL claim that the busiest part of the withdrawn section is all the way up at Edgware London Underground station, which I’m sure neither the 414 or 6 actually serve as claimed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Commercial operators in GM have themselves implemented their own “London-style” bus cuts recently I can think of several Stagecoach, first and Arriva routes withdrawn or reduced. Mayor Burnham please take note.

    The much lauded x57 by Hulleys is also to be withdrawn


    1. To clarify, do you mean the X57 is being withdrawn between Manchester and Manchester airport because that is all I can see happening?


  3. How much money is wasted on the pointless equalities etc consultations?

    Travel by bus inb London has got more difficult due to cycle lanes and breaking routes up into tiny short routes. The 14 for example used to provide a cross London Service going from Hornsey Rise in North London to Putmey in the south

    We have yet to see what impct Crossrail will have on Londons bus routes although there is sytill no date for when it opens in spite of it supposed to have been only weeks away from opening over 2 years ago


    1. It’s not “cycle lanes” making travel by bus in London more difficult, it’s too much motor traffic! Too many private cars and delivery vans.
      Buses, cycles and cargo bikes are part of the solution to both traffic congestion as well as reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. They work together- once people actually get out of their cars, use the alternatives and drive a bit less!


  4. Back in the Livingstone days, London Buses was awash with cash and the impending Congestion Charge zone meant that lots of “round-the-corner” routes were introduced. All very laudable, but as time went on, many of these routes, together with Oyster, contactless and hopper tickets meant that changing buses mid-journey became easier.

    One point that we need to re-learn is that buses are for short-distance journeys in the main . . . few passengers travel long distances. Back in the day, when I drove on Route 266 (Brent Cross-Hammersmith), I reckoned I’d “turn the load over” at least four/five times . . . Brent Cross-Willesden; Cricklewood-Harlesden; Willesden/Harlesden-Acton; Acton-Hammersmith. The number of Hammersmith passengers boarding north of Willesden was low; similarly Brent Cross passengers seldom travelled south of Harlesden. That’s what buses do best . . . lots of short riders. The problem is that traffic in Cricklewood can muck up the service at Hammersmith and vice-versa . . . so localisation is sometimes the only solution.

    Leaving aside the time taken to implement these changes . . . I think that TfL are actually being sensible at last. Making small frequency reductions and trimming round-the-corner routes will actually inconvenience few passengers, but make substantial savings. If numbers rise, then frequencies can be restored in the longer-term, but just now it saves money and takes pressure off driver recruitment . . . a bit win-win!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Are you veing xewrious? Cargo bikes for home deliveries? . It can work for deliverng pizzas and just eats but that about it

    A delivery van will work from a delivery deport. THat can cover an area as much as a 30 mile radius. Are your cargo bike going to pick up two or three items from the delivery depot and go 30 miles to deliver them then cycle back 20 miles to pick up a few more items? It simply does not work

    Now buses used to carry mail and parcels there could be a sideline for them doing deliveries in the evenings and weekends in rural araea. Most of the buses then are parked up in the garage doing nothing


    1. Oh Bob. You don’t seem to understand the capacity of a cargo bike or how the existing cargo bike delivery services like Pedalme and Zedify work. It’s simply a case of organising the logistics. I’m not saying they will remove all the delivery vans but they can certainly help remove the ones delivering smaller items, of which there are many.


  6. Looking at the 414 today, the busiest bit of the whole route seemed to be Park Lane to Maida Vale, otherwise served by the 6 and 16. Both buses I travelled on were almost empty between South Kensington & Putney Bridge in both directions (as were almost all I saw) but were proving useful at the Maida Hill end, with the 6 not running well because of a diversion.


  7. “Mayor” Burnham and his fellow power-hungry counterparts need to be very careful what they wish for. They have had all the tools they need to implement whatever level of bus service they require since October 1986, and have been perfectly free to subside or pay for any service deemed necessary and not covered by any commercial Operator. Did they actually understand the De-Regulation act? The residents of Greater Manchester, when last asked in a referendum regarding subsidy for local buses voted overwhelmingly against such a measure, so when the true cost of his ambitious plans fall through their letterboxes with future Council tax demands, the reaction may be interesting. Massive London expansion was caused by cheap fares, Tourists, an ever increasing population, legal or otherwise, and high employment at all levels. All no longer, or at least for the time being. Not hard to see why now even those services which have taken a 33% cut such as the 7, still have plenty of empty seats. As for “Equalities and impact assessments”, my views had best be kept to myself!


  8. What TfL needs is to be able to produce a computer anylasis of the network. Presumbly they know where buses are and can tell how many people get on at each stop. They should be able to tell if the bua is on time, The missing information is where do the passengers get off You also do not know the passengers end to emd jorney they may use another buis or a train


  9. I know an element of irony was involved in the naming of this piece, but maybe “Provincial-Style” bus cuts would be a more accurate title?

    In response to Terence Uden, town halls lost powers upon deregulation. It was kind of the point of the legislation in the first place so, no, they didn’t have all the tools to implement whatever level of bus services they wanted. They lost control over fares and the ability to cross-subsidise to provide a network to give just two examples. Deregulation was supposed to reduce the burden on the taxpayer, so where was all this money for mysteriously disappearing buses in the evenings and Sundays supposed to come from?

    It comes to something when even a Conservative Government publishes a national bus strategy that seeks to involve Mayors and local authorities more in the organisation of bus services to arrest the decline in bus patronage, the choice being franchising or enhanced partnerships. So is the final nail in the coffin for the free-marketeers and a realisation that, as a society, we actually do need to pay properly for things we actually value? See also social care, the NHS, HGV (bus?) drivers etc etc.


  10. Not just the buses. And it’s the problem. Nobody seems to have any idea what “paying properly” or “what we value” is… or ever has been.
    So we randomly either cut on principle, or throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at it. Then we end up with anarchy, until someone gets a grip, and it all starts over again.
    Kids’ playtime.


  11. I just wonder what the impact of our transport network is on our notoriously low productivity, and the economy. No one has the vaguest idea. No one has the slightest interest either, except the poor souls who have to cope with it every day. They don’t matter, of course. It’s none of their business.
    The buses (like the rest) are just another plaything for the elites.


  12. Dan makes a good point about the lack of tools available to local authorities. However looking at Birmingham and Manchester, bus routes have been kicked out of the core to allow for trams.

    Manchester reduced the size of Piccadilly for buses, closed Arndale bus station and opened Shudehill on the fringe.

    Birmingham is even worse, with so much space, such as Corporation Street and Upper Bull Street being given over to the small tram system and built so badly that the track in the centre needs relaying.

    Will this change if they take control of the buses?


  13. So I spent twenty years helping a Council implement subsidised services where there was a need to fill gaps. Guess it was all a dream then, except that I still have the pay slips. The fares and cross-subsidy issues yes, but still could implement any levels of service they so desired, provided they didn’t mind funding it as proposed NOW. So let us get the record straight.


  14. So where is this magic cross-subsidy money tree? Can we all grow one? Or is the real choice that between commissioning and regulation (but how much?) In terms of results, is there much difference at all? Same with fares. Rail fares are regulated, and that’s abolished inflation and sorted everything out, hasn’t it? I used buses in the 1960s /70s Golden Age. I had no choice. It was a nightmare, never exceeded since.

    Maybe when buses were force of habit. Now public transport, like everything else, is an individual choice. It’s the way we live today. We all have to adapt. Yes, everybody wishes they could turn the clock back at some point in their lives, but despite that, and our wonderful science, who has managed it yet? We might afford to delay, at a cost, but not avoid, the inevitable.


  15. The Evening Standard is reporting tht Khan wants another £1.£B to keep Tf:L’s bus and train services going

    There seems to be no attemt to manager TfL:s ‘ budget. Can they really justify the Night tube sercice? most of the time it is running around almost empty. All they probabl need to do is extend the last trains by about an hour at weekends
    TfL need to start charhing cylists, TfL could remove surplus capacity to reduce costs, TfL should provide only ther statutary consessionary pass scheme


    1. Night Tube “Running around empty” is clearly a comment from someone who is not out and about after 1am on a Friday & Saturday.
      Even on a Monday night (Tuesday morning) at 2am the bus was pretty busy – on a Friday/Saturday night what Night tube that is currently running is similarly packed.
      Also, you bring up cyclists AGAIN – saying they should be charged. For what? Cyclists are only able to use TfL tube & rail services off-peak anyway. It’s not going to make much difference at all to the revenue, so why bring it up?


  16. Route 271 (Highgate Village-Moorgate) would be axed
    Route 21 (Newington Green-Lewisham) would start from Holloway Nag’s Head instead of Newington Green to part-replace the 271, running along the current 271 route as far as Hoxton Baring Street, then continuing to Lewisham as now
    Routes 143 (Brent Cross-Archway) and 263 (Barnet Hospital-Highbury Barn) would swap routeings between Highgate Wood and Archway, with the 143 now direct via Highgate Station and the 263 via Highgate Village instead
    A night bus route numbered N271 would run between North Finchley and Moorgate, via the 263 and new 21 routeings
    The current schoolday journeys on the 143 would be renumbered 620 and would still run via Highgate Village to Bishop Douglass
    As part of the changes, the bus stands in Highgate Village would be removed, freeing up space on roads there and reducing noise© TfL/OS As part of the changes, the bus stands in Highgate Village would be removed, freeing up space on roads there and reducing noise
    The second, which principally affects passengers in the areas of Southwark, Elephant & Castle and Bermondsey, would mean:

    Routes 1 (Tottenham Court Road-Canada Water) and 168 (Hampstead Heath-Old Kent Road) would be axed, although a new route would run from Hampstead Heath to Canada Water using most of the 1 and 168 routeing would be introduced. The new route is ‘provisionally numbered’ 1 but its actual number will be defined after the consultation
    Route 188 (Russell Square-North Greenwich) would be changed to start from Tottenham Court Road instead of Russell Square
    Route N1 (Tottenham Court Road-Thamesmead) would still run as it does now
    There would be fewer buses along the Old Kent Road, with former 168 passengers having to change for the 172 instead© TfL/OS There would be fewer buses along the Old Kent Road, with former 168 passengers having to change for the 172 instead
    Both of the proposals would reduce the number of buses on sections of road TfL no longer thinks needs them. In the first scenario, this is the section between Hoxton Baring Street and Moorgate Finsbury Square and in the second scenario, it’s the section between Russell Square and Tower Bridge Road/Grange Road. There are currently as much as 90 buses per hour at peak times between Holborn and Elephant & Castle according to TfL which is unsustainable given changes to the way people work and travel in London.

    Route 1 has operated with the same number in various iterations along a core Aldwych to Elephant & Castle section since 1908, with timetables as far back as the creation of TfL’s predecessor London Transport still traceable to 1934. Should the proposed, new route between Hampstead Heath and Canada Water not take the number 1,

    The 271 is very long standing route. As a bus route it goes back 1960 prior to that it operated as Trolleybus Route 611 from 1939 and prior to that as tram route 11 although it only operated as far as the Archway Tavern


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