London matters

Saturday 19th February 2022

I’d planned to use this blog to write about the fourth funding settlement agreed between DfT and TfL yesterday including the controversial stuff like Travelcards ending.

But I guessed a settlement wouldn’t be agreed. And instead there’d be a further extension from last night’s midnight expiry of the already twice extended third funding settlement.

DfT have got form here.

Three previous temporary emergency funding deals have been agreed between the DfT and TfL. And up to last night there had been five extensions.

The first settlement lasted from 1 April 2020 to 17th October 2020. As the clock ticked towards its midnight expiry on 17th October 2020 and TfL said they had contingency plans to close down the system if no agreement was reached, an eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute agreement was made to extend the deal by two weeks to expire on 31st October 2020.

A second deal was then put in place on 1st November 2020 to last until 31st March 2021.

On 18th March 2021 the DfT proposed a short-term two-month extension of that funding package to 18th May 2021. A further extension was announced at the last minute that day for another ten days until 28th May 2021.

On 1st June 2021 it was announced a third funding settlement had been agreed for the period from 29th May 2021 until 17th December 2021.

As the 17th December deadline was about to expire, funding was extended to 4th February 2022.

On the evening of 4th February 2022 a further extension was agreed to 18th February 2022.

Which is where we were yesterday.

When Andy Byford was appointed Transport Commissioner in May 2020 one of the first things he said was it was essential TfL received a long term funding settlement. Three short term deals and six even shorter extensions later I guess he probably thinks that even more.

So I’m sorry I can’t bring you news and comment on the fourth funding deal in today’s blog; there’s been no public announcement as I write this late on Friday night/early on Saturday morning although sources tell me TfL are scrutinising a DfT letter received yesterday which mentions the word billion but it’s not known precisely how much or what strings are attached.

There must be a letter of some kind, saying something about funding, otherwise legally, no TfL services should be running this morning.

What a way to run the Capital’s public transport – lurching from one midnight deadline to the next, not knowing what funding will be available. Yet, this model of running public transport is hailed by naive politicians as how the whole country’s bus networks should be run.

Imagine a bus company in a large conurbation put fares up by 1% more than RPI, never mind CPI. Imagine if that bus company had reduced service frequencies consistently over the last six months taking out 263 peak vehicles from its network with more cuts coming almost week by week. Imagine if that bus company said it was planning to pull out of a long standing and hugely popular integrated ticket arrangement whereby passengers buy a rail ticket to travel into the conurbation by train from outside and use all services within the area using that one ticket, but it’ll no longer be available. Imagine if a bus company increased the age for concessionary travel from aged 60 to aged 66. Imagine if that bus company for years has refused to take part in day ticket schemes when its longer distance services cross the border into neighbouring areas. Imagine there are no bus maps or timetables available to tell you where and when that company’s buses operate. Imagine one bus route which crosses the border ceasing in a few weeks with no announcements of any replacement for passengers left stranded. Imagine its so called integrated ticketing regime charges different fares for exactly the same journey depending whether you travel by a train that goes on tracks at ground level or on tracks in a tunnel. Imagine if the bus company gets round to offering luxuries like a usb socket, mobile phone holder, (sort of) head rest on a seat, wood effect flooring and a window in the roof at least five if not about ten years after all other leading bus companies introduced them but thinks they’re a major innovation…..

…. yes, you’ve guessed it …..you don’t have to imagine ….. welcome to “London style” buses.

And another thing….

Wandsworth’s disappearing bus stops

Long time readers may recall a blog from 6th April last year when I wrote about the phantom bus stops which had appeared in Osiers Road, Wandsworth much to the puzzlement of local residents. TfL had launched a consultation back in March 2018 about a proposal to double the frequency of route 485 from half hourly to every 15 minutes, divert the route via Upper Richmond Road instead of Putney Bridge Road and extend it from Wandsworth town centre to “Wandsworth Riverside Quarter” and serve a swathe of new flats built in Osiers Road.

Despite no word on the results of that consultation, three years later, residents’ expectations were heightened last March when TfL’s contractors installed bus stops in Osiers Road ready for buses to arrive.

It’s there.

Except they didn’t. Instead, after my blog was published the contractors returned and covered over the bus stop flags as well as inserting ‘Bus stop closed’ signs in the timetable cases which only added to the consternation among residents.

Now, almost another year later and four years on from the consultation, the contractors have been back again, and this time removed the bus stop flags and fittings as well as the complete bus stop pole, and filled the hole in where it stood.

It’s gone.

It doesn’t look as though “Wandsworth River Quarter” will be receiving it’s route 485 buses any time soon. If ever.

Now you see it….
…. now you don’t.

However, all hope might not be lost. TfL still have the three bus stops concerned in their online database. You can still find Osiers Road (eastbound), Osiers Road (westbound) and the terminus at Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier listed on these links.

My grateful thanks to local resident and blog reader Paul for keeping me appraised of bus stop developments in the area and supplying these latest photographs.

While Paul and his neighbours might be disappointed not to have received their 15 minute bus service they can enjoy a new edition of Mike Harris’s splendid Greater London Bus Map if they want to see what other bus routes they’re missing out on.

Mike has been painstakingly updating his wonderful map and has just published the latest digital edition on line with a promise of a printed update to follow in May. You can order a download of the latest map for the amazing price of just £1 through this link. It’s highly recommended for all bus map lovers.

So that’s it for today. A few London matters. After all, the Mayor rightly tell’s us London’s transport does matter. He’s certainly right about that. But what a state it’s in.

If you’re reading this when first posted on Saturday morning, I’m out and about enjoying some rail replacement bus rides as the Brighton Main Line begins its nine day blockade for the second time in three years.

I checked to see if the marquee was back again at Three Bridges on Wednesday.

It was.

Although whether it’s still there after Eunice is another matter, but those concrete blocks look sturdy enough and I’m told it can withstand winds of up to 90 mph.

Contractors were at work widening the steps to allow two way movement from the station to the adjacent car park and its “bus hub” as there’s no overhead walkway this time.

More on all this in tomorrow’s blog.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog, Sunday 20th February 2022: Britain’s biggest rail replacement ever. Part 3.

20 thoughts on “London matters

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  1. The situation is even worse outside of London with up to 40% of service potentially facing the axe in some areas if no further funding is received. Given the need to given 6 weeks notice of service changes the deadline is the 25th February. If no funding is received by then service cuts are likely to start. In some areas there are also issues over concessionary pass reimbursement.

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  2. My local naive politician, the Mayor of North of the Tyne has joined the metro – mayors this week in the last minute rush to prevent bus service cuts. Problem is unlike his counterparts in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Midlands etc he doesn’t have any powers over local public transport policy. I know that he’s at least a voice to the rallying cause but nobody around here knows who he is or what he does and even fewer people actually voted for him.

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  3. I think that when politicians aspire to a “London style” transport system they’re referring to how it was pre-pandemic. The current financial crisis is due to Covid destroying demand for travel and a bizarre funding system whereby over 75% is through fares. Name any other city in the developed world that runs public transport like that!

    My local bus company (an independent) is reducing the frequency of its Chippenham to Bath service from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes later this month. It says it hopes that this is temporary. I look forward to the implementation of the BSIP and the promised “turn up and go” services.

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  4. The service cuts outside of London are starting to come though. The 318 Watford to Abbots Langley which is operated by Mulley’s is being axed from the 18th March and from the 17th April Arriva are making extensive service reductions in Watford and Hemel Hempstead and some section of routes will be axed entirely

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  5. Details of Watford area Bus Cuts

    Route 8

    This is a bus route that currently runs between Abbots Langley and Mount Vernon Hospital, via North Watford and Watford town centre every 30 minutes

    From April 17, it will run between Watford town centre and Mount Vernon, continuing to operate via the likes of South Oxhey and Northwood.

    Route 10

    This is a bus route that currently runs between the Holywell estate and Woodside estate, via Watford town centre, every 15 minutes.

    From April 17, the service will continue to run between Holywell and Woodside as it does now. But it will extend to Abbots Langley and South Way to partly cover a section of route 8 that is being lost.

    The service will run every 30 minutes.

    Route 20

    This is a new bus service that will be introduced from April 17

    It will operate between Holywell in Watford and Hemel Hempstead, covering Watford town centre, North Watford (part), Woodside, Leverstock Green, Maylands, and Adeyfield in Hemel before terminating in the town.

    It is set to run every 30 minutes and is due to cover part of the 320 which is being withdrawn.

    Route 320

    This is a bus service that currently runs between Hemel Hempstead and Maple Cross. It goes via both those areas as well as Rickmansworth, Croxley Green, Watford town centre, North Watford, Garston, Abbots Langley, Bedmond, and Leverstock Green.

    The 320 service is being withdrawn from April 17. It will be replaced in part by the new 20 bus service and the 321, which is being revised.

    Route 321

    This is a bus service that currently runs between Watford town centre and Luton, via North Watford, Garston, Chiswell Green, St Albans, and Harpenden.

    From April 17, the 321 will be extended from Watford to cover Croxley Green, Rickmansworth and Maple Cross, to cover the loss of the 320 and 520 services.

    Route 500

    This is a bus service that currently runs between Watford and Aylesbury, via the likes of Hemel Hempstead and Kings Langley.

    The route appears to be unchanged but will operate every 30 minutes rather than every 20 minutes.

    Route 520

    This is a bus service that currently runs between Maple Cross and Watford town centre, via Croxley Green and Rickmansworth.

    It will be withdrawn from April 17 and replaced by the extended 321 service..

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  6. I have a bit of sympathy with the Treasury as the national finances are in a dire state, with a lot of government debt, even before COVID (remember bailing out the banks?). Made worse by COVID. So cutting services to meet demand rather than running empty buses and trains seems sensible with the hope of being able to reinstate them if demand improves. In fact there should be a lot more debate and thought into how to reinvigorate businesses and the economy, particularly exports. (Don’t mention Brexit!)

    Regarding the Brighton Line engineering work: last week I realised that it doesn’t coincide with half-term for majority of the Brighton Line area, as it was half-term this past week in London, East Sussex, Brighton and Surrey. West Sussex and Hampshire will, however, have their holiday this coming week.

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  7. The problem is outside of London and the large cities there is nothing much lef to cut. It is already down to a Monday to Saturday 7am to6pm service run at hourly or less so not a lot of use to most people. More cuts mean s axing services totally.

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  8. I know it may be very tempting to unfavourably compare TfL with bus services in the provinces but let me redress the balance somewhat and give some clues as to why politicians look towards London.

    1) Even after the cuts, London will no doubt enjoy a very comprehensive level of service. I can imagine many bus users outside London being slightly bemused on hearing bus routes in the capital are being *reduced* to operate every 12 minutes!

    2) London has lead the way in alternative vehicle propulsion and had the foresight to trial technologies that operators across the land now take for granted. Not many (if any) operators outside London can claim 30% of their fleet are hybrid, for example.

    3) Similarly, TfL has pioneered cashless ticketing and next-stop bus announcements which are by no means universal outside London.

    4) How many places outside London can you obtain a hopper fare, let alone one for £1.55?

    Of course, all this costs but one does tend to get what one pays for in life….

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  9. TfL may declare itself Bankrupt next week

    Mr Khan’s office said one option being considered if the government refused support was issuing a report under section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 – effectively declaring TfL bankrupt.

    Passenger footfall has still not recovered, with Tube ridership just 59 per cent of pre-pandemic levels according to new figures. Meanwhile, TfL bus ridership has returned to around 75 per cent.

    The goverenment has repeatedly shown there commitment to supporting London’s transport network throughout the pandemic, providing over £4.5bn in emergency funding to Transport for London and pledging a further billion pounds of capital investment every year up until at least 2024-25 – all at a time of significant pressure on the national finances,” a spokesperson for the Department for Transport said.

    They added: “We’re aware that TfL are still feeling the aftereffects of the pandemic, but it is the Mayor’s responsibility to accelerate overdue reforms that will ensure TfL becomes financially sustainable in a way that is fair to taxpayers. Discussions are ongoing and we will provide an update in due course.”

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  10. London, Essex and Kent face possible bus delays

    Bus passengers across London, Essex and Kent are facing severe disruption this spring, as bus drivers employed by Arriva ballot for industrial action following a ‘pitiful’ pay offer.

    Over 1,300 drivers are being balloted for strike action after being offered a pay increase of just 1.5 per cent; a sizeable real terms pay cut when the retail price index (RPI) inflation rate is currently 7.5 per cent.

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    1. Meanwhile tube workers are expected to receive an increase of RPI plus 0.2% this year thanks to a four-year pay deal agreed in 2019 – this could well be over 8%. This is expected to cost TfL an additional £100m per year – this represents over half the additional revenue expected to be raised by next month’s TfL fare hike.

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  11. Drastic Measure are nered in Central Lodon as traffic is geeting slower and slower

    I would get rid of all the cycle lanes in Central London as road space is at a premium . Central would be turned over to just Public Tranport and other essential traffic such as Royal Mail etc and people who live in Central London

    These would drasitically speed up bus service in Central London making the jorneys quicker and significantly reducing costs

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  12. I’ve just been reading (via Bus Users UK) the Trapeze report about bus travel in London (https://trapezegroup.co.uk/putting-the-bus-at-the-heart-of-our-communities/?gator_td=LREUr42cBnLscoqDJQE1vOXxkvw/ctRdxEBskto6tr%2Bpf6vX%2BNAdL6fPaFWXVJmWOnXdMIF4fG5iSyJt4F7i92V7S3mfFQbYcEr29OzzQU8NedNZ3BxoP3tlYU6ntA48PSw0CYOIrHuVobT/tIcqqMM8%2B4o5Av3cWltIjG6B72rqaTYrnUbATd6QfDzW3Lk7yEpd2eBrKei0wVABHcoErA%3D%3D) – encouraging, as it seems that bus passengers are generally very happy with their bus journeys, particularly since real-time passenger information became available, which has made e.g. night journeys much less worrying.

    Their suggestions for getting more passengers to transfer from car to bus: (1) speed up buses (i.e. better bus priority measures) (2) easier onward travel – mainly tube [my comment – many bus stops at tube stations are too long a walk from the station entrance] (3) – frequency [my comment – surely by now someone in the bus industry must know what is the ‘golden’ frequency at which you start getting massively more transfer from car travel?]

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  13. Rick . . . I don’t think there is a “golden frequency” as such . . . there are too many other factors to be considered.

    In an urban setting, anything less than 6 BPH (every 10 minutes) will require a passenger to consult a timetable. Anything more frequent than 8 BPH (every 7/8 minutes) will encourage passengers to simply turn up (the average wait would be less than 4 minutes). I’m sure that London Buses have carried out studies accordingly.

    Of course . . . the bus must go where passengers want it to go, at a reasonable fare . . . otherwise just running loads of buses won’t work!!

    A route that wanders around several estates collecting passengers before heading into town won’t work, however high the frequency.
    A route every 20 minutes that picks up at (say) 10 stops and then runs non-stop into town will have a much better chance of attracting passengers. It will also be easier to publicise.
    Of course . . . this will require local knowledge of the market, and that’s the really difficult bit !!

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