TfL’s “bold vision for buses”

Thursday 17th March 2022

TfL launched a“long-term plan for buses” last week. The press release headlined it “TfL sets out bold vision for buses in the capital” with the new Bus Action Plan aiming for a “modern bus network to attract more customers and help the capital become net zero by 2030”.

The 94-page Bus Action Plan joins a suite of four other Action Plans within the Mayor’s Transport Strategy armoury. There’s a Walking Action Plan, a Cycling Action Plan, a Vision Zero Action Plan and a Freight and Servicing Action Plan. It all makes for a lot of Action Plan reading if you’re an Action Plan fanatic, which I’m not, but I’ve had a look through this one as I’m interested to see how TfL plans to turnaround the last decade of declining passenger numbers not least with the Mayor’s aim for 80% of trips in London to be by walking, cycling and public transport by 2041 which in stark terms means passenger journeys on London’s buses must increase by 50% – from 6.1 million (pre-pandemic) to 9 million daily journeys. That’s quite an aspiration.

The Actions Plans all come illustrated with copious pages of professionally taken glossy photographs to make the words, which at times can be somewhat tedious and repetitive, seem more engaging. Surprisingly in the Bus Action Plan, save for a shot of a new style on board interior next stop sign, there’s no photographs of the shiny new electric buses recently introduced on bus route 63 between Kings Cross and Honor Oak.

All the more so as TfL’s accompanying press release promoting the Action Plan explains:

The plan can be seen in action on the route 63 from King’s Cross to Honor Oak, where new higher specification all-electric buses were launched last month. The buses bring together a range of customer-friendly features for the first time, including a more welcoming feel, USB charge points and mobile phone holders, a larger wheelchair and buggy area and better real time travel information on board. A new bus lane on the New Kent Road section of the route is improving journey times and reliability in line with the plan. All vehicles meet TfL’s Bus Safety Standard and feature upgraded CCTV, enhancing security.

(My photo)

TfL reckon their Bus Action Plan “will create an even more attractive alternative to car use by focusing on five key areas”.

The five “key areas” being ….. an inclusive customer experience …… safety and security ….. faster journeys …… improved connections ….. decarbonisation and climate resilience.

Louise Cheeseman, TFL’s Director of Buses says “ultimately it’s about making the bus the natural choice over the car”. That’s really good to hear but I reckon TfL are going to need to be far bolder than trumpeting the emulation of five year old provincial bus specifications (as per route 63’s seats, flooring and usb sockets/phone holders) if it’s to succeed in that objective. This is going to need serious upscaling of service quality and information provision, both of which in some quarters is quite dire across the Capital at the moment.

The positive messages in the Bus Action Plan are also in stark contrast to TfL’s current Financial Sustainability Plan as part of the hand-to-mouth existence it’s had to endure these last couple of years with only short term Government funding. The Bus Action Plan acknowledges the Financial Sustainability Plan “includes proposals to adjust public transport service levels, including a four per cent reduction in bus mileage” which has been manifesting in regular frequency reductions and route merger proposals.

TfL state confidently “these reductions will not significantly damage our ability to attract people back to our network” before warning “however, at this point further reductions would not be supported by evidence and could put London’s recovery in jeopardy”. Maybe that’s why the regular weekly frequency reductions seem to have dried up of late, although some proposals consulted on are still outstanding (eg Croydon/Sutton and the route 168 and route 271 proposals)

I reckon there are three key areas which TfL need to concentrate on if they are going to stand any chance of making “the bus the natural choice” and get anywhere close to that 50% growth in the next couple of decades. The first, is covered in the Bus Action Plan once you reach page 51 having skipped over all the bumf about delivering visions, the impact of the pandemic, the need for inclusivity, diversity, decarbonisation, zero this, zero that etc ….. and that’s the “urgency” of dealing with journey times.

The Plan calls for “urgent” action “to deliver a transformational improvement to bus journey times in order to provide a bus service that Londoners will choose to use”. It points out bus speeds dropped by 3% in the six years leading up to 2020. The impact of less traffic during lockdowns aside they reached as low as 9 mph pre Covid – and that’s an average.

Some of this is self inflicted with road space having progressively been given over to walking and cycling, longer red phasing of traffic lights, and reductions in road widths at junctions. I can’t see any of these policies being reversed so something more radical is needed. The Plan mentions “a new road user charging system could be key to this approach by incentivising a shift away from the private car use which is responsible for much of the congestion and consequent delay to bus journey times”.

Road user charging is of course the real game changer we all know needs to come, but I can’t see it happening within an “urgent” timescale. And certainly not while the current Government is holding the purse strings. Johnson famously ended the western extension of Livingston’s Congestion Charge when he was Mayor of London.

Regular London bus passengers are also all too familiar with the “this bus is being held to even out the service” syndrome. The consequence of Quality Incentive Contract payments to bus companies is the slackness of bus schedules so buses don’t run late and incur penalties, so when traffic flows better than average, buses are held adding to insufferably slow journeys for passengers already on board. There’s been many a journey I’ve made on a TfL bus where I’ve almost lost the will to live it’s been so tortuously slow as a result of such pauses along the way. It’s certainly become an engrained perception in this bus user.

The Plan talks about providing “new bus priority design guidance to help designers and scheme promoters to cater for bus customers and develop best practice bus priority that delivers against the Healthy Streets indicators”. Which is a wordy way of saying – more effective bus lanes are needed.

In a section of the Bus Action Plan that could be taken word for word from many a provinicial Bus Service Improvement Plan, as well as the Bus Back Better (National Bus Strategy) document there are calls for …. optimising traffic signalling to deliver greater priority for buses, pedestrians and cycles …. deliver ‘quick win’ improvements identified through operational observation …. extending bus lane operating hours ….. reduce kerbside activity in bus lanes ….. reduce the impact of roadworks.

Skipping to the appendices at the back of the Action Plan you find some useful timeline charts explaining what’s to be done when. On the urgency of journey times, it’s good to see “25km of new and improved bus priority” scheduled in for the four years 2022-2025 with a “milestone” next year of “Bus priority best practice guidance published”.

Whether this really will deliver the step change in journey times only time will tell. I have my doubts.

The second priority I would take from the Plan comes on Page 67 where the Plan admits “our bus network provides a generally uniform service across London”. Indeed it does, whereas in many provincial towns and cities the market is seen as much more diverse. TfL seem to be waking up to this by acknowledging “to attract new customers who don’t currently see the bus as an option we need to reconsider whether the existing approach is the right one”.

This is heartening to read not least as it gives an example “we can take a fresh look at how limited stop services fit into the bus offer for longer trips in outer London which are currently mostly made by car”. It gives the examples of limited stop routes X140 and X68 (but interestingly not routes X26 and 607 – I wonder if the Plan’s author forgot about them?) – as well as continuing “to investigate bus transit options” including a few natty little diagrams to illustrate the point, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the infamous London Transport Reshaping Plan from the 1960s!

I’m convinced there are opportunities from reintroducing former ‘Green Line’ style limited stop faster journey time bus routes to TfL’s bus network together with a 2022 style ‘state-of-the-art’ bus fleet – like Transdev Blazefield’s famous route 36 bus specification including 2+1 luxury style seating. And a new striking livery to promote the service and what it does. And at a premium fare rather than the £1.65 flat rate – which, for example makes the current offering on route X26 between Croydon and Heathrow financially unsustainable.

Examples of successful limited stop services which have grown the bus market in the provinces include Brighton & Hove’s route 12X along the coast between Brighton and Eastbourne which has seen phenomenal growth helped by miles of bus lanes of course (an absolutely essential ingredient) as well as Cityzap revolutionising faster journey time travel between Leeds and York.

Photo courtesy history.buses.co.uk

There must be opportunities like these across Greater London not least where rail journeys aren’t so readily available as for many orbital journeys for example – just look at the success of the Overground around north London as evidence of latent orbital demand.

Reintroducing bendy buses for high volume corridors would also make sense. I was delighted to obtain a fleet of London’s hand-me-downs for Brighton & Hove’s busy route 25 in the early 2010s. They’ve been taking students to and from the university campuses at Falmer and along the Lewes Road for the past twelve years – helped yet again by some radical bus lanes introduced by the City Council.

Photo courtesy history.buses.co.uk

These buses perform a different job to double deck buses passing along the same corridor on inter-urban routes to Lewes, Ringmer, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells. Passengers easily understand the differential helped by high profile attractive route branding on the buses and the same successful formula continues to this day.

Adopting a similar strategy in London would mean slaying the sacred cow of simplicity and everything appearing exactly the same, but if new markets are to be attracted, as the Plan acknowledges: “we need to reconsider whether the existing approach is always the right one”.

At one time there were ambitious plans for Cross River Tram for example. That would make for a good start – but using Bus Rapid Transit rather than trams to save money.

TfL’s dalliance with route branding in Barkingside and Hayes a few years ago was frankly embarrassing for its amateurish ineffectiveness but that doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for high profile professionally designed branding of key routes across the Capital. There definitely is snd it’s an opportunity missed in favour of plain, boring red. Simple that might be; effective at selling bus routes it’s not.

The third priority I’m delighted to see included in the Bus Action Plan under the section headed ‘Inclusive customer experience’ (not sure why the word ‘inclusive’ has to be there) is “the provision of better information”. The Plan states “we need to build confidence in the experience of taking the bus by reconsidering what is needed ….. this can be achieved through the provision of better information”.

Not surprisingly the Plan extols the virtues of TfL’s Go branded app as well as the provision of real time information. “Over the past two decades we have pioneered new technologies to provide customers with information at all stages of their journeys, from planning before they set off on their journey to their time on the bus itself” comes under a heading “Focus on Digital information at all stages of the customer journey”.

Which is all good stuff for those who like digital information, but what about those who are a bit old fashioned and like printed material including maps to look at both at home and at bus stops for information and reassurance. For all the platitudes TfL likes to come out with about “inclusivity” there’s not been anything inclusive about its provision of information for many years once the plug was pulled on printing maps and displaying them in bus shelters. They’re not even available online for many areas of London.

The timeline chart for these actions don’t inspire me with confidence giving until the end of 2023 to “trial new on-bus digital information screens on route 63” for example and a plan to “introduce digital bus blinds across more of the fleet” – welcome to the world of destination displays everyone else has lived in for decades. But, as you can see, it’s all very much “digital”.

I often give the example of Wood Green and Turnpike Lane – a major bus interchange together with the Piccadilly Line passing through. Thirteen bus routes terminate and another four pass through this significant commercial centre and travel hub in north London. Yet you can only find out about where these go using TfL information sources by playing around with a Journey Planner. Which is hopeless. Utterly hopeless.

The Plan acknowledges the bus network is complex” adding “sometimes it can be difficult to know which bus to use”. You’re not kidding. “Providing more and better-quality information can encourage more bus travel” explains the Plan, so I look forward to a return to the publishing of network maps both online and in print as well as localised maps for each area of London and “boldly” displayed at every bus shelter so it’s not “difficult to know which bus to use”. It’s easy.

That really would be a very visible bold vision for buses.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TTHSSu.

Next blog: Saturday 19th March 2022: Kent’s summer bus cull.

38 thoughts on “TfL’s “bold vision for buses”

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  1. Yes – it would have been good to see “learn from current best practice in other UK (and why not international) bus operations”!

    I agree that more express routes are needed for peripheral journeys. They should be at tube frequency (e,g, 8 per hour) and be shown on the tube/rail map.

    Visitors and indeed many Londoners do find buses complicated; I suggest:

    1. Simplifying the system – e.g why not give all routes numbered below 500 a minimum frequency of 8 per hour, and show them as a thicker line on the map, or show the route numbers in bold or a different colour.

    2. Better integration with rail/tube and other buses. Many bus stops at stations are needlessly far away, and some bus connections are hell, with difficult and time-consuming road crossings. Bigger and better way-finding signage would help; they do it well at tube stations – why not for bus stops?

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    1. “learn from current best practice in other UK (and why not international) bus operations”!
      If TfL were to adopt best practice from elsewhere in the UK what sort of message would that send out to the metro mayors who view bus services in London as the “holy grail”?
      Proof if ever it were needed that some existing provincial bus services are better than those in the capital.

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  2. Ooh, the Cross River Tram … how silly of them to close the Kingsway Tram Subway!

    Just so long as they don’t go back to the 1966 Bus Reshaping Plan …

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  3. Express buses, Sounds like bringing back the old Greenline coaches except presumably they will be confined to London

    London used to have a sensible bus numbering scheme

    Red Buses 1 to 299
    Country Buses North of the river 300 to 399
    Country buses South of the river 400 to 499

    Trolley Buses 600 to 699 & 500 to 599

    Not sure why two blocks of numbers were used for Trolley buses. It may have been they wanted to retain the link to the tram route numbers

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  4. There are still vestiges of histotical numbering in London: for instance today’s 267 is basically still the replacement from trolleybus 667, itself replacement for London United tram 67!

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  5. Express routes in the suburbs? Of course. And with individual strong branding. After all, branding of individual Tube lines is almost sacred. Why not make these express routes an integral part of the Tube network, including with pricing?

    Information is key. London buses used to be the information example that all other British bus operations should follow. Now it’s third rate. That is a ludicrous situation given the sheer size and complexity of the network.

    Why aren’t buses properly integrated with all other public transport in London? Britain, not just London, seems to perpetuate class-based public transport. Trains are for the wealthier, buses are for the poorer. Contrast with German cities. Buses complement trains, trams and ferries rather than compete with them and one integrated fare structure covers all modes. Multi-modal journeys are normal and need just one fare (and ticket).

    Why should this be inappropriate here? They’d need to give up on focussing on one mode at a time. London has one powerful transport authority in TfL, almost unique in the UK. It should behave like one, and see public transport as one overall duty, with all the different modes working together to produce one overall service.

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  6. Getting from North to South London is not to bad. The real weakness in London’s transport system is getting East to West. It has never been easy but TfL’s splitting up bus routes into short sections has made it almost impossible. Normally the only way to do it by rail is to go into Central London then back out so the journey takes twice as long and TFL charge you a lot more to have to travel way out of your way
    What is really need is an outer rail circle line broadly following the M25

    At present in Outer London if you are not going into central London going by car is the only real option

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  7. A good start would be to drop the ridiculous jargon such an “impact statements, diversity, inclusitivity” rubbish etc which seem mandatory for anything that comes out of TfL. All that has been done for buses. Poor Souls trapped in wheelchairs to Mums with buggys are all able to board and alight with ease. This guff merely increases costs yet further.

    And yes indeed, running times and the cast-iron contract agreements which accompany them need to be made flexible. London must be the only place in the UK where buses are penalised for arriving early at their destination, in spite of having left their last timing point on time. What is the point of that if the bus has been on time throughout the journey? Traffic flows are unpredictable generally, and schedules should not reflect “worse-case scenario” as they now do.

    There are places where more express style operations could be introduced, but this would be limited unless there was enough of an increase in passengers to maintain a reasonable service on the stopping section. Or, should Road-Pricing be properly introduced (some hopes!!), a re-look at the “Super Bus” network that was proposed in the 1970s. Limited stop services literally crossing London utilising bus lanes, although sadly not to the extent former Green Line services once did. I recall Catford to Waltham Cross (?) was one such, but stand to be corrected.

    Articulated buses could be re-introduced on certain routes, but are not ideal for most London streets. Whilst ideal for strap-hanging Students, who would often rather kneel than sit, presumably thinking it looks “cool”, are not ideal for most services as the three-door advantage simply leads to massive fare evasion.

    Cannot agree branding buses in London makes one jot of difference, except a nightmare for traffic staff and engineers having to ensure certain vehicles do not stray. Who can forget the last days of Routemaster operation when dignified vehicles were frequently covered in garish branding. A good number and blind display is all the passenger needs to identify their bus.

    And of course, printed publicity a MUST.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not aware of there ever being a Waltham Cross to Catford Greenline. The only one I can think of that went through Waltham cross was the 715 Hertford to Guilford

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    2. 715 Hertford to Guilford

      Greenline routes as of 1953

      701 GRAVESEND – ASCOT via Dartford, Victoria, Staines
      702 GRAVESEND – SUNNINGDALE via Dartford, Victoria, Staines
      703 WROTHAM – AMERSHAM via Swanley, Victoria, Wembley
      704 TUNBRIDGE WELLS – WINDSOR via Sevenoaks, Victoria, Slough
      705 SEVENOAKS – WINDSOR via Westerham, Victoria, Slough
      706 WESTERHAM – AYLESBURY via Croydon, Victoria, Watford
      707 OXTED – AYLESBURY via Croydon, Victoria, Watford
      708 EAST GRINSTEAD – HEMEL HEMPSTEAD via Caterham, Victoria, Watford
      709 GODSTONE – CHESHAM via Caterham, Oxford Circus, Uxbridge
      710 CRAWLEY – AMERSHAM via Redhill, Oxford Circus, Uxbridge
      711 REIGATE – HIGH WYCOMBE via Sutton, Oxford Circus, Uxbridge
      712 DORKING – LUTON via Epsom, Victoria, St Albans
      713 DORKING – DUNSTABLE via Epsom, Victoria, St Albans
      714 DORKING – LUTON via Kingston, Kings Cross, St Albans
      715 GUILDFORD – HERTFORD via Esher, Oxford Circus, Enfield
      716 CHERTSEY – HITCHIN via Kingston, Baker Street, Barnet
      717 WOKING – WELWYN GARDEN CITY via Kingston, Baker Street, Barnet
      718 WINDSOR – EPPING via Kingston, Victoria, Chingford
      720 BISHOP’S STORTFORD – ALDGATE via Harlow, Epping, Woodford
      721 BRENTWOOD – ALDGATE via Gidea Park, Romford, Ilford
      722 UPMINSTER – ALDGATE via Hornchurch, Becontree Heath
      723 TILBURY FERRY, GRAYS – ALDGATE via West Thurrock, Dagenham
      723A TILBURY FERRY, GRAYS – ALDGATE via Aveley LCC. Estate, Dagenham
      726 BAKER STREET – WHIPSNADE ZOO via Barnet, London Colney, St Albans
      SUMMER ONLY

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      1. John rainham essex.it don’t matter what ideas they come up with they all need drivers where my son works about 10 driver hand there notice aweekas they keep messing about with shift routers Its like moving the deck chairs on the titanic

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  8. London bus strike: List of all confirmed bus routes that won’t be running for three days

    At the moment this strike appears to be still on

    It appears to be only affecting these Arriva London South bus garages Brixton, Croydon, Norwood and Thornton Heath.

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  9. Brent Cross West station

    Anew £40 million station in North West London is set to open later this year, and will get commuters into Central London in around 12 minutes. Brent Cross West, which will be the first new major mainline station in the capital to open in the last decade, is on track for its grand opening in December 2022.

    Passengers will be able to get to Kings Cross St Pancras Station in 12 minutes, while the Thameslink service from Brent Cross West goes to two airports in Luton and Gatwick

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  10. I’m not sure about the obsession with paper-based timetables or maps in London. They are cost-ineffective and time-consuming, placing a notice on TfL’s Go app would be more straightforward, considering a majority of the passengers are young people who are active with mobile phones. Considering that you are a former Managing Director, I never thought I’d say this but you have to keep up with the times.

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    1. I don’t think that we are saying that we should revert to purely paper-based information, but that paper has its place, and shouldn’t be discarded altogether.

      Timetable leaflets on high-frequency routes (which in London are in the main) are not appropriate or necessary. . . but maps are essential, especially for tourists. TfL’s online bus maps are (in my view) appalling and nearly unusable.

      A decent map extract, posted on bus shelters or in timetable frames, can be incredibly useful for passengers, especially in times of disruption, as it can show alternative routes to destinations. There is nothing as useful as a map in the pocket . . .

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    2. I disagree Manny. Like Roger, I think that transport operators, whether they be bus , train , tram, ferry. the one thing they SHOULD provide is a paper map of their routes and frequencies. Its all well and good saying the info is on their website but what if you don’t have access to an electronic device. I regularly travel by bus and train and i love to have a paper map to refer to. It a lot easier to look at a map than to load up an operators webpage sometimes. (Take Arriva bus for example. Maps seem non existent and look at the hassle you have just trying to find one of their bus timetables. I rest my case) !!.

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    3. If you are visiting a town as a visitor or tourist then you need a map and list of routes. An app is not a lot of help with that.

      Another issue is you may not know the local bus companies web sites and they themselves vary a lot some are easy to navigate and find information and some make it almost impossible

      Another factor is the bulk of a bus companies passengers are not young and probably do not use apps

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    4. Unfortunately these cuts continue to occur across the UK with no real sign of the promised improvements to the bus services

      In many parts o England the bus services are so poor they are of no use at all to the majority of people

      Given the size of Bristol you would think it would have a reasonable service but looking at those cuts it appears not. Those cuts are not going to win customers back in fact they will be lucky to retain all their existing customers

      It is beginning to look like the Bus Back Better will become the Bus Back Worse

      One can live in hope though but I am not optimistic

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  11. “Brent Cross West, which will be the first new major mainline station in the capital to open in the last decade”. Er – Meridian Water? Or isn’t that “major” enough?

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  12. But then saying that, you can go to the other extreme.

    I recently planned a trip around Luton & Dunstable specifically to have a few trips along their busway. I looked at the Arriva website and struggled to find timetables for their A, Z, F70 & F77 routes. When i did eventually track them down they were all over the place showing m-f times between 00:00 up to 09:30 then from 16:00 to 21:00. If i were not a seasoned traveller then i would have presumed there were NO buses between 09:30 and 16:00 !!.

    Nor could i pin down a map of their network either. Looking on google images only presented out of date maps showing services that operated in 2009 & 2011 !!.

    Now one of the other operators, Centrebus, not only had timetables and route maps on their website but also included fares. They also had a link to “contact Us”……. so i did just that and asked if they could post me out a copy of their Luton & Dunstable services map. Within a few days i received a rather large envelope containing not just 1 copy but 6 copies of their map !!.

    Maybe a little bit over the top but still great customer service 🙂

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  13. How would you improve bus services. How would you market them to gain new customers. How would you change the run down image of bus services ? How would you fund the bus services ?

    Currently in my vie bus services are so run down and shabby that you need to invest in them and that need money. Currently buses are to infrequent, to expensive and don’t run when people want to use them and don’t go where people want to go so they are left with a small an declining number of concessionary pass holders and schoolchildren

    When you cannot retain passengers that travel for free it should tell you that you are in trouble

    To drive passengers up you need the services there in the first place and currently in much of England that’s simply not the case

    Trying to run bus services on a totally commercial basis is simply not working

    How can bus services be funded ?

    a) Small annual charge for Concessionary bus Passes. Non taxpayers get them for free

    b) Small levy on Parking spaces say £12 per year per space

    c) Local council to commit a small percentage of council tax towards bus services lets say 1%

    The aim should be that fares cover the majority of the costs so lets say 70%

    Bus companies and local councils should work with the local town centre. The buses can reduce congestion and pollution and help bring in more shoppers but that needs good quality and frequent service that go near where people live. You are not going to get people to walk 400M with heavy shopping to get bus a bus

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  14. Showbus 50 to be event’s swansong, organiser confirms

    The 2022 Showbus gathering on Sunday 25 September – number 50 since its founding in 1973 – will be the last, organiser Dr Martin Isles has confirmed. He had added a hope that the event will “go out on a high.”

    The rally will be held at the Hertfordshire County Showground near St Albans. It is hoped that several buses which appeared at the inaugural 1973 event will form part of this year’s event

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  15. Bus Back Better Funding

    Still no news on it although Shropshire was told end of February but that never happened

    In a written question The Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard asked what the “planned timetable is for making a decision on Shropshire Council’s bid for Government funding for bus services across Shropshire as part of the Government’s Bus Back Better strategy”.

    Trudy Harrison, a junior minister at the Department for Transport, provided a written answer.

    She said: “At the Budget we announced £1.2bn of dedicated funding for Bus Service Improvement Plans as part of the £3 billion we have committed to improve bus services over the course of this Parliament. Our aim is to announce indicative funding allocations by end of February.”

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    1. @Terence Uden. It was Speed Bus not Superbus in the 1970s. PS l still remember you conducting in SE London in the early-80s!

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  16. How to improve bus services (outside the major conurbations):

    1. Concentrate on the known passenger flows for now.
    2. In towns, introduce high-frequency minibus networks using electric vehicles, minimum 5 BPH.
    3. Possibly retain a couple of larger buses for specific school journeys.
    4. Hours of operation to be 0700-1900 MF; 0800-1900 SA; 0900-1800 SU.
    5. Outside these hours, promote taxi use, and possibly subsidise taxi fares down to bus levels.
    6. Get the local councils to buy into the concept with quality bus shelters and real-time information.

    Accept that it will take time to stabilise passenger numbers, and accordingly allocate funds to support farebox income.
    Help operators with providing charging facilities, and possibly help with capital grants towards the costs of new buses.
    A local levy on car parks might help, but would be politically difficult.

    Implement local “bus user” groups in every town; their remit would be to promote bus services in the community . . . “adopt a bus shelter” and have a competition between groups for the best shelter !!

    As far as deep-rural routes are concerned . . . don’t waste funds on routes carrying a handful of passengers.
    Inter-urban routes will probably be OK for a while, but will need attention later.

    The bus industry and local partners need to understand that baby steps are needed just now . . . we cannot afford blue-sky services. In a couple of years . . . maybe we can expand further.

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    1. Hmm. I think the traditional “problem” of big bus groups has always been a “one size fits all” approach. It doesn’t.

      I think a “local” approach is better. “Look after what you’ve got” isn’t a bad principle, perhaps especially in our uncertain times.

      Enthusiasts, like all of us, enthuse about novelty, and attracting new passengers with whatever is the latest gimmick. I don’t think that’s the biggest problem. Most people aren’t hostile to the bus. The trouble is that so often, one experience is enough to put them off, and they don’t come back.
      The PR industry calls it the “friends and family test ‘. The bus industry fails. Successful business, in any walk of life, and anywhere in the world, have one thing in common. It’s us, not us and them. They may surprise, but they delight their customers. It’s why Amazon are so phenomenally successful.
      It’s the investment in our human capital, not just about our machines. But it’s often too hard for lazy Brits, and to sell to management who can’t look beyond the figures on a balance sheet. And it doesn’t sell to the politicians.
      We all have the experience of more does not mean better. It’s about whether you can trust the bus. If you can’t, nothing makes up for it.

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  17. Just one obvious example. Disregard all those workers who start their shift at a 7am,or even 8am start, or finish their shift after 6pm. Is that bus management’s concept of a bright idea?

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    1. Oh good gawd!!! If there are sufficient current passengers that travel outwith 0700-1900, then of course run buses for them!! If that means 0600-2000, then so be it.

      My ideas above are only “broad brush” ideas . . . the whole point is to operate what you can operate at a good chance of covering all costs; if some revenue subsidy is available, then by all means expand the offering. If it isn’t . . . then concentrate, for now, on the good bits. The alternative could easily be . . . no service.

      I’ll quote you Dorchester . . . population 22,000. Town services 0900-1700 (some only 1000-1400). One decent inter-urban service to Weymouth that runs 0600-2230, but only because of Dorset County Hospital. Otherwise five rural routes 4-5 times a day . . . frankly, that makes Evesham look quite good!!

      You said “a local approach” is better . . . I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, that will require planners, both bus and LTA, to have some local knowledge . . . that might well be the biggest problem of them all.

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    2. That a big problem buses have. The industry just ignores the bulk of the potentail market as it does not operate buses when needed or go where they are needed or run them frequently enough

      As you say how many buse run by at least 7am how many run after 6pm and how many people will wait upto an hour after work to catch a bus and even then they might need to changes buses so a journey that could take 15 minutes by car might take an hour and half by bus
      Even using as bus to go into the local town centre is not really practicable as they are far to infrequentne.

      At the moment bus companies are just manging decline. The next post on here is going to be about the cuts to buses in Kent They are also big cuts in Watford next month and also in the North East

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  18. Hold yer horses! Maybe London and Kent both have the same problem: too many subsidised buses that nobody uses? What’s the point of that?

    As far as I can tell in Watford it’s reorganisation of the network to make a better use of resources. Essential for any business that wants to survive.

    I’d far rather see a bus network carrying passengers than chasing shadows. And that’s what I’m starting to see. Don’t ruin it.

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  19. I am not from London but travel in 3 or 4 times a week as a National Express driver. One of the stupidest things I have seen regarding public transport are the bus lanes on Finchley Road. During the day time they are bus lanes but you can park your car in them for up to an hour. In peak times delivery vehicles can park in them and mopeds doing deliveries for uber or deliveroo park in them. Each time it means i have to merge into the heavy traffic.
    Park lane introduced a bus lane but also introduced a large, mostly unused cycle lane. The cycle lane is right next to large paths in Hyde park where you can see people riding their bikes! It is little steps like this that need to be addressed before schemes and plans get drawn up

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  20. What are the advantages of the digital blinds? I like the analogue and think they give London Buses a great retro feel. It sets London’s bus fleet apart from the rest of the world

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