A long time coming

Saturday 14th May 2022

Running almost four years late and over budget by £4 billion but all the trials and tribulations of this unduly long gestation period will soon be forgotten as today’s the day TfL finally launches its programme of bus service changes in south east London centred on Abbey Wood, Greenwich and Lewisham with another tranche in south Newham set for introduction next Saturday.

Thousands of TfL fans are expected to be out in force today capturing this revolution in London’s transport not seen since the Jubilee Line finally reached Stratford in 1999.

To make these exciting bus service changes work in a joined up and effective way a brand new railway line will open a week on Tuesday but I doubt that’ll generate much interest among the camera wielding transport fraternity. It’s the bus changes everyone’s excited about. (Irony klaxon sounding.)

As many of the route changes were consulted on almost five years ago in July 2017 it’s likely they’ve been largely forgotten by most passengers who’ll be affected. So as a service to the public of south east London and south Newham here’s BusAndTrainUser’s easy to understand guide to what’s changing, assisted by maps from the original consultation. Because five years on you won’t find any maps to explain things – well, except for that railway line, then there’ll be hundreds of thousands of maps printed to show where that goes. Not buses though.

You also won’t find any references to frequency reductions on some of the routes involved on TfL’s website. But there are some, meaning more reductions in peak vehicle requirements. Today’s changes probably mean around another eight or nine buses being taken out … despite previous commitments to boost suburban bus routes.

Most significant of today’s developments is 24-hour route 472 from North Greenwich via Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead to Thamesmead being extended to Abbey Wood station providing an extra link every eight minutes to this rebuilt and expanded station from where there’ll soon be additional trains to connect with this prime London bus route. TfL don’t mention the route currently runs every six minutes.

Here’s a couple of maps from 2017 showing the before and after for route 472 as well as what’s called ‘new’ route 301 which was actually introduced two years ago to provide new links between Woolwich and Bexleyheath.

Buses are also now following a slightly revised route between Plumstead and Thamesmead to provide a quicker journey.

Nathan Way will no longer be served by route 472 with buses diverted to the quicker Western Way. Nathan Way continues to see route 301.

Route B11 gets cut back from its current Thamesmead terminus ….

…. to a new end point in south central Thamesmead. Here’s a map showing the roads no longer served by the B11 which are covered by that ‘new’ route 301. This change saves two buses as TfL don’t mention the frequency reduction from every 15 to every 20 minutes.

Other changes today involve route 129 from North Greenwich extended beyond its current Cutty Sark terminus to Lewisham (frequency from every 12 to every 13 minutes) instead of route 180 which gets diverted and cut back to North Greenwich instead of Lewisham.

Here’s a couple of maps showing the before and after for routes 129 and 180 between North Greenwich, Greenwich and Lewisham.

At the other end of its route the 180 gets extended from Belvedere Industrial Estate (which it no longer serves) to Erith and a new housing development at Erith Quarry.

Here’s a couple of maps showing the before and after for route 180 at its eastern end together with a diversion of route 469 which also began today.

Next Saturday it’s all change north of the River with new route 304 providing a new link between Manor Park station, East Ham and Custom House station by replacing the eastern section of route 104 which will run from Stratford via Upton Park to Beckton bus station instead of Manor Park.

Route 104 changes from its current U-shape route to a new 104/304 scissor shape split as shown in the before and after maps below.

It’s said route 104 will run every eight minutes and route 304 every 12 minutes. Route 104 is currently every 10 minutes.

Other changes in Beckton include route 101 being cut back from Gallions Reach …

….. to terminate at Beckton bus station while route 262 is cut back from East Beckton Sainsbury’s to Gallions Reach.

Once route 241 from Stratford reaches Custom House it will run to Prince Regent instead of Canning Town.

Here it is shown on a map.

The missing section between Custom House and Canning Town will be covered by a diversion to route 474 away from Silvertown Road and Pontoon Dock ….

… as shown on these maps.

…. while in turn, the section of route now missing from that route is covered by an extension of route 330 from Canning Town to Pontoon Dock.

Here’s a map showing the original 2017 proposal when the route was going to continue as far as Custom House.

Finally, route 300. Here’s TfL’s description of the different route to serve Custom House station it will take from next Saturday. There’s no map showing on TfL’s bus changes webpage explaining this, so just savour this crystal clear description of what’s happening (irony klaxon sounding again)….

“Route 300 will be rerouted between Beckton District Park and the junction of Barking Road and New Barn Street in Plaistow. Route 300 will be rerouted via Tollgate Road, Prince Regent Lane, Victoria Dock Road, Custom House Station, Freemasons Road and New Barn Street to Barking Road. Stansfeld Road and Prince Regent Bus Station will no longer be served along with Prince Regent Lane between Tollgate Road and Barking Road and Barking Road between Prince Regent Lane and New Barn Street. Route 300 will also serve bus stops on Prince Regent Lane between Tollgate Road and Victoria Dock Road in the opposite direction to now. This means if you use the northbound stops for route 300 towards Canning Town you will now need to use the southbound bus stops instead on the opposite side of the road with buses towards East Ham now serving the northbound bus stops instead.”

Thank goodness that 2017 consultation report did contain maps to explain the changes. How on earth anyone is supposed to work out what’s happening without a map is beyond me. TfL obviously think it’s fine; except for people struggling to work out where a new railway line might go – then maps galore.

As you can see I’ve been out and about taking a look at the existing routes and seeing how things will be changing on the ground. I’m sure that new railway will help make these bus route changes even more pertinent and it was instructive on my travels about ten days ago not to see any prior notification about these changes anywhere.

For example, at that soon-to-be-abandoned terminal point for route B11 in Thamesmead there wasn’t even any information about the timetable then in operation, let alone information about today’s withdrawal.

Still, I’m sure the thousands of passengers in south east London and Newham are always logging on to the TfL bus changes page on its website to inform themselves of what’s coming up.

I can’t help but compare this ‘in the dark’ approach for these bus changes to the millions being spent on promoting and publicising that new railway which opens in ten days.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS but look out for tomorrow’s bonus Summer Sunday blog: Other things I spotted on my London travels.

Comments on blogposts are very welcome and are moderated to maintain relevance to the topic and civility in language.

15 thoughts on “A long time coming

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  1. Your blog simply sets out why maps are so important and why the current trend to a mapless society is a retrograde step.

    Like

  2. They seems to have been less thought given to the impact of Crossrail on National rail and LU

    If you take this first section that is opening many may switch from Network South East to Crossrail

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with all the comments about maps and printed timetables etc.

    But these bus cuts in London are tiny in comparison with what has happened in many of the regions.

    And frequency reductions outside London are often from half-hourly to hourly, or even worse (e.g. the huge service reductions by Arriva Yorkshire last week).

    London continues to have a much better bus service than most of the country, with the exception of a few areas covered by Transdev or Go-Ahead subsidiaries.

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    1. You’re right but London is held up by the likes of Andy Byford to be the holy grail to which all bus operations should strive. Whilst there is much to be grateful for in the capital it’s shortcomings need to be made apparent. Thank you Roger.

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  4. Looks like a pretty poor effort from TfL, so poor I reckon there will be people turning up on Monday morning to get the bus to school or work and wondering where their normal bus is, or letting a bus go past which would take them where they need to go but let go past because it has a different number. All totally predictable.

    Contrast with the West Midlands. When we’ve had network changes of this scale in recent years there have been notices placed at bus stops, special pages on the operator and Network West Midlands pages, booklets with maps distributed, reports and features in the local press….

    There are people of course who miss the information, but if you are a regular bus user its difficult not to notice.

    This is yet another illustration of what is being provided in London to a captive market is worse than in other areas. And the politicians want services outside London to be more like those in the capital?

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  5. I cannot regard TfL as a serious bus operator until they have a change of management and bring back maps.

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  6. The interesting thing will be the impact of Crossrail on TfL’s accounts. Once it opens they will get a revenue stream from the fares but will have increased operating costs

    How much Extra revenue will TfL get. Most of the line is existing LU or TfL rail lines so most of the traffic is likely to be people moving from existing LU and TfL rail to the Elizabethan line. There is also the fact that fewer people are travelling. Whether TfL have produced a comprehensive analysis I do not know. I have seen various passenger number forecast and revenge forecasts but none of them seem to factor in lost revenues on other lines

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  7. I do like your approach to this. But, seriously, for a lot of people in the Thamesmead area the buses make a great deal more difference to their lives than the Elizabeth line (whose effect will no doubt be much more widely spread).

    Fiddling with frequency numbers probably brings a very short-term financial reward, which must be one of TfL’s bugbears at the moment. But looking at the not quite so short-term, London – and all of us – need transfer from car use to public transport, and the quickest way to get that is to provide better frequency. After all, the travel needs of people don’t generally depend on whether they live on what transport officialdom decrees is a route which ‘deserves’ more buses or fewer. Just provide a minimum of 8 buses an hour on all routes. The network benefit is that, even for journeys involving one or more changes, waiting time will be cut to a minimum, and no one needs to look at timetables. It will be just like using the tube – or the Elizabeth line!

    Having had a look at a video taken from the 472, I note that there are only three bus stops without shelters, and that shelters are mostly of a decent standard. There are also plenty if bus lanes. So, the infrastructure is pretty much there for a superb local bus network. Just provide the buses, and the passenger information.

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  8. The current frequency on 241 is every 10 minutes during MF peaks and Saturdays, remaining at every 12 minutes MF off peak, so there’s no change with this revision, apart from the direct link from Freemasons Road to Royal Victoria being lost.

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  9. Thanks for good synopsis of the changes to the bus services.

    I can recall when London Buses produced useful leaflets and booklets explaining changes to local bus networks, which were made available in advance. Two that come to mind were the network changes in Walham Forest in 1988, (when the Hoppa’s were first introduced) and Ilford/Redbridge in the early 1990’s as I grew up in the area. They were useful and informative, providing passengers with all the detaila that they needed; surely something similar could be produced again and made available from all the usual outlets.

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  10. There was a time when notices describing forthcoming service changes were posted at each bus stop on affected routes. In fact such notices inspired a children’s story I wrote:

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  11. 241 – the updated map shows the terminus as Custom House, not Prince Regent.

    472 – this now runs via Hope & Anchor Lane and Bugby’s Way, not the Horn Lane junction.

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  12. The Elizabeth line Central Section will not run on Sundays or before 6am or after 11pm at present

    There will be no trains in the new, central section on Saturday, June 11 between Paddington and Abbey Wood, just 18 days after opening date. No reason is given for this closure

    Like

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