TfL’s bus cuts cut

Thursday 24th November 2022

After all the hoo-ha in the summer over TfL’s proposed severe cuts to central London’s bus routes reflecting its target to reduce mileage by 4%, better match service provision with reduced numbers travelling, simplify the network and reflect strains on TfL’s struggling finances, it was announced yesterday almost all the proposals “will not go ahead at this time” leaving just a handful of reductions in frequencies on a small number of corridors and effectively only withdrawing four daytime routes in their current forms: routes 11, 16, 507 and 521.

And even then the numbers 11 and 16 are being preserved by “doing a 13/82”.

Just like the 82 was renumbered 13 to stave off the outcry at losing an iconic low numbered route a few years ago, route 332 becomes route 16. It parallels the 16 from Cricklewood along the Edgware Road as far as the Westway/Marylebone Road flyover (the 332 – to be 16 – then continues the short distance to Paddington) and from that junction route 6 parallels the existing 16 to Hyde Park Corner, where it currently turns east to Aldwych, so will instead continue south to Victoria to replace the rest of the 16 with route 23 rerouted at Hyde Park Corner to Aldwych (as it used to do) instead of Hammersmith to replace the 6.

The upshot of all that is a reduction in buses per hour along Edgware Road and Park Lane as well as Knightsbridge and Kensington Road to Hammersmith both of which probably make sense.

Then we have replacements for both the 507 and 521, similar to originally proposed in June which had route 507 extended to Fulham (replacing the 11) but by “doing a 13/82” the 507 is now to be renumbered 11 (Waterloo to Fulham) which will be replaced on its current section of route between Aldwych and Victoria by a diversion of route 26 to Victoria instead of Waterloo and changing route 3 at Lambeth Bridge to run via the 507’s route to Victoria instead of up Millbank and Whitehall to Horse Guards Parade. Route 26 already parallels route 11 between Liverpool Street and Aldwych.

The upshot of all that is a reduction in frequency between Liverpool Street and Aldwych and between Lambeth Bridge and Horse Guards Parade as well as over Waterloo Bridge which probably makes sense.

Route 211 from Hammersmith will divert over Chelsea Bridge to Battersea Power Station instead of through Victoria to Waterloo (now to be covered by the 11) because TfL have got a thing about Battersea Power Station.

The upshot of that is a reduction in frequency along Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria Street and Westminster Bridge which probably makes sense.

Route 521 is replaced as originally proposed by changes to route 59 (diverted to St Bartholomew’s Hospital instead of Euston) and 133 (diverted to Holborn instead of Liverpool Street).

The upshot of all that is a reduction in frequency north of Holborn via Russell Square to Euston and north of the Monument to Liverpool Street both of which probably makes sense.

A couple of very minor route changes to the 77 (its terminal point at Waterloo moves to the taxi rank) and C10 (rerouted between Elephant & Castle and Lambeth Bridge to maintain a link the 507 provides from Waterloo to Horseferry Road) are also going ahead.

These slimmed down cuts will be introduced on an unspecified date in 2023.

It’s good to see common sense prevail, but should it have taken 21,528 responses to TfL’s consultation to achieve this outcome?

It does make you wonder whether TfL’s bus planners are either deeply out of touch with what passengers and stakeholders think about the network with the proposals attracting a record response – such that it’s needed a 369 page report to summarise it all (which must have taken some compiling at further huge cost) or TfL’s strategic thinkers and its political leadership knew what they were doing all along and wanted to create a suitable backdrop for negotiating its coveted “long term funding settlement” with the DfT.

Yesterday’s announcement explains the Mayor has found alternative funding of £25 million from “unallocated Greater London Authority reserves”. Which is nice of him, but it seems odd these “unallocated reserves” have just come to light now rather than in the summer when there was a crying need for funding. Again, one has to wonder whether either TfL staff were being inept in not being aware of these “unallocated reserves” earlier in the year or knew what they were doing all along and wanted to create a suitable backdrop for negotiating its coveted “long term funding settlement” with the DfT.

One final thought on the statement alongside each route that’s not changing – “will not go ahead at this time” – why add the words “at this time”? In view of all the shenanigans over the summer surely it would have been better just to have stated “will not go ahead”. Job done.

It strikes me there’s some unfinished business here which points to further issues in March 2024 when the “long term funding settlement” ends. But I reckon you can only play the ‘drastic cuts if you don’t fund us only to later find unallocated funding reserves so there’s no need for those drastic cuts after all’ card once.

Furthermore “unallocated reserves” have a tendency to run out when used as revenue expenditure. It’s difficult to know how long before that happens – March 2024 anyone?

Finally, two more thoughts….

Whatever happened to the proposed changes to bus routes in Croydon and Sutton consulted on between October and December 2020 and reported back in September 2021? It’s all gone very quiet about those changes.

And in the light of yesterday’s announcement what’s to become of Go-Ahead London’s all electric base for routes 507/521 in Waterloo, converted and equipped at great expense?

Oh the joys of running buses in a regulated franchised regime.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

50 thoughts on “TfL’s bus cuts cut

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  1. So that’s the end of the last vesiges of the “Red Arrow” routes, then?

    Mind you, they haven’t been the same since the Merlins went!

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  2. Roger
    It’s all about playing politics, and nothing about running an integrated transport system. Note that there have been no proposals for any significant economies on the tube network, no doubt because the staff would go on strike even more often than they do at present.
    The now cancelled central London cuts were so badly planned in my view that Tfl never had any intention of actually introducing them, they were there solely to get attention. In the grand scheme of things £25m is small change.

    The remaining cuts to the last Red Arrows 507 and 521 also show that no one has really bothered to look at the passenger flows , especially at peak, on these routes. But of course commuters from outside London are irrelevant, they cannot vote in Mayoral elections.

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    1. It sounds more like pushing the tin can down the road rather than dealing with TfL’s financial problems and also avoids the desperately needed reforms to its bus and rail networks

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    1. There will always be a home for them elsewhere. The 108 has been suggested as a likely recipitent, maybe even still running from Waterloo, with drivers simply travelling on the Jubilee Line to reach the 108.

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  3. Yes, the 23 historically ran to Aldwych, but via Oxford Street and Regent Street not Park Lane. (It had replaced the 15 between Ladbroke Grove and Trafalgar Square and went to Liverpool Street alongside the 11.)

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    1. The switch between 6 and 23 might seem pointless, but with the 23 serving Paddington, this creates / reibstates some useful links (Victoria already has the 36 to Paddington)

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  4. Cutting bus routes is normally not a good action, but bus operations in and around London do need a thorough overhaul to improve efficiency and cut costs. As a frequent bus user, I do see a great deal of duplication of services and excess operations in some areas. The London bus network seems to have grown over time without much thought about integration of operations and it really is time for a thorough review and efficiency improvements.

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  5. Working so much alongside another elected Mayor personally the original plans seemed politically motivated by a Labour Mayor when faced with Conservative Budget Restraints. Perhaps a warning to those especially in Manchester who seem to think franchising is the utopia yet here in Birmingham we have the lowest one day tickets and some of the most frequent services in Europe yet have a Mayor that promotes enhanced quality partnerships across our vast network of commercial services.

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      1. I am not a member of any political party only my accountancy institute but have known Andy Street CBE for nearly 30 years ; a fellow Edgbaston lad; since we met doing our MBA. I work voluntarily with Transport for West Midlands simply to build the best bus service possible for Brum.

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    1. I think the big difference between the West Nidlands and Greater Manchester is that, here in the West Midlands, we have a dominant operator who, since deregulation, has used it’s strength to keep fares low, thus meaning that competiton has to meet those low fares to survive, hence less competition coming to the fore than occurred in Greater Manchester during deregulation’s early years.

      The splitting of GM Buses deprived Greater Manchester of such a possibility, and the fragmentation here has been made worse by First’s selling off of Queens Road and Volton garages, leading to passengers having to use more expennsive all operator tickets if making cross county journeys.

      Once the Bee Network is up and running, it will be interesting to compare the progress of the new Manchester system with the upcoming promises of improved bus priorities and emmisionless buses from the West Midlands partnership.

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  6. I highly suspect Khan and his team were big time playing politics. Even when the consultation came out, many of the proposals were probably too ridiculous to be implemented in reality, like the 388 running from Stratford to Peckham. I personally feel a bit had that I spent a couple of hours delving into the changes and their impacts just for barely any of them to go ahead.

    TFL would’ve had an idea of how the consultation would be perceived by the public and stakeholders. The response to all this has been in proportion to the 2018 consultation which only saw the 48 and RV1 withdrawn, and that was also high.

    I just want to know if the period of London bus cuts is over, and will it just get worse in the upcoming years?

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  7. Certainly agree with most of the comments so far, but displaced electric buses can soon be redeployed elsewhere. And whilst agreeing with LBE97, bus cuts are only made when passenger numbers fall, so it is up to the public to climb aboard once more if they don’t want anymore reductions.

    As an aside, travelling on a 702 “Green Line” towards London (Victoria) the other evening in the height of the rush hour, saw numerous 9s and 23s travelling toward Hammersmith with loadings that would have made an iconic GS look empty. And this is after reductions to both services! So changes “not at this stage” might be exactly what TfL have in mind.

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    1. Here in Brum were not having bus cuts as such despite some wierd stories in the local press misunderstanding normal retendering by TfWM but there will better coordination on some routes. From New Years Day much duplication is being removed from the network with some very high frequency services. Transport for West Midlands are workimg with both NXWM & Diamond Bus to reduce the PVR but not the overall frequency on the WA4 and PB16 whilst a number of services will move from NXWM to Diamond Bus including the WA45 & WB46. The overall PVR on many routes will fall on New Years Day but passengers won’t notice any real frequency reductions save for the two operators no longer departing at the same time on many non partnership routes.

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      1. Yeah, PB is Perry Barr, about to be replaced by a new garage down the road from Sunday 11th December. Btw, I’m a driver there, on the Sutton Rota!

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      2. We have various 2, 3 , 4 , 9, 12s etc across the West Midlands County the WA4 prefix is simply to distinguish which NXWM 4 I am referring too. WA for Walsall, PN for Pensnett, WN for Wolverhampton, BC for Birmingham Central, YW for Yardley Wood, PB for Perry Barr & DIA for Diamond Bus

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      3. I am not aware of any cuts to frequent interval services on the old BCT network pending in January in fact frequencies have just been enhanced on services such as the WB82 and the WB87. A number of marginal services mainly serving the QEHB & South Birmingham will be moving from NXWM to Diamond Bus in January with TfWM support retaining the existing frequencies. From January 2023 NXWM services will on the whole match supply to demand conversely Diamond Bus are coming off the DIA94

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  8. I’m not sure it is quite correct to say that the ‘507 is now to be re-numbered 11’, as the revised 11 replaces the original proposal to re-route the 507 over Waterloo Bridge to replace the diverted 211.
    It seems the 507 is to be replaced by changes to the C10 and 3, but with the link from Waterloo to the eastern end of Horseferry Road lost – probably not a big issue as within walking distance of other stops on C10 and 11.

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  9. I really think renumbering a different route as 16 (similar to how the 82 became 13) shows how gullible TfL think the public are. It is totally pointless and confusing, as well as some unnecesary cost in reprinting timetables and having to alter the numbers on some stops. The loss of the real 16 is going to cause some busy buses up the Edgware Road, particularly on Sundays which for some reason seems to be the busiest day along there. Certainly it’s not a dead corridore in the way others have mentioned the 23 to Hammersmith is.

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  10. There will always be a home for them elsewhere. The 108 has been suggested as a likely recipitent, maybe even still running from Waterloo, with drivers simply travelling on the Jubilee Line to reach the 108.

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  11. The Red Arrow base at Waterloo also runs the 153, and it would be quite easy to put the 214 in there too. Guess if the 11 gets electric deckers in the forthcoming tendering, then that could run from there too. However given the prime location, I do wonder if there would be more of a desire to sell the land for development. No doubt the profits from that would eclipse the money wasted in electrifying the depot.

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  12. At this rate there aren’t going to be many buses left by the the governments £2 max bus fare in January which I was looking forward to!Up in the north east we have had another fold, Scarlet Band, although Weardale mainly have taken over their routes which were mainly around south west Co Durham.

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    1. Just one percent of the cost of the incredibly wasteful HS2 railway project would keep all bus services in England operating for many decades. The Government has definitely got its priorities wrong! Is this what they call levelling up?

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      1. There is nothing wasteful about HS2 much of the regeneration of Eastside in the City Centre is dependent on HS2. HS2 will create space for 576,000 extra seats per day on the high-speed network, reducing overcrowding on existing lines; HS2 frees up space for 144 extra freight trains per day, enough to transport over 2.5million more lorries’ worth of cargo on our railways each year. The WMCA predicts the creation of Birmingham’s Curzon Street station envisages the creation of 36,000 new jobs while Solihull Interchange Station, located within The Hub, supporting the creation of 70,000 jobs 30 million people will be connected via the HS2 trains with an average GVA increase of £680 per worker leading to an £6.2 billion increase in economic output per year in Brum. The project is fully supported by the WMCA & Andy Street CBE for the benefits it was no doubted bring to the City.

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      2. The estimated cost of the HS2 railway project is now well over £110 Billion and rising. The project was conceived in an era prior to Zoom meetings and WhatsApp communication and its claimed benefits are now in doubt. It has been criticised by senior members of the Institute of Civil Engineers and I have yet to see a cost-benefit analysis of the project to show that it has any positive economic benefit in relation to its cost. In simple terms, it is a waste of public funds.

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      3. The huge cost of HS2, well over £110 Billion, far exceeds its benefits. Therefore it is a great waste of public money. In cost-benefit terms it is a disaster and the funds should be used for for more beneficial projects.

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      4. HS2 will according to independent research for the WMCA bring estimated net inflows of £15b per annum by 2037 therefore based on your investment figure of £110b fiscal drag will I agree be prominent for the next 15 years but within 30 years Birmingham will be benefiting from the long term investment expressed on the project to the benefit of all.

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  13. I live close to the end of the 349 route, at Stamford Hill / Clapton Pond, and the 318 route – which I’ve used most often in the last year since I moved to the N15/16 area.
    When I heard the 349 would be withdrawn entirely, I felt some trepidation, but I also wondered if this would be a good opportunity to feed back to TfL Buses, that increasing the service on the 318 would make up for the withdrawal of the 349, and its effects on this area.
    Now that the 349 isn’t being withdrawn, I’m not sure what to think. While it’s good that I have an additional means of getting home, in case the 318 is too long a wait, or can’t serve my Hail & Ride section (this has happened 4 or 5 times in the last year, including the week of October 31st due to a traffic accident at Stamford Hill Broadway), I also expect that there’ll be no improvement on the 318 route, which regularly suffers delays that are hard to determine – even using apps which know the schedule or countdown.
    I expect a lot of passengers have a great need for the 349. But it would be nice to see neighbourhood services like the 318 become more reliable, as well.

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  14. Regarding all of those about to be made redundant/redeployed electric buses from routes 507 & 521. At just over six years old are they’re “old” tech by now and possibly ready for recycling?

    The sheer number of them based at Waterloo would suggest Go-Ahead being able to electrify a substantial portion of their single deck service contracts for TfL. Or, subject to an infrastructure investment, a provincial cascade to say, Go North East or Manchester?

    Mind you they might be considered too old in the latter location under network franchising. After all didn’t TfGM announce that the hybrid vehicles bought for the Vantage branded guided busway routes to Leigh and Atherton would be replaced after five years service. Quick update, they’re now seven years old.

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  15. The reason why the 507 and 521 are well suited to their purpose is that they both start and finish at the main line termini that their passengers get on and off at. Also means that their prompt initial departures are much easier to regulate. However with the 59 south of Waterloo and the 133 south of London Bridge approaching through some of the slowest traffic corridors, passengers will start to abandon these so called replacement routes.

    The cynic in me says that this is precisely what TfL wants to happen with “encouragement” for users of these routes to switch to walking or cycling/cycle hire, not just here, but across central London. There are countless examples of traffic light phasing that penalise not just general traffic, but including bus routes and their passengers (that’s you and me), making journey times less attractive to users. One that springs to mind is the painfully slow journey from Euston Bus Station to King’s Cross.

    Then there’s the con-trick of the Hopper fare which was originally promoted as a brilliant way to get more bang for your buck. Fast forward a few months and statements such as ‘we want to simplify the network in Sutton for you and make it easier to understand.’ This is shorthand for we are stopping the bus you use from taking you where you want to get to and forcing you to change vehicles. All of this chips away at the attractiveness of the overall network. Not everyone is fit and youthful. Think of someone carrying shopping and pushing their child in a buggy that then needs to change buses once or twice to get home. Walking and cycling are non-starters for them and the likes of me who finds it painful to walk any distance. TfL are spin doctors with 20 years plus of pulling the wool over peoples eyes and they get away with it time after time.

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  16. I wonder whether today’s announcement that route 376 will move to Go Ahead Blue Triangle using 10 ‘Electric single deck’ buses (note – not ‘new’) from September 2023 might give a clue to the fate of the ex-‘Red Arrows’?

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  17. As a regular user of the 521 between Waterloo and Chancery Lane, it strikes me that its replacement by diverting the 59 along High Holborn will be a disaster. The queues waiting at Waterloo in the morning rush hour to use the 521stretching back dangerously along Mepham Street were amazing and although not back to pre-Covid levels, the numbers have been growing steadily again. Observing the 59 arriving at Waterloo already well loaded suggests that its capacity to also take on board the erstwhile 521 passengers will be limited. As a public transport consultant working internationally, I have proudly shown two groups of overseas clients around Waterloo Garage, probably one of the first all-electric bus depots in the world, so will be interesting to tell them about its fate in the future!

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  18. A normal bus company would of course be considering peak hour “shorts” to/from Waterloo (59)/London Bridge (133) for Commuters as suitable replacements, but we all know that will never happen………..

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    1. Talking of peak hour shorts, I watched a YouTube video on Nottingham City Transport from And More Central. I learned that in the peaks NCT adds additional journeys in the peak direction. On return these buses operate with an “X” suffix and run limited stop via a more direct route against the peak direction, in order to quickly start another peak direction extra. I thought this was quite clever, and wonder if other operators do this.

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      1. NXWM often run “E” shorts on tnier main trunk BCT routes especially on the BC14 BCX22 BC23 BC24 BCX24 BC45 BC63 WB74 WB87 PB94 PB97 but they usually head back to.the City as “Not In Service”

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  19. Glad the 4 is retained but very disappointed that the two busy Red Arrow routes are to go. That makes no sense to me. They specifically link three mainline stations for a very good purpose – they are used by and much needed by rail passengers. The 507 is very important for St Thomases Hospital staff too. After years of quick entry/exit single-decks, double-decks on the 11 will hardly be welcome.

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  20. No disrespect Roger, but I’ve seen enough messy recasts by fully commercial operators to know it doesnt matter if the service is franchised or not!

    Management is what’s important.

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  21. One has to question TfL’s budget. They have only axed a handful of buses and put an extrar £25M in the pot from reserves which will only be for this year. Cost are also increasing/ Passenger numbers might recover a bit but not much. Sound a big gamble to me

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  22. Whilst it’s good to see that some of the more silly schemes like changes to the 24, 88 and 214 have been abandoned it’s a shame to see the 521 go completely. The 59 won’t go through the Kingsway subway so isn’t an attractive alternative in the am peak and if the cycle lanes proposed for Holborn aren’t revised then the journey times will be extended even more. Odd that the 98 wasn’t touched either as Red Lion Square is hardly a traffic objective. and I’ve often seen 4 buses on the stand there Also strange that the 476 was kept as this largely duplicates the 73 yet the 21 is still down to be re-routed away from Southgate Road. No doubt the price Londoners will have to pay for these non-changes will be more frequency cuts. After all these don’t need to be consulted on.

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