TfL’s counter to the expanded ULEZ

Tuesday 7th March 2023

TfL’s Press Office was busy yesterday proclaiming“further new proposals for more than 400,000km increase in buses services in outer London to strengthen alternatives to private cars and maximise benefits of ULEZ”. And if you think the grammar doesn’t quite sound right in that sentence, don’t blame my usual sloppy fat finger error prone typing, that’s how the headline ran on the Press Release.

On first reading it sounded like a whopping increase in bus service provision across four London Boroughs – Barnet, Brent, Havering and Wandsworth all got a mention in the first bullet point. Apparently these changes are “a key part of the Mayor’s commitment to improving the bus network in outer London with more than one million extra kilometres of bus services”.

I’d had high hopes of the so called “outer London” improved bus routes which have been promised for years, especially with the continuing reduction in frequencies almost by the week of not only routes in central London but across the entire network. But when you analyse the changes announced yesterday in those four Boroughs, I suspect most passengers won’t notice any difference to their bus journey. Because there won’t be one.

I won’t go into all the detail as you’re welcome to do so on TfL’s copious consultation papers (links to all four imbedded in each word) but in summary the changes in Barnet involve routes serving the Brent Cross shopping centre and basically involve a minor rerouting on the south side of the North Circular Road to either serve a new road through “the growing Brent Cross Town community” as well as a couple of minor route extensions and a diversion on one other route to serve the soon to open new station, Brent Cross West…

… a route extension (79) in Alperton (Brent) to serve Stonebridge Park station and beyond with some back filling of a short stretch of route consequently unserved by another route extension (83)….

… out at Upminster and Ockendon on the fringes of Havering (and TfL’s territory) a route withdrawal (347) with an extension of another fairly recently introduced route (497) to partly compensate (albeit with some bus stops still missed out)….

…. and a route extension in Wandsworth from Balham railway station to a nearby hospital.

Is that it you might well ask? Almost half the promised additional mileage to help “maximise the benefits of ULEZ”. `I can’t wait for the other half, which will involve “further expansion across outer London including in Southall and Haringey“. And of course we still await the previously consulted on changes in Sutton and Croydon which have still not been introduced.

More positively the other bit of the Press Release promoted “a major new roll-out of bus stop ‘Countdown’ signs and hundreds of new or upgraded shelters. Last week, TfL confirmed that more real-time information countdown signs will be installed in every London borough, boosting the total in the capital by 12 per cent.”

As previously reported, the first roll out of new signs involves route 63 between Kings Cross and Honor Oak on the route that’s becoming a bit of a test bed for quality bus travel initiatives that bus companies in the provinces have been doing for years.

I had another ride up and down the route yesterday and spotted three or four bus stops already kitted out with the new electronic timetable cases which offer a push button selection of real time information ….

…. TfL standard style timetables for each route using the stop (this one at Elephant & Castle had 11 pages to cycle through for each of the 11 routes that stop there….

…a TfL bus stop style route diagram….

…. and the usual general information about further information.

It’s good fun to keep pressing the buttons, and the displays have the huge advantage of being updated remotely so will never be out of date. There’s also an “info” button to press below the panel…

… which sets off a loudspeaker announcing the next real time departures which is handy for those with sight impairment.

But for those with good vision the display is nowhere near as prominent as the existing real time signs in shelters.

But, that’s where the new bus stop plate panels being added below existing bus stops come into their own.

These neatly show the current time and the next four departures in a compact display for those standing closely to the bus stop pole.

They’re a neat solution for bus stops that don’t have a shelter and I’m guessing are not wildly expensive compared to the bigger signs,

Interestingly the new sign I saw at Blackfriars yesterday was on a bus stop pole where the timetable case below was all so typical of what you find across the network – three cases with two of the nine panels showing out of date yellow notices about disruption, three generic posters taking up four spaces and the complete absence of any information about one of the two daytime routes – the supposed wonderful route 63 itself.

Those electronic replacements can’t come soon enough.

One other development I spotted yesterday was a couple of buses out on route 63 with a wrap-around vinyl promoting the route itself. This really is a novelty for TfL to be actually promoting its bus routes – it doesn’t actually mention route 63 – but I wouldn’t decry the obvious thought and effort that’s gone into producing it.

Let’s hope it attracts some more passengers on board. TfL needs them.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

42 thoughts on “TfL’s counter to the expanded ULEZ

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  1. Hi Roger, I’m a Croydon resident so just wanted to add that the planned changes there won’t be for a few months (at least!) yet, as TfL have to tender at least 2 new routes, new buses will have to be brought in for companies who want to bid, etc etc. I’ve heard 2024, but I’m not overly certain! Hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As of I think Saturday the 64 has been reduced from every 7 minutes to every 10. Might not sound a big deal but it’s an important route and already overcrowded at peak work and school times. Certainly doesn’t help my bus or car choice in favour of the bus.


  2. Enjoyed the post Roger as a daily user of the 63/363 – although I read them all as an enthusiastic passenger rather than someone who works in the industry it was nice to see you on my home patch! A few thoughts and I’d be interested in your perspective on these
    – the interiors of the new 63s are already in quite poor shape, with quite a few of the seat back phone holders and bells broken. Typically of Abellio, the general standard of maintenance and cleaning is poor, as is some of the driving standards, and with a choice I still take the 363 as the Go Ahead vehicles are better maintained and driven.
    – I’m pleasantly surprised that the screens on the stop poles seem to be vandal proof – the ones at the Elephant have been there a year now and seem to be very sturdy. I never see anyone using them though
    – Agree with the concern about general falling standards in London. There’s a lot of talk about savings being needed and here’s my thought on one easy way. On this route like many there’s a lot of overlap between the 63 and 363 and a return to one route with overlapping sections at busy times would mean a lot less bunching and capacity where it is needed, and enable a more consistent frequency on the core of the route between HO and the Elephant

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tim and I think your pertinent comments are right on the mark. I also noticed the shine had come off the buses already and some rationalisation between the 63 and 363 makes good sense.


      1. I recently used the tube from Morden upto the O2 and couldn’t believe how dirty and disgusting the carriages were both floors and especially seats. And the noise was deafening I came away with a whistling in my ears, in all my years of using the tube I can honestly say its never been so bad. Well done Mr Khan for making a good service even worse and could TFL please provide ear defenders to both Save my ears and sanity


        1. @Wayne – perhaps the state of the tube is a legacy of a previous Mayor, one who willingly gave away TfL’s government grant before leaving office, leaving behind a mess for his successor to deal with and leaving TfL overly reliant on fare revenue – which dried up during the pandemic and hasn’t fully recovered. Meanwhile negotiations with the government for emergency funding due to the pandemic were very stop-go, making spending and investment decisions tricky. That government was led by the very same person who had given away TfL’s government grant when he was Mayor!


    2. @Tim, @Roger – there is indeed a long overlap between the 63 and 363. When the 363 reaches Honor Oak heading north, it spends the rest of its journey meekly following the 63 and doing nothing else that the 63 doesn’t do. (On the southbound trip, the 363 does offer a grandstand view from Bricklayers Arms roundabout, bypassing a couple of stops which it leaves to the 63). What the 363 could usefully do is go somewhere more interesting than Elephant & Castle, for example providing some support to the busy 21 towards London Bridge, offering passengers a better choice of destinations.


      1. I don’t know why they don’t merge them. The combined Palace to King’s Cross route isn’t that long and actually the quickest way from the Wood Vale/Sydenham Hill area to the west of the City and Kings Cross would be on a combined 63. Same with 2/432 and 137/417, the overlap is unnecessary and re-combining the routes would not only save money but recreate some good through journey opportunities


        1. The 63/363 overlap is over the most heavily-used section. Any saving would be limited as you would still need more buses over that section through Peckham than north of Elephant or south of Honor Oak. I expect the same is true of the overlaps on 2/432 and 137/417.


  3. The electronic timetable displays can still be out of date, even if updated remotely, because someone has to remember to update them.

    Flicking through the panels at the 63 bus stop closest to TfL HQ last month, one screen contained out-of-date strike information.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A big benefit of the new signs are that they can display up to date timetables. An even bigger benefit is they can be powered by batteries that last up to 3 years and can have a small solar panel to keep the batteries charged up. That’s a huge cost saving as running in a power supply can easily cost several hundred pounds or more


  5. If the Mayor is so concerned about clean air why is it I can pay £12.50 and drive in London all day and kill as many people as I like. Its about the money for the Mayor who remember didn’t get elected this time was given an extension because of Covid.


    1. Yes he did. The election was delayed for a year because of Covid but Sadiq Khan is our democratically elected mayor. However I doubt that these changes were the direct proposals of the Mayor.


  6. You haven’t commented on withdrawal of the 346 route which serves Upminster and Cranham (Cranham is part of Upminster to the east).
    This service currently runs every 15 minutes.
    It is well used by commuters and others travelling to and from Upminster station, school children and people going shopping (particularly elderly people).
    It is proposed to replace it by an extension of the 497 from Harold Hill, but this will only run every half hour. As a longer route it is more likely to be delayed.
    People in Cranham rely on the 346, which at 15 minute frequency is effectively ‘turn up and go’. The half hourly 497 is not an acceptable alternative.
    Currently one can come out of the station and know there will be a bus within maximum 15 minutes. 30 minutes is however too long to wait.
    There is great concern from local people who rely on this bus, particularly as the consultation is online, a media that many of those who most need the bus may not use.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s pretty low density housing and there is the 248 from Cranham. Yet to have this in a press release that trumpets extra mileage, not less, is disingenuoius to say the least!


      1. Cranham isn’t low density housing. The 248 doesn’t use the same route. St Mary’s Lane, Front Lane (south of Moor Lane) and Moor Lane aren’t covered b y the 248.


  7. In response to David Feldwick. Although the election scheduled for 2020 was cancelled due to covid, he was elected in the rearranged election in May 2021


  8. While the 497 extension to Upminster is good, the frequency over the withdrawn 346 between Upminster Park Estate and Upminster Station via Moor Lane and St Mary’s Lane is halved from every 15 mins to every 30 mins which is hardly in the spirit of’ improved’ services in the extended ULEZ area.

    A better solution would be to retain the 346 to maintain a 15 minute frequency with the extended 497 and extend it from Upminster Park Estate via Avon Road and Hall Lane to Tylers Common then either via Nags Head Lane or Warley to Brentwood to provide new cross boundary links. Upminster and Brentwood are only a few miles apart but the only bus service between the two towns runs on just one day a year – provided by Ensignbus on the first Saturday in December. It is remarkably well used too!


    1. @Andrew – yes, that Ensignbus service is remarkably well-used on that one day a year that it operates. I do wonder how many of its passengers would be regular users if it operated all year (and with modern buses)? 😉


      1. Fair point Malc, but how many people will regularly travel from Upminster to Harold Wood and Harold Hill? We don’t know yet but least they are giving it a try. If you were to ask people in Upminster I reckon they would be far more likely to express a preference for a service to Brentwood.


  9. It seems to be false advertising by TfL. They are not increasing the milage by 400,000Km or anywhere remotely near that


  10. It would be more sensible to also this cars to continue to be used but introduce some incentives to by a newer compliant car. These cars will disappear over the next 10 years or so. The ULZ will cause a lot of damage to London’s economy


  11. Supposedly ‘enhancing’ outer London bus routes will not counteract the damaging effects of ULEZ expansion (viz. cutting back the 427 from Acton and diverting it to Southall station where there is STILL no n/b stop for interchange with the Elizabeth Line). What is required is a reintroduction of the Green Line network, including the peripheral 725 throughout and 734, at significantly increased frequencies to cater for the many cross-Greater London border journeys that will be impacted by this undemocratically-imposed scheme. Anything less just won’t ‘cut the mustard’.


  12. What is needed is new express/orbital routes, and much more out-county cross-border services for people who currently drive in from the Home Counties (and can’t vote against Khan). His public pronouncements seem ever more desperate, does he feel this is his Poll Tax moment?


    1. @Kim – can I vote against motorists who bring older, more polluting vehicles into Greater London, dirtying the air that I breathe?

      Out-county/cross-border services aren’t within the remit of the Mayor or TfL, unless they provide a benefit to Greater London – and there is a funding issue to consider as well. If the local authorities outside Greater London are willing to support improvements to cross-border services, great! (And did I read in Buses magazine recently that Surrey County Council are doing just that?)


  13. I see that TfL are now accepting advertising on their bus stop E-plates – as your pictures of the Blackfriars Station stop show. Or is it just that they tolerate fly posting and don’t want to remove them ? Perhaps this could be a new (unwanted) trend.


  14. The congestion charge introduced 20 years ago was backed up by the introduction of 300 extra buses with new routes and increased frequencies. Ken Livingstone took great interest in this and knew he had to do this to sell it to Londoners. This created new links and saw a 33% increase in bus travel in the zone. By contrast Khan shows no interest and can only spout out parrot fashion about the harmful effects of toxic air. To those of us living under the flight path to Heathrow his ULEZ expansion won’t make a blind bit of difference ! All Khan and his team can come up with are gimmicks. As Roger points out most of the features introduced on the ‘state of the art’ buses on the 63 (which incidentally don’t have a rear window to assist with interchange) have been specified by operators across the country for years and London is just catching up . If Khan wants to get people back on board he needs to restore bus lanes on Farringdon Road for instance and restore bus lanes across all the capital’s bridges starting with Waterloo. He also needs to tell his press team to stop telling us that buses are only there for people who can’t walk or cycle. How about the needs of tourists ? Perhaps they don’t count as they don’t have a vote. But outer London does and the electorate there can tell him what they think of his approach to ULEZ when they vote at the ballot box next year.


    1. Illustrates my point above. When Red Ken introduced the congestion charge, it was balanced by a raft of additional services and enhancements to make it all more palatable.

      I credit Sadiq Khan with being a shrewd politician; you may not like him but he has got a position of power and influence. However, having all stick and very little carrot seems a miscalculation.

      I note the clamour for the return of Green Line but let’s face facts; much of that market was lost to improved trains and/or appalling traffic congestion and that’s since the 1970s/1980s. The idea of a return seems fanciful, to be honest. However, the need for some coherent bus priority to speed up journeys and make them more robust and competitive with the private car needs to be tackled. These moves don’t address those fundamentals…issues that were faced into in Brighton as an example.


      1. There are two things which need to be done nationally, but won’t, if buses are ever to be a serious transport alternative to the car.

        One is a massive increase in bus priority measure – bus lanes, bus gates, priority at traffic lights and that sort of thing. That alone would garner screams from motorists and their lobbyists.

        The second thing which needs to be done in urban areas would be automatic suicide for any politician and will never happen, and that’s punitive charging to clear cars off the streets, involving congestion charging throughout urban areas, a total ban on street parking on through roads and on one side of all estate roads (the latter because modern cars are now so wide that cars parked either side of an average housing area road _will_ obstruct emergency service vehicles as well as any larger delivery vehicles) and a significant increase in the cost of parking. I’d get rid of Vehicle Excise Duty and replace it with a mileage tax added to fuel.

        However, the Great British Public have come to believe that car ownership including parking wherever they wish is a God-given right and there would be mass disobedience if anything was ever introduced to reduce the amount of cars using or obstructing our roads, so it’ll never happen.


  15. New express and orbital BRT routes are needed, with extensive bus priorities. Something that looks like Belfast Glider and is obviously more than just a bus route. Could be called “Greenline”, now there’s an idea!


  16. While the article looks at London, there is an expansion of Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones across the country. Many are focusing on heavier vehicles, including buses, at least to begin with. These are being pushed by Government to meet agreed targets.

    In Greater Manchester a proposal was published but when there was a backlash Andy Burnham decided his organisation’s proposals were unfit for purpose.

    Sheffield has introduced one recently for the central core of the city, to much local noise, leading to bus operators having to move vehicles around to comply.

    One of the main limiting factors is the permeability of the zone. These need to have few entry points to make it readily enforceable.

    The other areas have not improved their public transport offer as funding is not there.

    As Martin W points out, other polluters are not being targeted, such as planes.


  17. I’m going to try 1 day over the next couple of weeks to get my triple 12 ladder 4 large tool boxes 10 x 3 meter lengths of copper pipe , 3 meters of waste pipe , on a bus and see how I get on ,
    Somehow I doubt the driver will even let me on the bus , but I will insist after all Mr Kahn seems to think it is , so in theory the bus driver can’t refuse .
    Let’s see how I get on


    1. Who is this Mr Kahn you keep referring to, and is he anything at all to do with Mr Khan who is the elected Mayor of London?

      Somehow I doubt that you (a) could carry all of your list to a bus stop, or (b) would ever do anything more proactive than rant here.


    2. Travel on a bus with your plumbing tools and materials – do you think it is practical. First you need plenty of room on the bus ,second how will you bring your stuff to the bus stop, third how will you manage getting your stuff to work place . Ideally one should use a van with workmate to move your stuff


  18. Outside of London for working people buses are simply not an option as the bus services are so limited and unreliable. A car is essential

    Many of the services in the hone counties are being cut considerably

    The Hertford to Waltham Cross service is being reduced to very 20 minutes as is the 251, The 403 reduced to hourly. 401 Sunday Service withdrawn. Service 6 withdrawn

    A number of other service may get replacement but it the usual keep the customers in the dark until the last possible moment when they may or may no have a service. Then add in high levels of cancellations and poor timekeeping
    This is not going to get people using buses in fact it will do the exact opposite


  19. Mr Khan should try getting a bus from Collier Row to King Georges Hospital Barley Lane. You have to go backwards to go forwards.


  20. Wonder if those bus stop mounted displays could actually replace E plates? Might need a few displays where many buses routes stop I guess. But would save visits at route changes (assuming the e-ink timetable displays were also on the same pole)


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