Proposals on reshaping the central and inner London bus network, following a Government requirement for significant savings, have been outlined by Transport for London (TfL) on Wednesday.
These proposals have been set out by TfL due to the Government requiring TfL to reduce service levels on London’s bus network.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, TfL had made huge strides to improve its financial resilience. Due to TfL’s reliance on passenger fares for the majority of its income, the effect of the pandemic on its finances has been devastating, requiring Government support to keep public transport in London operating. Passenger numbers continue to recover, but are still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.
The Government set a number of conditions before providing emergency funding to enable TfL to keep operating, including requiring a plan setting out how to achieve significant financial savings and reduce service levels. This plan included reducing the extent of the bus network by four per cent by 2024/25.
Proposals to achieve this reduction, by changing and withdrawing some bus routes in and around central London, have today (Wednesday 1 June) been published for consultation. This six-week consultation sets out how TfL will ensure the bus network continues to provide Londoners with the service they need while responding to Government requirements to make further savings.
TfL has worked to ensure that the bus kilometres removed from the network are in locations that already have a higher provision of buses. The bus routes proposed for changes or withdrawal are already well served by other routes meaning services would more than meet demand and allow passengers to still make the same journeys, with an additional interchange in some instances.
Taking this approach reduces the effect on passengers as much as possible and will allow for investment in outer London where there is a clear need for more buses due to higher demand, whilst ensuring a continued reliable network of routes in central and inner London. Passengers can also make use of the ‘Hopper’ fare introduced by the Mayor, meaning no extra costs will be incurred by passengers for changing buses within an hour.
While buses remain the most popular form of transport in London, demand on many central and inner London bus routes has reduced. Ridership on some routes has been declining since 2014, and by 2019 passenger levels had fallen by nine per cent as improvements to rail services and walking and cycling infrastructure provided new alternatives, especially in central and inner London.
TfL’s current short-term funding deal expires on the 24 June. If a sustainable new agreement cannot be achieved, TfL could be required to reduce bus services by nearly 20 per cent – an outcome that TfL is working hard to avoid. A 20 per cent reduction of the bus network would see Londoners disconnected from communities and places of work, with damaging impacts to the economy.
Deputy Mayor for Transport, Seb Dance, said, “No one wants to see reductions to our bus network, but TfL is having to consider these changes because of the savings demanded by the Government as part of the emergency funding deals during the pandemic.
“TfL has looked carefully at the routes affected in order to reduce the impact on passengers as much as possible. Routes changed are ones where there are very similar existing services or where passengers would make use of the Mayor’s ‘Hopper’ fare to reach their destination.
“If TfL is to avoid further cuts which would damage our city’s economic recovery from this pandemic, the Government must do the right thing and come forward with a long term funding deal to support the capital’s public transport – as governments of almost all other major global cities do.”
Geoff Hobbs, Director of Public Transport Service Planning at TfL added, “Significant changes in how people use transport in central and inner London mean that – as we work to meet the requirements of our funding agreement with Government – the proposals we are consulting on have been designed to minimise the impact on customers and ensure that the majority still have a direct bus for their journey.
“Adapting the capital’s bus service – such a significant part of our transport network – is what we have always done to ensure it keeps up with changing needs of Londoners. The flexible nature of the bus network means we can respond to changes in demand, both now and in the future.
“We know that these plans will have some impact on some of our customers, but we are trying very hard to ensure that we can still have the right level of service where it is needed and can deliver our long-term positive vision for the bus network.”