The BBC have reported that many bus routes in London are being cut or reduced in frequency – see link below for details. Up to one fifth of routes will be affected and there is a public consultation you can respond to – see link below.
Such cuts are long overdue. Not only do so many buses slow other traffic but TfL is running up massive deficits on bus services which have actually got worse during the pandemic as ridership fell. I said this in a previous blog post: In the Operating Segment of “Buses, streets and other operations” there is a deficit of £754 million for the last quarter and that probably includes the income from the Congestion and ULEZ charges.
In essence TfL continues to run totally uneconomic bus services for which the customers are unwilling to pay. Cuts to bus services should have been made long ago. The population of London supports these services from which a minority benefit out of the taxes they pay which is unfair and unreasonable. Why should cyclists, tube and rail users and motorists subsidise bus services?
Transport for London (TfL) have published the Mayor’s Bus Action Plan – see link below for the full document. This document promotes bus travel as an “active travel” mode. But what is “active” about sitting on a bus?
The plan is full of such sophistry. Consider the following statement in it: “Meanwhile, climate change is a real and present emergency, as demonstrated by recent flooding in London and across Europe, and increasing numbers of wildfires in Europe, the Middle East, north Africa, North America and Australia. This is why the Mayor of London has made clear his ambition for London to be a world leader in tackling the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency, and has brought forward the 2050 target for London to be a net zero carbon city to 2030”.
There is no evidence that recent storms and flooding are other than random events. Promoting the use of buses certainly won’t help when most of them are still diesel powered.
The big problems with London buses are well known. Bus journey times have slowed thus putting people off using them and the pandemic has contributed to lower usage. More cycle lanes have obstructed buses and diversion of traffic off minor roads in LTNs to major roads has increased congestion. Meanwhile the cost of bus journeys has increased.
In outer London few people want to wait in the rain for the next bus and take circuitous routes to destinations when they can jump in their own private car or call a taxi to do a door-to-door trip in a quicker time.
But the report does say that they can reduce carbon emissions “By accelerating the delivery of a zero-emission bus fleet to 2030”. Is that a commitment to actually deliver a zero emission bus fleet by 2030. No it’s not. It’s the typical weasel words of politicians.
The report says “In contrast, a modern bus service that provides an inclusive customer experience”. What does that mean? It does not explain.
It also says: “A well-connected bus network will enable car-free lifestyles by providing a high-quality, attractive mode of transport to connect new developments to shops, stations and other destinations”. But buses cannot provide for all the needs and trips that people take via car, particularly if you wish to travel outside London or other than in and out of the centre.
How do they propose to speed up bus journey times? By introducing road user charging that will deter other vehicles from using the roads you have paid for. And by putting in more bus lanes and bus plus cycle only streets.
There is one big omission from this report. Namely any consideration of the financial position of London buses. The fact they get massively subsidised out of taxation is not even mentioned. If bus users had to pay the real cost of their journeys they would choose another travel mode.
In summary this report contains some useful facts but it’s full of management speak and is way too long. It ignores the basic problem that buses can only meet a minority of the desires and needs of Londoners for transport.