Cuts planned to 436 and 453 bus routes [UPDATED]

The London Assembly LibDems believe the Mayor Johnson is planning significant cuts to the capacity of the 436 and 453 bus routes that run through Peckham, New Cross and, in the case of the 436, Brockley. As the Mayor seeks to bolster his re-election (and ultimately Prime Ministerial) credentials by suggesting he can implement painless cuts while getting rid of the efficient bendy buses, it's vital that the impact of budget cuts to front line services and the populist anti-bendy campaign is properly understood.

A statement released by the LibDems today says:

Two key bus routes which run from Lewisham, through Southwark, Lambeth and into Westminster are set to become far more crowded, predicts Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly transport spokesperson.

The Mayor and Transport for London are now planning huge changes to the timetable for the 436 and 453 bus routes, when new buses replace the current bendy buses.
Through detailed research Caroline Pidgeon has revealed that the new bus routes will cause a serious reduction in bus capacity ie. the number of people who can sit, or safely stand on a  bus) on the 436 bus route of:

180 places per hour on weekdays, at peak time every morning 
145 places per hour on weekdays, at peak time every evening 
280 places per hour in the weekday bus services during the rest of the day 

On Saturdays and Sundays the situation is even worse on the 436 bus route, with reductions of 280 places per hour during the day on Saturdays and 175 places during the day on Sundays.

Similar reductions in bus capacity will take place on the 453 bus route throughout almost every part of the day.  For example, during Saturdays there will be a reduction in capacity of 280 places per hour during the day on this bus route.  A similar reduction in hourly capacity will take place during the week.    Only on Friday and Saturday nights and during the weekday peak time is there a very small increase in capacity.

Caroline Pidgeon commenting on these proposals from Boris Johnson and Transport for London said:

“If the Mayor wants to quickly get rid of every bendy bus route in London that is one thing. However he has no right to reduce bus capacity and increase overcrowding on these key bus routes.


UPDATE: BBC London's Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards has posted to alert us to the fact that he's reported on the story today. You can watch the piece, which is bang-on (nice juxtaposition of the story with Boris' conference speech yesterday) via his blog.

32 comments:

fabhat said...

It's hard enough to find room on those buses at the moment, let alone with 280 fewer seat...that's going to be fun.

I guess Boris is of a similar mindset to Thatcher and doesn't believe anyone of influence travels by bus, especially if they live in southeast London

sflondongal said...

I am speechless. Those buses are impossibly crowded already.

Anonymous said...

Most people who use the 436 use it as a free bus anyway.just means more people will have to pay.

Anonymous said...

Politically these are painless cuts for Boris; not many of the people who vote for him travel by bus.

Anonymous said...

Are there any actual links to these changes then other than the Lib Dem press release.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 1411 - no links, but the press release was accompanied by supporting correspondence with TfL.

Kate said...

I used the 436 to Lewisham Centre this morning. My stop is the one outside Tesco on Lewisham Way. Had to wait for 3 buses to go by before I could get on one - which happened to be 436 and it was also pretty packed. It's going to be hellish to get on a bus when the bendy buses go I should think - particularly at rush hour. Also, there are 4 buggy spaces or 2 wheelchair spaces on a bendy bus. Only 2 buggy spaces and 1 wheelchair space on a normal double decker. I personally am v disappointed Boris is taking away the bendy buses. They hold many more people than regular double deckers.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - when Boris proposed to get rid of the 'hated' bendy buses, everyone who knew anything about buses said that this would be the consequence since bendy buses weren't introduced out of bloody-minded perversity but because they are good at ferrying large numbers. So it shouldn't come as a surprise.

Matt-Z said...

The 453 has already switched to double-deckers. Anecdotal evidence, but I pass them daily on my bike during the rush hours and they look even more packed than their bendy predecessors.

mb said...

"some" don't pay, most do. Anyway, not really the point. Not replacing the capacity with whatever alternative he had in mind is crazy. Get one of the many bus routing apps on your iphone, hoping on and off even if you're not familiar with the routes has never been easier. The rejuvinated bus system is one of the good things that had happened over the last decade.

Anonymous said...

They'll be plenty of room once the free-riders stop getting on.

fromthemurkydepths said...

This has come up lots of times with other bendy conversions if I recall correctly.

Does anyone know what has been the situation in these areas? Was the suspicions of freeloaders correct and capacity has been ok as they've gone, or are there major problems?

Lou Baker said...

Bendy buses are great.

The decision to scrap perfectly efficient relatively new buses is simply flawed.

Yes there are issues with safety - particularly with regards to cyclists.

Yes there are issues of fare evasion.

But you tackle those by improving safety, looking more carefully at routes and employing more ticket inspectors - not by scrapping buses.

Dumb decision.

Anonymous said...

The new buses will be even less safer as they have an open platform like the old route master i believe.

think abaht it said...

The 149 went from a bendy to a double decker and is equally as hellish if not more.

The small percentage of passengers that are fare dodgers don't just stop using the buses altogether, they just end up paying for the journeys. So with the smaller capacity and longer boarding times of the double decker it makes it slower and more crowded. Awesome.

Matt-Z said...

@ Anon 15:33

The 'Borismaster' replacement for the old Routemaster is not in production yet. A few prototypes are expected to be running next year.

The new design indeed comes with a platform, but one with doors that can be locked shut when there's no conductor on the bus. None of the bus companies currently employ conductors (aside from the two heritage routes in central London), and I doubt they want to, it's extra expense. I suspect most of the new buses, when/if they do arrive, will run in driver-only mode for the majority of the time, with the rear platform out of use.

mb said...

The Boris Bus could end up being TfLs Nimrod project. Spending so much it would be political suicide to cancel it, its an example of a seductive idea being integral to a manifesto and having no escape strategy.

Miss L said...

I sometimes take the 436 from Lewisham Shopping Centre (where the route starts) and the bus is full by the time it goes past Lewisham Station! It's going to be a nightmare if there's even less capacity.

This is also at the same time as rail and tube fares keep going up every year, which probably means more people are needing to use buses because they can't afford anything else!

Lou Baker said...

Platforms on buses is not something we should worry about.

If you are stupid enough to fall off one - well it's no loss to the world.

The problem with scrapping bendies is capacity. If the Borisbus provided all that it'd be fine. But it doesn't.

It's a mad decision.

Matt-Z said...

Indeed Lou - capacity is the key issue. Bus services in London improved dramatically under Ken Livingstone, and patronage increased accordingly. Debendifying busy, strategic routes only goes to decrease capacity and slow things down with longer dwell times at stops. Some routes have had additional double deckers to try to counter the reduction in capacity, but this will in turn add to congestion.

A secondary issue is the perceived ill-suitedness of the bendies to London. Some of the routes weren't quite right, and they caused problems at certain corners and junctions, but these were mostly ironed out over time. On major arteries, operating predominately in bus lanes, they were the most efficient way to shift large numbers of people.

Finally, as a cyclist, I'm aware of the problems of left-turning buses cutting up bikes, but with better training for bus drivers and cyclists taking more responsibility for themselves (ie don't squeeze down the side of a large vehicle when there isn't safe enough space to do it), them the problem is much reduced.

Once the people of Bristol, Leicester, and wherever else the bendies end up, get over the 'stigma' of having London's cast-offs, they'll realise they've done well out of Boris's short-sightedness.

Tom Edwards said...

If you want to see a tv piece on it and passengers reaction there is a link on my blog: www.bbc.co.uk/tomedwards

Lou Baker said...

@matt

I'm a cyclist too - so I understand the bendy issue. And it is an issue. But it's not worth scrapping them for.

Basically London needs someone with a really radical view towards transport to get the city moving again.

Pedestrianise most of the West End - including Oxford Street.

Sod buses - trams are the way to go. On the main north-south, east-west, NE-SW and SE-NW routes we need decent modern capacity. Trams do that in a way that buses simply don't.

Crossrail and Thameslink are fine - but where are Crossrail 2, 3 and 4 (like we'd have if we lived in Paris).

With the economy in such goo now is the time to invest and invest heavily in infrastructure which will last generations. We need a Mayor with vision to really transform transport in London. Not one who thinks painting a few roads blue and scrapping bendy buses will suffice. (And not you either Ken).

Anonymous said...

Well the BBC piece says that there was £2 million in changeover costs and £300,000 in higher operating costs but they expect £5.6 million in extra revenue. So in the end revenue loss does not seem to be a minor problem at all.

Anonymous said...

ahhhhh! Boris is so intent on taking care of his beloved west london population and the olympic area (london cable car) and has repeatedly cancelled improvements that are much needed in South east london to ease congestion...i.e. river tram & thames gateway bridge ..now he wants to reduce the bus service which is already bursting at the seams. The roads are too congested anyway- taking the bus through camberwell and walworth road takes so long. If he stays as mayor I think that transport links to SE London won't be paid much attention...kiss bakerloo line extension goodbye

mk said...

I never thought I'd see the day Lou, but everything you say here, I agree with 100%. Boris has run out of ideas when it comes to transport (esp cycling) and it seems pretty obvious that we need someone with a bit of balls and commitment to overhaul London transport properly (rather than useless projects like the Greenwich cable car).

P.S. Anyone from here going to the Blackfriars Bridge protest next week? Hopefully that'll be a good chance to show Boris what we think of his transport policy.

Anonymous said...

There were significant problems tonight... v few buses that were not 'out of service' and those that were in service were PACKED. I waited for 30 mins to get back to NX Sainsbury's to get to Lewisham Way area, in the end I walked.... typical Boris eh!

Brockley Michael said...

I remember well when Boris stood for the mayoralty in 2008. Otherwise supposedly sane, rational, intelligent people I knew said they'd vote for him because "he's funny on the telly" and "Ken's had his chance" and "Ken brought in the congestion charge and now I can't drive everywhere I fancy when I fancy".

I lived in east Camberwell at the time; the cross-river tram was to run along the present 343 route (roughly) between Elephant and Peckham, which would've massively benefited that hugely overcrowded section of the route and assisted the regeneration of the Aylesbury and Heygate Estates.

Boris immediately cancelled it, citing a "funding gap" - which he'd created by axing the western extension of the congestion charge zone - and he's gone on to axe the western end of the central zone too, while increasing public transport fares to pay for "unprecedented investment" that was already going in to the system. His extra investment seems to consist of a cable car and debendification.

And then came the 'blame Labour for the deficit which must be brought down' narrative. Interesting that in so doing he managed to improve the fortunes of assorted solid Tory constituencies in central and west London while disadvantaging solid Labour constituencies in south and south-east London.

But as long as people in Bromley and Bexley can drive their cars as they please, Boris will have voters on his side. Especially if he pops up on telly being amusing.

Tressilliana said...

I agree that SE London needs a lot more investment in public transport and that Boris certainly appears to be favouring his West London chums over us. However, we can't blame Boris for the chaos on the roads last night - there was a bad fire at Deptford Bridge which closed a major road and also a burst water main on London Road in Forest Hill. I think that would have led to near gridlock no matter how many buses and trams we had in service.

Anonymous said...

The 172 has been packed every morning this week, full by half-way on the route and this morning was full by Briant Street with lots more people stuck at all bus stops along the route.

How Boris can dare to increase fares is beggar's belief. I do wonder if he is trying to brew another riot - he hasn't a clue.

mb said...

Im guessing here, but the TfL subsidy from the DfT was cut less than many departments (cynics would say it was an attempt to keep a tory mayor) may have been on condition that he increases fares?

Also, intentionally or not, busses are used more by the lower waged. Disproportianate bus fair inxreases could be seen as a regressive insirect tax.

Simon Bye said...

As a driver of route 453, both before and after the change from double deck to bendy buses, I can say that the loadings are lower since it became a double deck. They are still busy in peak periods, but show me a bus route along a trunk road that is not! This is because a significant number of passengers would wait for a 453 as opposed to other routes that shadow it, as they did not intend to pay. These passengers now get whatever comes first, so loadings have spread to routes 21, 53, 168 & 172. Pre-pay revenue on my bus is about five times greater on a double deck than a bendy bus CARRYING LESS PEOPLE which I think gives a good picture of how many people were not paying!
When the 436 goes double deck the loadings will spread to the 21, 36, 136 and other routes that parallel it, and peak frequency will be increased. Off peak frequency increase are not significantly needed.
If there is a problem with double decks it is the people that will not move to available seats upstairs, choosing to stand and block the lower deck instead. Some people, quite capable of using the stairs, will not even when you ask via loud speaker. This can block the bus for intending passengers but is more of an off peak issue than a peak one.

Headhunter said...

Missed this story! Was on hols...

Interesting to hear a bus driver's perspective on this, and I have limited experience of buses from Brockley as I generally cycle, however on the occasions that I have been travelling to work by public transport (to Chancery Lane), I have used the 172 and I have to say that once it hits New Cross it is generally pretty much full, so I don't think it's true that everyone waits for the "free" buses. I'm sure that scrapping the bendies and this consequent loss of capacity will be a disaster for people at busy times...

I knew Boris's reactionary policy of scrapping the apparently hated bendies would cause loss of capacity. When I lived in Islington, trying to get a number 19 or 38 (esp 38) at peak times when these routes were covered by Routemasters was a nightmare.

I remember trying to catch a bus/night bus home along those routes and sometimes it was literally quicker to walk from the west end to Islington as you would literally wait 45 mins before there was even the slightest possibility of getting on a bus.

When the bendies came it was like a breath of fresh air, yes they were busy but you could pretty much jump on the 1st one that came past...

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