LONDON’S SHRINKING BUS NETWORK

BUSINESS of BUSES with DAVID LEEDER

The ongoing decline of London’s bus network seems to have gone largely unnoticed by many commentators and politicians.

Not a month goes by without a city calling for a “London-style” bus network; but these requests seem to relate to the London of the early 2000s, not the reality of 2024.

Let’s consider a few facts. London bus demand peaked in 2014. That means ten years of decline, with patronage now back at 2005 levels. London’s population has grown by 1.2m people (14%) over that period.

So, if we look at bus trips per annum, per head of population (a good measure of bus demand), London has dropped by around 24%.

The subsidy in 2014 was £547m (23p per trip). By 2023, it was £786m (45p per trip). That’s an increase of about 95%.

And even that understates the real picture, as we know that at least two London bus companies are reporting meaningful financial losses, which will have to be added to tender prices when contracts expire.

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