Abellio West London will operate route 111 (Heathrow – Kingston) from next April. Buses will be based at Twickenham depot. The route has been operated from Hounslow garage since it was first introduced in 1944 although at various times the now closed Mortlake, Riverside and the ‘original’ Twickenham garages have had partial allocations.
Originally taking an indirect route linking Hounslow and Hammersmith via Richmond, it had largely taken on its current form by 1981 when it was extended to Heathrow Airport.
Tower Transit will continue to operate route 13 (North Finchley – Victoria), using the existing MCV EvoSeti-bodied Volvo B5LHs, when a new contract begins next April. There will, however, be a significant reduction in peak vehicle requirement, from 31 to 22, which equates to a cut from the current ten buses per hour to around seven.
Metroline retains route 204 (Edgware – Sudbury Town) and will replace the current Alexander Dennis Enviro400s, largely dating from 2011, with new battery-electric double deck buses. The route currently operates from Alperton garage, which is due to close on September 10. The following day an open day, with special bus services, will take place.
Latest contract awards
The contract for routes 253/N253 (Euston/Tottenham Court Road – Hackney/Aldgate has been extended from June 4, 2022 until May 31, 2024 to allow for it to be retendered at the same time as route 254 (Holloway – Aldgate). Both routes are currently operated by Arriva London North using New Routemasters. The 254 was introduced in May 2003 and replaced the Aldgate to Holloway leg of Route 253.
Reviews have also been announced into the future requirements of route 168 (Hampstead Heath – Old Kent Road) and schoolday service 638 (Coney Hall – Kemnal College) in advance of their retendering. The current contracts for both routes expire in September 2022.
● The proposed extension of route 324 (Brent Cross – Stanmore) to Centennial Business Park (Look in on London - January) is expected to go ahead from August 28.
Aging bus fleet continues to shrink
The number of buses used on Transport for London contracted services was 9,068 on March 31, 2021, a drop of 34 compared to the previous year. Since peaking at 9,616 in 2016 the fleet has reduced in size every year.
The true extent of the reduction is masked by the inclusion of around 200 vehicles retained to meet the requirement for additional vehicles for extra schools’ transport introduced last autumn to address social distancing concerns. Many of these were subsequently withdrawn before the end of the school year in July and it has yet to be confirmed how many will return when schools re-open in September.
Go-Ahead London remains the capital’s largest operator and its fleet grew slightly to 2,265 buses (compared to 2,254 in 2020) while Arriva London and Metroline retain second and third place with 1,590 and 1,532 vehicles respectively, down from 1,648 and 1,602 a year earlier.
The fleet continued to get older with its mean age increasing from 6.1 years to 6.7 years although this was in part due to older vehicles being retained or reinstated for additional schools’ services. Nevertheless, nearly a fifth of the UK capital’s buses were over ten years old compared to less than a tenth a decade earlier.
Just under 43% of the fleet, all doubledeckers, were hybrids with 487 zeroemission buses forming 5.4% of the total.
Quality Line closes down
RATP’s Quality Line operation, along with its Epsom garage – which it acquired along with the Epsom Coaches business in 2012, closed after service on July 2. Operation of routes 413 (Sutton – Morden) and S1 (Lavender Fields – Banstead) passed to Go-Ahead London.
The 413 is being run by London General from Merton garage using existing London General Alexander Dennis Enviro200s while the Optare Metrocitys used by Quality Line on route S1 have transferred, along with operation of the service, to Metrobus’s Croydon base. Routes 293 (Morden – Epsom Hospital), 404 (Cane Hill – Caterham-on-the-Hill), 467 (Epsom – Hook) and 470 (Epsom – Colliers Wood) was reallocated to London United’s Tolworth garage from June 19.
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions on July 19, London United resumed operation of contract services linking the New Square Office Park at Bedfont Lakes with Hatton Cross and Feltham Stations. Initially a single, circular, route is operating during peak hours only. The lunch-time route to Staines has been withdrawn. The Scania Omnicity double-deckers used before the service was suspended in March 2020 do not meet the more stringent Low Emission Zone requirements that came into effect earlier this spring. Their place has been taken by Alexander Dennis Enviro200s which retain red livery, albeit without Transport for London’s ‘Buses’ roundels.
Buses in the London United and London Sovereign fleets have gained RATP Dev London legal lettering. They retain separate O-licences.
Green Line 720 abandoned as Go-Ahead withdraws cross-border route
Arriva Kent Thameside has formally abandoned plans to introduce Green Line route 720 (Stansted Airport – Liverpool St). The new service had been due to start operating on May 4, 2020 (Look in on London – May 2020) but its introduction was deferred due to the first Covid-19 lockdown.
London General will withdraw route 575 (Harlow – Romford) from August 27. The route provides a single return journey on weekdays and is linked with Essex County Council school service 804 (Debden and Chigwell) operation of which will pass to Stephensons from September.
Summer bus use review cancelled as Deputy Mayor rules out consultation on frequency cuts
The Department for Transport has agreed to a request from Transport for London (TfL) to remove the requirement for July bus service review. A review of service levels on buses will take place as part of a wider exercise which also look at London Underground and TfL Rail in September. It will include an assessment of demand and identify how passenger behaviour and travel patterns change over the autumn.
London TravelWatch Director, Emma Gibson, commented: “We are really pleased that the Government has listened to London TravelWatch and others and decided to delay the review into the demand for bus services in London which had been scheduled for later this month.
“Had it gone ahead, there was a real danger that the review would have underestimated bus demand, because most people are unlikely to return to their offices before the autumn. This could have resulted in premature reductions to the frequency of buses which would have made the bus less attractive to use, with crowding and a subsequent loss of fares revenue.
“Any new dates to review bus services should be delayed until enough people have returned to the office to give a full and accurate picture of the city’s post-pandemic requirements.”
Speaking to the London Assembly Transport Committee on June 20, Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, was pressed to commit to hold consultations on frequency reductions to bus routes. She said she was unable to do so given the financial pressures that TfL was under. Cuts to central London routes are expected to start being implemented from the end of August to deliver an overall reduction in peak vehicle requirements of around 300 buses.
DRT trial review published
Transport for London has published its review into the trial operation of Demand Responsive Travel in Sutton and Ealing. The trials, which were launched in May and November 2019 respectively, were suspended in March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and formally terminated in May 2020.
Both schemes initially charged a flat fare of £3.50 which was reduced during the trial. A total of 80,901 journeys were made in Sutton by 5,541 users, while 1,846 people made 16,275 trips in Ealing. In both cases, a significant number of users were Freedom Pass holders – 47% and 31% respectively.
The number of journeys that connected with public transport was low, only accounting for 10% of Sutton trips. However, there was no Oyster card or travelcard integration, which would have encouraged this.
Around 60% passengers in Sutton said that they would use their car less in favour of DRT, although 47% also said they would use other buses less. In Ealing 19% said they would have taken a car and 13% a taxi. Nearly half would have used other buses and 10%.
The review concluded that DRT is not cheaper per ride than existing bus services particularly as Freedom Pass holders used the service up to twice as frequently and were more likely to take a ride after they created an account.
The online booking app was popular with users, accounting for more than 80% of requests. Feedback from the trial is being used to help improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the Dial-a-Ride service.
■ THE MAYOR OF LONDON, Sadiq Khan, has asked Transport for London to mandate the wearing of face coverings on its services as a condition of travel after July 19 when the existing English legal requirement was lifted.
■ MID-LIFE refurbishment of the 1,000 strong New Routemaster fleet is due to commence shortly. The programme is expected to take up to five years to complete.