Key London bus routes saved in Sadiq Khan U-turn

Sadiq Khan has performed a partial U-turn on controversial plans to axe 22 bus routes and reduce the frequencies of almost 60 more after a massive backlash from passengers.

More than 21,500 people made their views known after the cost-cutting proposals, first revealed in June, threatened key central London routes including the 4, 12, 14, 24 and 74.

The plans ended up uniting prominent Tory MPs such as Greg Hands and Nickie Aiken with unions and bus drivers who feared for their jobs.

But the Mayor has decided to save all but three routes — the 11, 16 and 521 — and reduce or curtail the length of 15 others, including the 3, 6, 23, 26, 59, 77 and 133, by drawing an extra £25 million a year from City Hall reserves.

This is in addition to the £500m that the Greater London Authority is already providing Transport for London to help it balance its books. It means TfL – which is under Government orders to break even by next April – is increasingly reliant on council tax and business rates bail-outs.

The routes being axed are the 11 (Fulham Broadway/Liverpool St), the 16 (Victoria/Cricklewood) and the 521 (London Bridge/Waterloo).

But confusingly the numbers 11 and 16 will still be seen on the front of buses, as the routes 507 and 332 will be renumbered 11 and 16 respectively.

Overall, three services will end, 11 other day routes will be changed and four night bus routes will change. But 55 routes that were under some form of threat have been protected.

Mr Khan, whose late father drove the 44 bus, had been required to consider reducing bus costs by four per cent under the Government covid bailout deals.

But he was able to minimise the impact after using £25m a year from “unallocated” business rates and council tax.

It means three of TfL’s 620 bus routes will be axed and about 22 per cent of the original proposals will be implemented.

This will mean more passengers will have to change buses to reach their destination, primarily around Horseferry Road, Fleet Street, Edgware Road and Waterloo.

The £1.65 Hopper fare, which is applied automatically for passengers using Oyster, smartcard or device, allows unlimited journeys within an hour.

TfL hopes the changes will improve bus frequencies in central London and allow more services in the suburbs.

Mr Khan said: “The strength of feeling across the capital was clear to me, and I was adamant that I would explore every avenue available to me to save as many buses as possible.

“This will mean tough decisions elsewhere, but I am very pleased that the vast majority of bus routes proposed to be cut due to the Government’s funding conditions can now be saved.”

Geoff Hobbs, TfL’s director of public transport service planning, said: “The proposals that we will be taking forward are those that have a minimal impact on Londoners, as they are areas with much higher provision of buses than there is demand.”

Cllr Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “We urged local people to make their views known during the consultation and it’s clear that our collective voice has been clearly heard.”

Cllr Cem Kemahli, of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said:“It’s a huge relief for me and for people across the borough that these cuts have been reversed. This is the right decision by TfL and I’m grateful for every resident who joined with us to make their voices heard.”

But broadcaster and DJ Edward Adoo, who lives in Cricklewood and uses the 16 bus route, said: “If the Jubilee or Thameslink is down and I need to get to Victoria the 16 is handy.

“The Hopper fare is a great initiative but it shouldn’t be used to cut bus services and seems that is what the Mayor is doing.

“The 16 bus is vital to the community. He should rethink his plans and consult with passengers who use it regularly. I don’t think he has been to Kilburn High Road during the rush hour. With four bus services at peak times some buses can’t cope fully loaded packed.”

Mr Khan’s most recent council tax increase, of £31.93 in April, included £20 for TfL. He plans to continue the £20 TfL levy for at least two more years.

Figures presented to TfL’s finance committee on Wednesday show total passenger income is more than £600m higher than last year – with the Elizabeth line £29m ahead of budget - but slightly down on budget due to the Tube and rail strikes, and still £400m below pre-pandemic levels.

Tube journeys have returned to 82 per cent of normal, and bus journeys 80 per cent.

Nick Rogers, GLA Conservatives transport spokesman, said: “Londoners have had the threat of their services being cut dangled in front of them completely unnecessarily for months, so I am glad Sadiq Khan has finally backed down and changed course.

“Sadiq Khan must now make the necessary reforms to ensure TfL’s funding is sustainable and not pass on the burden to passengers.”

Under the changes, part of the 332 route will be incorporated into the new 16 route between Brent Park and Paddington.

The 507 number will disappear and services incorporated into part of the new route 11 . The N11 night bus will be “restructured”. The N16 will be renumbered N32.

Routes 4, 12, 14, 24, 31, 45, 72, 74, 78, 242, 349, C3, D7, N31, N72, N74 and N242 will be saved and kept as they currently operate.

The proposed changes to routes 3, 6, 11, 23, 26, 59, 77, 133, 211, C10 and N26 will go ahead.

Proposed changes to routes 15, 19, 27, 43, 47, 49, 53, 56, 88, 98, 100, 113, 135, 148, 171, 189, 205, 214, 236, 254, 259, 277, 279, 283, 328, 343, 388, 414, 430, 476, D3, N15, N19, N27, N98, N13 and N205 will not be taken forward.

Sian Berry, chair of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “We appreciate TfL’s U-turn today but still want to ensure that disruption to bus passengers can be kept to an absolute minimum given the importance of this particular form of public transport to Londoners.”