Superloop buses will form orbital route around London by spring 2024

A bus with Superloop livery (Ross Lydall)
A bus with Superloop livery (Ross Lydall)

The Superloop network of buses will form an orbital route around London’s suburbs by next Spring, it was confirmed on Friday, as two new routes were approved.

Transport for London said the SL2 between Walthamstow Central and North Woolwich, and the SL3 between Thamesmead and Bromley had both been approved following public consultation.

Both will be launched before next May’s mayoral election – by which time the SL5 route between Bromley and Croydon is also expected to start running.

TfL said on Friday that it was "still considering next steps for the SL5", despite it having been consulted on at the same time as the SL2 and SL3.At present, two of the seven sections of the circular loop are in place - the SL7, which links West Croydon and Heathrow, and the SL9, which links Harrow with the airport.

In addition, two of the three “spokes” – radial routes that link outer London with central London – have launched: the SL6 between West Croydon and Russell Square, and the SL8, which links Uxbridge and White City.

The SL10 between Harrow and North Finchley, and the SL1 between North Finchley and Walthamstow, are due to launch before Christmas.

The Superloop is a new bus link set to benefit suburban neighhourhoods (TFL)
The Superloop is a new bus link set to benefit suburban neighhourhoods (TFL)

The only missing piece of the jigsaw is the SL4, which will link Grove Park and Canary Wharf when the Silvertown tunnel opens in 2025.

The Superloop limited-stop network, which upgrades some existing express routes and adds new services, was announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan in March in a bid to quell the rebellion against the Ulez expansion across Greater London and provide an alternative to car travel.

The SL2 route has been amended to add an extra stop near Gallions Reach shopping centre in Beckton. The SL3 will run via Sidcup.

More than 800 responses were received in the SL2 consultation. A total of 63 per cent of respondents said it would make their journey more convenient, while 69 per cent said it would make their journey quicker.

A total of 55 per cent of respondents said they would be likely to use the SL2 to replace a journey made by private car, but 26 per cent of people said it would make no difference.

One in four respondents said they would use the SL2 a few times a week, and a further 40 per cent said they would use it a few times a month.

TfL received a number of complains about the lack of service to Havering and Romford.

Some people commented on the lack of interchange between the SL2 and SL3 in Thamesmead, and with London City Airport. The airport said it was a “missed opportunity” to improve connections.

Waltham Forest council said there was a need for a Superloop connection to Highams Park and Chingford and that an alternative route should start at Tottenham Hale.

London TravelWatch said it was “disappointed” that the new routes would not be implemented sooner than Spring 2024 to help people affected by the Ulez expansion.

TfL appears to have overcome issues with a  lack of parking for the Superloop buses at Walthamstow Central bus station.

The new or refurbished double-deckers will run every 12 minutes during the day and at 15-minute intervals in the evenings and on Sundays.

TfL said the consultation responses suggested many passengers would use it instead of their car. The Superloop – which features retro Tube-style branding - is funded from £6m the mayor for improvements to outer London bus services.

Geoff Hobbs, TfL's director of public transport service planning, said: “The two new Superloop services will provide significantly quicker journeys between busy transport hubs, town centres, hospitals and schools across outer London, as well as offering more travel options connecting to numerous other bus routes.

“The SL2 and SL3 will join the current Superloop services with a new look and feel of the buses, as well as providing cleaner, cost-effective and sustainable options for customers.

“The SL1 and SL10 express bus services will also be launching later this year, and we are busy working with operators and other partners behind the scenes to introduce these new routes as quickly as possible, so that our customers can make the most of our ever-improving bus network.”

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of London TravelWatch, said: “These orbital express services are vital, especially now that Ulez has expanded.

“It’s really important that these Superloop buses have priority on the roads right from the start to avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.”