Transport for London begins consultation on the fate of 16 routes.
TfL wants to "reshape the bus network". That's a less scary way of saying "strip back the bus network". New plans would see up to 16 routes totally axed by the end of 2023, and the retirement of 250 buses.
The threatened routes are: 4, 11, 12, 14, 16, 24, 31, 45, 72, 74, 78, 242, 349, 521, C3, D7.
Night buses N11, N16, N31, N72, N74, and N242 would also be affected.
As well as a total withdrawal of these services, numerous other routes face an overhaul. It's a complicated set of changes, best understood by looking at TfL's consultation maps.
Why is TfL cutting buses?
The proposed changes come at a time of severe financial stress for TfL. The pandemic cut deep into revenue, and TfL has had to turn to the Government for emergency funding on several occasions. Those financial packages came with conditions, and these include the need for TfL to reduce its operating costs. Buses stand in the firing line.
"No one wants to see reductions," said the Deputy Mayor for Transport Seb Dance. "But TfL is having to consider these changes because of the savings demanded by the government as part of the emergency funding deals during the pandemic".
In an attempt to reduce the impact, the proposed deletions are mostly central. These services pass through areas where alternative routes and other modes of transport (for those who can afford them) are close at hand. Even so, many, many people will find themselves inconvenienced, some seriously.
A few of the changes do have an impact further out. The 349, for example, serves Stamford Hill, Tottenham, Edmonton and Ponders End. Its absence will be a blow to residents who depend upon it. The withdrawal of the 45 will likewise be a hard knock to several areas of south London (like Camberwell, which also lacks a tube). In cases like these, other bus routes cover much of the same tarmac, but passengers may find they need to switch buses to complete a journey that previously took only one.
Modelling suggests that some 24% of central bus journeys will now need more than one bus — up from the current 19%.
One casualty would be the number 24 bus from Hampstead to Pimlico. It's loss would see the demise of London's oldest unchanged bus route.
The changes will impact many people in many different ways. TfL has launched a consultation to collect feedback on these difficult proposals, including how they might affect people with accessibility needs. The consultation runs until 12 July and can be filled in online (though you have to register).
You can find further information (some quite detailed) over on TfL's Central London bus review page.