Crossrail bus changes: TfL plans to halve bus frequencies between Greenwich and Charlton by switching route 180

Route 180 bus
All change: The 180 will switch to North Greenwich if Transport for London’s plans go ahead

Transport for London is planning to halve the bus service between Greenwich town centre and Charlton as part of changes set to be brought in for the launch of Crossrail services at Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Route 180, which links Charlton with Greenwich and Lewisham, will be diverted at the Woolwich Road flyover to run to North Greenwich station, with small cuts to be made to the frequency of the 472, which will continue to run to North Greenwich. The 129 service, which runs from North Greenwich to Greenwich town centre, will be extended to Lewisham as part-compensation.

TfL says 770 passengers will have to change buses each day as a result of the changes – and with no plans outlined to boost the frequency of the 177, the number of buses between Greenwich town centre and Charlton will drop from 12 buses per hour to six.

Both the 180 and 472 will also see changes at the other ends of their routes: the 180 will run to the Quarry development in Erith rather than the Belvedere industrial estates, while the 472 will run via Western Way in Thamesmead to terminate at Abbey Wood station, instead of its current route via Nathan Way.

Other changes will see route 178, which serves Shooters Hill Road, return to using double-decker buses to cater for expected extra demand for travel to Woolwich. Double-deckers will also return to routes 244 and 291, which run to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

A new service, the 301, will run from Woolwich to Bexleyheath via Nathan Way (replacing the 472) and Abbey Wood. There are other service changes affecting the Erith and Belvedere areas, which can be seen on the TfL website.

There are no changes to buses along Charlton Road, or the 380 or 486 services.

The change to the 180 will make it harder to reach Greenwich from Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood.

Route 472
There will be fewer buses on the 472 on Bugsby’s Way, but more buses via the slower Woolwich Road route

What does this mean if I want to travel from Charlton to North Greenwich?

If you live east of Charlton station, there will be more buses to North Greenwich (20 rather than 16 per hour in peak times), but you’ll be more likely to get a slower service. There will be fewer buses on the faster 472 service via Bugsby’s Way – eight per hour instead of the current 10. More buses will run on the slower route via the Woolwich Road flyover – 12 per hour on the combined 161 and 180, compared with six on the 161 now.

From Charlton station, there will be no change to the 486. But from the stop in Anchor and Hope Lane next to Makro, there will now be 16 buses per hour rather than 18 (not including the morning-only extra services from here on the 472, which will continue). Or you could cross to the stop by the Antigallican, where 12 buses per hour will run on the slower route via Woolwich Road flyover, shared between the 161 and 180 (compared with six now on the 161).

Local transport campaigners have long complained about the “dance of death” where services from Charlton station to North Greenwich are split across the three stops serving the Woolwich Road/Anchor & Hope Lane junction. These changes bring more buses across these stops (28 rather than 24), but will mean more people will have to do that “dance of death” at a junction Greenwich Council says is the borough’s most dangerous.

From west of Charlton station, it’s a straightforward increase – from six 161 buses per hour to 12 on the combined 161 and 180 service. If you travel to/from the Greenwich Ikea site, however, you’ll see the overall level of service up the Greenwich Peninsula is hardly changing – it’ll increase from 44 to 45 buses per hour in the rush hour.

From Charlton Village – no change. Nothing is planned for the 422 or 486.

Bus stop Current peak service Proposed peak service
Charlton Lane 472 N G’wich: 10
161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
472 N G’wich: 8
161/180 N G’wich: 12

177 Greenwich: 6

Anchor & Hope Lane 472 N G’wich 10*
486 N G’wich: 8
472 N G’wich: 8*
486 N G’wich: 8
Rose of Denmark 161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
161/180 N G’wich: 12

177 Greenwich: 6

Greenwich Ikea site All buses: 44* All buses: 45*

*Does not include the extra buses on the 472 between Charlton and North Greenwich, which run mornings only and are due to continue.

I want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich town centre – what do I do?

You’ll have to wait longer if you want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich – you’ll only have the six buses per hour on the already-busy 177 to rely on in future. A possible – but more expensive – alternative will be the National Rail service from Woolwich Dockyard, Charlton or Westcombe Park stations to Maze Hill or Greenwich.

Or you could change buses at Greenwich Ikea, although the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180.

The steep cut to bus services linking Greenwich and Woolwich will inconvenience many passengers. If you’re one of them, be sure to fill in the consultation and tell your local representatives what you think.

What about my buses from Charlton to Woolwich?

The cut to the 472’s frequencies mean there will be slightly fewer buses to Woolwich from Anchor & Hope Lane – down from 30 buses an hour at peak times to 28. Up the hill, no changes are planned to the 53, 54, 380 or 422.

Where’s my bus from Woolwich Road to Lewisham gone?

The Charlton stretch of Woolwich Road loses its bus service to Lewisham under TfL’s proposals – breaking a link which has endured since the days of trams.

TfL suggests you change buses at Greenwich Ikea, but the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180. There are also fears of widespread traffic congestion when the Ikea store opens in late 2018, around the time these changes are due to take effect.

Taking a 177 to Greenwich town centre and changing there for a 129 or 199 will be a more sensible – but still fiddly – option. Those who want to change to other buses in Lewisham will lose out by having to pay another fare. TfL wants to expand its Hopper fare so it offers unlimited bus changes in an hour rather than just two – there is no date for this yet.
If you’re one of them, be sure to fill in the consultation and tell your local representatives what you think.

There will be no change to the 54 or 380 services to Lewisham, while there is a half-hourly National Rail service from Charlton to Lewisham.

TfL map

Squeezed finances at TfL – but questions over modelling

These changes are being made against a background of austerity at TfL, whose finances are being squeezed both by central government cutting its funding and mayor Sadiq Khan freezing some fares.

Technical notes supplied by TfL indicate that it expects demand for bus travel between Greenwich and Woolwich – including Charlton – to drop after Crossrail services begin in December 2018. It also expects demand to drop along Charlton Road, although there is no cut planned for services there.

It is not made clear how TfL has reached this conclusion, although it could reflect some journeys from Woolwich to places such as New Cross and Peckham switching from bus to Crossrail and London Overground.

TfL’s demand modelling for the area has already come in for criticism from local councils at the Silvertown Tunnel public examination, and this cut may mean it comes under closer scrutiny.

TfL demand map
Transport for London’s map of projected demand – higher demand in red, lower demand in green. We’ve added in some place names. TfL predicts huge extra demand in Woolwich by 2021, but lower demand in Charlton and Greenwich.

I have a view on these changes – what do I do?

This isn’t a done deal – your views can influence what happens next.

* Take part in TfL’s consultation on these changes. It closes on 17 September.

* Tell your local representatives – especially London Assembly members, whose job it is to scrutinise TfL, and councillors, who should already have been consulted.

* We’re sure local campaigners Transport for Charlton will be active here – so let them know what you think and offer your services if you can.

We will be keeping an eye on what happens next.

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New Whitehall cut – 53 bus to stop short at Lambeth North again

Route 53 bus in Whitehall

More bad news for users of the number 53 bus – the service, which usually runs to Whitehall, is being cut back to Lambeth North again from Monday, as a result of roadworks at Parliament Square.

The cut to the service, which is the only bus from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath to central London, is due to last four months.

However, it’s worth being vigilant about this – in January 2015, a similar temporary cut lasted 18 months.

While the new “hopper” fare – which enables people to take two buses within an hour for the price of one fare – reduces the impact of the latest truncation of the route, it will still inconvenience many passengers. Indeed, recent figures obtained by London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon show the 53 is the 10th most popular route for hopper fare users – these passengers won’t be able to take a third bus to finish their journey. (It’s worth asking the bus driver for a transfer ticket if this affects you.)

Two years ago, Greenwich councillors bound a motion calling for the restoration of the 53 service up with criticism of Boris Johnson’s stewardship of the bus network. Hopefully there won’t need to be a new motion this time…

Application in for new Charlton Sainsbury’s and M&S

View of Sainsbury's from Gallions Road

Detailed plans were released this week for the proposed Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer stores, set to be located within Charlton’s retail park.

These images form part of developer LXB‘s application to Greenwich Council. A planning board will then decide whether to approve or reject these plans – likely to be some time in June.

View of M&S and coffee shop from Woolwich Road

There’s several elements to this application including an impact assessment on retail in much of south-east London. A thorough report by consultants WYG states that:

“The enhancement of the retail facilities at Bugsby’s Way will not affect Woolwich’s status as a Major Centre, nor its prospects of being re-designated as a Metropolitan centre in the long term.”

Their reasoning behind this are the new developments in Woolwich, such as the Tesco, that WYS believes will regenerate the SE18 area, keeping shoppers from getting into their cars or straying onto a bus and travelling over to Charlton.

Another talking point recently has been the downgrade of the western end of Woolwich Road (from Charlton station to the flyover) and how these new developments will impact on the near 24,000 vehicles that use the road on an average weekday.

An equally in-depth report by transport specialists Vectos makes no mention of this, however. It references the draft supplementary planning document that appeared in January. But doesn’t take into account the changes made for the finalised version that states clearly a wish to downgrade the road.

This website understands the developer LXB have been told by TfL and the council’s highways department that alterations to plans won’t be considered until the road has actually been downgraded.

Meaning, the proposed reshaping of Woolwich Road for deliveries and customer access (including current work being undertaken for the Travelodge) don’t take this downgrade into account.

This agreed Charlton Riverside Masterplan also calls for an upgrade to Charlton station which would surely mean a re-think on the junction next to it.

Would it be outrageous for me to suggest that a coherent plan for Woolwich Road, using a bit of foresight, might save a lot of time, money and upheaval in the future?

Two different diagrams highlighting proposed changes to Woolwich Road

The old retail barns that currently occupy this site lay dormant, aside from the odd illegal rave. Wickes is the last store still operating and is believed to be moving into its new home next to Matalan in the next two weeks.

If approved by the council’s planning board the new Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer would be looking to open before the end of 2014.

Members of the public can comment on these proposals and view all the documents by visiting Greenwich Council’s planning website.