Mayor Khan confirms cut to Charlton’s 53 bus from June

Route 53 bus in Whitehall
Route 53 at Whitehall: The service will be permanently cut from June

London mayor Sadiq Khan is pressing ahead with plans to cut bus route 53, which links Charlton with central London, despite widespread opposition from local councils and MPs.

The 53 will be cut back to run from Plumstead to County Hall from June 15, and will only run to Whitehall for night services, which will be renumbered N53. Day services will also be cut from every seven and a half minutes to every eight minutes.

The proposals have gone ahead despite opposition from Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark councils, and local MPs Matt Pennycook, Teresa Pearce and Clive Efford, and a 1,900-signature petition from local bus users.

Pennycook said: “I’m extremely disappointed that they have chosen to press ahead with cuts to the 53 bus service despite the significant local opposition that was expressed.”

He said he would press TfL for guarantees that passengers would not have to pay twice for their journeys to central London – many 53 journeys last over an hour, meaning Khan’s “hopper” fare would not apply for passengers changing near the end of the truncated route.

TfL says it will amend the Hopper fare so passengers who board a 53 will not be penalised – but but with passengers advised to change buses to a 453 at Deptford Bridge.

The cut to the 53 was first revealed on this website last year. It is part of a larger programme of cutbacks to bus services, particularly in central London, to address a fall in ridership and TfL’s financial problems. The mayor’s transport agency had its funding cut by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor, while coffers are also being drained by Khan’s partial fare freeze and delays to Crossrail.

But while south-east London – with few Tube services – gets hit by the cut to route 53 as well as a separate cutback to route 171, which serves New Cross and Brockley, proposals for four cuts in central London, including routes along the King’s Road in Chelsea, have been abandoned.

Plans for a new service between Kidbrooke and North Greenwich, possibly running via Westcombe Hill, were also announced today.

There are more details on the TfL website.


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Whitehall no more: TfL plans to cut bus route 53 back to County Hall

Bus route 53
Route 53 currently runs as far as Whitehall

Transport for London is planning to cut the 53 bus route back to County Hall as part of a huge swathe of cuts to services in the centre of the capital.

The 53, which runs from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath through Deptford, the Old Kent Road and Elephant & Castle to Whitehall would be cut back to County Hall from March 2019 under proposals to “reduce bus flows” across Westminster Bridge and along Whitehall.

The scheme affects routes from across London, and will also mean the 171 from Catford, Brockley and New Cross to Holborn being cut back to Elephant & Castle.

Transport for London’s proposals come as it battles financial worries after a complete cut in day-to-day government funding instituted by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor. It is also having to deal with a four-year fare freeze from mayor Sadiq Khan, and a fall in bus passenger numbers.

It has already planned to cut bus services between Greenwich and Woolwich by re-routing route 180 to North Greenwich station instead of Lewisham. There have also been a series of cuts to bus frequencies, especially on night services.

A consultation on these new proposals will come in mid-September.

The 53 proposal is likely to face stiff opposition. The service – which in its heyday ran as far north as Parliament Hill Fields and Camden Town – is the last remaining bus link to central London from Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead, and terminating at County Hall will leave passengers needing to switch to another service.

It was last cut back in 2002, from Oxford Circus to Whitehall, with the 453 from Deptford Bridge picking up the slack.

But it has twice in recent years been temporarily cut back to Lambeth North because of roadworks.

A petition from The Charlton Society was launched at the time, followed by a Greenwich Council motion calling on TfL to restore the full route.

TfL is predicting falls in central London bus passengers once Crossrail opens in December – bus in the 53’s case, the Elizabeth Line will still be a bus ride away for many of its passengers.

Some industry insiders have speculated that TfL would like to cut the route even further, to the Elephant & Castle, but can’t do so because of a lack of space for buses to terminate.

(Updated 12.10pm Thursday) Transport for London told The Charlton Champion the proposals were still at an early stage and needed to be discussed with boroughs.

Director of public transport service planning Geoff Hobbs said: “Buses have a crucial role to play in boosting the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport.

“As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, we’re currently looking at how we can adjust and reorganise the bus network to ensure it reflects a rapidly changing London, including planning for year-on-year increases in bus kilometres in outer London. We need to modernise and simplify the network and ensure that bus capacity is in the right places at the right times.

“We’re currently working closely with London’s boroughs on a potential set of proposals and they are helping shape our plans. These changes will also be subject to full public consultation before they’re put in place so we can hear from customers.”

For full details of the bus service cuts, see the story on 853.

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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…

53 to be fixed: Whitehall bus link restored from 23 July

A 53 to Lambeth North

Good news for bus passengers in Charlton, as well as Plumstead, Woolwich, Blackheath and Greenwich – route 53 will finally run to Whitehall again from 23 July.

The daytime service was suddenly cut back to Lambeth North in January 2015 because of major roadworks on Westminster Bridge and, later, at Elephant & Castle.

Now Transport for London has confirmed the full service will be finally restored, 18 months after the original change was made.

The cutback was the subject of a petition from the Charlton Society in May 2015.

A motion was later passed by Greenwich Council on the subject, although it removed credit to the amenity group and inserted criticism of former mayor Boris Johnson.

Fix the 53: Greenwich councillors turn bus motion into political squabble

A 53 to Lambeth North

Greenwich councillors passed a motion last night calling on Transport for London to restore the 53 bus service to Whitehall – but added digs at Tory mayor Boris Johnson at the same time.

The bus has been running short from Plumstead to Lambeth North since a short-notice “temporary” closure in January to allow for roadworks at Westminster Bridge.

Even though the Westminster works have long been completed, TfL is continuing to curtail services at Lambeth North, insisting the cut is needed because of roadworks at Elephant & Castle and Lewisham.

Following a petition from the Charlton Society, which you can still sign, Conservative leader Matt Hartley proposed a motion calling on the council to demand the route is fully reinstated.

He noted efforts from both parties on the council, plus the Liberal Democrats at City Hall, to get the service restored. “It’s clear to me that Transport for London has got this operational decision wrong,” he said.

But Greenwich’s regeneration and transport cabinet member Danny Thorpe proposed a rival motion, stripping out the credit to the Charlton Society and inserting a dig at the rise in bus fares since Johnson became mayor in 2008.

“A single trip on that bus costs 67 percent more than it did when the mayor of London took office, and now passengers are suffering delays, diversions and curtailments,” he said.

“Residents deserve a mayor who will spend less time insulting black cab drivers and more time delivering benefits for Londoners,” he added, before criticising the Conservatives for reawarding the local rail franchise to Southeastern last year (worth nothing here that Labour awarded Southeastern its first franchise when it was reprivatised in 2006).

Then Plumstead councillor Matt Morrow criticised the Conservatives for bringing the motion, asking why they couldn’t deal with a Tory mayor. “I ask members to have some sympathy for the Conservatives, who find themselves impotent on this issue,” he said.

Woolwich Common councillor David Gardner and Charlton representative Allan MacCarthy stuck to the issue. “This is nothing more than an attack on the working poor who depend on this bus, and on south-east London,” Gardner said, branding the cut “a cheap cost-cutting measure” by TfL.

Responding for the Tories, Eltham South councillor Matt Clare said to laughter, “I can assure Cllr Morrow that we’re not impotent over here”, before criticising the Labour amendment, adding: “This is about getting the bus back to Whitehall. Not about whether you like the current mayor.”

Wrapping up for Labour, Danny Thorpe said there was “no point getting angry about partisan politics”, adding that Hartley could have approached Labour privately to propose a joint motion.

In the end, the Labour motion was passed, calling on TfL to restore the route to Whitehall, but adding: “A single trip on the 53 bus will now cost £1.50, a 67 percent increase than when the Mayor took office in 2008. The curtailment of this route does not represent a fair deal for residents of Greenwich.”

The Charlton Society’s petition can still be signed at Change.org.

Fix the 53: Charlton Society launches petition to restore full bus service to Whitehall

A 53 to Lambeth North
If you use buses regularly, you’ll have noticed January’s sudden cut to route 53 caused by roadworks by Westminster Bridge. The service stopped running the full length of its route to Whitehall, depriving many local workers, from cleaners to civil servants, of their usual route to central London.

The diggers have moved away from Bridge Street, but initial dates for the restoration of service in March and then April have been missed. Transport for London blames new works at the Elephant & Castle for continuing to stop the service at Lambeth North. However, no other bus through the Elephant is suffering such a severe cut in service.

Now the Charlton Society (declaration of interest: I’m on its committee) has launched a petition to get the route back to is full strength once again. To sign it, visit Change.org.