Have your say: TfL confirms 53 bus cutback – and it’ll be less frequent, too

Route 53 bus in Whitehall
Route 53 at Whitehall: It won’t go here again if TfL has its way

Transport for London has confirmed its plans to cut the 53 bus back to County Hall – and will make it less frequent too under new plans out for consultation today.

Plans to withdraw the 53, a lifeline for thousands of local workers, between County Hall and Whitehall were leaked last month. Now TfL is asking passengers what they think of the plans.

One aspect not previously highlighted in the leaked plans is that TfL plans to cut the 53 back to every eight minutes. TfL says it currently runs every seven-and-a-half minutes, but the full timetable shows it runs as frequently as every five minutes around 6am, when the service is heavily used.

The cut to the 53 – which runs from Plumstead via Woolwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Deptford, New Cross and the Old Kent Road to Whitehall – is part of 33 changes to routes in central London.

TfL, which is chaired by mayor Sadiq Khan, says: “The last time there was such a comprehensive review of the central London bus network was before the Congestion Charge was introduced. As a result there are some extremely complicated and inefficient sections of the road network. Some roads in central London, such as Kingsway in Holborn, are now served by more than 100 buses an hour, many of which are significantly underused. This oversupply of buses can cause congestion, slowing down journey times and worsening reliability, air quality and road safety.

“If no action is taken, GLA figures show that by 2041, three days would be lost per person every year due to congestion on London’s roads, and 50,000 hours would be lost to slower bus speeds in the morning peak every day.

“Passengers can now use the Mayor’s Hopper Fare to change buses unlimited times within an hour for just £1.50.”

A 7am journey on the 53 from Charlton Park School is timetabled to take one hour to reach Elephant & Castle, at 8am the journey takes 66 minutes.

The consultation can be filled in at: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/buses/16b1c48f/

‘Our plans will help reduce pollution’

Geoff Hobbs, Director of Public Transport Service Planning at TfL, said: “Buses have a crucial role to play in boosting the number of people using public transport, but they can’t do this without reflecting how London has changed. It is only right that we reassess the network after the significant changes in both London’s infrastructure and how Londoners choose to travel. Londoners expect their buses to be where they are needed and run in an efficient and cost-effective manner and that’s what this review is about.

“Our proposals to reorganise the bus network would modernise bus travel in London by matching capacity with demand, reducing bus-on-bus congestion while enabling year-on-year increases in bus services in outer London. In adapting underused and inefficient services in central London, our plans will help reduce pollution that has such a damaging effect on the health on Londoners.

“Ultimately these changes, which are predominately minor route restructures or timetable adjustments, would create an efficient modern network with buses in the right places at the right times.”

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has already labelled the cut as an attack on “working class constituents”.

He said: “As things stand in rush hour most 53 buses are frequently overcrowded by the time they get up the hill to Charlton.

“We need more frequent services on this route, not cuts to services.

“But my main concern is the impact on the large numbers of my constituents who get up at the crack of dawn to make the long journey into central London on the 53 to work low-paid jobs (if you think I’m exaggerating just catch one before 6.30am one morning and see for yourself).

“For them, the long journey on the 53 all the way to Whitehall is the only means of transport that is affordable into central London and it is therefore indispensable.

“As such, difficult to escape the conclusion that cuts to this service will punish my working-class constituents and at the very moment that a new Crossrail station is opened in Woolwich that will inevitably pile pressure onto our already over-stretched local transport network.

“So let me be as clear as I can possibly be: I will do absolutely everything in my power to fight cuts to the 53 bus service.”

The consultation into the 53 bus cut ends on 9 November.

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Charlton to lose Lewisham link as TfL switches bus 180 to North Greenwich

Route 180 bus
All change: The 180 will switch to North Greenwich from December

Transport for London has confirmed plans to sharply cut bus services between Greenwich and Woolwich, through Charlton, by diverting route 180 so it starts at North Greenwich station.

The cut means means only the 177 will run between Greenwich and Woolwich, halving the service from 12 to six buses per hour.

Instead of running from Lewisham, the 180 will run from North Greenwich via the Greenwich Millennium Village, the under-construction Ikea and Bugsby’s Way – a slight change to the original plan which saw it running via Peartree Way and a longer stretch of Woolwich Road.

TfL, which is chaired by London mayor Sadiq Khan, says: “The 177 has sufficient capacity for the level of demand on this corridor. We will continue to keep this under review.”

Route 129, which links Greenwich town centre with North Greenwich, will be extended to start back from Lewisham, but at a reduced peak-time frequency of five buses per hour, compared with the six provided by the 180.

Passengers who want to travel to and from Lewisham will be expected to use another service or change from the 180 to the 129 at Ikea.

Greenwich Council had raised concerns about the diversion of the 180.

The 472 to North Greenwich will also be less frequent – in peak hours it will be cut to eight buses per hour (currently 10), six on Saturdays (currently eight) and five on Sundays (currently six). It will also be rerouted in Thamesmead to run to Abbey Wood.

Crossrail is due to open at Abbey Wood and Woolwich on Sunday 9 December – this date has not been officially confirmed – so the changes should be in place around that time.

More details on other south-east London cuts on 853.

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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.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7.
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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.

Charlton Road’s bridge barriers are coming down – but get set for disruption

Charlton Road, 15 February 2015
Work begins today on fixing the bridges that carries Charlton Road over the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach – but expect some disruption while work is carried out.

The bridge at Charlton Road was damaged following a collision in October 2013, in which a car veered off the carriageway and knocked some of the railings into the A102 below.

Nobody was injured, but following safety inspections the Charlton Road bridge and its sister structure on Old Dover Road, Blackheath, had temporary barriers put in place last spring while Transport for London figured out what to do.

Now, “stakeholders” (that is, neither me nor you) were told last Thursday that work begins tomorrow. We managed to get hold of this via the Greenwich Cyclists newsletter, so thought it only polite to pass it on.

Remarkably, even this notification of essential safety work is being spun to make it look as if it’s a big bonus; rather than TfL belatedly acknowledging that its 46-year-old bridges weren’t up to scratch.

The Charlton Road Bridge and Old Dover Road Bridge over the A102 have been identified for refurbishment in order to improve user road safety. Transport for London (TfL) have appointed EM Highway Services to carry out this work.

To ensure the safety of pedestrians and personnel who will be carrying out these works, traffic management measures will be put in place at both locations.

Why are we doing this work?

Temporary concrete barriers have been installed at both bridges following a collision at Charlton Road Bridge, which caused damage to the existing parapet. The objective of this scheme is to replace the damaged parapet at Charlton Road Bridge and upgrade the parapet at Old Dover Road Bridge to enable them to contain any errant vehicle. The new parapets will be similar in appearance to the old parapets but the height will be slightly increased to 1.4metres to improve safety for cylists. Once the works are completed, the existing temporary concrete barriers and fence will be removed.

The Road Modernisation Plan is the biggest investment for a generation consisting of hundreds of projects to transform junctions, bridges, tunnels and pedestrian areas. Working with London’s boroughs it will make our roads safer and more reliable, and London will be a better place in which to live, work and travel.

What times will the work take place?

The parapet replacement works are planned to begin on Monday 16 February 2015 for approximately 6 weeks or until the work is completed. The general working hours will be from 09:30 to 15:30, Mondays to Fridays. Works will take place on Charlton Road Bridge between 16 February and 13 March 2015 and on Old Dover Road Bridge between 9 March to 3 April 2015.

To facilitate the works to be carried out safely, the existing concrete barriers will be temporarily repositioned in the footway until the parapet replacement work is completed, at which point all the temporary barriers will be fully removed from site. The repositioning of the barriers will be carried out at night time between 22:00 and 05:00 on weekdays.

Temporary two-way traffic lights will be deployed at each of the two bridges as and when required during these works and localised pedestrian diversions will also be put in place while these works take place.

What we would like you to know

As with all works on the Transport for London Road Network, we must balance possible disruption to residents with disruption to traffic. Working these hours provides us with the best chance to complete these works safely and as quickly as possible whilst minimising disruption.

Keeping London moving

Transport for London is firmly committed to minimising disruption. We have worked closely with our contractor, EM Highway Services and the Royal Borough of Greenwich in order to reduce the impact of these works on road users, local residents and businesses as far as possible.

I hope you will appreciate that a certain level of disruption is inevitable, and I apologise in advance for any inconvenience that may be caused as a result of these essential works. Should you require further information or an update during the delivery of these works, please contact our Streets Customer Services department on 0343 222 1234, email customerservices@tfl.gov.uk or via the web at www.tfl.gov.uk/contact.

So get set for a few weeks of disruption while some rather precarious work is carried out on the bridges. But at least the ugly barriers are finally coming down…