New bus service planned for Charlton Church Lane and North Greenwich

Charlton Church Lane
Lots of parking means buses find it a squeeze to get up Charlton Church Lane

Charlton Church Lane could gain a new bus route if TfL goes ahead with plans to create a service linking the Kidbrooke Village development with North Greenwich station.

A new route linking the development on the site of the former Ferrier Estate with the Jubilee Line has long been planned, and TfL’s preferred option is for it to run via the Charlton retail parks, according to a document released at a council scrutiny meeting last week.

A question-and-answer document from TfL claims that “councillors and many residents have lobbied” for the service to run to the Royal Standard at Blackheath, then along Charlton Road, then down Charlton Church Lane, Anchor & Hope Lane and onto North Greenwich station via the current 472 and 486 routes.

In an answer, TfL says “the route preferred by residents and councillors is also our preferred route”. It is not known what other options were on the table, which residents were consulted or how they were consulted.

TfL says the route would “link Blackheath to the new Sainsbury’s in Charlton, connect people in Kidbrooke to Blackheath, Charlton and North Greenwich [and alleviates pressure on the 132, as it is another route that goes to North Greenwich from Kidbrooke Park Road”.

While another route to North Greenwich will be welcomed, the narrow Charlton Church Lane often struggles with the existing two services – the 380 and 486 – that use it. It is not known whether any parking restrictions would be put in place to allow buses to pass on the road. It also not known if there are any plans to improve bus access outside the Sainsbury’s/M&S development, where the eastbound bus stop is some distance away from the stores.

“We will shortly have internal approval to allow consultation to happen,” TfL’s reply says. “The implementation is reliant on section 106 [developer] funding from sites at North Greenwich and Kidbrooke (and to a lesser extent, Charlton).

“We need confirmation from the borough on when Kidbrooke’s funding will be released, which will influence when consultation and implementation can occur. TfL are keen on doing this as soon as possible.”

Many long-standing residents will remember when Charlton Church Lane had no buses at all – the 380 started running up and down the hill in 1993, while the 486 started using the road when it was introduced in 2001.

TfL is cutting back frequencies on the 486 at most times of the day from Saturday, although it is increasing them slightly during weekday morning peak hours.

Documents submitted to the Silvertown Tunnel planning hearing in 2016 showed TfL planning a service between Grove Park and Canary Wharf via Charlton Church Lane and the proposed tunnel, which would run four buses per hour.

  • Either Sainsbury’s or Asda in Charlton could be placed at risk of closure this week when a competition report into the merger of the two supermarket giants is released. The Competition and Markets Authority is expected to recommend the closure of a number of stores if it allows the tie-up between the two chains to go ahead. Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday claimed the merger may not go ahead if the CMA recommends closing more than 170 stores. A provisional report is expected this week, with a full report due this April.

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    TfL bus cuts: Route 486 to North Greenwich to be less frequent from 23 February

    Route 486
    Route 486 was used for 4.5 million journeys last financial year

    Transport for London has confirmed plans to reduce the frequency of bus route 486, which links Charlton with North Greenwich station.

    From Saturday 23 February, the service – which is frequently full to standing and suffers from buses terminating early – will run every 10 minutes during weekday daytimes and every 12 minutes on Saturdays, instead of every eight minutes as now.

    However, TfL has told The Charlton Champion that it will increase frequencies on busier weekday morning journeys.

    TfL confirmed full details about the changes on Tuesday afternoon:

    • Introduction of two journeys during Monday to Friday morning peak hours from Bexleyheath to North Greenwich, increasing the frequency from 7.5 to 8 buses per hour during the busiest hour in the morning peak
    • Reduction of Monday to Friday daytime frequency from every 8 minutes to every 10 minutes (7.5 to 6 buses per hour)
    • Reduction of Saturday daytime frequency from every 8 minutes to every 12 minutes (7.5 to 5 buses per hour)
    • Reduction of Sunday and evening frequency from every 12 minutes to every 15 minutes (5 to 4 buses per hour)
    • There is no change to the weekend–only night service at this time

    The news, first revealed in a bus enthusiasts’ newsletter published last week, comes just days before the east Greenwich Ikea opens on the route, with a planning agreement compelling to the furniture giant to advise customers to take public transport.

    It also comes as mayor Sadiq Khan – who is also chairman of TfL – is poised to approve plans for 771 new homes from developer Rockwell off Anchor and Hope Lane, also on the 486 route.

    A proposal to scrap the weekend overnight service on the route – which meets Night Tube trains on the Jubilee Line – is on hold, the London Omnibus Traction Society reported.

    Financial problems at TfL

    There has been no consultation on the cut, which is part of a new contract for bus company Go-Ahead London to run the service. Currently, the route – between North Greenwich station and Bexleyheath shopping centre – is run with 16 vehicles at peak times. The new contract specifies just 14 buses.

    In 2017/18 the route saw 4.5m passengers – the most since its inception in 2001. While North Greenwich station is the major destination for many passengers, it is also well used for the Charlton retail parks, Charlton station and Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It also serves the massive new St Mary Magdalene school on Greenwich Peninsula.

    The frequency cut is the latest in a number of planned cutbacks to local bus services. Last year, this website revealed plans to trim route 53 back from Whitehall to Lambeth North, while route 180 is due to be rerouted from Lewisham to North Greenwich when Crossrail opens, slashing the number of buses between Woolwich and Greenwich town centres. Route 472, another North Greenwich service, is also due to suffer a service reduction at the same time.

    TfL’s director of public transport service planning, Geoff Hobbs, told The Charlton Champion on Monday: “We constantly review and reorganise the bus network to modernise bus travel in London. This makes sure that Londoners’ fares are efficiently used with buses serving areas they are needed most and reduces bus-on-bus congestion.

    “The changes to the frequency of route 486 reflect its varied demand during different parts of the day and week. We are increasing frequencies to the busiest weekday morning journeys to respond to the higher demand and are reducing its frequency when there is less demand. This will ensure our network is efficiently run and that buses are running where they are needed most.”

    “We are aware of new developments in the area and are always reviewing our services to adapt to changes and, if needed, we will make further changes accordingly.“

    TfL is currently facing a financial crisis on three fronts. It is primarily caused by the loss of its grant, signed off by previous mayor Boris Johnson, but has also lost some income because of current mayor Sadiq Khan’s partial fare freeze and the ongoing delay in finishing Crossrail.


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    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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