Bus services and population growth

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you believe that you are adequately meeting the demand for bus services in London?


Answer for Bus services and population growth

Answer for Bus services and population growth

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes, Val, we are, and that does not mean that buses are not under increasing pressure and they are facing every greater demand because they are.  They are a wonderful service.  I think our bus drivers, our buses do an absolutely fantastic job.  I may have mentioned that bus crime, crime on buses is down by 40%.  We carry 6.5 million passengers a day and we are constantly seeking to improve our service.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Yes, thank you, Mr Mayor.  I am glad you admitted that the bus service is under pressure.  At the Assembly Transport Committee last week the Transport Commissioner came along and he said:


“In our view generally we are going to come to a point maybe in 2016 also when we are going to have to buy some extra mileage, otherwise we are not going to be able to get everybody on”.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Who said this, Leon [Daniels, Head of Surface TfL]?


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  That was Sir Peter [Hendy CBE, Commissioner of TfL].


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Sir Peter, yes.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  What concerns me, Mr Mayor, is are you actually trying to meet the demand for the highest pressured services by cutting back on routes elsewhere?  Is that what you are doing?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Most Londoners complain to me, particularly motorists, that they think the buses are too empty.  They are in fact no longer as empty as they were.  Average ridership is now up from 16.6 people per bus to 17.7 people per bus, so you have more than an extra person, given that people are now fatter than they were too, crowding is obviously going to be more of a problem.


What we are doing is we are listening to people who want changes to bus routes and we are much faster with the technology, we have in plotting new routes and changing routes so as to increase capacity.  There were 50 changes to routes in 2013, that included route 343, that is in your patch, Val, where an additional northbound morning peak journey was added to increase capacity, and there is going to be a major increase in capacity through the expansion of route 136 to the Elephant & Castle.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Those are very welcome improvements.  My fear, Mr Mayor, is that they are being paid for by cutting back on services elsewhere.  There was a report to the TfL Finance Committee in November last year and basically it was a scenario document.  They talked about minimising the impact on passengers, the most effective way would be to reduce a large number of routes by a small amount rather than remove the whole services.  For illustration, some 200 routes would have their midday, evening and Sunday services reduced by one bus per hour.  It also discusses withdrawal of 15 night bus services and the possibility of withdrawing 15 outer suburban low frequency routes.  There are also a few examples like route 38, Clapton Pond to Victoria and the route 12, Dulwich to Oxford Circus, where we have seen some burning back, some reduction on relatively high frequency routes which are incredibly busy routes actually.  That has been used to buy services elsewhere.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  If the fact is we have got massive growing population demand, there are some wards in London like Colindale, which have got double the population now than they had.  You cannot really tackle growing demand in London just by reducing services in the suburbs and at night.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I understand, it is like robbing Peter to Paul, is what you are saying.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Is that what you are doing?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No.  We are also increasing the bus fleet and we are increasing mileage, but what Sir Peter had to say to you the other day is right.  We are facing growing demand on our service and I think we will have to think about how we expand the bus fleet and how we expand the mileage travelled.  What you cannot do, we certainly would not have been able to do if we had had a 7% cut in fares, which was a proposal on which you campaigned and would have been absolutely catastrophic.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Are you promising London --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As you know, buses are the most subsidy hungry form of transport.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Bus subsidies have gone down massively under you, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  They have, thanks to me but they are still the most subsidy hungry form of transport in the city.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry, Mr Mayor, could you just promise Londoners that they will not see cuts to their suburban and night services?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I can guarantee that they will not see cuts to services across London because the services across London are going to increase.  What I cannot guarantee is --


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry.  Are you going to promise Londoners that they will not see cuts to their suburban and night services?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I can guarantee that services across London will increase and, therefore, across London they will not be cut.  What I can certainly tell you, and I am answering your question, fatuous though it is, we will continue --


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  It is quite clear, there are people in the suburbs and who use night buses as well, who want to know: are you going to be reducing their services, yes or no?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It depends what you mean?  Where?  Which services?  I mean, yes, where you have an under-used --


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  The 200 that you listed in the Transport Committee Report.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Where you have an under-used service, and you talk about a midday service, a lot of people moan to me that they see buses in the middle of the day with nobody on them.  We all know that there are reasons --


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Mr Mayor, you are telling me yes you are going to be cutting back on services?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No we are not.  The answer is yes, we are going to be increasing services.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Can you promise me you are not going to be cutting back on suburban and night bus services?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Again, I can repeat my answer, we are going to be increasing services across London where it is possible to improve a service that has a particular need, and where you need to expand capacity, such as in Val’s constituency then we may vary other services.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry, Chair, I am out of time.  I do not believe the Mayor has answered my question but I have run out of time.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have answered your question.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Perhaps I might write to him and try to get something a little bit more definitive.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I can tell you we will increase services across London.


Darren Johnson (Chair):  We will seek clarification in writing on this then.  Thank you Assembly Member Shawcross.