Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [5]

Session date: 
February 7, 2019
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Question

Joanne McCartney AM:  I am going to ask about bus services.  Across your business plan period, there will be a reduction in bus services in inner London with the aim of increasing outer London bus services but in total a reduction in kilometres.  Are you running enough buses to accommodate the needs of Londoners?

Answer

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [5]

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [5]

Answered By: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  We are.  I will let the Commissioner deal with the detail, but just give you some context, in central London we have seen bus usage reduce by 12% in the recent past.  The good news over the last year is that the reduction in bus passenger usage is about 0.7%.  Across the country it is 3% or 4%.  We are not seeing in London what they are seeing across the country, which is routes not simply being reduced in frequency but being stopped.  We have still kept our promises around concessionary fares.

 

What we are doing in relation to the consultation is, of the 675 routes we have across the city, we are consulting on 33.  We are looking carefully at the responses to those consultations and are hoping to report back quite shortly.

 

We also are keen to increase the availability of buses in outer London.  In outer London there are fewer alternatives.  In central London you have rail, you have walking, you have cycling and options that are quite useful.  That is one of the explanations for the reduction, but it is really important that in those parts in our city where there is good public transport the ambition is to get to 80% by 2040 either walking, cycling or using public transport.  I am confident we are doing that and the Commissioner understands the brief he has been given.

 

What we do not want to see is queues of buses in Kingsway, on London Bridge, in Park Lane and in Oxford Street.  What I want to do is to see those buses freed up to be used elsewhere across London.

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Just to add to that if I may, of course I recognise that the major growth opportunity is in outer London.  It is in those boroughs where there are new housing developments, where there are important transport links to be provided to, for example Whittington Hospital, or wherever it is, to ensure there is proper connectivity for people going about their

day-to-day lives.

 

The bus consultation generally - and I have discussions with boroughs on a regular basis - has been well received by boroughs and other interested parties.  Of course the outcome of that consultation has not yet been revealed, but I would assure Assembly Members through you, if I may, that we have taken it very seriously.  I have no doubt there will be some adjustments to our initial proposals as a result of the huge appetite to respond to the consultation that we have seen.

 

Increasing bus routes is not, as the Mayor implies, about just putting more buses on historic routes where there used to be a real imperative to do.  The dynamic has changed.  People’s use of buses, particularly in central London has changed.  The bus Hopper fare of course makes a real contribution to how people use buses in London.  The huge improvement in the Tube and other transport networks around central London has also made a huge difference to how people travel around, as has the improvement in walking and cycling facilities provided in London.

 

The increases in the outer London bus network over a five-year period we have to be looking at carefully.  We have to look and see how much that costs.  Some £40 million is the current plan as to what we would spend there.

 

It is also worth just putting in context the fact that the subsidy we pay for the bus network across London is of the order of over £700 million, which is the highest it has ever been.  It is quite right because we have a social responsibility to ensure that every part of London is decently connected to the public transport network and that is material in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy as well, but it is equally important - and I am sure Assembly Members would agree - that we have to ensure that every point we spend in subsidising the bus network is spent in the way that provides the most benefit to the most people and those communities who require bus services in particular.  That is what we seek to do.

 

We will continue to get input, I have no doubt, from you and from other Assembly Members as we move this forward, but I am very confident that the pathway we are on will make a material difference to both the operation of the bus network and to the people who need it most.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  One of the criticisms of TfL in the past has been that it has often been very slow to react to changes in outer London such as the reconfiguration of hospitals.  As you have pointed out, lots of the growth areas are in outer London.  Do you think you will have the capacity to react proactively and perhaps ahead of time rather than always being reactive in changes?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  That is a very fair question.  If I may, I will go back to my view of this consultation process.  We have quite understandably in the past been criticised for not being on the front foot in terms of new developments as they emerge, of new opportunities for increasing ridership and ensuring that people communities are properly served.  This consultation is the first of a new approach to how we are doing this and how we are responding to local communities’ concerns and interests being raised, but also just looking more strategically ahead to where those growth areas are.

 

In terms of the Mayor’s work, often with us in delivering homes for London and new communities being served in London, of course it is the bus network that can provide that almost immediate response to those new growth areas by providing instant transport. Whereas of course if you are planning a rail scheme, for example, somewhere like the extension to Barking Riverside of the Overground network, it inevitably takes a little bit of time and there is a little bit of lag between new homes and new jobs being created and the permanent link that a rail line can sometimes provide as well.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  If I can move on to rail devolution, having sat on a train this morning on the Great Northern Line into Moorgate for 30 minutes without a driver being available, I want to ask if we have an update about the devolution of that service.  Last May [2018] [Rt Hon] Chris Grayling [MP, Secretary of State for Transport] said that he was going to separate the franchise out from Thameslink and that he was in discussions with the Mayor’s office.  How have those discussions proceeded?

 

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  I will let the Commissioner give you the running commentary, but the Secretary of State did sound quite optimistic in relation to the Gibbs Review and in relation to talking to us about that devolution.  We have been pursuing this.  Every time I see [Rt Hon] Chris Grayling [MP] I chase this point up.  When I met the Chief Executive of Network Rail [Andrew Haines], we also pursued this with him.  We are concerned that if we do not get the information we need, it could lead to a delay in our ability to do that.  Mike, can you give an update?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes ‑‑

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  It is up in 2021?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is.  The Mayor is quite right.  I was in the same meeting when the Secretary of State committed to working with us to ensure that we had the information necessary to proceed with that potential for devolution of the Great Northern Route into Moorgate.

 

I have to say it has been like pulling teeth to try to get proper discussion and proper information with the Department of Transport.  I raised it with the Permanent Secretary and we continue to try.  There was a meeting with officials again a couple of weeks ago to try to get more information flowing.  It still seems to be incredibly difficult to get that information flowing, but I am seeing the Permanent Secretary again this week and I will as a side conversation ask her again to honour the commitment the Secretary of State made to the Mayor.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  Thank you.  I write on a regular basis.  Thank you.