News: Transport

Central London Bus Services Consultation


Over recent years London Buses have been adjusting their central London routes to respond to increased pressures for pedestrian priority, and to reduce frequency or curtail underused route sections where parallel routes are available. Last year, in an exercise to reduce bus congestion in the Oxford Street area, several routes were adjusted. This was undertaken with the introduction of the “Hopper” bus fare, which allows bus passengers to switch buses without incurring a second boarding fare. That is, reducing little-used through routes, and making some passengers change between buses.

In October 2018 London Buses launched another set of proposed central London bus route changes (mainly, but not exclusively, reductions). These proposals are informed by the traditional “Keypoints’” — manual sample passenger surveys at important interchanges — and now can also use the detailed data available from Oyster card transactions. Detailed proposals were set out in a Consultation document, and comments are invited before the 9 November deadline.


Bus services have the advantage of being easily adjusted to respond to traffic and patronage issues, and London Buses now have more data available to analyse this.  Overall central London bus patronage has been declining in recent years, and is expected to decline further with the introduction of the Crossrail (Elizabeth) Line. The current proposed package for consultation covers the central London portions of 34 individual bus routes, which have been analysed in 13 groups, and is expected to save some £12 million per year.

Proposals affecting Herne Hill

Investigation of buses in the Whitehall and Westminster Bridge area concluded that the number 3 bus route could be curtained slightly, to avoid using Trafalgar Square, and will take over some of the passengers from a shortened route 53. This will have a negligible effect on Herne Hill passengers, although they will need to walk a few metres down Whitehall to reach the new bus route starting point.

The 172 route is proposed to be severely curtained, stopping at the Aldwych rather than continuing to Clerkenwell Green. This should result in a more regular service between central London and the south. The relatively low-frequency 171 route is proposed to be severely curtailed, stopping at the Elephant and Castle rather than continuing to Holborn, with the passengers transferring to the 68 and 188 routes. This hopefully will reinforce the role of the 68 service, and protect it from future adjustments.

Herne Hill Station

The South Eastern franchise including the Herne Hill to Victoria services (and the station staff at Herne Hill) runs out next year, with the incumbent operator, Southeastern Railway, one of the three remaining shortlisted bidders. The other two bidders are Govia (responsible for Thameslink, and for the performance of Southern services through North Dulwich) and Stagecoach (currently struggling to cope following the acceptance of their unrealistically low bid for the East Coast Mainline services).

The major works on construction the new rail line between Paddington and Liverpool Street – Crossrail, now known as the Elizabeth Line – are continuing, with the work at the major interchange at Farringdon almost finished. The start of service is now planned for 2019. This will allow Herne Hill train passengers direct access to the new services operating between Reading and Heathrow in the west, and Abbey Wood and Shenfield to the east.

Herne Hill Junction road closure

Lambeth announced that they would close the northbound road under the railway bridge from 10 pm to 6 am for two long weekends: 17-21 August, then 7-10 December. In fact they are taking powers to allow the closure for the full four months, but hopefully this will not happen! This is to enable long overdue repairs to the railway bridge. Widespread traffic diversions will be in force. No local consultation was undertaken. Back in 2014, Network Rail consulted on a much more disruptive scheme, which was abandoned when its wider impacts were appreciated. The repair work has been pending since then.

Denmark Hill Station

The Herne Hill Society has been involved in a joint approach – co-ordinated by the Camberwell Society, and also involving the Dulwich Society and the SE5 Forum – to press the station operator GTR to investigate measures to ease the problems.

The station was redesigned and upgraded to ensure accessibility in a programme that concluded in 2013. But contrary to the expectations of many residents and station users, the redesign left it with only one entrance/exit, with the temporary access from Windsor Walk on the north side of the station removed after the access bridge and lifts were completed.

The works were completed just before the introduction of the TfL London Overground service linking Clapham, Peckham and Dalston. The station is now one of the busiest in south-east London with a mix of local residents commuting, interchanging passengers, and staff and visitors travelling to King’s and Maudsley hospitals.

A meeting was held between the local societies and representatives of GTR one evening in 2017. All agreed there was a congestion problem, with arriving and departing passengers crowding the ramp and stairs, especially when two trains arrived at the same time. While the staff do their best to keep passengers moving through the ticket gates, passengers queuing to buy tickets add to the crowding in the entrance. A proposal for a one-way passenger flow system was generally considered both unworkable, and to need extra staff. There was strong agreement that the best solution was to re-introduce the previous temporary entrance from Windsor Walk as a permanent feature, with the ticket gates remotely monitored from the main concourse. The challenge is now to build the consensus between the various interested parties, to develop a costed design, and to look down the back of the various corporate sofas for the money needed. Officially, the capital investment plans are fixed for the next few years, and the next rolling programme is some way off, but it is hoped that there is scope to combine funds from the operator, perhaps National Rail, and possibly TfL.

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