When Jeremy Corbyn used up all his questions to Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this month to highlight the damaging effects on the quality of life of the poor and working class which had suffered swingeing cuts to bus services, the Labour leader was rightly applauded by those of the left for taking up a concern of millions of people.
Corbyn was, according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, “absolutely right” to point out that “buses can be a lifeline for the less well-off. That’s why here in London, we’ve frozen fares and introduced the Hopper fare, which has benefited millions of Londoners”.
Which is all true.
But now thousands of Londoners, supposedly served by bus services provided under the auspices of Khan’s Transport for London, are having their bus services axed to help pay for the Mayor’s fare freeze, with some of the worst affected living in Croydon, from Crystal Palace to New Addington.
According to TfL’s own figures, its buses are expected to cover only 283million miles in 2019-2020, compared to 302million this year – a 6 per cent cut in service volume in two years.
In a written response to a London Assembly Member earlier this year, TfL explined its bus cuts: “To contribute to these long-term targets, and to reflect recent changes in demand, we will reconfigure the network over the next 18 to 24 months. This will lead to a net reduction in bus kilometres, as set out in the December 2017 business plan. These reductions will be greater where the passenger decline has been felt the most, particularly in inner and central London. Some locations in outer London will see capacity growth where it is needed most, but the net impact here will also be a reduction in the first few years of the plan. There is a net increase in bus kilometres in the final year of the business plan, as the bus network returns to longer term growth. This programme is being, and will continue to be, developed over the next 12 months.”
What they mean when they say “changes in demand”, is that they are cutting the service, and these have hit hard the 410 and 433 routes through Croydon.
The 410 between Crystal Palace and Wallington was altered at the end of last month “to match demand”, with buses now running every 10 minutes (Monday to Saturday daytimes), rather than once every nine minutes, and “with one additional journey towards Wallington in Monday to Friday morning peak hours and one additional journey towards Crystal Palace in Monday to Friday afternoon peak hours”. Which appears to be to cope with the flow of school children from Croydon to the Sutton grammars.
A more severe cut in service was introduced last week, to the 433 route between West Croydon and New Addington.
There, again TfL says it is “to match demand”, and so weekday services have been reduced from seven per hour to six, while on Saturdays the service has been halved, with buses running once every 15 minutes instead of every eight minutes as previously. On Sundays, and in the evenings, just forget it: if you miss the bus, you could be waiting for at least 20 minutes for the next one, with three buses running every hour instead of the previous four.
Not for the first time, the London Assembly Member who is supposed to represent Croydon and Sutton “Silent” Steve O’Connell, has been, well… silent on the matter.
But his Conservative colleague at City Hall, Keith Prince, has accused Mayor Khan of making these cuts, and more, and in so doing breaking a promise not to reduce public transport capacity.
“Sadiq Khan has blown a £1billion black hole in the transport budget,” Prince said. “Because of this financial mismanagement, he has been forced to break his promises and cut the bus network.
“The Mayor himself has acknowledged how London’s bus network is an invaluable lifeline to the less well-off and the vulnerable.
“But Sadiq Khan’s bus cuts will hit these people the hardest.”
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