Route masters let TfL know what they think of bus changes

Our transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON takes a closer look at TfL’s proposed changes to 13 routes through Croydon and Sutton, and discovers residents’ groups and ward councillors sceptical about the service reductions

Detailed changes: has TfL blitzed the south London public with multiple changes to disguise service cuts?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently said that Tory controls over Transport for London could lead to 100 bus routes being cut and 200 buses having their timetables further curtailed.

But TfL has already set about reducing bus services in Croydon and Sutton.

It’s not just passengers in Croydon, exposed to the winter weather without their bus shelters, where waits for buses are becoming uncomfortably longer.

And now TfL are ignoring objections from Croydon and Surrey residents.

At the end of September, we reported that TfL intended to make changes to 13 bus routes across Croydon and Sutton.

TfL consulted in the early summer and this resulted in a few modest changes in Sutton. TfL asserted that the majority of people supported the changes, which included three “new” routes.

Different responses: TfL appears to have overlooked objections to their proposed route changes

However, only by wading through the 100-odd pages of the TfL response to the consultation is it possible to discover that while there was a lot of support for the changes in Sutton – where Belmont gets improved services for the Royal Marsden and the promised new routes will mainly operate – there was actually little support expressed for the proposed changes in Croydon.

The objections also demonstrate a difference in demand and needs between areas of Croydon, such as the “deep south” around Coulsdon and those communities closer to the centre of Croydon.

TfL is pressing ahead with its obsession for terminating routes to the south and the north of Croydon town centre – turning what were once journeys, often to Mayday Hospital, that could be made from south of the Flyover using a single bus into a trek that might take two or more buses. TfL show quite how out of touch with reality they are, because these forced bus changes and curtailed routes were originally introduced when the development of Westfield was thought by some to be a realistic possibility. Obviously, that is no longer the case.

There are some improvements proposed, like providing a bus service to Old Town and another to all those new developments on Higher Drive above Kenley.

A new 439 route from Waddon Marsh to Whyteleafe would also increase bus services for Purley and Kenley residents forced to traipse to Waddon Leisure Centre after Purley Pool is permanently closed.

All change: TfL’s plans for changing bus routes ran to hundreds of pages

Nevertheless, considerable opposition to the changes in Croydon were made by Surrey County Council. “Reconsider a rerouting of the 166 along Pampisford Road that would extend the journey time for Surrey residents travelling to Croydon,” the county council officials wrote.  “Proposed new route 443: Noting this new route would be a replacement for route 407 with four buses per hour, but concern if it did not serve central Croydon, as this was likely to be the main destination for customers.”

There were adverse comments about TfL’s proposals from Croydon Council, too: “Support in principle of a bus continuing to serve Pampisford Road, but concern with the potential impacts on journey times for customers by diverting the 166 from Brighton Road.”

Croydon Council’s  other objections included:

  • The 166 was noted as already a long route, with strategic connections to Epsom Hospital, Banstead, Coulsdon and Croydon. The extra journey time associated with serving Pampisford Road and South Croydon was a potential concern
  • Would like to understand if there are alternative routes better placed to serve Pampisford Road, such as the 312
  • Supported the extension of the 312 to Old Lodge Lane. Again, would like to understand the benefits and disbenefits of the 312 (or another service) serving Pampisford Road rather than the 166
  • Supported new route 443 but would like to understand the rationale of using Southbridge Road rather than central Croydon via Croydon High Street, Katharine Street, Fell Road and Croydon Flyover. The alternative routing would connect the Old Town area to Croydon town centre
  • Appreciated the benefits of extending the 434 to Caterham but had local concerns with the removal of the section of the route via Northwood Avenue
  • An alternative would be to maintain the 434 service on Northwood Avenue and utilise the 439 to serve the top of Kenley
  • In addition, while the council offered support for a route to serve the top of Kenley, it would like to better understand the benefits and disbenefits of the route via Higher Drive and Foxley Hill Road (as currently shown for the 434 on the consultation plans) versus a route via Old Lodge Lane and Bencombe Road/Burcott Road. The latter route referenced above would provide Kenley with a bus service providing direct links to schools, Kenley, Purley and Reedham Station.

Missing reminders: did Croydon bus passengers, deprived of their bus shelters, miss out on the publicity for the TfL consultation, too?

These views were supported by others, including parish councils in Caterham and Whyteleafe, a Waddon councillor in part, Tandridge councillors and residents’ associations in East Coulsdon, West Coulsdon, Chipstead, Hartley and Kenley. The influential local transport user groups, the East Surrey Transport Committee and Croydon Transport Focus, also chipped in.

Waddon councillor Andrew Pelling, while generally supportive of the objections, cast a different light from his ward’s point of view, seeing many of the council’s comments as being driven by the interests of East Surrey, rather than Waddon’s.

Pelling opposes the loss of the cross-Croydon link offered by the 407. He also opposed the axing of the 455 route that he says allows Waddon residents to reach the Selsdon Road parade of shops and restaurants and their local South Croydon station while also travelling through the town centre to Wandle Park and the Asda at Beddington.

Pelling mocks plans to have the 312 run all the way from Norwood Junction to the Surrey countryside at the end of Old Lodge Lane. “The proposed new burden on the 312 bus route is even more heroic than that put upon the 455 currently.”

Pelling also welcomed new bus stops for central Old Town on Roman Way, linking residents there to West Croydon Station, while expressing a preference for Old Town to be connected by bus to East Croydon Station, rather than to Whyteleafe by the new 443.

Route master: Cllr Andrew Pelling was one to object to some of the proposed bus changes

He repeated the long-held aspiration of Waddon councillors to extend the 433 down Roman Way and then on to its former destination of West Croydon.

The 433 connection would create both a link for Old Town residents to East Croydon and a new east-west route that does not exist to Selsdon. Such a dearth of a service forces Waddon residents to make a long traverse through South Croydon to catch Selsdon-bound services.

Pelling also advised the transport “experts” at TfL that Southbridge Road would prove too busy and narrow, with frequent illegal parking a constant problem, so that it would not be able to cope with a 443 bus, and that certainly that there is no space for bus stops there.

Pelling supports the new express 439 to Purley that will serve Waddon Marsh and Purley Way, an area slated for 7,200 new homes.

In this battle of the bus route anoraks, Charles King, the chair of the East Surrey transport user group, also offered an alternative view to TfL’s proposals.

New routes for old: some TfL changes are intended to shorten routes which currently get curtailed after being delayed in traffic

King said that the three main objects of the scheme in Croydon are:

  • To provide a new route to the top of Kenley.
  • Withdrawal of route 455 from Old Lodge Lane to Wallington via Pampisford Road, West Croydon and Wandle Valley. As it was a long route, it frequently gets stuck in traffic and failed to serve Old Lodge Lane.
  • Splitting of route 407 from Caterham to Sutton via Purley, Croydon, Wallington Green and Carshalton. Again, a long route whose buses frequently got stuck in traffic, resulting in them being turned round at Whyteleafe and Purley, never to reach Caterham.

However, it was the replacement services and changes to other existing routes that King said caused problems and the proposals actually make the existing bus network worse by removing the direct service from Caterham, Whyteleafe and Kenley to Croydon.

In for the long haul: one TfL proposed route would go all the way from Norwood Junction to the Surrey countryside

The East Surrey Transport Committee also suggested a number of small changes which are supported by Croydon Council.

  • Route 312 should be extended to Old Lodge Lane via South Croydon Station, Pampisford Road and the Purley gyratory as the 455 does now.
  • The 166 should remain as now.
  • The 443 should terminate in central Croydon.
  • The 434 should be extended to Caterham, but via Northwood Avenue.
  • The 439 should serve the top of Kenley. It should also serve the schools in Pampisford Road providing new links from Pampisford Road to Waddon Station and Waddon Marsh Tram stops.
  • An alternative service to connect East Croydon Station and central Croydon with Old Town.

“These small changes would actually improve the network and not make it worse,” King told Inside Croydon.

If you object to these changes and support the East Surrey Transport Committee you should let TfL know as soon as possible by emailing your comments to:

TfL Consultations
London Travelwatch
Neil Garratt AM
Caroline Pidgeon AM
Cllr Muhammad Ali

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12 Responses to Route masters let TfL know what they think of bus changes

  1. As far as I can see the 434 proposal will allow me to get from home to the Foxley
    Hatch and back. What’s not to like?

  2. Hazel swain says:

    have already lodged a complaint about the proposed route down Southbridge Road.. VERY narrow and congested already

  3. Southbridge Road is also known as the A236. A roads are meant to provide large-scale transport links within or between areas.

    If some people are parking illegally on Southbridge Road, then instead of not running a bus route down it, the council should take vigorous enforcement action against them, using their parking wardens.

    They should also reinstate the tow-away service, so that vehicles left by careless owners to obstruct and endanger other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, are removed promptly.

    Let’s not make our public transport route plans subordinate to unenforced anti-social behaviour.

    • The reality is that, just as with 20mph limits, there is no enforcement. Part of Southbridge is double yellow lines, which are routinely ignored by pavement parkers.
      Unless or until that situation is fixed, putting a bus service down that road would make a bad situation worse, not least for the passengers who would endure the delays arising.

      • Hazel swain says:

        my concern is for the further disruption to residents from excess noise etc and the danger to life while walking on the narrow pavements.. its not just the lack of tow away service thats the issue .. the bus route just isnt needed … and residents HAVENT been consulted on the issue .

  4. Ben says:

    Disappointed this hasn’t been better communicated by TfL – I’m sure in the past they emailed users of the services (surely this is all linked up on Oyster cards etc?). There must be others like me who have reduced their bus usage due to the pandemic so don’t go inspecting bus stops (not a thing I even did when I used the services!)

    • Pete Jenkins says:

      It was well-covered on Inside Croydon and in the Council newsletters.

      • Ben says:

        How many people who regularly use these services read those?

        • Ouch!
          Harsh, but fair…

          We are not an outlet for official notifications, and we don’t have the means available to us that either TfL or even our cash-strapped council has.

          But some public bodies do provide all the appearance of going through the motions with consultations, almost as if they’d prefer it if no one noticed the existence of the exercise and even better if no one responded. And even if people do respond, the public body often just goes ahead and does what it always intended to do, anyway.

          But for the record, this article about the route changes has been viewed 1,600 times since we published it 18 hours ago.

          Perhaps someone should ask TfL how many times their consultation page was viewed?

          • Ben says:

            Haha, sorry – didn’t mean it that way! I have an RSS feed set up for every new IC post and this was the first I’d read, but that may be on me. It’s just frustrating that I need to go to an independent blog to find information like this out for some buses which basically stops at the end of my road. Would definitely be interested in how many page-views the TfL consulation page has…

  5. Steven B says:

    Croydon Council ignores its consultation responses, so only fitting TfL ignore their responses. Reap what you sow.

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