Is it a bird, is it a plane… no, it’s Superloop! Our transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON takes a look at the London Mayor’s latest wheeze and finds he’s going round in circles…
There’s been nothing like it since Jeffrey Archer’s ill-fated bid to be London Mayor, with his proposed 15 express coach routes from outer to inner London.
Sadiq Khan is to introduce a new brand and new roundel map to market four existing bus routes that have large gaps between stops. In the long term – the very long term – it is hoped to have 10 such “express” routes that link some outer London districts and town centres.
The routes will be under the brand of Superloop. The brand is designed to keep things moving in the same way as the patented Super Lube. £6 million is the expected cost.
Mayor Khan says permission would be required from Abba before a Superlooper jingle can be used.
The X26 Croydon to Heathrow express route and the X68 to Russell Square via Denmark Hill are two of the four getting a lick of paint and a Superloop branding. None of the buses being rebranded are to be new, electric vehicles (at least not immediately).
The X26 will see its frequency doubled, which will be welcomed. Though it will do little to speed up the bus’s progress as it wends its way through the clogged roads of Kingston and Teddington on a journey that is supposed to take 102 minutes.
The East Surrey Transport Committee is to lobby for the route to stop in Waddon – at Croydon Road, opposite Waddon Station – as once used to be the case. Their case should be strengthened by increased demand for public transport from all the occupants of new homes that are expected to be built along the Purley Way.
Other current routes to be rebranded will be the fairly new X140 Harrow to Heathrow route and the 607 Uxbridge to White City route.
The Harrow express service has seen ridership on the 140 route increase by at least 10per cent.
There are vague aspirations for six other Superloop express routes, including Croydon to Bromley, which will help those Croydon residents who now prefer the Glades to Croydon’s troubled high street. There are no specifics though.
It seems unlikely that this will be an “X119”, as the 119 is pretty circuitous via places like Coney Hall and Hayes.
Mayor Khan says he is “open” to views about where other routes should be, which suggests that this is all more conceptual than any step change in outer London orbital public transport.
Some say that the Superloop plan is critical, because while most outer boroughs have high-frequency express services into London, few have anything like that kind of service between each other.
But there’s a lot of Outer London is not going to be served by these express routes.
Nick Rogers, the leader of the Tory group at City Hall, was derisive about the rebranding initiative: “It’ll take far more than a shiny new roundel to mitigate the massive impact ULEZ expansion will have on outer London.
“Londoners deserve better than this Superflop.”
It is inevitable, giving the timing of his announcement, that this ill-defined initiative will be seen as an attempt to bolster the case for the expansion later this year of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, when the public health arguments are more robust.
Cuts to bus services generally are not helping Khan make the case for ULEZ. In Sutton and Kingston, the 213 that includes a stop at Kingston Hospital is running less frequently.
Residents in Selsdon have seen the frequencies of their 64 and 359 buses reduced, the latter, day-time-only service moving from every 30 minutes to every 45 minutes. It’s little wonder than so many people in outer London feel dependent on their car (even though few will be affected by the ULEZ charges, since around 90per cent of drivers in outer London already have compliant vehicles, according to TfL figures).
The cuts made on key routes to both Purley Memorial and Mayday hospitals are also hard on the infirm, who need to use the bus to get to those hospitals. The 359 serves Monks Hill, which otherwise has poor public transport. The 64 offers a key link between New Addington, Selsdon, South Croydon, East and West Croydon, Mayday and the Croydon Mosque.
So it seems highly unlikely that Superloop will provide Mayor Khan with any sort of electoral boost when it comes to the London elections in May 2024.
The public can sign up for updates on outer London transport options at https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/superloop.
More information about what TfL is doing to improve public transport in outer London can be found here: tfl.gov.uk/outer-london
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I don’t know who is going to magic up the money to improve bus service frequencies when central Government has curtailed Khan’s budget.
If some form of express bus service between Bromley and Croydon can be produced quite quickly it will be another blow to the already blighted Central Croydon shopping area and an improved frequency X26 during low traffic usage time will make Sutton look far more attractive than looking above your head while shopping in the Whitgift Centre.
The 119 runs every 15 minutes. I doubt it will get faster by being called a Superloop. Also you can go on the tram to Beckenham and change to the train if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind that the Bromley station footbridge is broken. If people aren’t coming from Bromley to Croydon it isn’t for a lack of public service transport options. It’s because they’ve been here.
Surely it is missing a “Y”?
Mind you that would make it very similar to the Snookerloopy song. Both a load of balls.
Paragraph 4 had me checking my calendar. You’re two days early…