Route 53
Route 53 links a string of south-east London communities with the West End

853 exclusive: Transport for London is planning to make a huge swathe of cuts to bus routes in the centre of the capital – including stopping three of south-east London’s most important bus routes short of their current terminals.

Route 53, which runs from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath through Deptford, the Old Kent Road and Elephant & Castle to Whitehall will be cut back to County Hall from March 2019 under proposals to “reduce bus flows” across Westminster Bridge and along Whitehall, if the plans go ahead.

A worse fate is set to befall route 171 from Catford Bus Garage and Brockley to Holborn. This would be cut back from Holborn to Elephant and Castle under the scheme.

And a third route, the 172 from Brockley Rise, faces being trimmed back from Clerkenwell to Aldwych.

The scheme affects routes from across London, and also brings a permanent end for Routemaster services a step closer, proposing reducing the “heritage” services on route 15 along Fleet Street using the vintage vehicles to summer weekends and bank holidays only.

TfL presentation on the scheme
A presentation prepared by TfL on the scheme. It no longer produces its own maps, so has had to use one prepared by a bus enthusiast

Transport for London’s proposals come as it battles financial worries after a complete cut in day-to-day government funding instituted by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor. It is also having to deal with a four-year fare freeze from mayor Sadiq Khan, and a fall in bus passenger numbers.

It has already planned to cut bus services between Greenwich and Woolwich by re-routing route 180 to North Greenwich station instead of Lewisham. There have also been a series of cuts to bus frequencies, especially on night services.

A consultation on these new proposals will come in mid-September.

The 53 proposal is likely to face stiff opposition. The service – which in its heyday ran as far north as Parliament Hill Fields and Camden Town – is the last remaining bus link to central London from Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead, and terminating at County Hall will leave passengers needing to switch to another service.

It was last cut back in 2002, from Oxford Circus to Whitehall, with the 453 from Deptford Bridge picking up the slack.

But it has twice in recent years been temporarily cut back to Lambeth North because of roadworks.

TfL is predicting falls in central London bus passengers once Crossrail opens in December – bus in the 53’s case, the Elizabeth Line will still be a bus ride away for many of its passengers.

Some industry insiders have speculated that TfL would like to cut the route even further, to the Elephant & Castle, but can’t do so because of a lack of space for buses to terminate.

(Updated 11.40am Thursday) Transport for London told 853 the proposals were still at an early stage and needed to be discussed with boroughs.

Director of public transport service planning Geoff Hobbs said: “Buses have a crucial role to play in boosting the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport.

“As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, we’re currently looking at how we can adjust and reorganise the bus network to ensure it reflects a rapidly changing London, including planning for year-on-year increases in bus kilometres in outer London. We need to modernise and simplify the network and ensure that bus capacity is in the right places at the right times.

“We’re currently working closely with London’s boroughs on a potential set of proposals and they are helping shape our plans. These changes will also be subject to full public consultation before they’re put in place so we can hear from customers.”

The bus cuts due to go out to consultation this autumn are:

(Route descriptions are TfL’s own and are inconsistent in places. bph= buses per hour)

Tottenham Court Road (TCR) – Reduce bus flows
Route 14 (Putney – Russell Square): Cut back from Warren Street to TCR and extend to Russell Square
Route 134 (North Finchley – Warren Street): Cut 24-hour route back from TCR to Warren Street

King Road – Shaftesbury Avenue corridor. Reduce bus flows on King’s Road, Piccadilly and Shaftesbury Avenue
Route 9 (Hammersmith – Aldwych): Reroute from Pall Mall to Piccadilly for faster journeys
Route 11 (Liverpool St – Victoria): Cut back from Fulham Broadway to Victoria
Route 19 (Finsbury Park – Holborn): Cut back from Battersea to Holborn, New Oxford Street
Route 22 (Putney – Piccadilly Circus): Cut back from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly and extend to Piccadilly Circus
New route 311: New route between Fulham Broadway and Oxford Circus via Victoria and Mayfair to retain links broken by 11, 19 and 22 cut backs

Whitehall / Westminster Bridge corridor. Reduce bus flows
Route 3 (Crystal Palace – Whitehall): Cut back from Trafalgar Square to Whitehall
Route 53 (Plumstead – County Hall): Cut back from Whitehall to County Hall

Route 53
Passengers on the 53 have endured two sets of temporary cuts in recent years

Waterloo – Fleet Street corridor. Reduce bus flows across Waterloo Bridge and along Fleet Street
Route 4 (Archway – Blackfriars): Cut back from Waterloo from St Paul’s and extend to Blackfriars via Queen Victoria Street
Route 76 (Tottenham Hale – Waterloo): Re-route from Bank to London Wall to retain links broken by 4 cut back
Route 172 (Bellingham – Aldwych): Cut back from Farringdon to Aldwych (note: it is unclear whether the 172 going to Bellingham is an error, the route starts at Brockley Rise)
Route 341 (Northumberland Park – Waterloo): Re-route from Gray’s Inn Road to Farringdon Street to retain links broken by 172 cut back, terminate at Waterloo Road rather than County Hall
Route 15H (Trafalgar Square – Tower of London): Operate heritage service only summer weekends and Bank Holidays

Euston Road corridor – Reduce bus flows
Route 59 (Streatham Hill – Euston): Cut back from Kings Cross to Euston, remove 3 peak jnys
Route 476 (Northumberland Park – King’s Cross): Cut back from Euston to King’s Cross, Reduce Mon-Sat from 7.5 to 6 bph

Marylebone Road faster journeys
Route 205 (Paddington – Bow Church): Reroute via Marylebone Road instead of Marylebone station

Kingsway – reduce bus flows
Route 171 (Bellingham – Holborn): Cut back from Holborn to Elephant & Castle

Kingsland Road corridor. Reduce bus flows. (East London Line parallel)
Route 67 (Wood Green – Dalston Junction): Cut back from Dalston Junction to Aldgate
Route 149 (Edmonton Green – London Bridge): Reduce peak frequencies from 11 to 10 bph, add extra peak journeys and increase off-peak frequencies to give sufficient capacity
Route 242 (Homerton – Aldgate): Cut back to Shoreditch from St Paul’s and extend to Aldgate via Commercial Street to retain links from 67 cut back; reduce Mon – Sat from 8 bph to 6 bph

City Bridges I (Blackfriars / London). Reduce bus flows over London and Blackfriars Bridges and on Farringdon Road
Route 35 (Clapham Junction – Shoreditch): Increase Monday to Friday peak frequencies from 6 to 8 bph to maintain capacity from 40 re-route
Route 40 (Dulwich – Clerkenwell Green): Cut back from Aldgate to Elephant & Castle and extend to Clerkenwell Green via Blackfriars Road to retain broken links from 45 and 388 cut backs
Route 45 (Clapham Park – Elephant): Cut back from King’s Cross to Elephant & Castle
Route 46 (Lancaster Gate – St Bart’s): Add 1 extra AM peak journey to maintain capacity on Gray’s Inn Road due to 45 cut back
Route 100 (Shadwell – St Paul’s): Extend from Museum of London to St Paul’s to retain broken links from 388 cut back
Route RV1: Subject to separate review
Route 343: Subject to separate review
Route 388 (Stratford City – Finsbury Circus): Cut back from Elephant & Castle to Finsbury Circus, reduce frequency from 6 to 5 bph

City Bridges II (London) Reduce bus flows over London Bridge and Hackney Road
Route 26 (Hackney Wick – Waterloo): Increase Monday to Friday peak frequencies from 6 to 8 bph to maintain capacity on Hackney Road (from 48 withdrawal)
Route 48 (Leyton – London Bridge): Withdraw route
Route 55 (Walthamstow Central – Oxford Circus): Extend from Leyton to Walthamstow Central to retain links broken by 48 withdrawal

Friday update: Some additional analysis from Diamond Geezer; some more analysist from CityMetric; a follow-up from the Hackney Gazette; and bring the story full circle, it has been lifted without credit by the Evening Standard (ed. George Osborne).

853 produces public interest journalism for Greenwich and SE London and is part-funded by its readers. If you would like to contribute to keeping the site running, please…
– join over 100 monthly patrons at

– buy the author a coffee at
– make a one-off contribution at