53 bus
Pennycook said he was “surprised” TfL wanted to cut the 53 back

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has launched a petition against plans to cut bus route 53 back to County Hall, after saying they will “punish” his low-paid constituents who rely on the service.

The plan to cut the 53, which currently runs from Plumstead station to Whitehall, was among a batch of proposals revealed by 853 last week, causing a flurry of local, London and even national media coverage.

While Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that resources are being reallocated from central to outer London, the cuts are part of an overall plan to address Transport for London’s budget problems, which stem from the abolition of its government grant, the mayor’s fare freeze and falling public transport ridership.

The petition can be signed on Pennycook’s website.

Earlier in the week, wrote on his Facebook page that the service needed increasing, rather than cutting.

He said: “I appreciate that they are facing cuts like other public services but I’m genuinely surprised that TfL are proposing cuts of any kind on this route. There is no doubt in my mind that any cut to services on this route would be bad news for huge numbers of people living in Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead. Indeed, as things stand in rush hour most 53 buses are frequently overcrowded by the time they get up the hill to Charlton.

“We need more frequent services on this route, not cuts to services.

“But my main concern is the impact on the large numbers of my constituents who get up at the crack of dawn to make the long journey into central London on the 53 to work low-paid jobs (if you think I’m exaggerating just catch one before 6.30am one morning and see for yourself).

“For them, the long journey on the 53 all the way to Whitehall is the only means of transport that is affordable into central London and it is therefore indispensable.

“As such, difficult to escape the conclusion that cuts to this service will punish my working-class constituents and at the very moment that a new Crossrail station is opened in Woolwich that will inevitably pile pressure onto our already over-stretched local transport network.

“So let me be as clear as I can possibly be: I will do absolutely everything in my power to fight cuts to the 53 bus service.

“Expect more from me on this one in the days and weeks ahead.”

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has also pledged to “stand up for residents” when boroughs are consulted on the proposals.

The changes are part of the biggest shake-up to the bus network since the early 1990s. They also affect the 171 from Bellingham to Holborn, which faces being cut to the Elephant & Castle, and the 172 from Brockley Rise to Clerkenwell Green, which is set to be cut back to Aldwych.

A public consultation on the cuts is due to start next month.

Pennycook also spoke out on the mayor’s decision to block Greenwich Council’s refusal of controversial plans to build 771 homes on the Charlton riverside, saying the council’s masterplan for the area should be respected.

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