Route 286
There will be fewer evening and Sunday buses on route 286 from this weekend

A review of outer London buses will take five years to complete, prompting outrage from politicians across the party divide.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has now been accused of a “broken promise” for failing to prioritise transport in the outer boroughs.

With bus use falling across the capital, Transport for London (TfL) recently reviewed central London routes, making reductions to services such as the 53 from Plumstead to Whitehall, which was cut back to County Hall; and the 171 from Bellingham to Holborn, which was chopped to Elephant and Castle.

These cuts are set to be redistributed to outer London, where demand for buses remains higher, according to a TfL planning document. Services are now being reviewed in key pockets of outer London, varying from entire boroughs to small town centres.

But with this patchwork approach, it will take far longer to make changes across the whole of outer London than it did for inner London. TfL expects the project will take five years to complete.

Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, former chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said more buses were needed in outer London.

She said: “The Mayor and TfL have always defended cutting bus services in central London on the grounds that buses will be redeployed to outer London.

“It now seems that only part of that deal is being honoured – that of cutting bus services in central London.

“This broken promise is another example of Sadiq Khan’s poor record in running TfL. This is not what Londoners expected when they elected a son of a bus driver.”

‘Not good enough at all’

Navin Shah, the Labour assembly member for Brent and Harrow, said TfL’s approach to reviewing outer London services was “not good enough at all”.

He said: “This approach is not going far enough and it’s very piecemeal. We need a properly planned strategic network that will not only address current problems but also how the bus network of the future will accommodate a growing population.”

Mr Shah said that without better bus links, residents of outer London would remain reliant on cars, and be less able to take up new job opportunities in their area.

Geoff Hobbs, director of Public Transport Service Planning at TfL, said: “We are committed to increasing bus services in outer London and are reviewing at least seven areas in outer London each year to enable this growth.

He added: “This ongoing programme of reviews, along with our regular assessments of bus services, will result in the whole network being reviewed.”

The complaints come as a key route serving Greenwich borough – the 286 from Greenwich to Eltham and Sidcup – sees its evening and Sunday frequency cut to every 20 minutes from this weekend as part of a wider programme of service reductions. The cut follows the opening of a new Greenwich Council-backed cinema in Eltham designed to boost the area’s evening economy.

However, a new 301 service linking Woolwich, Abbey Wood and Bexleyheath – commissioned as part of a review of routes linking Crossrail stations – will take to the road for the first time on Saturday.

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Jessie Mathewson is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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