When Crossrail kicks off in 518 days time, travel patterns are going to change. And not just rail travel. Passenger flows by bus are going to change too, as this forecast map shows.
TfL expect fewer bus passengers on the green sections, because Crossrail will provide faster alternative links. The really big drops are expected to be a) between central London and Paddington, b) west of Ealing, c) east of Stratford. TfL expect more bus passengers on the red sections, as locals suddenly gain a super new station to commute from. The biggest rises are expected to be a) around Hayes and Southall in the west, b) around Woolwich and Abbey Wood in the southeast.
Which is why TfL snuck out an enormous bus consultation on Friday, as they try to mould the capital's bus network to the realities of future demand. More than 30 different suburban bus routes could be affected, on top of the 17 routes already being tweaked following last winter's West End Bus Review. Between them, that's almost 10% of London's bus routes facing Crossrail-related change. What's more, this latest consultation suggests something unprecedented in recent years... the introduction of seven new bus routes. Might your daily ride be changing?
The proposed changes are grouped into three clusters, each based around a different arm of Crossrail. There's the West London cluster, feeding passengers into Ealing Broadway, Southall and Hayes & Harlington. There's the Southeast London cluster, feeding passengers into Woolwich and Abbey Wood. And there's the Northeast London cluster, feeding passengers into Whitechapel, Stratford, Custom House and stations beyond Romford. If you have a particular local interest in one of these areas, check out the specific consultation page, linked above. If you're super-interested, an 81-page technical report exists here.
What I'll give you is an overall summary, and a few details of some of the more intriguing tweaks.
Most of the diversions are to send existing routes past Crossrail stations and help distribute passengers around the surrounding area.
» For example, in West London route 440 is being diverted in three separate locations, one of which will snatch it away from West Acton tube station and pass Acton Main Line Crossrail station instead.
» For example, in Southeast London route 469 is being diverted to the other side of Lesnes Abbey Wood as a new link to Abbey Wood station for residents in West Heath.
» For example, in Northeast London route 115 is being diverted via Whitechapel and through Stepney, rather than its current route along Commercial Road.
More routes are being shortened than lengthened. A lot of the curtailments are to make routes more reliable, or to remove excess capacity on certain sections of road.
» For example, in West London route 427 is being halved in length, so will only go from Uxbridge to Southall, not to Acton.
» For example, in West London route 266 is being cut back to Acton, so will no longer have to struggle through the traffic to Hammersmith.
» For example, in Northeast London route 241 is being cut back to Custom House rather than Canning Town (but also extended at the northern end to Here East in the Olympic Park).
Some of the extensions are to serve new housing developments. This isn't all about Crossrail, not by a long chalk, this is TfL taking the opportunity to serve new centres of population.
» For example, in West London routes 95 and H32 are being extended to serve Southall Waterside, the mega-development I mentioned in my recent post on Southall's canals.
» For example, in Northeast London new route 497 will thread a bus service through the new Kings Park estate opposite Harold Wood station.
Some of the brand new bus routes are to replace connections broken by Crossrail-related changes.
» For example, in West London new route 218 will comprise bits chopped off route 266 and route 440, and new route 306 will comprise bits chopped off route 266 and 391.
» For example, in Southeast London new route 301 will follow some current sections of routes 472 and B11, providing a more direct route to Thamesmead from the Crossrail stations at Woolwich and Abbey Wood.
» For example, in Northeast London new route 304 will take over one arm of current route 104, which will no longer dogleg down to the A13 and back.
A lot of these modifications are only possible because of the Hopper fare. Previously TfL's planners would have thought twice about breaking passengers' journeys, but now they don't have to worry because two buses cost the same as one. The downside, of course, is that two bus rides with a wait inbetween invariably takes longer.
» For example, in Northeast London passengers on route 25 will no longer be able to reach the West End without changing buses.
» For example, residents of southeast Thamesmead can currently reach their neighbourhood shopping centre direct on route B11, but in future they'll need to take two buses.
Now let's consider capacity... are buses running more or less often? Here's another summary table.
When Crossrail begins, some of the required additional capacity can gained by running buses more frequently.
» For example, in West London route 120 (via Southall) will increase from six buses an hour to eight.
» For example, in Northeast London route 174 (via Romford) will increase from a bus every eight minutes to a bus every six.
Another simple solution is to replace single deckers with larger vehicles.
» For example, in Southeast London routes 178, 244, 291 will all link to Woolwich station using double deckers.
» For example, in West London route E10 will get longer (two-door) buses and run two extra buses every hour.
But not everything improves. TfL's latest bus-buzzphrase is "matching capacity to demand", which generally means running fewer buses.
» For example, in West London route 427 will only run every ten minutes, not every eight.
» For example, in Southeast London route B11 will be cut from four buses an hour to three, and route 472 cut from ten to seven and a half.
» For example, in Northeast London passengers on route 25 can expect to wait an extra minute and a half for the next bus.
I'll summarise by considering three particular routes, one from each cluster.
In West London, route 140 is metamorphosing into three separate strands. Buses currently run from Harrow Weald to Heathrow Airport via an orbital route unshadowed by any railway line, so buses are often crowded. The downside in the proposals is that route 140 is going to be cut back at its southern end, at Hayes and Harlington, because it needs go no further than the Crossrail station. The upside is that a limited stop service is to be introduced, numbered X140, which'll go all the way from Harrow bus station to Heathrow Airport stopping only ten times inbetween. Boris Johnson proposed introducing several orbital express bus routes when he became Mayor, you may remember, but it's taken ten years for the first new one to materialise. Meanwhile the nightbus service will be left unchanged, still Harrow Weald to the airport, so that'll become the N140.
In southeast London, route 180 is being seriously played around with. At its eastern end it'll no longer serve Belvedere Industrial Estate but will be extended to Erith, before doubling back to a new housing development at Erith Quarry. Then at its western end it's being diverted away from Lewisham to terminate at North Greenwich instead, helping to make up for the reduction in frequency on route 472. Meanwhile route 129, which has been shuttling minimally between North Greenwich and Greenwich since 2006, finally gets an extension to Lewisham to make up for the 180's removal. This whole consultation sometimes feels like a giant game of dominoes, with one change setting off another change setting off another.
In northeast London, route 25 is currently the busiest bus route in London.... but TfL clearly think its crown is under threat. That's because the 25 shadows Crossrail from Bond Street to Ilford, so TfL expect thousands of passengers to switch from bus to rail, and are cutting back the service accordingly. Not only will the frequency be reduced from ten buses an hour to eight, but the route is being completely withdrawn along Oxford Street and High Holborn. Instead buses will start and finish at Holborn Circus, a not-entirely useful terminus, and Soho-bound passengers will have to switch to the 242... hang on, no, that's been cut back too, which leaves just the 8... except no, that's been cut back to Tottenham Court Road. Could this be sequential curtailment overkill? Many's the night I've waited on Oxford Street for a 25 home, but no more, unless someone official decides an N25 might be a sensible option.
In conclusion, Crossrail has set off an avalanche of potential bus changes affecting approximately 10% of London's bus routes. Some of these are to match supply to post-Crossrail demand, but others are simplifications, reductions and rationalisations which may affect your journey in other ways. It seems the Hopper fare has finally allowed TfL's backroom bus planners to be let loose, crayons poised, 'matching capacity to demand' in radically new ways. Expect a faster rate of changes in the future, and for the current London bus map to be seriously out of date in a few years time.
If you like (or don't like) what you've seen here, be sure to respond to the consultation and make your voice heard, else opinions on each individual route will be lost amongst the hubbub of the other thirty.
A special hello to TfL's bus consultation department. Your West London page says at the top that you're planning to make changes to route E1, then completely fails to mention further down what those changes actually are. Oops. I only know what your proposals are because I've read page 28 of the technical report - you'd like to cut peak hour frequency from eight buses an hour to six, and cut one bus an hour on Sundays "to better match capacity with demand". Best add that in on the main page, otherwise it's not really a proper consultation. [Tuesday update: This has been added]
And while we're here, a word about the numbers TfL have chosen for their brand new routes. The eight lowest numbers which aren't currently used for a TfL bus route are 82, 84, 218, 239, 278, 301, 304 and 306. This consultation proposes using five of these (218, 278, 301, 304 and 306), which would leave the lowest three unused route numbers as 82 (recently withdrawn), 84 (still lingers in Barnet) and 239 (last used 2008).