diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 11, 2018

When Westminster council told TfL that no, they weren't going to pedestrianise Oxford Street, it threw all sorts of plans up in the air. In particular it totally messed up plans to remove all buses from Oxford Street, because that no longer needed to happen.

Yesterday TfL snuck out the results of an enormous consultation they ran last year on The transformation of Oxford Street, its contents now somewhat overtaken by events. But certain outcomes are now confirmed and will happen, mainly affecting bus routes in the western half of Oxford Street, including the proposal that a key bus route (with a very low number) should be scrapped.

» Here's the 37-page Consultation report (in summary, 48% of respondents said "Yes", 16% said "Yes, but..." and 33% said "No")
» Here's the 156 page Response to issues raised (which is essentially TfL saying why they're ignoring every issue people raised)
» And here's the updated consultation webpage (which is probably the only bit worth engaging with)

Let's focus on the changes to buses, and I'll try to unravel what I think they're saying is going to happen.

Here's a summary of which bus routes run along which bit of Oxford Street today, and how that's due to change once all the tweaks are made.

 Marble Arch to
Selfridges to
Oxford Circus
Oxford Circus to
Tottenham Court Road
Current 2, 7, 10, 13, 23, 30, 74, 94, 98, 159, 274, 3907, 10, 23, 94, 98, 113, 139, 159, 39010, 25, 55, 73, 98, 390
Proposed 2, 7, 13, 30, 74, 94, 98, 274, 3907, 98, 139, 39025, 55, 73, 98, 390

Don't worry about the section between Marble Arch and Selfridges, that's quite short, and there's less pressure to cut buses there. Instead focus on the section between Selfridges and Oxford Circus, which is the most prestigious bit of Oxford Street. Currently there are nine bus routes on that stretch. The intention is to cut that to just four. This is a serious cull.

Specific changes are proposed for routes 10, 23, 94, 113 and 159. The latter three routes are to be cut back to terminate earlier than they do now. And routes 10 and 23 are to be merged, the resulting hybrid no longer passing along Oxford Street, and retaining the number 23. Route 10 is dead, as of November this year.

Here's a proper summary.

RouteCurrent situationProposed changeEffect on
Oxford Street
10Runs from Hammersmith to King's Cross, via Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and Oxford Street.Route 10 will be withdrawn, but route 23 will be amended to run between Westbourne Park and Hammersmith. The new route 23 will continue to run between Westbourne Park and Marble Arch, but will then follow the existing route 10 from Marble Arch to Hammersmith.REMOVED
23Runs from Westbourne Park to Aldwych, via Paddington, Oxford Street and Regent Street.REMOVED
94Runs from Acton Green to Piccadilly Circus, via Notting Hill Gate, Marble Arch and Oxford Street.Will be cut back to a new terminus in North Row near Marble Arch (once Westminster council have agreed to a new bus stand in North Row). The full route will continue to run at night, numbered N94.REMOVED during the day
113Runs from Edgware to Oxford Circus, via Hendon, Swiss Cottage and Marble Arch.Will be cut back to Marble Arch.REMOVED
159Runs from Streatham to Marble Arch, via Westminster, Regent Street and Oxford Circus.Will be cut back to Oxford Circus.REMOVED

The 10/23 merger is an odd thing. The new route will swing in from west London, pass along Park Lane, then swing out west again to terminate barely two miles from where it started. It feels like TfL are simply tying two ends together creating a route nobody will want to travel more than half of, for the sake of reducing traffic on Oxford Street.

Don't get too upset that the number 10 is disappearing, the route's only 30 years old rather than some age-old classic. But it is ironic that back in 2003 this particular route 10 was separated into two overlapping services, the other end becoming route 390, and once all these shenanigans are complete the 390 will be one of only two buses still running the entire length of Oxford Street. What TfL should do is renumber the 390 as the 10, because that's what it used to be, and then the Men Who Like Buses will be slightly less angry. But more likely they'll save up the number 10 to use elsewhere instead, somewhere, eventually, because that'd be easier and cheaper.

To give you some idea of how significant the reduction in buses on Oxford Street has been, here's a table showing how many bus routes ran along it ten years ago, compared to now and next year.

yearMarble Arch to
Selfridges to
Oxford Circus
Oxford Circus to
Tottenham Court Road
2008 16 bus routes16 bus routes9 bus routes
2018 12 bus routes9 bus routes6 bus routes
2019 9 bus routes4 bus routes5 bus routes

That's a massive reduction in the key section from Selfridges to Oxford Circus, from sixteen routes to four in the space of a decade. If TfL can't pedestrianise central Oxford Street because Westminster council won't let them, it seems the next best thing is to cut the number of buses by three-quarters. Where will it all end?

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