diamond geezer

 Friday, September 14, 2018

Route 25 between Ilford and Oxford Circus is London's busiest bus route.

According to the latest figures, over 17 million people ride it every year.

25  Oxford Circus ← Aldgate ← Mile End ← Stratford ← Ilford

So it may come as a surprise to hear that, as of tomorrow, its frequency is being halved.

Up to 14th Sept: 16 buses an hour (every 3-4 minutes)
From 15th Sept: 8 buses an hour (every 7-8 minutes)

Here's why that isn't good, but isn't as bad as it sounds either.

Firstly, the reason being given for the cut, which is a decline in passengers.

Until 2015 passenger numbers on route 25 were fairly steady around 23 million, but since then they've fallen away. 2015 is the year TfL upgraded Cycle Superhighway 2, adding a segregated lane all the way from Aldgate to Bow and causing appalling traffic congestion while roadworks proceeded. The reliability of the service collapsed, so passenger numbers fell away as people found other ways to travel, or simply got off and walked. But passenger numbers never recovered after the grand project was complete, the fall so large it can't be explained simply by people switching from bus to bike.

One particularly relevant reason concerns 'short journeys'. Route 25 is one of the longest on the London bus network, so not every bus from Ilford runs the entire distance. Go back five years and half the buses terminated at Holborn Circus rather than Oxford Circus, one mile short. In 2014 the curtailment point was cut back to Bank, two miles short. Then in April 2016 the turnaround point was shifted all the way back to Mile End, five miles short. Since then buses from Ilford have alternated, one to Oxford Circus, one to Mile End. That's 16 buses an hour, eight of each type, with only half going all the way.

Let's pretend the shorter journeys are numbered 25M. They're not, but let's pretend.

25  Oxford Circus ← Aldgate ← Mile End ← Stratford ← Ilford
25M      Mile End ← Stratford ← Ilford

This is cunning, because the really busy bit of route 25 is between Stratford and Ilford. By splitting the buses this way, passengers between Stratford and Ilford still get a decent, frequent service. Meanwhile those closer to central London get a worse service than five years ago - down from 16 buses an hour to just eight. This also helps to explain why passenger numbers have gone down. When half the buses don't run on half the route, obviously fewer people will ride.

What's happening tomorrow is that route 25M is being scrapped. All the 'short working' buses are being deleted, so in future there'll only be 8 buses an hour all the way along the route. Passengers between Oxford Circus and Mile End will see no change, but for passengers between Mile End and Ilford the frequency is being halved.

And here's the mitigation.

425  Clapton → Mile EndStratford

To make up for the extinction of route 25M, bus route 425 is being extended to Ilford.

425  Clapton → Mile EndStratfordIlford

Route 425's been running, not terribly excitingly, between Hackney and Stratford for the last ten years. It twiddles around Homerton Hospital and dawdles through Victoria Park, but the last bit from Mile End to Stratford has always shadowed the 25. Now it's to shadow the 25 even more closely, all the way to Ilford. Essentially this extension of the 425 is to replace what the 25M used to be ... just not quite so frequently.

Routethis weeknext week
258 buses an hour8 buses an hour
25M8 buses an hour0 buses an hour
4255 buses an hour6 buses an hour

Passengers between Stratford and Ilford are losing eight buses an hour, but gaining six buses an hour, which is a net decrease of two. It's not great, but they'll cope.

Specifically they'll cope because another bus runs ten times an hour between Stratford and Ilford, and that's the 86.

86  StratfordIlford → Romford

With route 25 running eight times an hour, route 425 six times an hour and route 86 ten times an hour, that's 24 buses an hour between Stratford and Ilford. That's a bus, on average, every 2½ minutes. That's perfectly adequate for keeping Newham moving.

I can do a similar analysis elsewhere to show the number of buses per hour along other stretches of the route.

per hour
→ Mile End

25, 205
Mile End
→ Bow

25, 205, 425
→ Stratford

25, 108, 276, 425, D8
→ Ilford

25, 86, (425)

The biggest losers are those between Mile End and Stratford, including myself, who are suddenly seven buses down. But when you've still got a bus every 2-3 minutes, and some of the former 25Ms were somewhat empty round here, it's hard to complain.

Let's throw one more element into the mix, which is that all the figures I've been quoting so far are for Monday to Saturday daytimes only. Route 25M never ran early in the mornings, or late in the evenings, or indeed on Sundays, so the changes at these times aren't so great. But there are still consequences, for example on Sundays the average waiting time for a bus will now be longer between Whitechapel and Stratford, but shorter between Stratford and Ilford.

per hour
→ Mile End

25, 205
Mile End
→ Bow

25, 205, 425
→ Stratford

25, 108, 276, 425, D8
→ Ilford

25, 86, (425)
Last Sunday16202817
Next Sunday13182619

To summarise...
From tomorrow route 25 switches to a uniform timetable with buses running every 7-8 minutes along the whole of the route. This is approximately half the number of buses which used to run five years ago. As of tomorrow, all the short-running buses between Mile End and Ilford are being cancelled. To compensate, route 425 is being extended from Stratford to Ilford, and will now run every 10 minutes rather than every 12. Route 25 can now be run by 40 vehicles rather than 60, while the 425's fleet is being doubled from 10 to 20. The net result is that passengers may have to wait a little longer, and TfL are saving a fair chunk of money.

And a note for the future...
As part of changes for the launch of Crossrail, TfL were planning to permanently cut back the western end of the route from Oxford Circus to Holborn Circus later this year. Now that Crossail's seriously delayed, we have yet to discover if and when they'll shorten the 25, dumping passengers short, two changes away from Oxford Circus. TfL would also be able to run the service with more like 30 vehicles, rather than tomorrow's 40, as opposed to today's 60. After this kind of cull, the chances of route 25 remaining London's busiest bus route appear slim.

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