A consultation in south Newham, just launched, is proposing to extend two bus routes to serve new developments and withdraw two others from a shopping centre. TfL giveth, and TfL taketh away.
This is Royal Wharf, a significant development of 3400 homes on the Thames waterfront just upstream of the Thames Barrier. It has a DLR station at each end, a new river pier and a single bus route skimming past, but doesn't yet have a bus route of its own. So TfL propose to extend route 241 to Royal Wharf, connecting back to Custom House, Plaistow and Stratford City. [map]
This will be the end of the route. This is Royal Crest Avenue, one street back from the river amid a canyon of highrise flats. Royal Crest Avenue isn't yet finished, indeed most of the western chunk of Royal Wharf is currently building site, and that yellow crane will have to move before any buses can thread themselves through. But there is a coffee shop, because the important facilities go in first and the bus arrives later.
This is Royal Albert Dock, or RAD, a significant Chinese-funded commercial development along the quayside of the Royal Albert Dock. It has a DLR station at each end and a single bus route skimming past, but doesn't yet have a bus route of its own. So TfL propose to extend route 325 to Royal Albert Dock, connecting back to Custom House, Plaistow and East Ham. [map]
This will be the end of the route. This is Dockside Road, two streets back from the river amid a canyon of empty offices. Dockside Road isn't yet finished, indeed the entire eastern chunk of Royal Albert Dock isn't yet a building site, so a heck of a lot of construction needs to be undertaken before any buses can thread themselves through. But there is a marketing suite, because the important facilities go in first and the bus arrives later.
These are both sensible, forward-looking route extensions. Royal Wharf is already hitting critical mass, and RAD will one day be an important business cluster, so both deserve buses to the heart of the development. But TfL's resources are limited, as we well know, so increasing provision here requires a sacrifice elsewhere.
This is Gallions Reach Shopping Park, a large out-of town mall within the footprint of the former Beckton Gas Works. It opened in 2003 and features a huge Tesco at one end, a handful of restaurants and a long row of warehouse-sized outlets around two sides of a car park. It doesn't have a DLR station within easy walking distance, but it does have three bus routes with declining passenger numbers. So TfL want to cut back route 101 and route 262 to Beckton bus station, both double deckers, leaving just the single decker route 366 to deal with all the shoppers. [map]
It's not as busy out here as it used to be, partly because of online shopping but also because Westfield opened on the other side of the borough in 2011 and has a hugely better range of shops. This lot aren't bad, and include Next, H&M, Foot Locker, Boots, Smyths, TK Maxx and Decathlon, but they used to be better. The car park was half full when I visited yesterday, which I reckoned was pretty good for a Monday in late January, and the bus I departed on also carried a decent load. But it may not be enough.
Gallions Reach Shopping Park is currently served by "up to 22 buses per hour", but TfL's statisticians have noted that "only four buses per hour are required to meet demand at the busiest time". Removing the 100 and 262 would cut the existing service back to six buses an hour. Technically that's sufficient, but this requires bag-laden shoppers to pile aboard a single decker departing every ten minutes if they're lucky, so is a huge step-down on the current set-up. Also route 366 only goes as far as Beckton bus station, rather than deeper into Newham, so everyone travelling further would have to change.
It's also bad news for anyone attempting to clock on for a shift at Beckton's DLR depot, and for residents at Gallions Reach, a remote but rapidly-expanding housing development who'd lose two-thirds of their nearest buses too. Losing either the 101 or the 262 might be fairer, but TfL appear intent on curtailing both in a savage proposal which prioritises budgets over passengers. It seems London's bus planners are increasingly capacity-obsessed, remodelling the network by whittling down over-capacity and using the Hopper fare as cover for their broken links. Feel free to submit your thoughts on their latest proposals here.
This consultation is complicated by the fact there's already a separate consultation affecting five other local routes which won't be implemented until Crossrail opens, at which point south Newham's bus map is going to be radically redrawn. It would be damned useful to see what the proposed future network might look like, but alas TfL can't be bothered to produce composite bus maps any more because it's too hard/expensive/unnecessary. So I've had a go myself.
Here are the proposed extensions of the 241 and 325 (along with other planned changes to the 104, 300, 330 and 474, plus new route 304).
Note how Custom House station becomes the key local hub, with as many as six routes tweaked to link Crossrail to as much of the surrounding area as possible.
Here's the proposed cull of routes 101 and 262, leaving Gallions Reach substantially de-bussed.
Note how Beckton bus station becomes the terminus of six routes, twice as many as today.
And here's a link to a larger version of my amateur map showing the complete south Newham bus network should all these changes ever be implemented. Let's hope they're not.