Having only just brought you a tube update it's time to hit the roads. Yesterday TfL published their annual spreadsheet listing the number of passengers using every London bus route and how many kilometres those buses travelled. Data is for April 2019 - March 2020. Comparisons are with the previous year.
It's been quite a year. Four routes were withdrawn (10, C2, 48, RV1) and as many as seven new ones introduced. Hammersmith Bridge closed at the start of the reporting period disrupting several routes. And most recently the pandemic has ravaged passenger numbers, so much so that the new spreadsheet includes an extra column excluding the last four weeks of March. I'm using the full 12 months of data unless otherwise indicated.
London's ten busiest bus routes (2019/20) 1) -- 18 Euston - Sudbury (15.7m) 2) ↑3 149 London Bridge - Edmonton Green (13.2m) 3) -- 29 Trafalgar Square - Wood Green (12.7m) 4) ↑3 207 White City - Southall (11.7m) 5) ↑1 243 Waterloo - Wood Green (11.53m) 6) ↓4 25 Holborn Circus - Ilford (11.52m) 7) ↓3 140 Harrow Weald - Heathrow (11.50m) 8) -- 86 Stratford - Romford (11.4m) 9) ↑1 38 Victoria - Clapton Pond (11.1m) 10) ↓1 36 Queens Park - New Cross Gate (11.0m)
The next ten: 5, 109, 279, 43, 141, 35, 185, 53, 254, 65
The 18 remains London's busiest bus route by a comfortable margin, with route 149 leapfrogging into second place. The Top 5 are all key services along busy radial corridors, either north towards Hackney and Haringey or west towards Ealing and Brent. Former topdog 25 continues to tumble after the western end of its route was removed and its frequency cut. The parallel 86 is now very close behind. The 140's fall follows the introduction of an express X140 route last December. Thirteen bus routes managed to convey more than ten million passengers (down from sixteen last year).
London's ten least busy bus routes (2019/20) 1) -- 399 Barnet - Hadley Wood (10,632) 2) -- 389 Barnet - Underhill (15,393) 3) ** 15H Trafalgar Square - Tower Hill (20,960) 4) ↓1 H3 Golders Green - Hilltop (24,647) 5) ↓1 R10 Orpington - Orpington ↺ (25,416) 6) ↓1 W10 Enfield - Crews Hill (26,666) 7) ↓1 R5 Orpington - Orpington ↻ (29,923) 8) ↓1 385 Chingford - Crooked Billet (36,941) 9) ↓1 347 Romford - Ockendon (39,524) 10) ** 497 Harold Wood - Harold Hill (57,000)
The next ten: 549, 375, 327, R8, 404, 146, U10, RV1, 467, 464
Most of these are the usual suspects, topped off by a pair of brief turns in Barnet connecting daytime residents to the shops. Peripheral infrequent buses don't attract much custom. But two newcomers have disrupted the rankings, and in very different parts of town...
The 15H Routemaster service had all its weekday and winter journeys scrapped last year, partly to protect its ageing vehicles. This has led to a massive 82% drop in passengers, not unsurprisingly, placing the heritage service firmly in the bottom three.
Meanwhile the 497 is a new route which runs not very far not very often in outer Havering. Officially it only carried 9218 passengers last year, so officially it's now London's least used bus. But the 497 was only introduced in January so accumulated just ten weeks of passengers before the end of March cut-off point, four of which were pandemic-affected. I've therefore decided it would be much fairer to calculate an expected annual total based on the six normal weeks, and this suggests the 497 should rightly be in 10th place instead. The 399's position as London's Least Used Bus remains secure.
The next ten: 207, 472, 53, 102, 34, 65, 149, 13, 64, 427
This is a chart of the routes whose vehicles travelled the greatest distance in one year. High frequency buses (like the 38 and 18) and long distance buses (like the 113 and 96) tend to travel the furthest. These are the stalwarts of the London bus network. But several routes have risen two places in the chart this year because two former heavy hitters have fallen away. One is the 53, whose mileage is down 15% following curtailment and a frequency cut, and the other is the once mighty 25. Two years ago the 25 was top of the heap, shuttling back and forth 3 million kilometres annually, but in the latest figures that's halved to 1½ million and the route's not even in the Top 20. Meanwhile the 389 remains London's least travelled bus route, covering just under 8000 km per year.
London's ten most crowded bus routes (2019/20) 1) -- W7 Finsbury Park - Muswell Hill (10 passengers per km) 2) -- 330 Canning Town - Forest Gate (9) 3) ↑1 104 Stratford - Manor Park (8.8) 4) ↑5 238 Stratford - Barking (8.8) 5) ↓2 41 Archway - Tottenham Hale (8.7) 6) ↑1 29 Trafalgar Square - Wood Green (8.5) 7) ↓1 69 Canning Town - Walthamstow (8.4) 8) ↓3 58 East Ham - Walthamstow (8.1) 9) ↓1 109 Brixton - Croydon (8.1) 10) ** 35 Shoreditch - Clapham Junction (8.0)
This Top 10 is determined by dividing the number of passengers by the number of km travelled to get a 'number of passengers per km'. The higher the number, the less likely it is you'll be able to find a seat. By this measure the most crowded bus is still the W7 which, along with the 41, delivers residents of Muswell Hill and Crouch End to their nearest tube stations. Note the extremely strong presence of the London borough of Newham in this top 10, where buses are still the favoured way of getting around. The 35's new entry is at the expense of the 507 'Red Arrow' commuter route which no longer packs them in. Most London bus routes carry 2-5 passengers per km.
Most of these buses run round the lanes of rural Bromley and Orpington. The wilds of Hadley Wood, Hampstead, North Ockendon and Roding Valley also get a look in. If you ever fancy an atypical London bus journey with every chance of a seat, this list ticks all the boxes.
The ten bus routes with the greatest annual increase in passengers: 425, 419, 265, 88, 125, 26, 35, 303, 289, 175 The ten bus routes with the greatest annual decrease in passengers: 15H, 209, 72, 45, 67, 25, 12, 485, 27, 388
Don't read too much into these two lists, as most of the big increases and decreases in passenger numbers since last year are the result of TfL changing the route. A number of these relate to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge, which has delivered a boost to the 419 and 265 but a hammerblow to the 209, 72, and 485. Route 67 was cut back from Aldgate to Dalston so its numbers went down 35%. Route 125 was extended from Finchley to Colindale so its numbers went up 21%. The really big winner is the 425 which has the greatest passenger increase of any London bus route for the second year running.... because that's where 3 million of route 25's passengers went.
London's most successful new bus routes (2019/20) 1)X140 Harrow - Heathrow (4,000,000) 2)218 North Acton - Hammersmith (2,450,000) 3)306 Acton Vale - Sands End (2,400,000) 4)278 Ruislip - Heathrow (2,100,000) 5)301 Woolwich - Bexleyheath (1,500,000) 6)335 Kidbrooke - North Greenwich (1,200,000) 7)497 Harold Wood - Harold Hill (57,000)
I mentioned that seven new bus routes started during the survey period. Here's how well they're doing. To put things on an equal footing, given their different start dates, I've calculated average weekly ridership and multiplied this by 52. The clear winner is the express X140 which has nabbed passengers from the shortened 140. The 218 and 306 have very similar totals which is appropriate because they're very similar (overlapping) routes. The 278 has made a strong start in west London; the 301 and 335 less so in the southeast. And you can see just how far adrift the piddly 497 is, very much TfL as public service provider rather than commercial operator.
London's ten busiest nightbuses: N15, N29, N25, N18, N207, N9, N279, N8, N98, N38 London's ten least busy nightbuses: H37, E1, H32, 307, 132, 154, W3, W7, 296, 486
Barely a ripple here since last year's figures.
But next year's figures OMG, next year's will be nuts. They'll begin one week into lockdown when hardly anyone was travelling. They'll include a couple of months when passengers didn't have to pay to board so TfL won't have any data. Some routes returned to normal sooner than others which'll totally distort the rankings. And ridership is still way down, having only just crept up to maybe two-thirds of previous levels, so next year's totals will be incomparable. Make the most of Anorak Corner 2019/20, because it's the last that'll look even vaguely normal for some years to come.