diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 02, 2021

Anorak Corner [bus edition] (annual update)

Hurrah, TfL have silently 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 2020 - March 2021.

Normally these updates have some kind of statistical relevance, but the pandemic has impacted travel and data collection to such an extent that much of the information is intrinsically meaningless. The survey period began one week into lockdown when hardly anyone was travelling. For a couple of months only essential travel was permitted so buses were shuttling mostly air. From mid-April passengers didn't have to pay to board so TfL don't have any data about number of passengers carried. Some routes returned to normal payment sooner than others which'll have distorted the ultimate rankings. As regulations eased ridership remained way down on normal, rarely creeping above two-thirds of previous levels. And then the end of the survey period coincided with yet another lockdown when passenger numbers collapsed again.

The data is so incomparable with previous years that TfL's spreadsheet even includes an extra column excluding the three most atypical months. I've instead chosen to use the full 12 months of data to demonstrate total pandemic impact, and have knocked up my usual Top 10 lists anyway (including changes in ranking since the heady days of 2019/20). The following lists should give some indication of travel, but best read nothing definitive into any of them.

London's ten busiest bus routes (2020/21)
  1) -- 18 Euston - Sudbury (6.1m)
  2) -- 149 London Bridge - Edmonton Green (6.1m)
  3) -- 29 Trafalgar Square - Wood Green (5.3m)
  4) ↑9 279 Manor House - Waltham Cross (5.1m)
  5) ↑6 5 Canning Town - Romford (5.1m)
  6) ↑2 86 Stratford - Romford (5.0m)
  7) ↓1 25 Holborn Circus - Ilford (4.9m)
  8) ↓4 207 White City - Southall (4.9m)
  9) ↑1 109 Brixton - Croydon (4.6m)
10) ↓1 36 Queens Park - New Cross Gate (4.5m)

The next ten: 53, 243, 254, 253, 140, 182, 55, 35, 183, 185

The 18 remains London's busiest bus route, although this year it was nearly overtaken by the 149. To give you some idea of how passenger numbers have tumbled, in the year before the pandemic route 18 recorded 16 million passengers but in the last year it's only managed 6 million. Meanwhile only thirteen bus routes managed to convey more than four million passengers, which is down from over 200 last year.

Note that the Top 10 are all services along busy radial corridors, thus key routes for moving key workers. Note too that half the top 10 don't serve central London, because that's not where the busiest patronage has been. Southwest London is not represented.

London's ten least busy bus routes (2020/21)
  1) -- 399 Barnet - Hadley Wood (4507)
  2) -- 389 Barnet - Underhill (5260)
  3) ↑2 R10 Orpington - Orpington ↺ (8858)
  4) -- H3 Golders Green - Hilltop (9017)
  5) ↑2 R5 Orpington - Orpington ↻ (9462)
  6) ↑3 347 Romford - Ockendon (14145)
  7) ↓1 W10/456 Enfield - Crews Hill (14693)
  8) -- 385 Chingford - Crooked Billet (16196)
  9) ↑2 549 South Woodford - Loughton (21686)
10) ↑4 R8 Orpington - Biggin Hill (22966)

The next ten: 375, 146, 497, 327, U10, 467, 485, 404, 346, R2

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, and during a pandemic especially so. None of these ten routes averaged more than 100 passegers a day.

Last year's Top 10 included heritage Routemasters on route 15, but these have now been retired allowing other routes to climb slightly. The biggest turbulence comes from the replacement of route W10 (four buses a day) with the extended 456 (a half-hourly service). This change took place in mid-March 2021, just before the end of the survey period, with 5000 passengers in those three weeks and only 9000 passengers in the previous 49 weeks, so don't expect to see route 456 troubling this list again.

Last year's newcomer was the 497, a minor route running not very far not very often in outer Havering. Its first year with a complete set of figures sees it settle in 13th place, confirming it's very much not a route that's making TfL any money. As for the 404, extending its route in March 2020 hasn't done much for its overall ranking, merely nudged it from 15th to 18th place.

London's ten most travelled bus routes (2020/21)
  1) ↑2 38 Victoria - Clapton (1,995,000km)
  2) ↑6 5 Canning Town - Romford (1,958,000km)
  3) ↑1 111 Kingston - Heathrow (1,917,000km)
  4) ↑1 86 Stratford - Romford (1,834,000km)
  5) ↓3 18 Euston - Sudbury (1,809,000km)
  6) -- 113 Oxford Circus - Edgware (1,803,000km)
  7) ↑1 36 Queens Park - New Cross Gate (1,784,000km)
  8) ↑1 182 Harrow Weald - Brent Cross (1,765,000km)
  9) ↑4 53 Lower Marsh - Plumstead (1,707,000km)
10) ↑4 102 Brent Cross - Edmonton (1,684,000km)

The next ten: 183, 96, 34, 65, 149, 207, 55, 13, 466, 174

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 111 and 113) tend to travel the furthest. These are the stalwarts of the London bus network.

What's particularly significant is that their mileages are incredibly similar to last year's. Buses carried on pounding the streets at regular intervals even in the absence of passengers, requiring the same outlay on staff and vehicles but with a considerably lower income from fares. Providing a public service by running the same timetable with a 60% drop in passengers won't have helped TfL's bottom line, which helps to explain why substantial government grants have been needed to keep the system operational.

More than 160 different London bus routes exceeded 1 million km in annual service, which is pretty much the same number as last year. Meanwhile the 389 remains London's least travelled bus route, covering just under 8000 km per year.

London's ten most crowded bus routes (2020/21)
  1) ↑1 330 Canning Town - Forest Gate (4.3 passengers per km)
  2) ↑2 238 Stratford - Barking (4.2)
  3) ↑4 69 Canning Town - Walthamstow (3.9)
  4) ↓1 104 Stratford - Manor Park (3.9)
  5) ↑3 58 East Ham - Walthamstow (3.8)
  6) ↓1 41 Archway - Tottenham Hale (3.8)
  7) ↑4 149 London Bridge - Edmonton Green (3.7)
  8) ↑1 109 Brixton - Croydon (3.7)
  9) ↓3 29 Trafalgar Square - Wood Green (3.5)
10) ↑10 279 Manor House - Waltham Cross (3.5)

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'. In normal times this means the higher the number, the less likely it is you'll be able to find a seat. During a pandemic it suggests something rather different, namely that these are the routes people continued to use even during lockdown while others worked or shopped from home. It's therefore not unsurprising to see that the top 5 all serve East London, particularly Newham, where residents are more likely to be car-less key workers. No routes in the western half of the capital appear in the Top 10.

The biggest upset is that the 'most crowded' bus of the last few years, the W7, has tumbled from the top spot to 14th place. It exists to deliver residents of Muswell Hill and Crouch End to the tube station at Finsbury Park, but the slump in commuters heading into central London has meant that considerably fewer people have needed to ride it.

London's ten emptiest buses: R5, R10, 146, R8, H3, 399, R2, 347, 404, 497

Half of these buses run round the lanes of rural Bromley and Orpington. The wilds of Hadley Wood, Hampstead, North Ockendon, Coulsdon and Harold Hill also get a look in. These are very much the buses TfL provide as a public service without expecting financial payback.

The five routes with the biggest fall in passengers (2019/20 to 2020/21)
  1) 209 Mortlake - Castelnau (↓ 89%)
  2) 521 Waterloo - London Bridge (↓ 87%)
  3) 507 Waterloo - Victoria (↓ 76%)
  4) 129 North Greenwich - Greenwich (↓ 76%)
  5) X68 West Croydon - Russell Square (↓ 75%)

The next ten: 452, 346, A10, 22, 33, 146, 138, W7, 9, 100

The average TfL route lost 60% of its passengers in 2020/21, but some have properly plummeted because they no longer perform a useful function. The four biggest decreases are all on short routes designed to feed passengers to or from a station, topped by the 209 whose normal route has been stymied by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. Next come the two high frequency peak hour single deckers in central London, the 507 and 521, because they've had far far fewer commuters to distribute. The X68 in contrast is a long distance express route, but again operates in peak hours which is where the greatest impact has been felt.

London's ten busiest nightbuses: N15, N29, N18, N207, N279, N25, N9, N8, N98, N155

In terms of rankings, London's ten busiest nightbuses remain in a similar order to before the pandemic. In terms of passengers, however, numbers are down by about two thirds.

The busiest single deckers: W15, 235, 195, 170, 276, 316, 450, C10, 366, C11
The least busy double deckers: 467, X68, 129, 412, 317, 423, 498, 335, 492, 406

As I said earlier, it's unwise to draw long-term conclusions from these atypical and unreliable figures. But the biggest takeaway is that TfL continued to deliver a near-full bus service over an unprecedentedly difficult year with far fewer passengers, which was outstanding public service management but won't have done anything to help the organisation's finances. They'll be fervently hoping that 2021/22 edges back towards a more sustainable pattern of bus travel, and this time next year we can come back and see how things turned out.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards