diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 23, 2022

This question was recently submitted as a Freedom of Information request, and TfL responded last week.
Could you please provide me a list of all bus routes that were introduced after the year 2000?
It's an interesting question, or at least it might be if you're interested in bus routes, public transport or local London politics.

Unfortunately TfL refused to give an answer.
"I can confirm that we hold some of the information you require. However, I am afraid that it is not possible to source the information to respond within the costs limit set out under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act."
Too much work, it turns out.
"Under section 12, TfL is not obliged to provide information if it would cost more than £450 to determine if that information is held, and to then locate, retrieve or extract that information from elsewhere. This is calculated at a rate of £25 per hour, equivalent to 18 hours work."
18 hours is approximately equivalent to half a working week, and yet TfL claim they can't unearth an answer in that time. This made me wonder how bad their records are... and I decided that they could be very bad indeed. Perhaps everything's stored on paper files, perhaps most of those files are archived, perhaps there was once a spreadsheet but it's out of date, perhaps a software upgrade lost everything, perhaps data was once thrown out as unnecessary or perhaps nobody keeps any kind of history at all. I've worked in a big organisation and observed a cavalier attitude to retaining information from even two years ago, let alone 22.
"In this case the exemption applies because the information has not been collated before and there is no quick or efficient way of doing so."
I humbly disagree. I could knock together a list of "all bus routes that were introduced after the year 2000" in well under 18 hours, indeed I have and it took less than three.
87, 129, 135, 148, 205, 218, 228, 254, 272, 301, 304, 306, 323, 324, 332, 333, 335, 343, 347, 349, 350, 360, 363, 370, 372, 375, 377, 378, 382, 385, 388, 390, 393, 394, 395, 405, 406, 414, 415, 418, 423, 424, 425, 427, 430, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 440, 452, 453, 456, 460, 470, 476, 481, 482, 483, 486, 488, 491, 493, 497, 498, 533, 549, 705, E11, EL1, EL2, EL3, H9, H19, R6, R10, RV1, U5, X26, X140
I started with a list of all the TfL bus routes that operate today and then cross-checked it against all the routes operating at the start of the year 2001.

I have a list of every current bus route because that's the kind of guy I am (and because I once tried riding every bus route in London and you need a list for that). I assume TfL have a similar list because they actually have to pay companies to operate them, and if not then Robert Munster maintains an up-to-date list at londonbusroutes.net/routes

A list of all the routes in operation at the start of 2001 is easy, you just need copies of the quadrant bus maps published in December 2000 which list the whole lot on the back. Obviously I have copies, and I know for certain that TfL have copies because they're listed in the artefacts held by the London Transport Museum at Acton Depot.

If a bus route runs today but didn't run at the end of 2000 then it's been introduced since, QED.

Actually it's a bit trickier than that because some route numbers might have been recycled, some have been used by operators other than TfL and some routes have been both introduced and withdrawn. Rest assured that I did additional quality checks by referring to Mike Harris's Greater London Bus Maps from August 2003 and March 2011 and also the All London bus guide (November 1999), which is one reason why this task took me more than one hour rather than less.

The other reason it took longer is I wanted to confirm that all these new bus routes really had started since 2000. For this I went to Ian Armstrong's outstanding historical record londonbuses.co.uk which lists dates and changes on every London bus route since 1934 and nodded when I saw a 21st century start date.

I could in fact have used Ian's website to generate the entire 'introduced after 2000' list, as could TfL, but slogging through the entire collection would have taken rather longer. Still less than 18 hours though, just saying.

This extra check allows me to create a more detailed list, over and above what the original questioner requested.

A list of all bus routes that were introduced after the year 2000, by year of introduction
2001: 406, 343, 486, 405, 424, 377, 491, 394, R6
2002: 418, RV1, 272, 440, E11, 205, 705, 435, 148, 372, 414, 430, 493
2003: 323, 333, 360, 388, 390, 393, 432, 436, 453, 476, 254, 363, 460, 382, 470, 434, 549
2004: U5, 349, H9, 347
2005: 427, X26, 498
2006: H19, 481, 87, 129, 452
2007: 385, 332, 370
2008: 350, 415, 423, 482, 135, 375, 425, 488, R10
2009: 228, 395
2010: EL1, EL2, 324
2011:
2012:
2013:
2014:
2015: 433
2016: 483
2017: EL3
2018:
2019: 301, 378, 533, 335, 218, 278, 306, X140
2020: 497, 456
2021:
2022: 304
If you know London bus routes you'll be looking at that list and going "oh, that's interesting". And even if you don't, the spread of dates speaks volumes about the expansion of London's bus network. At the start of the 2000s there was a real push to fill in gaps and increase capacity, peaking in 2003 with 17 new routes. Two-thirds of the new routes were introduced during Ken Livingstone's mayoralty, and none at all during peak Boris between 2011 and 2014. Sadiq's tally is barely a dozen, the majority of which were introduced to link to Crossrail and two of which exist only because Hammersmith Bridge is closed.

Arguably not all of these new routes are new.
Some are renumberings of old routes, e.g. 77A→87, T33→433, 387→EL3
Some are renumberings of old routes tweaked a bit, e.g. 726→X26, 348→347, S2→488, 369→EL1, W10→456
Some are long routes split into two overlapping parts, eg. 10→10+390, 63→63+363
Some are 'country' routes taken over by TfL, e.g. 370, 372, 375, 377
Some are circular routes getting a new number for anticlockwise journeys, i.e. H9, H19, R10

But that's not what the original questioner asked. They just wanted a list of routes introduced since 2000 and that's what I've produced... or have I?
"Any attempt to compile such a list would require a manual check - probably of well over 1000 different records - in order to differentiate permanent changes from other changes including temporary routes, mobility routes, schools variations and night services. Any information held by TfL would also omit non-TfL bus routes - i.e. commercial routes that serve London."
OK, so I haven't considered temporary routes. There have been plenty including the 508, 563, 588, 718 and 733, but I assumed we weren't interested in those.
OK, so I haven't considered mobility routes. That's because they've only been withdrawn, not added.
OK, so I haven't considered school buses. That's because keeping track of those is a living nightmare, and also because nobody cares.
OK, so I haven't considered night services. They're a law unto themselves, sometimes sharing the number of a daytime service and sometimes introduced only because their daytime partner has been tweaked.
OK, so I haven't considered non-TfL routes. That's because this was a TfL FoI, so obviously you don't include those.

I assumed the questioner wanted to know about standard daytime TfL buses, but TfL's Case Officer broadened the net somewhat and opened a whole can of worms. Adding temporary routes, school routes and night services into the mix would indeed make the question far harder to answer, quite possibly breaking that 18 hour limit.

Also my research has been comprehensive but won't be 100% correct. I'll have missed something or mistyped something making my list 'wrong', whereas an FoI response is supposed to be right. I expect various Men Who Like Buses will chip in and point out some of my mistakes in the comments, because crowd-sourcing is a brilliant editing tool, but that's not a luxury open to the TfL employee saddled with answering this FoI request.
"While it is not possible to give an entirely accurate estimate of how long it would take to compile (and note that we may not hold information covering the entire 22-year span of your request), we believe the time required would be well in excess of the 18 hour limit."
I still think it's piss poor that TfL's resources aren't up to answering this question, and that rather than answering a simpler version they've simply thrown up their hands and gone 'too hard'. But that's the game with FoI requests, the organisation will always try to wheedle out of them if you're not precise enough with your initial request.
Q: Could you please provide a list of all London Transport/Transport for London bus routes that were introduced after the year 2000, not including temporary routes, mobility routes, schools variations and night services.
I have no idea if the person who asked the original question intends to clarify it further, and I have no way of knowing if they'll ever see my answer here.
A: 87, 129, 135, 148, 205, 218, 228, 254, 272, 301, 304, 306, 323, 324, 332, 333, 335, 343, 347, 349, 350, 360, 363, 370, 372, 375, 377, 378, 382, 385, 388, 390, 393, 394, 395, 405, 406, 414, 415, 418, 423, 424, 425, 427, 430, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 440, 452, 453, 456, 460, 470, 476, 481, 482, 483, 486, 488, 491, 493, 497, 498, 533, 549, 705, E11, EL1, EL2, EL3, H9, H19, R6, R10, RV1, U5, X26, X140
But I would like to offer my services to TfL in case they ever get any other FoI questions about historic bus routes, because I'd be very happy to take a fee of £25 an hour to answer queries their organisation won't, or more likely can't.


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