Buses – consultation on route changes

Transport for London are consulting on their proposed changes to bus routes.  See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/buses/central-london/#Proposing

The Chelsea Society invited the views of its members, and has responded to the Consultation as follows:

SUMMARY

The Chelsea Society was founded in 1927 to preserve and improve the amenities of Chelsea for the public benefit, and it now has more than a thousand members.

Most of the members of The Chelsea Society use the buses, and we are concerned mainly with the section of the Consultation headed “King’s Road, Piccadilly, Shaftesbury Avenue.”

Many of our members are obliged to use buses because there is no step-free access down to the trains at Sloane Square or South Kensington stations.  TfL should make it a priority to provide step-free access at these stations before they reduce any bus services.

Our two biggest concerns are Route 11 and 19, which would no longer serve Chelsea.

Instead of running a fixed timetable (which is impossible to operate on the congested streets of central London) bus Controllers should use modern technology to make more pro-active use of their buses and to communicate with their drivers and passengers.

GENERAL ISSUES

The Society agrees that:

We need to have a public transport system that adapts to varying demand, while supporting economic growth and allowing Londoners to live, work and enjoy life in the Capital.

And that Buses play a unique role in the life of London. They are the most accessible form of public transport and they provide the widest and densest network of travel options for distances that are too long to walk or cycle. Good reliable bus services are fundamental to how people move around the city.

We note that the “Hopper fare” allows passengers to change buses (but not between bus and tube) and to make multiple journeys within one hour at no extra cost. However, this concession has been estimated to cost £35 million and has itself contributed to the financial need to cut bus services, and therefore to make more changes from one bus to another necessary.  Changing buses causes delay and inconvenience, especially at busy times, and in bad weather or when travelling with luggage or children.

We agree with the importance of making the most of the flexibility of the bus network, and we agree that by running too many excess buses we add to the problem of congestion on London’s roads. Congestion not only slows down bus journey times but can also make our services less reliable. When services are slow and unreliable customers will look for alternative means of transport.

Clearly it is unsatisfactory for buses to run with only a few passengers.  They are large vehicles which occupy a substantial amount of road space, and their bus lanes deprive other road users of much-needed road space.  They currently cause air and noise pollution.  It is equally unsatisfactory for buses to be overcrowded.

In the past it was necessary for the buses to run to a rigid published timetable, which was very difficult to operate in view of the frequent and unpredictable traffic delays in central London. However, technology is now available which can improve the service.  GPS technology allows the bus Controller to know exactly where his buses are at any time, satellite and CCTV technology shows the Controller the traffic conditions on the route, and he can communicate by radio telephone with all his drivers.  Also, through digital displays on bus-stops, and mobile-phone apps, the Controller can tell passengers when the next bus is likely to arrive, and CCTV can even tell the Controller how many people are waiting at the stops and how crowded each bus is.

There is no point in having a timetable in Central London, as it cannot be adhered to.  Instead TfL should plan reasonable intervals between buses, which would vary at different times of day, and Controllers should be highly-trained people assisted by modern technology to make more pro-active use of their buses having regard to traffic conditions and passenger-demand from time to time on each route.   TfL should ensure as soon as possible that all bus stops have digital displays, and should immediately replace those which have been removed.  We approve of the interactive displays at bus stops such as the one on the King’s Road opposite Cheltenham Terrace.  The bus stops should also afford better protection from the weather.

We agree that TfL should carefully plan interchanges and bus stop arrangements to make changing bus as simple as possible; and focus any new route interchanges at locations that already provide good passenger facilities e.g. shelter, quality of information, and pavements wide enough to accommodate additional customers.

The more congested the roads in central London are, the more difficult it is to provide efficient bus services.  Our members understand that utility works have to be done, but they do object when they see the streets obstructed when no work is actually being done. Contractors must ensure that they get the necessary labour equipment and materials to the site at the right time, so as to avoid prolonged obstruction.  The police and traffic wardens also need to be more vigilant to prevent obstruction of bus routes by illegal parking and waiting. See  http://chelseasociety.org.uk/kings-road-traffic-management/

Buses are often the only form of transport  for the elderly and infirm who cannot manage the steps on the Tube and the long walks at interchange stations. For these people, curtailing or removing the  two most popular routes ( 11 and 19) would shrink their horizons and lead to further isolation.

People become familiar with the bus routes.  They become part of our everyday life, and no change should be made unless there is a compelling reason.  We see no compelling reason for the changes which are proposed.

We do not see any link between these proposals for the bus routes and our opposition to a Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea.  We opposed this for the reasons set out in detail at http://chelseasociety.org.uk/crossrail-2/

SPECIFIC ROUTES

ROUTE 11

This is one of the most important routes in central London, linking east and west London through Chelsea.

The number 11 has been running for as long as most people can remember.  It takes passengers all the way from Fulham Broadway to the City, and it would be completely unacceptable if this route were to terminate at Victoria and did not serve Chelsea at all.

This is a highly valued route for people living or working in Chelsea as it gives direct access to Westminster and the City.  This is particularly important for people who live or work in the West of Chelsea, with no easy access to Sloane Square and South Kensington Underground stations.

It is the only service taking passengers right across London from residential areas to Westminster and the City, where many of our members work, and conversely from the City and Fleet Street area to the shopping and residential areas of Sloane Square and the Kings Road, for those who find it difficult to travel by tube.

Route 11 serves four busy rail stations: Victoria, Charing Cross, City Thameslink, and Liverpool Street.  It also serves Victoria Bus Station and the Oxford Tube and Airport coaches.

ROUTE 19

This runs from  the south side of Battersea Bridge to Finsbury Park – again a long and much used route from south west London to north east London.

It serves the main shopping areas of the Kings Road, Sloane Square, Sloane Street, Knightsbridge and Piccadilly.  It enables those living at either end of these routes (particularly those from south of the river) to access these major shopping areas.

To curtail this route so that it just runs between Holborn and Finsbury Park is completely unacceptable.

The proposed curtailment of route 19 would mean twice the likely waiting time to get a bus to Piccadilly from King’s Road or Sloane Street, and fewer buses serving the King’s Road itself. There is no direct tube link from Sloane Square to Piccadilly.

Route 19 is the life-line for many of our members, it goes to Sloane Square, Knightsbridge, Green Park, Piccadilly and carries on to the British Museum. This bus is not under-utilised. We do not agree that there is significant spare capacity between Battersea Bridge and Holborn, but if TfL can prove that this is true at particular times of day they could reduce the number of buses on the route at those times, using the technology to which we have referred above.

ROUTE 22

This bus presently gives access from Chelsea to Piccadilly and Oxford Circus, as well as westward to Fulham and Putney.  These are important destinations and the route should not be changed.

TfL admit that it is well used on the section between Chelsea Town Hall and Putney Common

If the 19 were cut, the 22 would have to go on to Piccadilly Circus, and there would then be no direct access to Oxford Circus.  Route 137 from Sloane Square has already been terminated at Marble Arch.

ROUTE 311

It is proposed to introduce a new route, between Fulham Broadway and Oxford Circus via Victoria station.

We do not accept that the 311 would be an adequate replacement for the loss of the 11 and 19 in Chelsea, and there would be no need for a route 311 if our recommendations for the other routes are accepted.

ROUTE 211

No change is proposed to this route, which is vital for access to four major hospitals, the Royal Marsden, the Royal Brompton, the Chelsea and Westminster, and the Hammersmith hospital in one direction, and to Victoria station, Parliament Square, Waterloo station and St. Thomas’s hospital in the other.

 

MICHAEL STEPHEN

Chairman of the Planning Committee

planning@chelseasociety.org.uk

3rd November 2018

 

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