Adiq Khan has taken a partial U-turn on controversial plans to eliminate 22 bus routes and reduce the frequencies of around 60 more following overwhelming response from commuters.
More than 21,500 people made their views known after the cost-cutting proposals, which first surfaced in June, threatened major central London routes including the 4, 12, 14, 24 and 74.
The plans united prominent Tory MPs such as Greg Hands and Nicky Aiken with unions and bus drivers who feared for their jobs.
But the mayor has decided to save all but three routes — 11, 16 and 521 — and shorten or reduce the length of 15 others, including 3, 6, 23, 26, 59, 77 and 133. 25 million a year from the City Hall reserve.
This is in addition to the £500m that the Greater London Authority is already providing for Transport for London to help balance its books. This means TfL – which is under government orders to break even by next April – is increasingly dependent on council tax and business rates bail-outs.
The routes being removed are 11 (Fulham Broadway/Liverpool St), 16 (Victoria/Cricklewood) and 521 (London Bridge/Waterloo).
But confusingly, the numbers 11 and 16 will still appear on the front of the buses, as Routes 507 and 332 will be numbered 11 and 16, respectively.
Altogether three services will be terminated, another 11 day routes will be changed and four night bus routes will be changed. But 55 routes which were under threat in one way or the other have been secured.
Mr Khan, whose late father ran 44 buses, was to consider reducing bus costs by four per cent under government Covid bailout deals.
But after using £25m per year he was able to reduce the impact from “disjointed” business rates and council tax.
This means three of TfL’s 620 bus routes will be scrapped and around 22 per cent of the original proposals will be implemented.
This will mean more commuters will have to change buses to reach their destinations, mainly around Horseferry Road, Fleet Street, Edgware Road and Waterloo.
A hopper fare of £1.65, which is automatically applied for passengers using an Oyster, smartcard or device, allows unlimited travel within an hour.
TfL hopes the changes will improve bus frequencies in central London and allow more services to the suburbs.
Mr Khan said: “The strength felt throughout the capital was clear to me, and I was adamant that I would explore every opportunity available to me to save as many buses as possible.
“This will mean tough decisions elsewhere, but I am very pleased that due to the government’s funding conditions most of the proposed bus routes can now be saved.”
Geoff Hobbs, TfL’s director of public transport service planning, said: “The proposals we are putting forward are ones that have minimal impact on Londoners, as they are areas with very high provision of buses compared to demand.”
Cllr Adam Hugg, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “We urged local people to make their views known during the consultation and it is clear that our collective voices have been clearly heard.”
Cler Kem Kemahali, Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: “It is a huge relief for me and the people of the whole borough that these cuts have been reversed. It is the right decision by TfL and I am grateful to every resident who has contributed to their Join us in making our voices heard.
But broadcaster and DJ Edward Edu, who lives in Cricklewood and uses the 16 bus route, said: “If Jubilee or Thameslink is down and I need to go to Victoria the 16 is handy.
“The hopper fare is a great initiative, but it should not be used to cut bus services and that seems to be what the mayor is doing.
“The 16 bus is vital to the community. It should reconsider its plans and consult with commuters who use it regularly. I don’t think it goes to Kilburn High Road during peak hours. Four buses at peak times Some buses with services cannot cope with fully loaded packs.
Mr Khan’s most recent council tax increase, in April, was £31.93, including £20 for TfL. He plans to continue the £20 TfL levy for at least two more years.
Figures presented to TfL’s finance committee on Wednesday show total passenger earnings are up by more than £600m on the previous year – with the Elizabeth Line £29m ahead of budget – but budgeted slightly lower due to tube and rail strikes, and is still £400m below pre-pandemic levels.
Tube travel has returned to 82 per cent of normal and bus travel to 80 per cent.
Nick Rogers, transport spokesman for the GLA Conservatives, said: “Londoners were at risk of their services being cut completely unnecessarily for months, so I am delighted that Sadiq Khan has finally backed down and changed course.
“Sadiq Khan must now make the necessary reforms to ensure TfL’s funding is sustainable and passengers are not burdened.”
Under the changes, part of Route 332 will be incorporated into the new Route 16 between Brent Park and Paddington.
The 507 number would disappear and the services would be absorbed into part of the new Route 11. The N11 night bus will be “restructured”. The N16 would be renamed the N32.
Routes 4, 12, 14, 24, 31, 45, 72, 74, 78, 242, 349, C3, D7, N31, N72, N74 and N242 will be saved and kept as currently operational.
Routes 3, 6, 11, 23, 26, 59, 77, 133, 211, C10 and N26 will have proposed changes going forward.
Proposed changes to Routes 15, 19, 27, 43, 47, 49, 53, 56, 88, 98, 100, 113, 135, 148, 171, 189, 205, 214, 236, 254, 259, 277, 279 283, 328, 343, 388, 414, 430, 476, D3, N15, N19, N27, N98, N13 and N205 will not be carried forward.
Sian Berry, chair of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “We appreciate TfL’s U-turn today, but still want to ensure that bus commuters will continue to enjoy the benefits given the importance of this special form of public transport to Londoners. Disruption can be kept to a minimum. ,