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Is it time to bring back the bendy bus?

With over two billion passenger journeys a year, bus usage is around double that of the London Underground. But bus passenger numbers are in decline.

Between 2014/15 and 2016/17, the number of passenger journeys made on buses fell by six per cent.[1]

The primary reason for the fall in usage appears to be the rise in traffic congestion on London’s roads.

There has been an increase in ‘excess wait time’ for bus passengers of 20 per cent in the three years to 2015/16.[2]

The Mayor has set out ways in which TfL will try to reverse this trend, but will the measures be radical enough? London’s bus network needs to change as the city grows and evolves and the area of London most in need of additional bus capacity is outer London.

In its second piece of important work on the capital’s buses, the London Assembly Transport Committee report ‘London’s bus network’ was published 17 August 2017. It tackles the difficult decisions facing the Mayor and TfL.  The report recommends:

  • Moving towards a more efficient network design based on the principles of the feeder/trunk model.[3]  Articulated buses (aka bendy buses) might be the best option for these routes as they provide both a higher capacity and faster loading/unloading than standard double decker vehicles.
  • Improving the bus experience to attract new passengers, including the information provided online, at bus stops and on-board, and making it easier for people to change. TfL should also consider introducing Wi-Fi on buses.
  • Prioritising new orbital bus routes and express buses.
  • Redistributing bus capacity to outer London. There are currently too many buses in central London.
  • Reforming the bus service tendering process.
  • Tackling congestion to halt the decline in passenger numbers.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee said;

“As a Committee, we’ve looked in detail at London’s buses in the past year – and what we’ve discovered has highlighted the urgency for change.

There’s a huge demand for more buses in Outer London - but at the same time, we need to make bus travel more attractive to passengers. Express buses, orbital routes and Wi-Fi will help to give buses a much needed boost.

Bendy buses are controversial – but in outer London they may be the solution to more capacity on routes that feed stations. They also increase accessibility, with more space for wheelchairs.

Reducing congestion is only going to be possible if we give drivers more viable public transport alternatives. The Mayor and TfL need to make jumping on a bus a more pleasant passenger experience.