Fighting TfL’s proposed cuts to bus services

The TfL consultation around cuts to bus services across central London closes on Sunday 7th August. We along with many groups in Southwark and our elected representatives believe that these cuts are a bad idea for a host of reasons. If you would like to respond to the consultation – you can either do it using the TfL survey (https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/busreview/survey_tools/busreview-survey) OR you can email TfL at: Haveyoursay@tfl.gov.uk

If you would like to use some of the arguments that we have used (and we are very grateful to Steve Lancashire from Southwark Pensioners Action Group for many of these ideas) please find below the submission that we have made.

The proposed cuts to bus routes are based on unreliable data and take little account of the impact on local people, many of whom are already facing serious and harmful challenges. The area around Walworth and the Elephant and Castle suffers widespread poverty and low life expectancy; it has low car ownership and counts as residents many elderly people, people with disabilities, and young families: all are dependent on public transport, and yet our area is being targeted for cuts to bus services. Walworth Society members believe this to be unfair, unjustified, and based on poor data and faulty reasoning.

  • These proposals will increase isolation and vulnerability, which in turn will adversely impact health and wellbeing of local people. This was a major factor during lockdown as people became trapped in often poor, cramped accommodation. The area is slowly recovering from lockdown but these proposals will significantly reverse this process as visiting friends, attending social activities, outings around London will all be made significantly more difficult.
  • Alternative public transport options are very limited. The Underground covers only a limited area in the north of the Southwark and often feels intimidating, inaccessible and difficult to use, particularly by the elderly, those with disabilities and those with young families. The Overground stations are similarly limited and inaccessible for many. Taxis and private hire vehicles are not an option for the vast majority of local people as they are far too expensive.
  • Hospital appointments and visits will be made more difficult. Guys, St Thomas’s, King’s and the Maudsley hospitals will be harder to get to if these cuts go through as a reduced service will mean people will have to wait longer for a bus and/or make changes more often. This will particularly affect the elderly, those in long term physical or mental ill health, those with disabilities, and those with young children. As a result, people will be discouraged from attending the hospital both to seek help or to visit friends and relatives. The adverse impact on the health of local people could be considerable, and their mental wellbeing seriously undermined.
  • The proposed cuts rely on people changing buses more frequently; as a result, bus stops and buses will be more crowded. This will adversely affect the elderly, wheelchair users and others with additional mobility needs, and parents with buggies. Waiting at stops, particularly at night, is a very intimidating experience for some, and increases the likelihood of assault particularly of women. Low-income workers who work unsocial hours will be also be adversely affected. Moreover, and as a result of this, fear and anxiety connected to travel will be increased by these proposed cuts to service.
  • These proposals will have a seriously detrimental impact on the environment. They run counter to and undermine Southwark Council and the GLA’s response to the climate crisis and will increase carbon emissions. In addition, they go against the specific goals Mayor of London’s adopted Transport Strategy and its modal share targets which rely on the maintenance and growth of travel by public transport. Those who have cars will inevitably switch from public transport to private car journeys. More cars on the road will discourage walking and cycling and make it more dangerous in direct conflict with the Vision Zero targets. More congestion will mean that those with respiratory conditions will see their health deteriorate, putting even greater pressure on an already over-burdened health service.

In conclusion, these proposals are will increase inequality, and are particularly detrimental to the already most disadvantaged. They will negatively impact public health and the environment.

These proposals, moreover, are self-defeating as they will lead to lower levels of bus use and thus reduced income for TfL, which will no doubt lead to calls for even more cuts from the authors of the current proposals.

For these reasons, the proposed cuts to service should be abandoned and the funding issue re-thought in the light of better data, wider consultation and more robust argument.

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