Agenda item

Bus Economics and the Costs of Running Services

To receive a presentation from Transport for London on bus economics and the costs of running services. 


The forum received a presentation from Bob Blitz (Bus Network Planning Manager) and Esther Johnson (Community Partnerships Specialist) from Transport for London.


1.            Presentation


The following points were highlighted in the presentation: 


·         Transport for London’s income has fallen dramatically since the start of the pandemic.  There have been drops of 95% in the number of journey’s being taken on the tube and 85% on the bus network.  On the 13 January 2020, there had been 5.8m journeys on the bus and 3.7m on the tube.  On the 13 January 2021, there were only 1.1m bus journeys and 300,000 on the tube. 

·         A significant amount of Transport for London’s income comes from fares:  72% of the budget.  This has created a huge financial challenge.  It cost £600m a year to run the network.  Over £80m a week.

·         Transport networks in other countries receive far more support from their governments.  Since 2015, Transport for London’s operating grant has been phased out making it even more dependent on fare income. 

·         Before the pandemic Transport for London had been successful in reducing deficits and had been on track to achieve an operating surplus by 2022. 

·         Government support had been critical during the pandemic.  Two short term bailouts had kept the services running. 

·         Transport for London were working on a new sustainability plan to be published shortly. 

·         Transport for London planned to provide a comprehensive bus service in all areas throughout the week.  It was aimed that everyone, all except those in very rural areas, should live within 5 minutes walk of a bus stop.

·         The service should be simple and easy to use, keeping routes as straightforward as possible.  The aim was that all services should be high frequency, reliable, turn up and go with known journey times.  To protect from congestion delays, and unreliability, they could not be too long.  One hour each way was an optimum service.

·         Services also had to provide value for money.  The average cost of a bus was £250,000 per vehicle, per year. 

·         Bus stands with toilets were essential.  These were often difficult to site. 

·         Services were usually tendered for 5-7 years.

·         The threshold for service change was a benefit to cost ratio of 2:1. 

·         It was not possible to do everything that they wanted to do. 

·         Other criteria were also essential such as access to hospitals.

·         Transport for London were always looking to fill gaps in the service. 

·         Parts of Winchmore Hill/Firs Farm area was in a network gap.  The current W10 provided a limited inefficient service.  A new route had been devised. The 456 which would run from Chase Farm Hospital via Winchmore Hill, Firs Farm to North Middlesex Hospital.  At first it would run every 30 minutes during the week to see how the take up went.  The service would be hourly on Sunday. 

·         Consultation on this route had concluded and it was being implemented.  It would start running in March 2021. 

·         There would be fixed stops, not hail and ride.  For disabled access it was necessary to be able to park parallel to the kerb. 


2.            Questions/Comments


2.1       In response to a query on the hail and ride service, the Mayor’s policy was always for fixed bus stops so that they meet the wheelchair accessible standard. It is recognised that this is not always straightforward due to issues around removing parking spaces, which was often unpopular.  It was also not always easy to find a site where buses could pull up at the kerb and move away easily. 


2.2       A standard bus stop would be normally installed although discussions with Council officers were taking place about the designs to be used conservation areas. Officers were also continuing to engage with affected conservation groups to try and minimise the impact where practicable. 


2.3       There had been some concerns from residents about the route along Farm Road.  These concerns were being considered by TfL and the Council, along with the wider benefits of the new route.


2.4       Residents were always consulted before bus routes were introduced. 


2.5       Capital costs relating to the provision of bus stops were not included in TfL’s cost/benefit calculations when considering new routes..  Transport for London worked on a revenue basis as infrastructure costs were quite small in comparison to the revenue expenses. 


2.6       Concern about the negative impact on the conservation area of the one size fits all bus stops, the additional street furniture and road markings, particularly in the rural environment of Clay Hill.  The concerns raised by the study group were being considered to help inform the final designs.


2.7       A concern about the safety of some of the stops in Clay Hill was raised. It was confirmed that a site visit had been carried out with Police to specifically look any road safety issues as part of the design process.


2.8       It was not envisaged that two buses an hour would have a significant impact on traffic congestion or cyclists.  Many conservation areas in London had bus stops.


2.9       Tfl confirmed that a wide ranging consultation had been carried out on the 456 route. 


The Chair thanked the representatives from Transport for London for their presentation, for members useful and detailed comments and summed up as follows: 


Discussion on concerns raised about the new bus route were continuing between Transport for London and Council officers.  The situation was evolving.  Various issues were still being considered by the Council, including the impact on heritage and conservation areas, particularly Clay Hill, as well as parking in Farm Road.