Bus Priority: The London Perspective

Alex Phillips and David Field
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Bus patronage in London has witnessed significant growth over the last 15 years. In fact journeys have nearly doubled, driven by population growth, service quality improvements and fares policy. Today 6.5 million bus trips are made each weekday, or around 2.4 billion per year. Buses are the main mode of travel for a staggering 21 per cent of trips made in London.

Service quality has been transformed to help drive this growth in demand. The availability of automatic vehicle location data has facilitated a step change in service control and passenger information. This has all been supported by significant investment in bus priority, including bus lanes and physical infrastructure, and selective vehicle detection to allow priority at intersections.

We must not stand still, however. London’s population is forecast to increase from 8.2 million today to over 10 million by 2030, driving the demand for bus services. The way we are using our roads is also changing. We are delivering record investment in public spaces, road safety and cycling through the Roads Modernisation Plan.

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A range of measures will be required to meet these challenges, including continued development of the network, maintenance of excellent reliability of buses and a Bus Priority Programme. Approximately £200 million has been allocated to Bus Priority in the current Transport for London Business Plan, ending in financial year 2021/2022. Through this plan, we will be:

  • Investing in improving reliability through bus priority schemes
  • Investing in improving public transport connections in London’s Opportunity Areas through Growth Schemes
  • Making sure that predicted bus route delays are mitigated through physical interventions.

Transport for London is delivering this programme across all parts of London from the West End to the far suburbs. However, as 80% of the network operates on roads owned by the London boroughs, the success of the programme is dependant upon close working partnerships with the boroughs. Examples of work to date include:

  • Close working with Southwark to mitigate impacts on the bus network around Elephant and Castle and Oval
  • Developing new infrastructure to connect Barking Riverside to surrounding areas
  • Supporting Bexley Council in delivering a scheme that will reduce bus journey times and reduce congestion issues on the A206 in Slade Green

There are many challenges ahead as we face the potential impacts of both the current Spending Review and the Mayoral election next year. It is clear however that investing in bus priority is very good value for money and is essential as London grows. Transport for London has led the way in developing bus priority, and we continue to see bus priority as being at the heart of our investment programme.

Image by: CGP Grey

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