London buses slow to walking pace as traffic jams rise to pre-congestion charge levels

Greener Journeys
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  • One in three routes in the Capital has become more than 5% slower over the past year
  • Online shopping deliveries and rise of Uber contribute to growing congestion crisis

London bus journey times are rising faster than anywhere else in the UK as a result of chronic road congestion that has reduced some bus routes to walking pace, a new report warns today.

A third of routes in the Capital have become 5% slower over the past year, more than five times the national average, with Route 11 from Fulham Town Hall to Liverpool Street Station averaging 4mph at peak times.

The rise in congestion in the Capital has been caused by a growing number of delivery vans and Uber drivers, combined with a 362% increase in roadworks over the past three years, including major projects such as Crossrail, according to the report.

Bus speeds, which increased by 15% in central London after the Congestion Charging Zone was introduced in 2003, have subsequently dropped by 17%, eroding the benefits in a little over a decade.

The rise in journey times means that London is now facing the fastest decline in bus use anywhere in the UK with a 3% drop in journeys last year, according to the independent study, commissioned by Greener Journeys, the sustainable transport group.

But the problem is set to get worse, with congestion in inner London projected to rise by 25% and in outer London by 15% by 2031.

With London’s bus network facing cuts to subsidies worth £400 million per year, TfL officials believe average speeds will have to rise by 24% to make up for the shortfall.

Buses carry more commuters than all other forms of public transport combined and help to generate £64bn per year for local economies, while helping vulnerable people across the country stay connected with their communities.

Across the country bus journey times are currently increasing by 10% per decade – a rate which, if it continues, will cost an estimated 5,000 jobs per year.

But if journey times continue to decline at their current rate, bus passenger numbers will drop by between 10% and 14% every 10 years, putting the future of the bus sector under threat.

Official targets for average bus speeds and the national introduction of contactless payments by 2019, three years earlier than planned, could help to ease congestion according to the report, The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers.

Other measures to be considered include charging van drivers making deliveries during peak hours; introducing more road schemes such as bus lanes; and encouraging bus companies to provide more up-to-date travel information for passengers.

Prof David Begg, Visiting Professor at Plymouth University and former chairman of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport, who authored the report, said:

“Traffic congestion is a disease which if left unchecked will destroy the bus sector. If the trend is allowed to continue, then our urban buses will no longer represent a viable mode of transport for the majority of customers.
“We have to change travel behaviour. If we don’t try to influence people’s travel choices, it will mean that we all have no choice but to sit in ever increasing traffic jams.”

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said:

“This report highlights the shocking growth in congestion blighting major cities across Britain, and particularly the heavy toll it is taking on the bus sector which is vital to our economy and our society.
“A fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road. Giving buses more priority on the roads and introducing contactless payments would make journeys faster and more reliable, encouraging more people to leave their cars at home and easing traffic to benefit all road users.”

To read the report click here.

For further information:

Greener Journeys Press Office or +44 (0)20 3128 8555

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One Comment

Andrea Casalotti

The report states:
” the reduction of road capacity in central London by 25% through the introduction of cycle superhighways”

That seems an absurdly wrong assertion.

Can the author please provide evidence?


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