More than 20 bus routes face the axe

TfL to consult on services including routes 3, 6, 12, 15, 16, 24, 74 & N16

Friday, 3rd June — By Harry Taylor

Stephen Mead

Passenger Stephen Mead: ‘This is a large estate here with a lot of older people’

TRANSPORT chiefs are under fire as several bus routes face the axe.

Passengers and drivers have been left stunned after Transport for London unveiled a consultation on changes to services.

The 24 route, which runs through the West End between Pimlico and Hampstead Heath, is one of 21 routes under threat of closure as part of a cost-saving plan.

It is the longest-running unchanged bus service in the capital, after beginning its run in August 1912. The 24-hour service now faces a six-week consultation on its future. The No 16, which runs through Maida Vale between Victoria and Cricklewood bus garage, is also threatened by the cuts.

As a lunchtime 24 service began its route in Grosvenor Road on Wednesday, passengers told the Extra how it provided a lifeline for them.

John Arbuckle, a retired fishmonger who lives in the Peabody estate in Lupus Street, Pimlico, has mobility problems and uses the bus to get his shopping.

He said: “It’s ridiculous, especially for the old age pensioners who want to get to Sainsbury’s and the chemist in Pimlico. They can’t walk that far when they’re carrying their shopping, they don’t drive, so what are they supposed to do? I rely on it because I’ve got bad hips. If they moved it I’d have to get the bus around the corner to get another bus. It just wouldn’t work.”

The No 24 bus in Pimlico this week

Another, Stephen Mead, who lives in Dolphin Square, was on his way to the Coliseum Theatre, home of the English National Opera, to book tickets.

He said: “This is a large estate here with a lot of older people, you’ve got Peabody and then you have got Churchill Gardens. It’s all right for the younger generation, if they want to take it away it will leave a lot of people very stuck. You get a lot of families using it as well.”

The consultation ann­ouncement is the latest turn in an ongoing war of words between City Hall and Whitehall over funding. TfL’s revenue sources collapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic when people were working from home, and the government has announced increasingly stringent conditions to give them extra funding, with discussions going into the 11th hour.

TfL argues that some services have seen falls in usage up to 9 per cent, but pointed to the need to save money. If the proposed changes go ahead, it could see 24 per cent of journeys involve two buses where it now only needs one. Other Westminster buses affected by potential changes are 3, 6, 12, 15, 16, 74, N16.

The Labour leader of Westminster City Council, Adam Hug, said: “I am deeply concerned that the government’s failure to properly fund Transport for London while we recover from the pandemic may have a real impact on our vital bus network. Buses are a transport lifeline for so many, particularly during this unprecedented squeeze on the cost of living.”

Seb Dance, London’s deputy mayor for transport, said: “No one wants to see reductions to our bus network, but TfL is having to consider these changes because of the savings demanded by the government as part of the emergency funding deals during the pandemic.

“If TfL is to avoid further cuts which would damage our city’s economic recovery from this pandemic, the government must do the right thing and come forward with a long-term funding deal to support the capital’s public transport – as governments of almost all other major global cities do.”

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