Transport for London announces potential cuts to Westminster bus routes

London's longest running bus route the 24 among those facing axe under TfL cuts

Wednesday, 1st June — By Harry Taylor

24 bus in Pimlico

The 24 bus at the start of its service in Grosvenor Road, Pimlico

PASSENGERS and drivers have been left stunned by news that the 24 bus could be axed by Transport for London, as it announced a consultation on changes to central London services.

The route, which runs through Victoria, Westminster and the West End between Pimlico and Hampstead Heath, is one of 21 that City Hall say could be withdrawn as transport chiefs say that cuts are needed to bridge a funding gap left by the pandemic and spasmodic negotiations with central government. Another is the 16, that runs through Maida Vale between Victoria and Cricklewood Bus Garage.

It is the longest running unchanged bus service in London, after beginning its run in August 1912. The 24-hour service now faces a six-week consultation on its future.

As a lunchtime service began its route in Grosvenor Road yesterday (Weds), 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 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.”

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 alright 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 76-year-old said: “I use it a lot for the West End and going to the theatre or opera and it’s invaluable.”

Bus user Stephen Mead on the 24 bus in Pimlico

Drivers at the stop in South End Green, Hampstead, where the bus terminates were in shock on Wednesday. Abellio, the firm that TfL outsources the bus contract to had not told them about the news when the Extra broke it to them during a tea break.

“I can’t believe it,” one said. “It’s absolutely shocking. It’s a key route, it’s always busy and they have only just refurbished the buses. You get people using it for the Royal Free Hospital and UCLH, it goes through the West End, I just don’t understand it. If there’s one route they should want to keep it’s the 24.”

The consultation announcement is the latest turn in an ongoing row between City Hall and Whitehall over funding. TfL’s revenue sources collapsed during the pandemic when people were working from home, and the government has announced increasingly stringent conditions to give them extra funding.

Under the plans, the 24 bus would be stopped. Instead the 214 would run from Pimlico to Highgate Village, via Kentish Town. The 88 would run from Parliament Square to the 24’s current terminus in South End Green.

TfL argue 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 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.

“What’s important now is we study the detail of what is being proposed and how it will impact journeys across Westminster. Local people know best how these changes may affect them. It’s very important that as many people as possible get involved with the consultation, and as the Council we will be supporting them to ensure their views are clearly heard by central Government, TfL, and the Mayor’s office.”

Seb Dance, Sadiq Khan’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.”

Abellio has been contacted for comment.

You can respond to the consultation link here: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/busreview

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