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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Hertfordshire and Essex councils cut funding for London Bus cross-boundary services



I am aware of the changes being made to the bus services in Hertfordshire early this year. The local newspaper reported that the council wanted to save £390,000 per year. Also another local newspaper reported that Harrow Council is asking TFL to keep running the cross-boundary London Bus services.


The routes affected are:
·         107: New Barnet – Edgware
·         142: Watford Junction – Brent Cross
·         258: Watford Junction - South Harrow
·         292: Borehamwood – Colindale
·         298: Potters Bar – Arnos Grove

I have done some research and found a Transport Panel on the Hertfordshire County Council website.

Looking at their recent meeting which was held on 08th March 2016, they have a document titled ’Cross-Boundary Bus Service Support Agreement with TfL’.

Let’s take a look what it says:

Purpose of report:
The purpose of this report is to present a summary of the agreement between the County Council and Transport for London (TfL) for cross-boundary support of five of the TfL bus services operating in the County.

The County Council has been providing financial contributions to cross boundary bus services between Transport for London (TfL) and Hertfordshire since 1993. Such agreements are regularly reviewed with the latest arrangement due to end on 31 March 2016.

Yes, before TFL was formed in 2000, it was known as London Regional Transport.

The value of the current agreement is £390,000 per year and supports five of the 16 TfL services that serve the southern areas of the County.

Wow, it cost more than a single New Routemaster bus (£354,500 for the first 600) by £35,500 to fund 5 cross boundary bus services.

In discussion with representatives from TfL, the County Council has informed TfL that it intends not to continue the current arrangement beyond March 2016.

TfL have confirmed that there would be no immediate impact on services serving Hertfordshire and that, if and when services are to be reviewed in the future, this would only be after a full consultation process, to which the County Council would be invited to contribute.

Phew, at least nothing is going to happen to the bus services as their funding has now been cut. Hopefully, the cuts from the Central Government funding cuts to London Bus services in 2019 will be a challenge for London Buses.

Also, there is a petition to save routes 142 and 258 which is also part of the issue with bus cuts.

Hertfordshire is not the first, Essex County Council have done the same to save £586,000

Late last year I became aware of the funding cuts to two cross boundary bus services which came into effect on 1st April 2016.

The local newspaper in the Epping Forest area also did a report on this issue.

And again, I did some research on the Essex County Council website and found the board papers from the Place Services and Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee which was held on 21st January 2016.


Reasons for Making the Call in:
There has been full consultation on all aspects of proposed saving elsewhere in Essex.

There was no local consultation at all on the decision to withdraw the grant to TFL in respect of Routes 20 and 167.

Cabinet was seriously misled by the statement in the Report that this major change “affected two routes in Loughton” as if they were minor town services.
These are main trunk routes, connecting the major centres of Ilford and Walthamstow with the three towns of Chigwell, Loughton, and Buckhurst Hill, which together have a population of some 75,000. Some 480 trips a week are made by Route 20 vehicles, and over 200 by the 167, with 1775286 and 1584558 passengers p.a respectively; the total mileage being some 650000 pa.

If the withdrawal of these routes were to ensue, major disruption would be caused. If commercial replacements were organised, all the benefits of integrated automated ticketing, travel concessions for secondary children, and comprehensive hours of operation would be lost. This would be contrary to ECC policies encouraging modal shift.
                                     
Serious disruption of travel for schoolchildren would occur, and the Head of Davenant Foundation School in particular has deep-seated concerns, as Route 20 is the main distributor for his pupils. The same concerns have been expressed by the Deputy Principal of Epping Forest College

As I write this article, I’ve checked up on the London Vehicle Finder webpage for the above routes and yes, the red buses are still running.

What I'd like to add is, the reason why London Buses are popular is because of the smartcard system which brings in low fares and enables faster boarding. This is another challenge for London Buses as they are facing funding cuts from the Central Government which will occur in 2019.

The issue is the lack of cross-boundary London Bus routes, there are also a handful of non-London bus routes crossing the boundary which are First Berkshire route 7 from Uxbridge to Slough, Arriva Kent & Sussex route 402 from Bromley to Tunbridge Wells and Arriva Kent Thameside route 477 from Orpington to Bluewater via Swanley and Dartford.

According to TFL's Conditions of Carriage, TFL concessions are valid on non-TFL services such as Arriva routes 402 (between Bromley North Station and Knockholt Pound, Three Horseshoes only) and 477 (between Orpington Station and Crockenhill Road, Crouch Farm only.) Contactless bank cards are not valid.

For a bus company to start a cross-boundary route to Greater London, first they have to draw up a route which will link to a town in the Outer London Borough which requires the operator to have a London Service Permit. The fee for a new London Service permit costs £150 plus the bus company needs a fleet of buses which meets the Low Emission Zone requirements. And not to mention the bus company has to pay another fee of £60 to the Traffic Commissioner. It's quite expensive for a bus company to form a bus route to one of the outer London towns. Plus they have to compete with the London Transport concessions like the Oyster Card fares, One Day Bus Pass and Travelcards.

The purpose of bus deregulation (outside London) is to enable bus companies to form their own routes.

As the diesel emission rules are getting stricter, it will be up to TFL to provide more cross-boundary services for the Outer London commuters. Some quick research shows that according to the 2011 census, a large percentage of the Outer London residents travel by car.

That’s all I have to say on this issue for now; you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google Plus which is @CLondoner92


Related article
TFL releases their 2016/17 budget and business plan
Consultation for routes 108, 135, 277, D3, D7 & D8 and A Buses Bill

Image attribution
By Au Morandarte from London, Middlesex, England - Arriva Shires & Essex 6101 on Route 258, South Harrow Station, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34084789
By Stacey Harris, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23344780

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