Tfl bus route changes criticised for impact on elderly and infirm

Councillors Ian Rathbone, Feryal Demirci and Sam Pallis, with the #MyRouteMatters petition. Pic: Hackney Labour

By Parisa Borghei and Dina Nagapetyants

Planned cuts in bus services across several Eastlondonlines boroughs are likely to seriously hinder travel accessibility for the elderly or infirm, who rely on buses as their main means of transportation, councillors have warned.

TfL has  made a proposal for 33 bus routes to be changed and altered around the capital, leading to many of the EastLondonLines boroughs to be affected.

In Hackney, the existing campaign to stop cuts to essential bus services is set to continue, with Hackney Council pushing for Transport for London to reconsider their plans for significant changes to Hackney’s bus routes.  

Hackney will be the borough most affected by TfL’s plans, with 16 of the proposed 32 bus route changes, and two of the three cancelled routes. However, several of the routes, such as the 277 to Highbury, also serve passengers in Tower Hamlets.  

Hackney Labour councilors have handed in a #MyRouteMatters petition, signed by over 1,600 people, to TfL in the hopes to get them to ‘seriously reconsider’ the proposed bus cuts to essential  routes in the borough.  

TfL’s changes include the complete removal of the 48 service which connects Hackney to London Bridge and the City, as well as further cuts to essential routes such as the 242, which residents use when going to Bart’s Hospital.  

“We found out by accident,” said Lea Bridge ward councillor Ian Rathbone. “TfL did not tell us about it or hold a consultation with Hackney residents.” Those living in this ward rely on buses and are likely to be hit hard by TfL’s cuts.  

Hackney councillior Ian Rathbone and  Deputy Hackney Mayor and Feryal Demirci with #MyRouteMatters petition Pic: Hackney Labour

He questioned the wisdom behind cutting bus services to one of the most deprived areas of the country: “Are they running a business or a service for members of the public?” 

Suggesting that TfL would do well to consult with residents that would be affected before implementing cuts, Rathbone added: “They are a law unto themselves. It’s time they were held accountable.”  

Other Hackney services which will be affected by frequency cutbacks are the 42, 48, 106, 141, 236, 242, 243, 276, 349, 488, and N38. Bus routes which have already been affected by previous TfL cuts, such as the 277, are also to be cut further.  

Chantelle Jordan-Amon, who frequently takes the 277 bus with her children, was dismayed to learn that it was one of the routes to be cut down.

“They’re not worrying about people with disabilities and elderly people,” she said.

Matthew Smith, also from the Hackney central area, said that “London is one of the best cities for bus transport. Most people can’t afford the tube.”

Proposed changes to Hackney bus routes Pic: Hackney Labour

Hackney Deputy Mayor Feryal Demirci, who is also Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “It just isn’t fair to Hackney residents- who rely so heavily on buses- to have their services cut in this way which leaves no direct route to the City, and longer waits for a bus to come.” 

“We ask TfL to think of those who are mobility impaired and older, and on those with young children.” 

In Croydon, ELL found that commuters confirmed TfL’s proposed changes to several bus routes in Croydon town centre would largely affect the elderly and disabled.  

Daisy, 42, who declined to give her second name, was waiting at the 250 bus stop in Croydon and told ELL: “I think it’s tragic for bus users, cause I think the 250 takes an isolated route…obviously people depend on the route and for the elderly and disabled, it would make them isolated and they are already vulnerable as it is.”  

Croydon bus routes that are due to be affected by the cutbacks are the 50, 75, 109, 154, 197, 250, 269, 403, 405, 412 and 433. TfL has said that these changes could lead to a “simpler and more efficient” city.  

TfL released a public consultation in Croydon, where passengers can voice their opinions about the proposed bus improvements. The consultation will close on Sunday,  January 13, 2019.  

Councillor Stuart King, head of environment, transport and regeneration, told ELL: “I would encourage all users of these bus services to take part in the consultation so that Transport for London are provided with a very clear view of what their passengers think of these proposals. If your journey is likely to be impacted by these proposals you should certainly make your views known.” 

Tower Hamlets have no particular changes, however, some routes have been proposed for consultation.

A spokesperson for TfL gave the reasons for the bus cuts: “Central London buses aren’t being used and they are causing themselves congestion…the plan is to restructure buses that go through London and have them terminate near their respected destinations, making it more efficient for passengers.”

The map below illustrates the decline in bus capacity usage from 2014/15 to 2017/18. The statistics for Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Lewisham show a decline ranging from 9 to 10% in the boroughs’ bus usage.

Bus capacity utilisation by borough from 2014/15 to 2017-18 Pic: Transport for London

In Lewisham, TfL proposed in August that bus routes 53, 171 and 172 were to be changed. The consultation closed on November 9 2018, and the changes are still currently being finalised as the rest of Central London routes are still being worked on.

There was an opposing campaign running during November by local Lewisham residents, #53AllTheWay. Bryan and Keegan a real estate company, tweeted the campaign, where locals in Lewisham protested to save the route from being changed.

Lewisham protest against 53 bus route being cut Pic: @BryanandKeegan

Hackney Council is still hoping to scale back some of TfL’s proposed changes. “It’s not an end,” said Councillor Sam Pallis, after submitting the petition.  The sentiment was echoed by Rathbone, who told ELL: “We don’t give up.”

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