Car giant Ford is planning to launch an on-demand rush-hour commuter service linking Shooters Hill and Kidbrooke with North Greenwich station in January.
The firm’s Chariot offshoot, which runs bus-like minivans in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and Austin, Texas, is proposing to launch in London, its first non-US city, next year, with six different services.
Users book a seat on one of the services with an app – as they would with Uber or a taxi app – but the minivans will run to a timetable, just like a bus.
The Shooters Hill Shot would run every 10 minutes each morning – if there is demand – from back streets on Shooters Hill – Plum Lane, Dalin Road, Eglinton Hill, Condover Crescent, Moordown, Donaldson Road. It would then pick up in Kidbrooke – Corelli Road, Dursley Road, Hargood Road and Begbie Road – before running fast to North Greenwich station.
The service would operate in the reverse direction each evening, with buses picking up from the bus stop on Millennium Way rather than North Greenwich bus station.
Many of the streets served by the Shooters Hill Shot do not currently see a bus service, although some of the stops in the Kidbrooke would be shared with the existing 386 service.
There are no details on what fares would be charged, although the San Francisco service charges $5 (£3.77) per trip during peak hours, with monthly passes also available.
The service is not part of the Transport for London network so wouldn’t come under the Oyster system, but Chariot has had to apply to TfL for a licence to run the service. A consultation is open until 18 December, with Chariot hoping to begin on 29 January.
Another route, the Nuxley Navigator, is due to run from Carlton Road, Erith, to Abbey Wood station, picking up at Parsonage Manorway, Matfield Road, Stream Way, Orchard Avenue, Glenview and West Heath Road.
Four other routes are planned: the Southwark Shortcut (Peckham to Bermondsey station), the Battersea Bullet (to Kennington station), the Riverside Racer (between Fulham and Holland Park), and the Wandsworth Wanderer (to Clapham Junction).
Chariot’s San Francisco service was briefly suspended last month after failing safety checks. It has also been reported that the firm was warned for mimicking and congesting existing bus routes in the California city, although this is unlikely to happen in London’s highly regulated environment.
With gaps in the network and existing bus services under pressure from cuts and fare freezes, innovative commercial services may well be the best hope for many people who want a relatively reliable rush hour journey – if they can afford to pay the extra fare.
Earlier this year, transport app Citymapper briefly ran a “pop-up” bus service in Central London. It is currently running a night-time service, the CM2, between Highbury & Islington and Aldgate, and a “black bus” service in conjunction with taxi app Gett. It is also planning to launch a a “demand responsive” service in St Albans.
Help support 853’s coverage of issues in Greenwich and south-east London: patreon.com/853