Greenwich Council leader: I’ll stand up for residents over 53 bus cut

Route 53
The 53 is a busy link between central London and Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe says he will stand up for residents who are unhappy about TfL proposals to cut route 53 back to County Hall.

The heavily-used service links Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath with Whitehall; but TfL documents leaked to 853 this week reveal plans to cut it back to County Hall.

Other south-east London services affected by the proposals – which TfL says is about dealing with excess capacity in central London – include the 171 from Bellingham to Holborn (cut back to the Elephant & Castle) and 172 from Brockley Rise to Clerkenwell Green (cut back to Aldwych).

A public consultation is expected in September, with the cuts due to take effect from March 2019.

Thorpe told 853: “The opening of the Elizabeth Line will mean parts of the borough are more connected than they used to be, but with only one tube station and a handful of mainline stations, the fact remains that thousands of our residents depend on the bus as their main mode of transport.

“Some of the most deprived parts of the borough, where fewer people own cars, are also the furthest from train stations. About half of all bus passengers are pensioners, children, disabled people and others who rely on discounted or free fares to get around. This means that any cuts to bus services are likely to hit the people who don’t have access to other modes of transport, or can’t afford ever rising train fares, the hardest.

“We have been invited to meet with TfL to find out more before they launch a public consultation on 19 September. Needless to say we will be paying close attention to the detailed proposals and standing up for our residents when we respond. We will also be urging all bus passengers in the borough to complete the consultation to tell TfL how they will be affected by the changes.”

Meanwhile, Lewisham Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft – whose constituency covers the 53, 171 and 172 – has appealed for constituents to get in touch with her.

Budget problems

TfL is grappling with budget problems after Evening Standard editor George Osborne scrapped its day-to-day government grant when he was chancellor. TfL also has to deal with a four-year fare freeze from mayor Sadiq Khan, while bus passenger numbers are falling thanks to increased congestion and competition from heavily-subsidised Uber minicabs.

853‘s story has been picked up by media outlets across London, including ITV News London, where mayor Khan said the resources saved in central London would be reallocated to services in outer London.

It has also been picked up by the Hackney Gazette, where plans to scrap one service altogether have been sharply criticised by Hackney Council.

The story was also lifted by Osborne’s Evening Standard without credit.

A second set of bus cuts affecting south-east London was confirmed on Friday, when TfL said it would be switching route 180 from Lewisham to North Greenwich, halving the service between Greenwich and Woolwich.

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