Mayor Khan swings axe on SE London’s commuter bus links as 53, 171 and 172 cut

53 bus
Route 53 will be cut back from June, TfL has confirmed

London mayor Sadiq Khan is pressing ahead with plans to cut bus routes linking SE London with the centre of the capital, despite opposition from local politicians and bus users.

The 53, which links Woolwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Deptford with Whitehall, will be cut back to run from Plumstead to County Hall from June 15. It will only run to Whitehall for night services, which will be renumbered N53. Day services will also be cut from every seven and a half minutes to every eight minutes.

Route 171, which runs between Bellingham and Holborn will be cut back to Elephant & Castle, while the 172, which runs from Brockley Rise to Clerkenwell, will now only run as far as Aldwych.

The proposals have gone ahead despite opposition from Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark councils, while a 1,900-signature petition from local bus users sought to protect the 53.

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook said: “I’m extremely disappointed that they have chosen to press ahead with cuts to the 53 bus service despite the significant local opposition that was expressed.”

He said he would press TfL for guarantees that passengers would not have to pay twice for their journeys to central London – many 53 journeys last over an hour, meaning Khan’s “hopper” fare would not apply for passengers changing near the end of the truncated route.

TfL says it will amend the Hopper fare so passengers who board a 53 will not be penalised – but are advised to change to a 453 at Deptford Bridge on journeys into central London, or at Lambeth North away from central London. On the 171, passengers are advised to get a 68 from Camberwell Green; on the 172, a 40 from Elephant & Castle.

The cuts to bus services were first revealed on this website last year. It is part of a larger programme of cutbacks to bus services, particularly in central London, to address a fall in ridership and TfL’s financial problems. The mayor’s transport agency had its funding cut by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor, while Khan’s partial fare freeze and delays to Crossrail are also costing TfL money.

But while south-east London – with few Tube services – gets hit by the cut to route 53 as well as a separate cutback to route 171, which serves New Cross and Brockley, some proposals in central London, including routes along the King’s Road in Chelsea, have been abandoned.

In its consultation response, TfL said: “These changes were made where we found excess capacity in central and inner London. We will continue to monitor where capacity is needed on the bus network in south east London and will address this when required.”

Last month, Khan, who is the chair of TfL, told a People’s Question Time event in Bexleyheath: “We will make sure we put the buses where we need them: look at London Bridge, look at Kingsway, look at Park Lane, where there are queues of buses, back to back to back, empty, because they are not needed there. Where they are needed is in parts of Bexley.”

Separately, plans for a new Kidbrooke to North Greenwich bus were announced today.

There are more details on the TfL website.

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