Smart Transport

TfL sets out future vision for buses in the capital

TfL bus sign

Transport for London (TfL) has published its long-term Bus Action Plan that seeks to boost ridership as part of plans to meet net zero targets by 2030.

Buses are already the most used form of public transport in the capital, and TfL’s Bus Action Plan will focus on five areas:

  • An inclusive customer experience – a modern, relevant bus network that allows for spontaneous, independent travel, including improved customer information and bus station refurbishment; with actions including upgrading more existing bus stops to meet the wheelchair accessible standard
  • Safety and security – a safe, secure bus network, with no one killed on or by a bus by 2030, and with all elements of the Bus Safety Standard implemented by 2024; and ensuring all customers and staff feel confident on the bus network travelling day and night, including through improved bus driver training
  • Faster journeys – a faster and more efficient bus network, with journeys 10% quicker than in 2015, with initiatives including the aim to introduce 25km of new and improved bus lanes by 2025
  • Improved connections – a bus network better suited to longer trips with better interchanges, especially in outer London; and ensuring London residents remain close to a bus stop
  • Decarbonisation and climate resilience – a zero-emission bus fleet to tackle climate change and improve air quality, working with operators, boroughs and suppliers to reduce the cost and difficulty of infrastructure upgrades needed to enable the transition of the bus fleet; and safeguarding the network from extreme weather conditions 

After trials found that extending bus lane hours on London’s busiest roads cut bus journey times and helped service reliability, TfL announced in December last year that the majority of bus lanes on London’s red routes would be converted to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Louise Cheeseman, TfL’s director of buses, said: “Investment in buses is imperative in dealing with the climate crisis and cleaning up the toxic air that is damaging our health.

"Our red bus network is fundamental to preventing congestion and, more widely, is a catalyst for unlocking homes and employment in London, as well as creating green jobs across the UK.

"Buses are already an efficient, convenient form of public transport and London has the largest green bus fleet in western Europe, but we need to raise the bar.

"The Bus Action Plan sets out how we will meet the challenges now and into the future, making buses cleaner and greener, more efficient and an option for all our city’s diverse communities. Ultimately, it’s about making the bus the natural choice over the car."

Silviya Barrett, head of policy and research at Campaign for Better Transport, who will also be speaking about boosting confidence in public transport at the next Smart Transport Conference on 10 May, said more modern buses, better customer information, additional bus priority lanes and plugging critical gaps in service provision will help improve passengers’ experiences and enable more people to make buses part of their everyday journeys.

Barrett said: "This will support the economic recovery and help tackle congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions.

"To make this happen, it is vitally important that TfL has the sustainable funding deal it needs to keep investing in, and promoting a return to, public transport post-pandemic.”

Buses are central to life in London

The bus network is central to life in the capital with around two thirds of residents using a bus at least once a week, and 90% of Londoners using it in the last year. 

TfL said buses are the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to shift trips made by cars to public transport: buses carry up to 80 times the number of people as a car, making efficient use of road space, and cut emissions by both taking polluting private vehicles off the roads and offering up a green alternative.

The transport body said a high-quality bus service is also vital in promoting active travel and preventing a car-led recovery.  Most journeys to a bus stop involve walking or cycling, and increased physical activity benefits people’s physical and mental health, helping relieve pressure on health services. 

Cars are the largest source of road and rail emissions in London, and car traffic must drop by at least 27% by 2030 to meet London’s climate change targets.

The scale of these reductions is likely to require a new road user charging scheme, which TfL said would only be feasible with a comprehensive bus network. 

The capital has one of highest number of zero emission buses in Europe, with 800 at present, and is on target to hit 10% of the whole fleet this year.

All new buses to the network are zero-emission and TfL said sustained Government funding could see all buses converted as early as 2030, taking 500,000 tonnes of carbon out of the transport system.

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