On Friday, TfL announced the results of its consultation into central London bus route changes, many of which serve Southwark residents.
Among the confirmed changes was the axing of the RV1 bus, running from Covent Garden to Tower Gateway.
The move had been fiercely opposed by residents, ward councillors and the council from the start.
“A sad day for Southwark bus users,” says Cllr Richard Livingstone, who holds the transport brief at the town hall, also pointing out changes to other Southwark routes including the 40, 171 and others.
“The RV1 is a vital local service which thousands of local people rely upon,” adds Cllr Victor Chamberlain of Borough and Bankside ward. We agree.
It is disappointing that a near-universal chorus of objections from stakeholders in Southwark does not appear to have been acknowledged.
The timing was also inauspicious. On April 8, the Mayor unveiled with great fanfare the ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) – the world’s first 24-hour pollution charge area.
On April 12, TfL decided to formally withdraw the RV1 bus from June.
Paradoxically, the hydrogen-powered bus with zero emissions serving some of the capital’s most polluted areas has been withdrawn in the very same week as tough new environmental measures were unveiled.
Very few would argue that TfL should run bus services which are inefficient and require expensive subsidies.
This was its rationale for withdrawing the RV1 service. The operating cost for the service is around £3.3million a year, while fare revenue was around £650,000, says the agency – a subsidy of £3.23 per customer.
However, passenger numbers were improving last year, after closures around Tooley Street came to an end. (The frequency of the service was reduced while nearby road closures were ongoing, as bosses at TfL cited falling passenger use.)
And current figures do not take into account expected demographic changes in the borough.
Areas in the north part of our borough served by the route are only likely to see more people in the future, not fewer.
Moreover, the route is unique: it serves some of the most popular tourist destinations in London, let alone the borough.
The Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market can all be seen through a trip on the RV1.
It is for that reason it has been labelled the best way to sight-see in the capital on a shoe-string budget.
The review of central London bus services could have been an opportunity for the RV1 – to be promoted not just as a service to residents who do not already currently use it, but to the many tourists who visit our borough for its many cultural attractions.
Sadly, this has not proven to be the case. We hope Southwark residents do not severely stand to lose out as a result.