Bus services are a regular feature of my email inbox, and with two bus strikes in recent weeks and more on the horizon, this essential form of London transport has been brought to the forefront of our minds more than ever.
Large swathes of my constituency are not served by the tube, and with the ongoing issues at London Bridge making rail services less reliable, more people than ever are turning to our bus service to get around.
The recent strikes have highlighted how important the bus network is and how many people rely on it.
Under the current Mayor, investment in London’s bus service has flatlined for several years and we are now seeing the effects of this. I regularly receive complaints about overcrowded buses and delays, particularly on routes serving mainly residential areas.
Local councillors in Rotherhithe are currently petitioning for improvements to the C10 route, for example, something which I fully support.
This is a busy route which provides key links for a lot of residents, and has been known to by-pass the Rotherhithe peninsula altogether on some occasions when delays mean the route has to be cut short – this is clearly not acceptable and something must be done.
Only now are we seeing a bit more wiggle room in TfL’s bus spending, and have been achieving some ‘wins’ such as the extension of the 136 to Elephant and Castle to relieve pressure on the 343 – a result achieved after several years of concerted campaigning from local residents groups and councillors.
Recently after pointing out the problem with overcrowded buses, and passengers being left behind on the Old Kent Road TfL agreed to extend the bus route 415 from Elephant & Castle station to Old Kent Road, Tesco.
I do hope that the penny has now dropped for TfL’s leadership and similar improvements elsewhere will be a bit easier to secure.
The strikes have certainly focussed the minds of bus passengers on how valuable this service is, and I’d now like to highlight the situation of those drivers.
Newly qualified drivers in particular earn low wages and the terms and conditions of pay varies between the various bus operators – meaning drivers doing the same job may not be paid the same amount as another driver doing the same job elsewhere.
It’s time now for the Mayor to bring people to the negotiating table instead of relinquishing his responsibility for ensuring our bus drivers are fairly paid.
It’s his failure to do this which has regrettably led to these strikes, and the resulting inconvenience and difficulty for passengers.
Val Shawcross, London Assembly Member for Southwark & Lambeth