Losing three key bus routes in Southwark and south London would be a sad symbol of the state of south London infrastructure, if the current proposal by the Mayor of London were to go ahead.
Yes, two other routes – the 388 and the 148 – would be changed to make up some of the shortfall from Transport for London (TfL) cutting the 78 and the 12 respectively, although this still leaves questions about capacity and waiting times for buses.
But it’s the lack of ambition for our transport that really stings. Only a couple of weeks ago, Crossrail partially opened. Yes, it was £4 billion over budget and yes, it was three and a half years late. But it was a testament to the vision and stamina of successive national governments, as well as TfL, to deliver a new line that will make people’s lives easier, and help businesses flourish.
Look south of the river and a different picture emerges. We have no Bakerloo Line extension to transform the Old Kent Road area. We have no trams, despite years of plans and pledges. And now we may even be going to have fewer buses running through Bermondsey, Peckham, Camberwell, Nunhead and Dulwich.
Some – like Southwark’s Lib Dems – will blame mayor Sadiq Khan, and the proposed cuts did come from him and TfL. Others – like Southwark’s Labour Party – blame the government, which is putting pressure on TfL to cut its spending in negotiations for another support package, with the current deal due to expire in June.
The truth is that even before the pandemic, buses ran at a loss. TfL subsidised buses to the tune of £722 million in 2018/2019. With Tube travel still down after Covid-19, Underground fares cannot make up the shortfall.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Buses are a much easier, more flexible and convenient way to get around for many people than Tube or train, including for lots of elderly and disabled people. Scrapping some routes and cutting back others is not only a grim indictment of London’s vision for its future, it shrinks horizons for many of the people who live here now.
We urge all our readers to comment on TfL’s consultation here.
It is important that south London voices are heard. We know that it often feels that consultation is all too often just an administrative exercise that does not result in the majority opinion winning out, but you cannot just sit back and say nothing. The News will keep a close eye on the consultation to keep our readers informed.
You can also sign Southwark Labour’s petition to stop the cuts here.
Despite the root causes of the cuts being debated on – we all are agreed that it should not happen.