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"Dreadful" bus service on routes 1 and 78: Val Shawcross investigates

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Friday 20 February 2009 7.13pm
Thanks Gwynaeth, that does seem a pretty car free route
Thursday 5 March 2009 2.11pm
Did any of you know that much more detailed bus stop bus timetable information is available on transport direct? Rather than just the '8-12 mins' average time you'll find on the bus stops, transport direct tells you when to expect the bus in 4 mins or 20 mins.

The detailed bus times feed into their journey planner, but for some reason they don't advertise it's availability. To quickly find the transport direct timetable for your bus stop you can use to search for your bus stop and then bookmark the relevant page. I put the website together for my own use because the transport direct website search function is awful. I find it useful, so I thought I'd share. Would be interested to hear if anyone else finds it useful.
Thursday 5 March 2009 8.42pm

Thanks very much for this. I'll try this tomorrow morning, it looks really useful, and if it's as reliable as you say it saves waiting around in the rain.
Friday 3 April 2009 12.08pm
Some answers from the Mayor to Val Shawcross's questions:

Val Shawcross I have received a great many complaints about the 78 bus. The buses are often bunched, are seriously overcrowded (particularly between Bermondsey and the City) and frequently terminate before their planned destination. Will you ask TfL to increase the frequency and capacity of service?

Boris Johnson Route 78 has been particularly disrupted recently as a result of works at Aldgate and Bishopsgate which has created the problems you describe.

The frequency and passenger capacity of the 78 is sufficient providing the route runs reliably, and TfL is working with the operator of the 78, Arriva, to ensure that the reliability improves.

Val Shawcross I have received complaints about the no 1 bus. The westbound buses are often seriously overcrowded in the morning rush hour. Will you ask TfL to increase the frequency and capacity of service?

Boris Johnson The frequency and passenger capacity of route 1 is sufficient providing the route runs reliably. Route 1 has been disrupted recently owing to roadworks in the Surrey Quays area. These roadwork's [sic] are now complete and I hope that traffic levels will settle down shortly. TfL will continue to keep route 1 under review.

Editor of the London SE1 website.
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Friday 3 April 2009 2.08pm
Dear Despairing 78 and number 1 bus users.

This is just to reassure you that I wasn't at all satisfied by Boris's reply to my questions and have submitted another letter to TfL. Additionally we have sent on all the replies and complaints I have received individually ...Being persistant is quite important on these problems,if we go quiet now TfL will think we are not serious. My latest letter to Tfl....

Dear Andrew,

Further to my recent letter outlining the monitoring I have done on the number 1 and 78 bus I have had a flurry of supportive complaints from passengers and I have compiled these into a summary report below. I would be grateful if TFL could take these views into account while looking at the performance of these services. When I receive TfLs final responses on these routes they will be sent to the passengers who contacted me.

Analysis of comments and sampling information about the No 1 & 78 bus routes.


Having received complaints from bus travellers using the number 1 and 78 services through Bermondsey, I decided to see the problems for myself and spent a mornings rush hour monitoring buses in Grange Road. This report has already been submitted to TfL in February.

Subsequently I received emails form members of the public who had seen press coverage of this work and they reiterate my key complaints about these routes - overcrowding, infrequent and late buses, coupled with ‘bunching' of buses when they finally arrived. This is summary account of these representations recently received.

The complaints received highlight a wide range of issues concerning the buses, such as the difficulties that the elderly, disabled and parents with pushchairs experience on their daily commutes. They have great difficulty getting on and off buses that are over capacity, often being refused entry, or struggling to walk the extra distance when a bus is parked in a queue behind other buses.

Many passengers complained about the aggressive and rude attitude of the bus drivers, especially when they decide, without explanation, to shorten their routes. One correspondent, Karen Mann, notes on such sudden changes en route, “this isn't helpful, and more often than not, you have to pay another bus fare to make the remainder of your journey”.

TFL believe that the frequency and capacity of the two bus services are “currently well matched to demand”. However, the data and complaints collected by me are clearly at odds with this. Changes such as more buses with larger capacities travelling along improved routes would surely improve a service which commuter, Jeanne Robertson, describes as “seeming to get a tiny bit worse everyday”.


Number 78 Bus


Date - 13/02/09
Location - Spa Rd bus stop
Time - 7.47 - 8.52 am

A total of 6 buses arrived.
All the buses were busy and had people standing, and three were full to capacity.
At 8.52 two buses arrived together after a 32 minute delay.

Summary of Passenger Complaints:

Karen Mann - Complains about the bus driver's attitude and route changes. She notes that the bus drivers fail to let passengers on when there is room, and are often aggressive and rude. She is frustrated that the bus drivers often use the traffic as an excuse to shorten the journey route, terminating prematurely at Aldgate, instead of continuing to Shoreditch.

Valerie Wolvaardt - Needs a more reliable service with increased capacity. She notes the buses, “are normally full by the time they reach Tower Bridge at both morning and evening rush hour, in both directions, and often during the day as well”.

Luke Wooller - [the number 78 bus] “…has very poor reliability, but is an important bus service supporting an area of London with relatively poor public transport connections”.

Jeanne Robertson - Overcrowding and lateness. “it seems to get a tiny bit worse every day”.

Nick Mabey - Buses impossible for people with pushchairs. Also, Sundays very busy with surges of people attending churches and markets.

Juanita Fan - Over-capacity/late buses. Requests a different route so as to avoid the Nunhead Bridge and therefore upgrade to a double-decker bus.

Gary Sector - Infrequent/over-capacity. Claims the problem has occurred for the last 7 years, and is thus nothing to do with Heron Tower building works.

Chris Olson - The bus drivers refuse to allow free transfers to the number 42 bus when they decide to, “arbitrarily terminate at Aldgate”. Also, problem with bottleneck junctions along the route, which cause delays of up to 10 minutes.

Zoe Kennedy - Too many routes for each stop; buses stop in queues which are several bus lengths away from the actual stop - a problem for the disabled.

Vaughan Kingston - Problem with pushchairs and small children. “I have no desire to drive at all in this area, but if the buses are always full I have no choice, as the drivers simply will not let you on with a buggy as they have no room.”

Patricia McGuigan - Buses allow over-crowding at Elephant and Castle, so at Spa Road passengers find it difficult to exit the bus in time, “I am disabled and frequently find it hard to get to the doors in time”.

Number 1 Bus


Date - 13/02/09
Location - Spa Rd bus stop
Time - 7.47 - 8.52 am

A total of 10 buses arrived.
All but one of the buses were nearly at capacity on arrival
Frequency was adequate, with longest time gap of 10 minutes, with one instance of two buses arriving together.
People were often left at the stop waiting for the next bus due to over-crowding on buses.

Summary of complaints

Aaron Ludlow (original complaint) - Suspects the regeneration of Spa Road is putting strain on the current bus system. “The Spa Road regeneration is one of the biggest regeneration projects, it is creating hundreds of new homes in the area, but unfortunately the local transport is not being upgraded to the same standard”.

Emma Bird - Suggests that a separate bus for school children would reduce over-crowding. “I do think that 90 minutes for a 4 mile journey into the West End is ridiculous”.

Patricia McGuigan - “It is frequently crowded and waits of 20 or more minutes are not uncommon”.

I would be grateful if TfL would take these representations into account while reviewing these two routes.



Valerie Shawcross AM
LONDON Assembly Member
Lambeth & Southwark

City Hall
The Queen's Walk

020 7983 4371
Friday 3 April 2009 3.29pm
I'm not on any of the affected routes, but I applaud Val's sterling efforts in collating correspondence, sampling the bus routes herself and continuing to lobby TFL! Well done!
Friday 3 April 2009 5.11pm
I'm impressed by her tenacity as well, she's got more than I have, I've given up and started cycling.
Friday 3 April 2009 7.34pm
Thanks to Val for her efforts. I would have included the no. 42 as well, but minor gripe.
Friday 3 April 2009 9.09pm
There must be an election coming up.
Saturday 4 April 2009 12.58am
Tsk, Tsk, Graham, lol. Well done to Ms Shawcross. "Something must be done!" as his late Majesty was wont to say.
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