With the concerning news that TFL have recently admitted that the London bus network is well on its way to losing £1.8 million every day by 2022/23, it is enough to make me turn to a chilled bottle of Blue Nun, to drown my bus related sorrows. Even more concerning is a clear trend that sadly after years of growth passenger numbers are starting to fall. The reasons for this are threefold. The first is a decline in passenger numbers which may well be linked to slower journey times, the second is the combined effect of increased costs, and the final whammy is the effect of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fares freeze.
The combined result of these three factors is a growing bus deficit which is set to rise from a chunky £599 million to a whopping £647 million by 2023, or £1.8 million every day. The harsh reality is that as TFL lose money they also lose passengers, at the moment they are expected to fall from 2.26 million to £2.23 billion this year. They do however predict that passenger numbers will go up to 2,299 billion within the next five years.
Even more worrying is the evidence that suggests that Underground passengers are also forecast to fall, as a direct result TFL has now decided to seriously cut its revenue expectation over the next five years by £1.6 billion, By any stretch of the imagination that is a huge amount of money not being pumped back into TFL, at a time when London is expected to keep growing in size over the course of the next five years and beyond.
In addition the news comes as TFL’s new business plan has been revised showing markedly lower fare revenue than the plan had budgeted for just last year. But, it needs to be accurate and the truth of the matter is that while the Mayors fares freeze was a welcome bonus for bus users in the short term, but the real question is what does short term generosity do to long term investment and more importantly sustainability.
If I reflect upon it I suppose that maybe people like me are a part of the problem, in the recent past I have always used public transport when i was in London, indeed for 6 years I had a flat in Poplar High street and I always used the underground or the bus or I walked it everywhere.However today I must admit I am afraid that I just get an uber. Forget your black cabs and Boris buses I am sad to say taking the quicker, easier, and cheaper option. Mind you having said that ubers time looks like it will be drawing to a close if the Mayor gets his way.
Either way I find it rather sad that after years of bus growth across the board in London with policies and people that have known, protected, and developed the network, within a fairly short period of time under the new regime we have witnessed a serious cull of senior and experienced people at TFL combined with serious slashing of other taken for granted schemes like the demise of the highly regarded graduate entry scheme, along with the halting of buying new trains and even worse lowering some frequencies, including the night services.
All in all it is a worrying trend and I hope that we do not find ourselves across the rest of the UK following the same pattern of decline. It bodes very badly for the future of the UK Bus industry. However I will watch and observe my dear reader friends.