Explainer: the bus routes facing the TfL axe

A woman sitting on a London bus

Several London bus routes could be axed in the coming weeks - Credit: PA

Hackney and Islington commuters face travel disruption as TfL is decide on whether axe several key bus routes in the coming weeks.

London’s transport bosses have warned that a lack of long-term government funding will see bus services reduced by up to 18 per cent in total as TfL enters a period of “managed decline”.

As many as 100 routes could be at risk.

More than 40 bus routes had their services reduced during 2021, and TfL has already laid out plans to make major changes to several key routes in the next month or so.

Here is everything you need to know about the proposed cuts.

271

A map of the current 21 and 271 bus routes

A map of the current 21 and 271 bus routes - Credit: TfL

Over the festive period, TfL opened a public consultation on its plans to make major changes to London’s bus network.

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One of the most significant changes proposed was a plan to completely axe the 271 bus route that runs from Highgate Village to Moorgate.

TfL has said it must “continuously review the bus network to ensure services reflect changing demand and deliver value for money” and has suggested that the capacity of the 271 route currently exceeds demand.

In outlining the case for the proposals, TfL said the cuts would “help to make the bus network simpler, more efficient and well connected, as well as ensuring resources are better invested and aligned to passenger demand”.

Crucially though, TfL has said the cuts would “help reduce operating costs” as it looks to plug a nearly £1.5 billion funding black hole.

While the 271 route would be axed under TfL’s plans, the N271 night bus would be retained and extended from Highgate Village to North Finchley.

21

The proposed 21 route

The proposed 21 route - Credit: TfL

With the 271 route set to be axed, TfL has proposed altering the route of the 21 bus service to partially replace it.

Instead of running from Newington Green as it currently does, the planned changes would see the 21 run from Holloway Nag’s Head towards Hoxton along the previous

271 route before continuing down to Lewisham along the existing route.
Though TfL has said these changes would “help to simplify the bus network” and “provide a frequency of service that better matches passenger numbers”, the plan has been met with backlash by locals.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville has said the existing services are a “vital” part of Hackney’s public transport network, and that he is backing a local campaign to save the route.

A petition on Change.org calling for TfL to save the 271 and 21 bus routes has received more than 760 signatures at the time of writing.

While 1,511 people responded to TfL’s public consultation, local campaigner Julie

Hamwood told the Hackney Gazette that many people were “surprised” that it took place over Christmas and that “nobody knew this was happening”.

Campaigners have warned that removing the 21 service will lead to overcrowding on other services such as the 141 and will make it harder for people to commute or get to school.

TfL has proposed a new 620 school route that would replace the current school day only 143 buses between Archway Station and Bishop Douglass School.
1 and 168

Alongside the public consultation to make changes to bus services in Hackney and Islington, TfL also ran a public consultation over Christmas on changes to routes between Southwark and central London.

The primary change put forward by TfL is a plan to axe the iconic 1 route between Tottenham Court Road and Canada Water, as well as the 168 between Hampstead Heath and Old Kent Road.

The two services would be replaced by one single route, provisionally numbered 1, which would run from Hampstead Heath to Canada Water.

TfL has said this new service, which would be given a new number following a review of the consultation, would operate at a frequency of one bus every eight minutes during the day on Monday to Saturday and every 10 to 12 minutes during evenings and on Sundays.

The existing N1 night service from Tottenham Court Road and Thamesmead would continue under the new plans.

188

A map of the current 1 and 188 bus routes

A map of the current 1 and 188 bus routes - Credit: TfL

The other major change outlined in the second public consultation was a plan to cut back the 188 route from Russel Square and have it instead start at Tottenham Court Road, with the rest of the route to remain the same.

Proposed 1 and 188 bus routes

Proposed 1 and 188 bus routes - Credit: TfL

TfL has said there are a “high number of services” running on the 1, 168 and 188 but there are “too many buses for the passenger numbers” which have decreased since the start of the pandemic. TfL expects that reduced demand will continue to be the trend beyond the pandemic.

Both consultations ended on January 9 and TfL has said it intends to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the proposals in early March.