Government scraps TfL bus service review due to extra restrictions
Transport for London (TfL) will no longer have to carry out a review of bus services levels in July after the government agreed to waive the step after concerns were raised.
Under TfL’s latest six-month funding package, the transport operator had to undertake a review of bus passenger numbers in both July and September.
But today the Department for Transport (DfT) scrapped the step due to the government’s decision to delay the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions until 19 July.
The decision met with the approval of transport watchdog London Travelwatch, which had written to the DfT to express concerns over the review.
In response, DfT permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly wrote back to the group, saying: “The Department shares your desire to see people return safely to public transport as we recover from the pandemic.
“We recognise how important public transport is to the people who live and work in London, as well as its role in supporting the city and the national economy.”
“As a result of the decision to delay the fourth stage of the Government’s road map until 19th July 2021 we and TfL have agreed to remove the July bus service review from the funding settlement.”
Instead, the review will take place in September, amid a wider assessment of TfL services.
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As of last Monday, passenger numbers on TfL’s buses were at 63 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, DfT statistics show.
London TravelWatch Director, Emma Gibson said: “We are really pleased that the Government has listened to London TravelWatch and others and decided to delay the review into the demand for bus services in London which had been scheduled for later this month.
“Had it gone ahead, there was a real danger that the review would have underestimated bus demand, because most people are unlikely to return to their offices before the autumn. This could have resulted in premature reductions to the frequency of buses which would have made the bus less attractive to use, with crowding and a subsequent loss of fares revenue.
“Any new dates to review bus services should be delayed until enough people have returned to the office to give a full and accurate picture of the city’s post-pandemic requirements.”
Under the latest funding deal, which will last until November, TfL will have to find £900m of savings, with suggestions that bus and Tube services could face cuts as a result.
At the time, Mayor Sadiq Khan said that reducing services was an option, but afterwards a spokesperson clarified that Khan was “confident that no significant cuts to services will now have to be made”.