The West End Consultation

TfL plan to significantly reduce the number of buses serving Oxford Street, a step towards pedestrianising the renowned shopping district.

Many West End routes have been proposed to change in the process, made open to public consultation by Transport for London on 25 November 2016. We were given two months to answer a survey on the proposals, and send in comments and recommendations to more informatively contribute to TfL's proposals. 

The consultation closed on 29 January 2017 and public response should determine its outcome, with the first changes to start ahead of the Elizabeth Line when it becomes operational in 2018. The London Bus Breh provides a full report on how this affects him and many other commuters in central London. 

Routes 3, 137 and N3

The proposal
Route 3 currently terminates at Piccadilly Circus from Crystal Palace. Curtailed from Oxford Circus, buses stand on Conduit Street, off Regent Street. TfL propose to re-route the service from Trafalgar Square via Charing Cross Road and Great Russell Street to extend the route to Russell Square. The 3 would no longer serve Haymarket, Piccadilly Circus or Regent Street and instead serve Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and the British Museum. The same extension would be applied to route N3 from Bromley North. There would be no change to current frequencies.

A minor change to route 137 proposes an improvement in reliability by officially curtailing the route to Marble Arch. Route N137 would continue journeys to Oxford Circus.

The review
Journeys would start from Russell Square.
I never really paid attention to this part of the consultation because I rarely use route 3. When I have got on one, Piccadilly Circus is generally where I get it from so this would merely mean a minor interchange to access the route.

Curtailing the 137 to Marble Arch would remove the classic confusion between itself and route 159 where they run in opposite directions to each other along Oxford Street despite heading towards the same southbound terminus at Streatham Hill Telford Avenue. More importantly, TfL have addressed that the service is unreliable at times, bogged down by Oxford Street traffic where its demand is significantly less than other parts of the route. Since Marble Arch is where the 137 really starts picking up passengers, it is a sensible move to start journeys here.

Overall, this is a decent proposal from Transport for London. As promoted in the consultation, changes to route 3 will generate direct links between Millbank and Russell Square, as well as connect landmarks in between. Additionally, I strongly approve of the 137 starting where its primary demand starts at Marble Arch and not at Oxford Circus where it merely runs as surplus to many other routes along Oxford Street.

Route 137 would start/finish at Marble Arch,
however the N137 would continue to Oxford Circus.
Interestingly, route N137 was stated by TfL to run between Oxford Circus and Streatham Hill like its day counterpart - a fault I only clocked after the consultation closed. Route N137 runs further to Crystal Palace.

We opened a poll in regards to the consultation  to see which proposals were most approved. The poll closed simultaneously with the consultation and I was quite surprised to find that this proposal came out as favourite - surely there were more important changes, or have TfL addressed the smaller changes more effectively than the bigger ones?

Routes 6, 15 and N15

Route 6 would divert via Park Lane and Piccadilly instead of
Oxford Street, creating a link previously unaccessible by bus.
The proposal
To create a new direct link between Park Lane and Piccadilly, the 6 would be re-routed away from Oxford Street and Regent Street. The service would continue to run from Willesden to Aldwych, only with altered via points in the West End.

Meanwhile, route 15 has been cut back to Trafalgar Square since May 2013 due to roadworks and congestion; TfL plan to make this curtailment permanent. However, route N15 would be extended from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus in order to 'provide new night time links'.

The review
The proposed change to route 6 may take some time getting used to since the direct link from its Brent and Westminster residential sections to Oxford Street and Regent Street would be removed. However a new link between Park Lane and Piccadilly without the need to interchange or walk would usefully prevail the original link. Yet while TfL acknowledge routes 7, 98 and N7 as continuing to provide services between Edgware Road and Oxford Street, route 23 also disappears subject to changes away from Oxford Street and Regent Street. Therefore, a link between Edgware Road and Regent Street would be completely removed which has not been addressed: so what about restoring route 15 to Paddington?

Retrograde: routes 15/N15.
On the blog's chat, I have frequently argued for the restoration of a service that has become retrograde with enough cutbacks in the past few years. I understand that congestion makes it practical to permanently curtail the day route to Trafalgar Square, however congestion is significantly reduced come night time to warrant a more effective extension of route N15 at the very least. There are already sufficiently provided interchangeable links from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus, with the Hopper ticket able to show off its credentials here. Therefore, I do not understand what 'new night time links' TfL intend to provide by extending the night route - I doubt they coherently do, either, since they failed to specify exactly what these links are whereas new links from the likes of route 3 are clearly specified. If plans to reduce buses on Oxford Street is also to be applied to the shopping district's night services, the proposal should be adapted as so:

Route N15 should be restored to Paddington via route N18 from Oxford Circus to Hermitage Street, instead of its former routing parallel to current route 23. With Paddington Basin currently underworks, Cleveland Terrace bus stand could be used, currently occupied by route 205/N205. Consider route N205 to curtail one stop to Paddington Station. This enables drivers to continue onto Craven Road then right onto Westbourne Terrace to finish, using the former 436 stand until Eastbourne Terrace returns to full accessibility. The link between Paddington Station and Cleveland Terrace, in very low demand even during the day, 
would not be lost as there are other options available which continue further into west London (alternatively a reasonable walking distance anyway), should commuters not wish to interchange. This change of stands would resolve space conflict if route 15 would be included in this extension, too, although I will admit that is asking a bit too much with congestion as it is today. Having said that, the Elizabeth Line may reduce congestion in central London so I still have not given up on the day route being restored, either!

Route N15 would start/finish at Oxford Circus.
Pictured is the last of a bunch of three buses on the N15
that arrived together at Trafalgar Square / Charing Cross.
I have observed two or three buses at a time accommodating crowds at Trafalgar Square for the N15 eastbound. Therefore, I suggested in a letter to TfL regarding in particular the night service that every third bus (every 20 minutes) continues onto and comes from Paddington with most buses continuing to terminate at Trafalgar Square - this avoids exacerbating the service against its current demands whilst restoring a favourable link, too. Extra hybrid buses not used overnight could accommodate this change, better optimising use of spare capacity against the costs of purchasing new buses: perhaps a few extras from the imminent batch of new hybrids for Bow (BW) route 277. Also, it may be more prudent to schedule this with the re-opening of Eastbourne Terrace to avoid the aforementioned complications in allocating a stand for the 15/N15. Nevertheless, this alternative change would make for a resolutely effective use of resources, strongly adapting TfL's proposal by reintroducing a very useful link for commuters from east to west London alternative to the 205/N205 and restoring the service to its west London traditions.

Routes 8, 172 and 242

The proposal
Route 8 is another route out of Bow Bus Garage that has been curtailed since 2013 due to roadworks and congestion. While three of the last few evening duties and the first three early journeys are timetabled to terminate at Oxford Circus - like the night route continues to, with no changes proposed - all other journeys have been finishing at Tottenham Court Road from Bow Church. The proposal would officially cutback route 8 to Tottenham Court Road, its official temporary stand here made vacant by relocating the route to finish and stand on Earnshaw Street.

This stand is currently occupied by routes 1 and 242, the latter of which would be re-routed at Bank to terminate at St. Paul's. In turn, route 172 would be replaced and instead divert at Ludgate Circus to serve Farringdon en route a new terminus in Clerkenwell.

Route 172 would terminate at Clerkenwell.
The review
A decent proposal, I have always shown support for restoring routes to their original efficiencies but  route 8 is one example where this is not necessary. Demand for the route towards its central terminus is generally low: Oxford Circus is within walking distance of Tottenham Court Road and there are many buses from Oxford Circus that provide access to route 8. New Oxford Street is where demand really begins for eastbound journeys from my last observations of the route, albeit this being a while ago.

This is a feasible change to coincide with what is proposed for route 242, removing its loitering presence from Tottenham Court Road. Re-routing the 242 to St. Paul's as a replacement for the 172 gives the Arriva London service some use past Bank towards The West End other than to appear assistant to route 8.

The 172 is the service change I approve of the most here. A route I tend to disregard, redirecting the 172 left at Ludgate Circus towards Farringdon supports route 63 past Snow Hill, where routes 17 and 45 take an alternative routing via Holborn to King's Cross to leave the 63 unparalleled in meeting the high demand for buses in the Clerkenwell and Farringdon area. Here, buses become crowded during the peak hours, further incentivising this re-route of the 172 in which a new direct link between Aldwych and Clerkenwell would also be created. I am yet to try out route 172 but having observed the route on many occasions in The City and Elephant & Castle, I think it would be valued in its entirety should this change go ahead.

Routes 22, C2 and N22

The proposal
Regarding these routes, TfL propose that the C2 be cutback from Victoria to Regent Street Conduit Street. Reliability issues have been hinted to influence this change, in which the 22/N22 would be re-routed from Green Park via Berkeley Square, Conduit Street and Regent Street to terminate at Oxford Circus instead of Piccadilly Circus in replacement of the withdrawn section to route C2.

'Shortening the route will ensure we can run it more reliably.'
Transport for London.
The review
I did not initially understand the purpose of this service change. Then again, I'm not familiar enough with the C2 to understand how a cutback could 'ensure [TfL] can run it more reliably'. However, on a few occasions I have seen some reasonable demand for route C2 as early as Grosvenor Gardens towards Parliament Hill Fields to suggest that discontinuing the route from Victoria would not be the best idea. A link would not be entirely removed between Victoria and Green Park courtesy of route 38, but an interchange for route 22 would then be required to continue onto Berkeley Square and Regent Street, followed by another interchange for route C2. The Hopper ticket may come in handy for such journeys, but three interchanges within such a short distance still comes at an inconvenience for commuters of route C2 when they currently have the one service doing the job.

I am even more unfamiliar with routes 22 and N22, so the only comment I can make here is that they have different demands to route C2 so I would not involve them in a proposal centred towards improving reliability issues for the latter. TfL promote new links can be created between Sloane Square, Sloane Street and Oxford Street by re-routing the 22/N22 to Oxford Circus, an alternative to the proposed route 137 which would finish at Marble Arch. I'm just not keen on this proposal, but that might just be my unfamiliarity with these routes.

However, the next proposal includes very familiar bus routes and I can fully back myself when I say I am not too keen on some aspects of the following changes at all.

Routes 23, 46, 332 and 452

Significantly modifying route 23 would help link central London to
 'residential and business developments in Wembley'.

The proposal
The most major change proposed, route 23 would be significantly modified following plans to withdraw buses between Liverpool Street and Aldwych (which has its own consultation here). 

The 23 currently runs between Westbourne Park and Liverpool Street. Its proposed routing would have it serve new termini at Lancaster Gate and Wembley Stadium. The re-route would reduce the number of buses in congestion hotspots between Paddington and Aldwych and reflect a 'drop in demand predicted when the Elizabeth Line opens'. Improvements to the 'reliability' of the service is also expected. In addition, a new direct link - alternative to high-frequency route 18 - would be provided from central London to 'serve residential and business developments in Wembley'. The complete re-routing has not yet been 'developed', however the 23 would remain as it is between Paddington and Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's. From here, it would continue away from Kensal Town by approaching Kilburn Lane before ducking left to parallel route 18 via Kensal Green and Harlesden, then run through Brent Park to finish at "Wembley Stadium Fulton Road".

Route 452 would replace the 23 in serving Kensal Road, Golborne Road and Elkstone Road. TfL propose for the 452 to then finish at Harrow Road instead of Kensal Rise, and are 'working with Brent Council to establish a convenient and suitable terminus for the route'.

Route 46 would be revised to curtail to Paddington.
Route 46 is added to this proposal since it is being revised to curtail to Paddington from Lancaster Gate, meaning the route would no longer use Craven Road and Westbourne Avenue, currently the only route providing this service.

Complementing this change extends the 332 to Lancaster Gate. Furthermore, buses would be re-routed via Kilburn Park, Maida Hill and Warwick Avenue, removing the solitary link the route's introduction created between Edgware Road and Paddington. The proposal would also remove the large counter-clockwise loop on return journeys from Paddington.

The review
These are the most local group of routes to me in this consultation, so having read it more thoroughly the mistakes in this 'developing' proposal have become more prominent. 

I was not initially for the proposed changes to route 23, perhaps due to my sentiment towards a route's traditions. However, there are exceptions. A refresh is exactly what the 23 needs and I second TfL's attempts to 'improve reliability' in doing so because the service is incomprehensibly unreliable, especially between Westbourne Park and Portobello where you would assume the service is at its best since it starts at Westbourne Park garage. A 'drop in demand [is] predicted when the Elizabeth line opens', however this proposed change would reflect a drop in demand for the route already observationally evident eastbound from Paddington, anyway.

However, there are two issues with this service change: firstly, the 23 is convenient to have between The City and Paddington, a link I occasionally use. A more important secondly, perhaps TfL should consider the levels of congestion in Harlesden, especially the heavy traffic coming from Willesden Junction towards Park Parade, before adding another high-frequency route to the area.

Route 452 recently extended from Wandsworth Road Station
to Vauxhall. A westbound extension may follow.
As for route 452, if the route was to finish at Harrow Road Elgin Avenue, this would finally allocate a route to the stand on Elgin Avenue which only caters for curtailed journeys in the area after more than a decade's vacancy, following the extension of route 28 to Kensal Rise in 2006. Notwithstanding that, I simply don't understand how the route can serve Westbourne Park then make an impossible left onto Great Western Road towards Harrow Road. Changes to road layout are unimaginable; the only feasible progression of this proposal is to allow route 452 access to circumnavigate inside Westbourne Park Bus Garage to continue onto Great Western Road, which is highly unlikely. Much developing is needed beyond 'working with Brent Council' for a suitable terminus if TfL are to successfully maintain a bus service in the Kensal Town area.

Alternatively, I propose that the 452 should either terminate at Westbourne Park or remain as it is, with the 28 being the revised route instead. Route 28 would run between Kilburn Lane and Westbourne Park via Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Road, Golborne Road and Elkstone Road to continue onto its existing routing from Great Western Road onwards. This would remove its Kilburn Lane link onto Harrow Road and subsequent link onto Great Western Road, however this section of the route is relatively quiet, anyway. Routes 18 and 228 are within walking distance of the 28 from Harrow Road / Kilburn Lane (Fifth Avenue for the 228 towards Maida Hill) should its current routing be revised, which I think more practical than what TfL have suggested for the 452.

I am not that phased about curtailing route 46 to Paddington to 'allow' the extension of route 23 to Lancaster Gate. There was a slight indication that the curtailment had slyly got underway without a replacement a few weeks ago with buses frequently displaying 'Paddington', meaning no bus service available between Paddington and Lancaster Gate. It is possible that TfL could have been testing out the effects of the proposal on the service, nevertheless to the inconvenience of those who find the link useful on a daily. Buses have since returned to Lancaster Gate after this brief, sceptic cutback.

Check out our articles about route 332 here.
The 332 has provided an invaluable link between Edgware Road and Brent Park Tesco since its introduction in 2007, made unique by directly connecting Maida Vale via Edgware Road to Paddington (as pictured above in action). The service is generally excellent and any changes to remove the route from Edgware Road and Praed Street creates more significant accessibility issues than the 'large loop' required of the route in Paddington, thus outweighing the benefits of the new link proposed.

An extension to Lancaster Gate is credible, should the routing before this extension remain unchanged and as effective as it is today. TfL express concern over 'parts of Maida Vale currently hav[ing] no direct link to Paddington', however they have introduced the Hopper ticket: passengers can use route 6 from Maida Vale (Kilburn Park Road) then interchange for the 46 at Warwick Avenue to complete journeys between Maida Vale and Paddington, at no added cost from the extra journey. The bus stops at Warwick Avenue being directly opposite to each other further makes for an easy interchange; only a small revision of timetable would be necessary to ensure that a 46 to Paddington arrives a minute after a 6 towards Aldwych to reduce waiting times at Warwick Avenue.

If a direct link is such a concern, I suggested to Transport for London that route 7 should finish at Maida Vale via Bishop's Bridge, Warwick Avenue and route 6 until Hansel Road as an alternative to changing route 332. From here, a new link could be further created by running the route the duration of Kilburn Park Road - its upper section currently not served by buses - before joining Maida Vale to terminate at stop KD. Buses would proceed to take a right onto Carlton Vale to use the existing stand there, currently unoccupied by London buses. On return to East Acton, buses could proceed right onto Randolph Gardens from the stand, then left onto Kilburn Park Road to start journeys at Carlton Vale stop MB. This would help recover the (at least observationally) lost demand for the 7 since its Russell Square cutback to Oxford Circus; barely any distance would be added to the route, rather a mere direction change northbound to Maida Vale which would not require any changes to frequency.

However, what I should have suggested is that route 23 start journeys from Maida Valeusing this routing to Paddington to then continue as proposed to Wembley Park. Therefore, the 23 would provide a direct and valuable link between Maida Vale and Paddington whilst also meeting the forecasted demand from central London to Wembley without longevity.

Extending route 332 to Lancaster Gate is fine, but a re-route away from where buses carry standees during the peak-hours is an incompetent move considering the other feasible options available. Overall, this is a fairly welcome proposal, but there are a few developments in need of revision before they are put into practice.

Routes 25 and 425

Frequency changes for route 25 would be met with an
extension of route 425 from Stratford to Ilford.
The proposal
The first proposal to include improved frequencies, route 25 is being planned to run every 6 minutes Monday to Saturday - previously every 8 minutes - and around every 7-8 minutes every evening and on Sundays - a reduction from every 6 minutes. No changes to routing are planned. 

Meanwhile, route 425 would be extended from Stratford to Ilford in an attempt to remove short journeys between Ilford and Mile End on the 25. The 425 would parallel routes 25 and 86 via Forest Gate and Manor Park.

Service patterns are expected to be 'regulated' across route 25 - most likely a reference to the infamous Bow changeovers* - to tackle the high capacity requirements between Ilford and Stratford that demand the aforementioned frequency increases while reducing frequencies between Stratford and Mile End. A 'slight increase in frequency' between Mile End and Oxford Circus is also to be expected.

The review
Despite their high frequencies, both routes 25 and 86 have buses at full capacity all the way from the start to the end of their parallel routing between Stratford and Ilford. Therefore, a change like this is much needed to accommodate the high demands for these routes. Do not mistake this much shorter review as my disinterest for the service change, rather I doubt even the EastLondoner himself would be able to add much more to this, either, other than to approve.

*The Bow changeovers: where some buses park in both directions for driver changeovers, service controllers taking the opportunity to regulate the service here. This includes telling passengers to switch buses from the one they arrived on to a parked bus ready to leave later than is convenient, allowing a few other buses on the 25 to overtake before departure.

Routes 73 and 390

'The Newington Routemasters' would be cut back to Oxford Circus.
The proposal
Routes 73 and N73 would be withdrawn between Victoria and Oxford Circus. The day service would run a more consistent frequency of every 5 minutes contrary to  every 3-5 minutes as current. Extra buses would run during the morning peak, increasing the frequency to every 4 minutes. The Sunday frequency would be reduced from every 6 to every 7 minutes, whereas no changes would be made to frequencies for route N73.

Route 390 would replace the proposed withdrawn section of route 73 by continuing down Park Lane instead of ducking right to go around Marble Arch towards Bayswater Road, en route Notting Hill Gate. The Monday to Saturday timetable would run buses every 6 minutes instead of every 8, with Sunday journeys running every 10 minutes instead of every 12. Night journeys are to maintain their every half an hour frequency.

The review
I did not initially understand the purpose of this proposal: all it does is cut back route 73 and replace the withdrawn section with the 390 at the cost of its own service between Marble Arch and Notting Hill Gate. Route 94 is a direct alternative from Oxford Street and the 148 from Park Lane, but altogether I doubt many request this change. TfL's own figures show that approximately '1,050 weekday customers' would need to interchange from route 73 to continue their journeys should the proposal go ahead, with around 300 more customers needing to interchange from route 390 if buses are to be re-routed. These numbers are surely too high to change routes that do not really need changing. Nevertheless, this was voted the 3rd most popular change on our Poll.

An 'enhanced route 390 service' sounds good considering its banality: in routing, service and bus type (of course). The demand expected from 'new developments (including Elizabeth Line)' is a fair enough point to make in support of this proposal. However, 'the aspirations of our stakeholders'  sounds like more of a satisficing strategy than one focused on improving the  service - anyone can complain about the 'impact of bus traffic in the West End' which is clearly more of an issue at Piccadilly Circus, where queues can become ridiculously long even at night. Neither of these routes serve here, so I just think this is an unnecessary service change - if TfL want to save resources and this proposal is an easy way to do so, then this aim should be expressed more directly rather than as an allusion deflected by cosmetic explanations which do not coherently legitimate the service change.

Borismaster Watch will return in two segments.

Route N2

The proposal
Currently running between Crystal Palace and Whitehall Horse Guards, the N2 is to be re-routed and extended to Marylebone with its renewed contract to Arriva London from 1 April 2017. This means that from Victoria Station the route would no longer serve the southernmost part of Victoria Street, Westminster or Whitehall, instead continuing along its day routing to Marylebone.

The review
I really like this service change, the second most popular according to our Poll. A very small one, I thought most people would be nonchalant towards this proposal but many seem to recognise that the N2 nevertheless gains a status boost from its easily overlooked presence in the West End in giving Marylebone a new nighttime link to Victoria. On top of that: new buses, which along with the night route's improved locality gives me incentive to check it out, so excuse the absence of an accompanying photo for the final proposal.

The Wall of Red - buses along Oxford Street.
The West End Consultation proposes quite a few useful service changes. The 172 to Clerkenwell highlights as my most approved, with the intentions behind re-routing the 6 fairly acceptable and route N2 almost a personal favourite from this list. However, I strongly suggest Transport for London revise the 15/N15 so that at least one of these services can be restored to Paddington and, most importantly for me, extend the 332 without a re-route. Otherwise, TfL are making some decent improvements to bus services in the West End.

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