As the number of cars on London’s roads has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, traffic is returning to the capital’s congested streets and it’s having a serious impact on our buses.
Transport for London (TfL)’s most recent bus speed figures show that in the four weeks from May 29 to June 26, the average speed on route 14 was just 6.2mph. That’s roughly a medium jogging pace.
The route, between Russell Square and Putney Heath, is currently on diversion in Central London which is increasing journey times although this does not have an impact on speed as figures as low as 5mph have been recorded on the route since 2015.
Speed is an important factor in running buses across the capital, if buses slow down, it takes them longer to complete their full routes.
To avoid the bus route becoming unreliable, the frequency would have to be reduced or extra buses put into the schedule to maintain the service.
Given TfL’s difficult financial situation, the chance of extra buses is slim.
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The 14’s diversion near Piccadilly Circus is due to a gas leak. Beforehand, the speed was not much better with just 6.4mph recorded in April 2021
(Image: Callum Marius)
The My London team travelled on the 14 on Wednesday afternoon (July 21) at around 3pm, with average traffic conditions, on a section of the route which includes a 0.6 mile diversion.
Between Russell Square and Green Park without the diversion, the route is timetabled 25 minutes to make the 1.8 mile journey, which means it is supposed to operate at just 4.3mph over this section.
For comparison, the British Heart Foundation says that a ‘moderate walking pace’ is 4mph. A brisk walking pace is 5mph meaning it’s quicker to get out and walk than take the 14 across Central London.
“This bus is ridiculously slow!”
(Image: Callum Marius)
When MyLondon travelled from Russell Square to Green Park including the diversion, our journey on the 14 took 31 minutes to make a 2.4 mile journey, which amounts to a similarly miserable 4.6mph.
Last month, transport expert Professor Stephen Glaister of UCL, warned the London Assembly Transport Committee about the impact poor bus speeds could have for TfL’s revenues.
He said: “When you review bus services, do remember that it is not just frequency; it is speed, which is very important for the service. I mentioned that you have a problem because you were losing revenue before the pandemic, particularly from buses.
“There is some evidence that one reason for that is bus speeds were going down.”
He explained his findings: “Part of the reason for that is the reduction in capacity available on the road network.
“When you look at the future, it is not just that when speeds fall you lose revenue; you also make bus operations much more expensive because, of course, they go more slowly.
“You really have to hold the availability of road space for the use of buses in the balance if you want to continue to give an economic and good-quality bus service in the future. Otherwise, that spiral of decline will continue.”
The 14 starts at Russell Square, as does the X68 which is one of London’s fastest bus routes at 13.7mph last month
(Image: Callum Marius)
The 14’s 6.2mph average speed would mean a journey from London to Brighton would take around nine hours. Other notable slow bus routes include the 11 (Liverpool Street-Fulham, 6.5mph), 30 (Hackney Wick-Marble Arch, 6.8mph) 38 (Clapton Pond-Victoria, 6.5mph) and school route 656 (Gallows Corner-Emerson Park Academy).
Geoff Hobbs, TfL’s Director of Public Transport Planning, said: “Londoners use buses more than any other form of public transport and it is our priority to provide the most efficient network possible. We continue to liaise with local authorities, who manage most of London’s roads, to improve bus speeds.
“On our own road network, we are investing in enhancements and technology to make sure buses get priority, upgrading traffic signals to prioritise bus movements, extending bus lane hours and making changes existing bus lanes to accommodate both buses and cyclists.”
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The 14 travels over Putney Bridge which has seen increased traffic due to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. London’s bus speeds, although moving in an upward direction are starting to stagnate as road traffic returns after the pandemic.
Do you travel on the 14? Which bus route do you find to be particularly slow? Let us know in the comments below!
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