Buses are slowing down, and not just in central London

busesTwo of London’s slowest bus routes are not through the city centre but 17 miles to the east, in Hornchurch in the borough of Havering.

Central London congestion is blamed for the slow down in buses, now running at an average speed or 9.3 mph.  But the 650 and 656 buses, both leaving from Emerson Park School are running at just 6 miles per hour and are among the 10 slowest routes run by Transport for London in the last financial year.

656 bus route

656 bus route: Google maps via TfL

650 bus route

650 bus route: Google maps via TfL

Data from TfL for average bus speeds for April 2015 to March 2016 shows that the slowest route is the 15H from Charing Cross to the Tower of London. But the H in the title gives a clue as to why.  This is a heritage route with original Routemaster buses running along part of the course of the proper 15, along The Strand, Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill and on to the Tower.  The tourists on board may appreciate its slow pace as they edge past St Paul’s.

TfL runs 675 routes and tracks the speed of buses each way along them, plus night buses.   Of the 1762 bus routes speeds recorded for the last financial year, 563 were below the 9.3 mph average.  Most of the slowest journeys cross central London.

London’s 10 slowest buses
Number Route Speed (mph)
15H Charing Cross to Tower 4.9
15H Tower to Charing Cross 5.1
14 Putney Heath to Warren St Station 5.6
11 Liverpool St Station to Fulham Broadway 5.6
650 Emerson Park School to Cedar Hill, Hornchurch 5.9
11 Fulham Broadway to Liverpool St Station 5.9
26 St Mary of Eton, Hackney to Waterloo Station 6.0
69A Canning Town to Walthamstow Bus Station 6.0
38 Clapton Pond to Victoria Bus Station 6.1
656 Emerson Park School to Gallows Corner, Hornchurch 6.1

Speeds are calculated across the full range of the route and many buses will have a much more varied pace as they cross parts of the city.  Looking at speeds across the boroughs shows that the centre is uniformly slow but things get better the further out you get.

Havering is one of the few areas where average speeds get above 12 mph despite having 2 of the slowest buses.

Average bus speeds

In a recent report the former chairman of the government’s panel on integrated transport, Professor David Begg, said that bus speeds are declining faster in London than any other urban area in the country. He says that the decision by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, to reduce road capacity by 25% with the introduction of cycle superhighways without any measures to curtail traffic is partly to blame.

The new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made buses a priority in his first weeks in office.  As he mentioned throughout his campaign, his father used to drive the 44.  His first act as mayor was to introduce the Hopper fare and he has announced a general freeze in prices. Londoners welcome cheaper travel. Making it faster may be a much bigger challenge.

Source data

See also

Mayoral Election Issues: Public Transport

Don’t just blame drivers for harmful NO2 pollution

All aboard! Big growth in public transport use in past 5 years

 

 

 

 

 

Fuel consumption down but scale of diesel use remains a worry for health

Cab speeds past-2The amount of fuel consumed by vehicles on the roads of London has fallen by nearly a third over the past 10 years.

The biggest reduction has been in personal travel, which includes cars, motorbikes and buses. Fuel usage in these types of transport is down by 31%.  The reduction for freight transport, which includes vans and lorries, is down by 22%. Personal travel accounts for 2½ times the fuel consumed by freight.

As previously reported by Urbs, traffic volumes have gone down by about 7% since 2004 despite a rising population. But the reduction in fuel consumption can also be attributed to better fuel economy for vehicles.

The estimates are based upon data modelling by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and it shows that fuel consumption, like car ownership, is highest in the outer boroughs, particularly those north of the river, such as Enfield, Barnet and Havering. The highest consumption level is in Hillingdon.

Fuel consumption

The estimates look at where fuel is consumed rather than where it was bought so areas with large arterial roads are likely to have higher consumption levels – the M4 running out through Hillingdon or the M1 in Barnet, for example.

The reduction in consumption is good news environmentally but the data reveals a statistic which is having an impact on the city’s air quality – the shift from petrol to diesel cars. In 2004 consumption of diesel was about 20% of the consumption level for petrol. By 2013 it was 67%.

Diesel engines were promoted by the government as they produce lower levels of emissions that contribute to climate change, but they produce higher levels of N02.  Recent research by Kings College found that NO2 is having a far more harmful impact on health than had been previously recognised and responsible for nearly 6,000 deaths a year.

Source data

See also

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

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Don’t just blame drivers for harmful NO2 pollution

Bishopsgate-2Central London has a particular problem with potentially deadly air pollution caused by nitrogen dioxide, but it is not all the fault of drivers with diesel cars. Buses and buildings are also playing a significant part.

Transport is the largest single factor in the production of harmful NO2 and the finger is often pointed at cars with diesel engines. These type of vehicles make up 50% of all new sales in the UK and the switch away from petrol, encouraged by the Government, has had some benefit for other types of emissions.

But data analysis by the think tank Policy Exchange on the sources of NO2 in London shows that diesel cars are only part of the story and the figures for Central London are different to that for Greater London as a whole.

Nearly every borough is failing to meet the legal limit for levels of NO2. Long term exposure to high levels can lead to respiratory disease and a recent study by Kings College London, reported by Urbs, estimated that it may be killing 5,800 people a year.

Transport is responsible for 45% of NO2 emission across Greater London. Diesel vehicles including cars, taxis, buses and HGVs account for most of this, with 11% attriibuted to diesel cars, the same as HGVs.

NO2 Greater London

 

The figures for Central London reveal a similar rate of NO2 from transport, but the nature of traffic in the centre of the city means that busess account for 3 times the amount of NO2 produced by diesel cars.

NO2 Central London

The other significantly different factor in Central London is the NO2 emission rate from non-domestic burning of gas, ie powering the offices, shops and businesses. This accounts for a third of NO2 emissions in Central London compared to 8% for Greater London.

The recent Volkswagen emission test scandal has led to renewed concern about the real level of diesel car pollution. But this data shows that while cleaner cars are needed the capital also needs a greener bus service and more energy efficient buidlings to tackle the problem of NO2 more widely.

Up in the Air report, Policy Exchange

See also

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

Tests suggest NO2 pollution levels may be higher at child height