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

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