London's bus network is crucial to how our capital city functions. It carries almost 2.4 billion passengers a year – more than all the other bus journeys in England combined. The city's 9,300 buses provide a vital daily service, linking homes to jobs, schools, hospitals and leisure, as well as providing a frequent, step-free lifeline for many.
TfL is very proud of the role buses play in keeping London moving. But as the city changes around us, and as the way in which Londoners live their lives change, we need to ensure the bus network changes too. It needs to adapt to and address the concerns and priorities of the people it serves.
It is now clear that London is facing a serious air quality issue and people increasingly want greener buses to play a key role in tackling the problem. TfL is meeting this challenge head on by modernising our buses so that the fleet can become among the least polluting in the world.
All buses will meet or exceed the toughest air quality standards, Euro VI, by 2020. From 2019, all double-deck buses operating in central London will be hybrid and all 300 single-deck buses operating in the centre will emit nothing from their exhausts. This will create one of the world's largest zero-emission capable fleets. As we prepare for the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, TfL is retrofitting 5,000 buses with Euro VI emission technology and investing in hydrogen fuel cell buses.
But we need to do more. Starting this year, we will introduce 12 Low Emission Bus Zones to target areas outside central London with the poorest air quality, including Putney, Edmonton and Shepherd's Bush. We will put only the greenest buses on these routes, with the aim of reducing NOx emissions by 84%. But not only do our customers want less polluting bus services, they want more reliable ones too. Congestion in central London has led to journey times becoming less reliable and some people giving up on buses. This is a product of many factors, including London's surging growth and redevelopment, and the large increases in minicabs and home deliveries. But there are interventions we can, and must, make to right the trend. TfL is currently consulting on re-routing 14 bus routes to take them off Oxford Street where they currently get snarled up in traffic. We're also working on a wide range of congestion easing and bus priority schemes including in Greenwich, Lambeth and on the North Circular Road, and further honing systems for giving buses priorities at key junctions.
Our customers also want a bus service that treats them as the valued customers they are. That's why we've made 95% of bus stops accessible and introduced the iBus system, which provides audio and visual next-stop announcements for those with hearing or sight impairments. We're sending every driver on enhanced customer service training to help them give even better advice and assistance to customers, and help ensure their wheelchair space is available when wheelchair users need it.
We're focusing heavily on driving down the number of bus-related injuries, with trials of intelligent speed adaptation and other measures. And when things do, sadly, go wrong, we're now offering those affected by serious incidents much greater practical, financial and other support than ever before through our Sarah Hope Line.
Lastly, our customers want an affordable and convenient bus network. The mayor's new Hopper fare has been used by 20 million people in the first three months alone, making bus travel cheaper by enabling customers to change on to another bus or tram free of charge within an hour. The increasing real-time information that we provide, including through hundreds of third party apps, is putting up-to the- second service information into the hands of anyone with a smartphone.
By changing our bus service in these ways TfL will create cleaner, more attractive services that support the growth of the city in a sustainable way. As we do it, our aim is to make life better for our customers, our drivers and London as a whole.
Reference: Transport Times UK Bus Supplement 2017 - available to download here.
Leon Daniels, Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL will be speaking the Transport Times Conference The UK Bus Summit on the 9th February in London. For more information and how to book places at the event please click here.