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Busiest London bus routes revealed as TfL announces major shake-up

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A lot of us have been avoiding the bus in recent months. Millions of us.

Transport for London (TfL)’s latest bus usage data has revealed the tragic extent of how ridership has collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

London’s busiest bus route, the 18, has still kept its crown despite its passenger figures tumbling by 9,634,679 in just one year. If each one of those lost passengers paid the £1.55 Hopper fare, the loss on just that one bus route alone in fares revenue is £14.9million.

Just over six million people (6,093,490) rode the key North West London link in the 2020/2021 financial year, down from over 15 million (15,728,169) the previous year, a dramatic decline of 61.5 per cent.

READ MORE : London Underground: TfL launches hiring spree as Night Tube expected to return

London’s buses are starting to get busy again after a dramatic fall in use

The data comes as TfL is about to start a review of all of London’s bus services as part of a £1.09bn emergency funding deal negotiated with central government in June.

Each bus route will be reviewed by a panel, which will include a representative from the Department for Transport, and service levels changed accordingly. TfL has already started to cut bus frequencies despite, bus usage figures starting to rise again. Bus usage around the capital has now returned to 60per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Scroll down to see the most and least used bus routes

The 18 has always been one of London’s busiest routes. Running between Sudbury and Euston, it provides the main transport link along the busy Harrow Road as well as providing a back-up for the parallel Bakerloo line. It has several sections which are more than a ten-minute walk from the nearest Tube station and until recently, it was the only bus route along residential parts of the Harrow Road.

Due to its largely straight route and high passenger numbers, the 18 was one of the first bus routes to be operated by bendy buses, when they took to the capital’s streets in 2003.

These vehicles could carry 140 people (almost double a Routemaster), with passengers getting on and off via three sets of doors instead of the usual one or two. Ridership soared during the bendy bus years and since their removal in 2010 has stabilised. Every year between 2011 and 2019, between 16 and 18 million passengers rode the aptly named route 18.

3 centralline

We’ve created a Facebook group for people who travel on London’s bus, rail, Underground, Overground and DLR services.

We will keep you informed about the latest news that affects your daily commute to work, as well as at the weekend.

We’ll also let you know in advance if there are any roadworks, railworks or closures you should know about, or if there are any problems on the city’s tube network.

Join the group here.

As restrictions are lifted, more Londoners are using buses again. The Mayor and TfL are desperate for Londoners to ride the capital’s buses again to make up lost revenue as otherwise it will be forced to make cutbacks. Their strategy includes the #LetsDoLondon campaign which has the slogan “Tube it. Bus it. Train it.”

For as much as two months on some routes, passengers were asked to board from the middle or rear doors, to limit contact between drivers and passengers at the height of the pandemic. This means that the actual number of passengers overall was probably higher as people did not touch in/out during their bus journeys. The data is a best-case scenario estimate.

The top 10 busiest routes for the 2020/2021 financial year were:

1st 18 (Sudbury-Euston) 6.09million
2nd 149 (Edmonton Green-London Bridge) 6.05million
3rd 29 (Wood Green-Trafalgar Square) 5.3million
4th 279 (Waltham Cross-Manor House) 5.09million
5th 5 (Romford-Canning Town) 5.07million
6th 86 (Romford-Stratford) 4.96million
7th 25 (Ilford-City Thameslink) 4.94million
8th 207 (Hayes By Pass-White City) 4.87million
9th 109 (Croydon-Brixton) 4.57million
10th 36 (New Cross Gate-Queen’s Park) 4.55million

The bottom 10 least busy/quietest routes were:

10th 385 (Crooked Billet Sainsbury’s-Chingford) 16196
9th 347 (Romford-Ockendon) 14145
8th 213 night service (Sutton-Kingston) 12222
7th* R5* (Orpington circular, alongside R10) 9462
6th* W10* (Crews Hill-Enfield) 9066
5th H3 (Golders Green-East Finchley) 9017
4th* R10* (Orpington circular, alongside R5) 8858
3rd* 456* (Crews Hill-North Middlesex Hospital) 5627
2nd 389 (Barnet-Western Way) 5260
1st 399 (Barnet-Hadley Wood) 4507

*Route W10 was renumbered 456 and extended to North Middlesex Hospital. Routes R5 and R10 run both ways around a circular route.

The full data, route-by-route, year-on-year for the past decade is available here.

Do you use route 18? Have you noticed the steep decline in passenger numbers? Let us know in the comments below!

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