Updated story: Greenwich Council says it will be lobbying for a Woolwich to Eltham route to be included in London mayor Sadiq Khan’s new express bus network, after a link to the Elizabeth Line in SE London was left out of the package.
Today’s announcement of the Superloop network includes a mix of new, existing and proposed services that Transport for London says will link the capital’s outer boroughs.
The network includes the already-announced Grove Park to Canary Wharf bus planned as part of the Silvertown Tunnel bus network. The X239 will serve a handful of stops on the western border of Greenwich borough before running fast from the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout.
But it fails to include a north-south link within Greenwich borough – something the town hall called for in its transport strategy announced last year. More specifically, five years ago both Labour and Conservative councillors called for an express version of the 161 route to link Eltham with Woolwich for the Elizabeth Line.
This lack of connectivity has been made worse by the scrapping of the “loop” trains that linked Mottingham and New Eltham with Abbey Wood and Woolwich as part of the Westminster government’s cuts to rail services.
Greenwich Council said it would be lobbying for such a route to be included in the Superloop package, while the leader of the borough’s opposition Conservatives dismissed the new services as “hype”.
That lack of north-south connections within Greenwich borough dominated a council scrutiny meeting last week, with Labour councillor Lauren Dingsdale criticising the lack of joined-up thinking between TfL and rail operators. She told Southeastern boss Steve White: “We want a direct connection to the Elizabeth Line – if that was a bus, that would be great, and at the moment, we’re not getting it from anybody.”
Khan’s team hope that the Superloop network will head off criticism of the ULEZ expansion in outer London, although the full scheme will not be in place by August, when the charging zone will grow to the Greater London boundary. Fares would be the same as on normal bus routes. Khan’s deputy mayor for transport, Seb Dance, called the scheme a “game-changer”.
While City Hall Tories were quick to brand the proposals a “superflop”, a similar scheme was in Boris Johnson’s 2008 manifesto but was mostly abandoned after he became mayor.
Matt Hartley, the Greenwich Conservative leader and a critic of ULEZ expansion, told 853 this afternoon: “Today’s announcement is all hype, and does nothing to improve public transport in areas like Eltham, New Eltham and Mottingham who are about to be hit by Sadiq Khan’s punitive ULEZ expansion. Nor is the mayor doing anything at all to improve north-south transport links in our borough – our single biggest public transport challenge.
“Transport for London should urgently look again at the case Conservative councillors have put forward for an X161 express bus service linking the south of the borough to the Elizabeth Line station at Woolwich – something that is now even more important following Southeastern’s axeing of half-hourly loop trains from the Sidcup Line.”
A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The proposed Superloop bus service has the potential to improve connectivity between key transport hubs and community facilities around London. Whilst we’re glad to see improvements to London’s wider transport network, we’re particularly keen to see connections improved between Woolwich and Eltham town centres.
“Woolwich is a key transport hub, serving a wealth of local bus routes, the Elizabeth line, Docklands Light Railway, overground rail and river services. Eltham is also an important town centre for the borough, as one of our strategic growth areas.
“However, public transport services between Woolwich and Eltham are limited and we have lobbied TfL to help our residents move between the north and south of the borough more easily. We’ll be calling on the Mayor of London to consider this as part of the Superloop consultation. Improved connectivity and journey times will play an essential part in encouraging greater use of public transport and delivering a cleaner, greener Greenwich, in line with our transport strategy.”
Where will be on the Superloop?
Details of the proposed routes are, in the main, sketchy. They include a fast route from Bexleyheath to Bromley, a stretch already covered by the 269 service; a previous express bus over this stretch, the 726, ran here until the late 1990s.
Another bus is proposed from Bromley to Croydon, while an existing route from Croydon to Heathrow, the X26, will be beefed up to run four buses an hour. The X26 frequency was also doubled under Johnson’s original orbital bus plans.
North of the river, the proposals take in an existing service, the Heathrow to Harrow X140, with new routes from Harrow to North Finchley and North Finchley to Walthamstow. The final section of the loop would run from Walthamstow to the Royal Docks – but stopping short of the Silvertown Tunnel and a connection back across the Thames to Greenwich.
The network also includes two longstanding express routes elsewhere in London as well as the proposed X239 though the new tunnel.
Story updated at 5.15pm to include Greenwich Council quote.
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