Consultation on Changes to the Transport for London Bus Services 428 and 492
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: Yes
The Chairman reminded Cabinet that the Council had only recently concluded discussions with Transport for London (TfL) regarding the routing of bus services in the town centre and adjoining areas to improve traffic flows and better meet the need of bus users. The current consultation on proposed changes to TfL bus services 428 and 492 was therefore a cause of some concern. Whilst it might be appropriate for bus companies to examine services where they felt that there was duplication of services this was not the case here and one of the proposals for the 492 would remove an important route at the same time as the new secondary school at Stone was due to open. He felt that the introduction of this proposal in particular should be deferred so that the demand implications arising from the opening of the new school could be properly assessed.
The Head of Regeneration explained the proposed changes to Transport for London bus services 428 and 492 from January 2020, which were currently subject to public consultation until 10 September 2019. The proposed changes would result in a reduction in connectivity between certain parts of the London Borough of Bexley, including Erith and Sidcup, and the north-west part of Dartford through to Bluewater and vice-versa. The report detailed specific impacts likely to arise as a result of the proposed changes including the likely additional pressures on remaining bus services and impacts on users, including school children, people travelling along London Road and users of Darent Valley Hospital. TfL had taken the approach that its sole responsibility was to London’s bus users whereas the proposals affected users across the London/Kent boundary and had significant implications on cross-connectivity.
The proposals had been discussed extensively by the Cabinet Advisory Panel and the Joint Transportation Board. There had been concerns about increased costs for passengers arising from having to change buses in order to get to their destinations, increased journey times and the safety implications for school children having to break their journeys and the impact for people accessing Darent Valley Hospital. Detailed work was being carried out with TfL and KCC to seek to alleviate and mitigate the impact on customers in the Dartford area. There had been discussions with Arriva regarding the possibility of Arriva bus services covering the removed section of the 492 bus route but the company had not been keen to do so and it was therefore important to keep lobbying TfL. The Council had therefore prepared a formal objection to the proposals in respect of proposed changes to the 492 bus route and the London Borough of Bexley and Kent County Council (KCC) also intended to object to TfL’s proposals. KCC had now agreed that a joint objection should be lodged by them and Dartford.
The Chairman welcomed this approach but wondered whether the joint response to the consultation was sufficiently candid or robust. TfL needed to appreciate the strength of feeling and opposition to their proposals and the disappointment at the approach being taken by TfL given more productive co-operation with them over changes to other bus services in the town centre. He felt that a joint response with KCC should be made but that it would also be appropriate for the Council to make a separate representation to make the strength of its opposition clear. Members reflected that the 492 currently delivered a very good service that was well used and felt that if TfL had concerns about its commercial viability it could have considered other options such as reducing the frequency of the service in order to make it more viable rather than deleting the route. The implications for people living in the West of Dartford travelling to Bluewater were also discussed. The Chairman noted that the proposals had generated considerable local concern and campaign groups had been set up to oppose the changes and that a petition had been set up. He recognised the intention of the petitioners but felt that people should be encouraged to make their views known to TfL by responding to the consultation individually as otherwise he feared that TfL would treat the petition as a single consultation response which would not do justice to the strength of opposition.
The Cabinet noted that the Cabinet Advisory Panel had strongly endorsed the recommendations contained in the report and had been concerned at the impact that the proposed changes to the bus routes would have on local bus users and welcomed the ongoing efforts with partners to mitigate these impacts.
1. That the concerns highlighted in paragraphs 3.7-3.12, 3.16-17 and Appendix B to the report be the basis for a joint formal objection with KCC to Transport for London’s consultation, in particular to not support the proposed changes to bus route 492;
2. That the Council should make separate robust and candid representations to TfL to ensure that TfL is fully aware of the strength of the Council’s objections to its proposals; and
3. That officers continue to liaise with Transport for London, Kent County Council and non-Transport for London bus service operators beyond the consultation closing date of 10 September 2019 to seek a resolution that will alleviate the impact of proposed changes on customers in the Dartford area, in line with the identified mitigations sought, as set out in paragraph 3.19.
Publication date: 16/09/2019
Date of decision: 05/09/2019
Decided at meeting: 05/09/2019 - Cabinet
Effective from: 06/09/2019