ULEZ Public Transport Improvements 'Below Expectations'

Councillors told that only bus services struggling since expansion

Route R70 badly affected by Manor Circus works
Route R70 badly affected by Manor Circus works. Picture: London Bus Fan Wiki


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January 12, 2024

Improvements to public transport in outer London have been described as only ‘light’ since the ULEZ expansion, with concerns raised over the reliability of bus services. Councillors in Richmond raised concerns about public transport in the borough at a meeting on 9 January.

It comes after the ULEZ was expanded on 29 August, meaning drivers of the most polluting vehicles must pay £12.50 to drive around all London boroughs. The zone now covers the whole of the Richmond borough, where it previously only included areas in Barnes, Mortlake, East Sheen, North Richmond and Kew.

Councillors called for improvements to public transport in light of the ULEZ expansion at Richmond Council’s transport committee meeting on 9 January. Transport for London (TfL) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) it is determined to make sure Richmond residents have access to high-quality, sustainable transport options and it is working to increase bus services wherever it can.

Lib Dem councillor Kate Mansfield said there were areas in the borough with particularly low public transport accessibility levels. She said, “I do think we need to follow up with TfL and get them to meet the commitments they made at the time of ULEZ for outer London.”

Lib Dem councillor Sam Dalton asked officers what conversations the authority could have with TfL, following the ULEZ expansion, about the reliability of bus services in Richmond. He said residents rely on buses on the R70 route in Hampton North but they “aren’t the most reliable” and “cancel last minute”.

David Tidley, transport strategy team manager, said, “I think that TfL and the Mayor of London effectively when saying that they were going to expand ULEZ… did it really on a presumption that there would be better, strengthened public transport in outer London. There has been some, we mentioned the Superloop bus, but it’s relatively light compared to what I would expect residents’ expectations are and the R70 particularly has struggled recently due to the works at Manor Circus which has resulted in it being on a diversion and suffering from reliability problems.”

Mr Tidley said he had a list of proposed schemes and bus routes that had been put forward to him to raise with TfL.

Green councillor Andrée Frieze added, “Bringing in ULEZ, you have to ensure that there is enough public transport for people to use and, like in my own ward which is very reliant on our bus services, we need to make sure we have as many of them as possible if we’re going to really reduce the air pollution, reducing climate change and getting more people active… and making sure they’re healthier in the long-term.”

A new council report said more than 95per cent of vehicles seen driving in outer London met ULEZ requirements in October 2023, compared to 91pc at the time of the expansion, with Richmond considered to have compliance rates slightly above the average.

The council launched a scheme last year which discounts the cost of bikes and cargo bikes, along with offering free car club memberships and £50 Oyster cards to help residents with the ULEZ expansion. It has set aside £135,000 for the scheme, which is open to anyone wishing to get rid of or replace a non-compliant vehicle. The council report said 159 households had applied to the scheme so far and 143 applications had been successfully processed.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the Superloop bus network circling outer London last year to improve connectivity and journey times. All routes that make up the loop are expected to be in service by spring this year.

A TfL spokesperson said, “We’re determined to ensure that people living in Richmond have access to high-quality, affordable and sustainable transport options and the borough is in the top third for bus vehicle kilometres per resident. We’re working to increase bus services wherever we can.

“This includes doubling the frequency of the SL7 route as part of its introduction to the game-changing new Superloop network. We’re working hard to bring the full orbital loop into operation this spring, transforming bus travel across outer London.

“We’re working closely with Thames Water to minimise the impact of the work on the Manor Circus project and doing everything we can to complete the roadworks as soon as possible. We expect all buses in the area to return to normal service by early March.”


Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter


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