Council urges Mayor to save Southwark’s “lifeline” buses

Southwark council has begged Sadiq Khan to “save our buses”, arguing that Southwark residents rely on buses more than almost anywhere in the country. 

Transport for London (TfL) has proposed removing the 12, 78, 45, 521 and N133 routes, and reducing others, to address a funding shortfall. 

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Earlier this month, in a meeting with the Mayor of London, Cllr Catherine Rose, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Streets and Clean Air, said: “Bus services are essential to life in Southwark. This is especially the case given the current absence of tube services in most parts of our borough. 

“They are lifelines for those with accessibility needs, and for those who simply have no other means of affordable transport, particularly in this current cost of living crisis.”

She said that the six wards in the country with the highest proportion of commuter journeys by bus were in Southwark, highlighting its disproportionate reliance on bus services. 

In Southwark, 58.4 per cent of households in Southwark do not own a car, compared to the London average of 41.6 per cent. 

Mounting opposition to the plans has seen protests in July, August and October, with Unite union members, local councillors and residents voicing their anger. 

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Council leader Kieron Williams backed Cllr Rose saying: “Every day thousands of Southwark residents depend on these vital bus services to get to work and stay connected with family and friends.  For many, they are the only safe and affordable option. 

“The response to the consultation and our petition has made clear just how important these buses are. That’s why I’ve asked the Mayor of London to intervene, and to use every option available to him to save our buses.”

A council report published by the council in response to TfL’s plans argued the cuts “undermined” climate policy and would hit vulnerable and disabled residents the hardest. 

TfL has proposed axing 16 bus routes and changing 78 routes to meet savings targets imposed by the government.

The cuts would save TfL £35 million per year but some argue this short-term benefit is outweighed by the long-term economic downturn cutting services would cause.