Call for Superloop buses to cover more of outer London

The express bus service has proven popular since it launched last year, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The SL1 route connects North Finchley with Walthamstow via Arnos Grove, Palmers Green and Edmonton
The SL1 route connects North Finchley with Walthamstow via Arnos Grove, Palmers Green and Edmonton

Sadiq Khan is facing calls to expand his Superloop network of express bus services to cover more of outer London.

Announced by Transport for London (TfL) in March last year, the Superloop is a series of new bus routes designed to link town centres, transport hubs and hospitals – which together form a vast circle through the capital’s suburbs.

The SL1 service from North Finchley to Walthamstow launched in December, connecting Barnet, Enfield and Waltham Forest boroughs. However, there are no Superloop services planned for Haringey.

But in a letter to the mayor, the London Assembly’s transport committee has said it is “concerned that there are significant areas (such as Havering) not served by these routes”.

The committee’s Conservative chairman, Keith Prince, said: “For London to continue to thrive, we must ensure TfL’s network connects the entirety of the city.

“Outer London has been crying out for improved transport links for some time, and the Superloop has helped alleviate some pressures on outer London residents.

“However, the existing routes do not do enough for all outer London boroughs, so it is vital that the mayor and TfL expand on the Superloop to other boroughs.”

Prince, who represents Havering and Redbridge on the assembly, added: “There needs to be a more cohesive approach when it comes to outer London transport, and we believe that an outer London transport taskforce would help push forward the changes needed.”

The taskforce described by Prince should work “with neighbouring authorities to agree and implement a detailed series of improvements” to transport in the suburbs, the committee’s letter says.

Alex Smith, head of campaigns at London TravelWatch, told the committee in July last year that her organisation would like to see the Superloop “as a stepping stone to introducing more routes”.

She added: “Some of the routes are pre-existing routes. The extra kilometres are very welcome, but we would like to see more.”

A TfL official told the committee that “90% of [outer London] residents will be within one interchange of a Superloop route”, but the committee points out that this average includes significant variation between boroughs, from 98% in Greenwich to just 35% in Havering.

The letter adds that TfL “should investigate ways to introduce further bus priority measures (such as dedicated bus lanes or priority lights) for the Superloop to reduce journey times as well as expanding bus priority measures more generally across outer London”.

Responding, a spokesperson for the mayor said: “Buses sit at the heart of the capital’s transport network and have a key role to play as we continue building a better, greener and fairer city for all Londoners.

“The mayor is committed to providing the best bus network possible for Londoners and investing across the network, growing outer London’s network, including launching the next Superloop routes in the coming weeks to improve journeys for all Londoners.

“Over the coming months, the impact of the Superloop routes will be kept under review, to consider whether to make any changes or add any additional express routes.

“The mayor will consider the assembly transport committee’s recommendations and respond in due course.”

Khan was also told in the committee’s letter that he should work with the government and rail operators to ensure that all main railway stations in outer London have at least four services an hour in each direction, and to ensure that key outer London bus services have their frequencies increased.

The assembly members added that the mayor should continue lobbying the government to “provide significant funding for key outer London infrastructure projects such as Beam Park Station, the Docklands Light Railway extension to Thamesmead, and the West London Orbital Railway”.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has been separately written to by the committee, with requests including the integration of contactless travel outside London and reforms to pricing.

He has also been told that his department should “agree a multiyear funding agreement with TfL as a priority” and should “look again at the case for further devolution of rail services”.

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