Battle of the Buses

Voices raised as cuts made to W12 service

Despite protests from thousands of service users, the Council and local MPs, Tfl is sticking to its decision to have cut the W12 service by a third. Although, after a recent meeting, it seems to have budged ever so slightly on what might happen in the future.

Since announcing at the end of 2017 that the W12, which serves the Village, would be cut from three times an hour to just two, there’s been a steady stream of protest from all corners of the community. The Walthamstow Village Residents’Association (publishers of this magazine) wrote to Tfl in December to object to the changes. The correspondence said: “Walthamstow Village and its surrounds have much sheltered and local authority housing and four almshouse sites, making  this service an important one for the most vulnerable of our residents, providing a vital link to both Whipps Cross Hospital and Walthamstow market, as well as one of the few Post Offices offering pension services left in the borough.”

It also echoed sentiments of many other objectors by highlighting that Tfl had made the decision with little notice and without consulting the affected communities.

Tfl has said the changes were made “following a review and to better match demand”. It’s known that because of a fall in passenger numbers across the tube, Tf l’s revenues have seen a steep drop, prompting a review of all its bus routes across London. The lack of consultation seems to contradict earlier statements made by Tfl. When contacted about rumoured changes to the W12 service a couple of years ago, the organisation responded, saying: “If any changes to this route were to be made, we would consult with the public about this.”

“When I heard about it, I was deeply disappointed. I use the service to visit my mum in hospital”

Among the many voices raised against the cuts was Hoe Street Ward Councillor Saima Mahmud. “When I heard about it, I was deeply disappointed. I use the service to visit my mum in hospital and when I’m on the bus I look around and I can seethat the vast majority of those on the  bus are older residents and disabled people. I started conversations about this on Facebook because I absolutely believe that  this service is a crucial lifeline for so many local residents. The residents who responded also said the same.”

Councillors from other wards served by the W12 have added their voices to the campaign, as has MP Stella Creasy. More recently, the Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clyde Loakes, and Cllr Alistair Strathern met with Claire Mann, the Director of Bus Operations at Tfl. They argued that, as few bus routes access Whipps Cross Hospital, a greater emphasis should have been placed on its wider community value – rather than just traditional performance markers – when making the decision to reduce the service.

According to Cllr Loakes, Mann informed him that, after cutting back the service to twice an hour, reliability on the route jumped by close to 30% and passenger numbers, which Tfl said were falling, had stabilised. Cllrs Loakes and Strathern asked for further details on these figures and are still awaiting that information.

The meeting did produce a small shift on the part of Tf l. Mann said her team would continue to keep the W12 route under review and consider if route enhancements could be made to improve access to the hospital once works at Whipps Cross roundabout are done. It looks like the battle of the buses is not over quite yet.

 

This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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