Mayoral candidate Stephen Greenhalgh today said he would revolutionise London’s bus service – to ensure passengers are the top priority.

He said his buses blueprint would not only work in favour of London bus users but also allow for reductions in the level of public subsidy required. Current Mayor, Boris Johnson, has already successfully reduced the annual subsidy from £800m to £400m.

Mr Greenhalgh – who is running to win the Conservative Mayoral nomination – pledged to introduce performance incentives so companies were encouraged to run more quickly and pick up more passengers, and said he would run more buses on the most popular routes.

To ensure buses help passengers – especially workers during rush hour – reach their destinations as quickly as possible, bus companies would be rewarded for running their services more quickly. This contract model – which will bring an end to buses resting at stops to “regulate the service” – is used in other parts of the country’s transport network. This would see Transport for London (TfL) rolling out SCOOT (a road signal system that keeps traffic flowing) more rapidly, and Metropolitan Police traffic officers ensuring disruptions are quickly dealt with and kept to a minimum.

The new “net cost contracts” would also encourage bus companies to pick up more passengers, as they would be entitled to keep all revenue from fares (set by the Mayor of London), less the costs of providing the bus service for that route. It would mean that although less popular routes would still require some of the public subsidy, profitable routes would generate an income to TfL.

Buses are currently contracted to run timetabled services, not incentivised to reduce travel times or have more passengers.

Transport for London will also be required to concentrate more resources on the routes used by most passengers – more buses will run on these, with frequency reduced on under-utilised routes. There will be no reduction in overall bus mileage across the capital. At the moment buses on some routes (such as early-week night buses) often run near-empty, costing money and adding to pollution.

Mr Greenhalgh said he welcomed an idea proposed by Lord Adonis, the former transport minister, for a “ticket transfer”. Currently passengers who use two or more buses to reach their location currently have to buy a fare for each trip. The transfer plan would see a time limit placed on each ticket, which could be used on any bus for that period. Mr Greenhalgh said he would now carry out detailed costing and a feasibility assessment for the plan.

New polling by YouGov out today reveals that Londoners back Mr Greenhalgh’s plans:

  • Many more Londoners supported (48 per cent) than opposed (13 per cent) his pledge that more of the payments made to bus companies are based on performance – a 35-percentage point lead in favour.
  • Many more Londoners supported (45 per cent) than opposed (27 per cent) his pledge to ensure more buses ran at the busier times and places, with fewer running on less popular routes – an 18-percentage point lead in favour.

Mr Greenhalgh said: “My bus revolution will deliver a better bus service at lower cost – with passengers the priority. As Mayor I will ensure that every bus is a jobs express for London’s workers.

“I frequently take buses for short journeys closer to home and people tell me that the slowness of the buses means they often get into trouble because they are too often late for work. Bus companies need to work to passengers’ needs – not bureaucrats’ timetables.

“New contracts will mean companies will be incentivised to ensure their passengers arrive in good time and to pick up more passengers. And I will match bus supply to demand – there will be no loss of service and the cost of running empty buses will be hugely reduced.

“Londoners need an integrated, passenger-orientated public transport network of 24-hour buses and tubes as well as overground rail services in a city that never sleeps. This is critical to millions of Londoners striving to get to work and live their lives.”

The announcement is the latest major transport pledge from Mr Greenhalgh, who has already promised to cut all Tube fares by three per cent every year that he is Mayor by overhauling TfL’s existing structure and finding back-office savings, slashing non-operating costs, reviewing TfL’s balance sheet and all its assets including land holdings, and driving efficiency through introducing new technologies more quickly. The pledge – which over four years would save Londoners £905.21 on an annual Zone 1-3 Travelcard, for example – has already been backed by a number of experts, including Transport for London Board member Brian Cooke.

Mr Greenhalgh has a track record of delivering high-quality services while reducing costs for Londoners.

  • As leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Mr Greenhalgh cut council tax in five years out of six from 2007, bringing it down from one of the highest in the country to the third lowest. He also brought the council’s debt to below £100m for the first time in over 25 years. At the same time, residents’ satisfaction with services rose and Mr Greenhalgh was re-elected in 2010 with a large majority.
  • And during his time as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, the Metropolitan Police has made savings of £240m, while spending more on front-line policing which has led to a 19% fall in victim-based crime while public confidence in the police has risen.

Improving the bus service is one of Mr Greenhalgh’s ’15 Challenges for a Future Mayor’ – the key issues he has promised to address should he be elected in 2016. Among the other challenges he will tackle are providing affordable housing, protecting neighbourhood policing numbers, and ensuring every London child has a good school place.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,011 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th February – 2nd March 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+).