23 March 2022

Service cuts, fare rises and slow journeys – London’s bus users have had to put up with a lot in recent years. But as London’s most accessible, affordable and city-wide form of public transport, the life of the capital would grind to a halt without the bus. It is no surprise that the bus is used more than the train or Tube, with more than half of Londoners travelling on it at least once a week.

To highlight just how important the bus is to Londoners, we‘re publishing research to show how a wide cross-section of people, young and old, use the bus across all hours of the day and night. We’ve identified that bus passengers tend to be those on lower incomes, are more likely to be people of colour, women or younger people.

The bus serves many purposes in people’s lives. For instance, more people use the bus between the peak hours than in the peak hours.

And so the bus isn’t just for getting to work but also for caring responsibilities, health purposes, shopping and often involves lots of stop-offs along the way – particularly for women and those with children.

As London’s only fully accessible and affordable form of public transport, many disabled people rely on the bus for their independence, and rely on it to be able to get out and about, go to work or visit friends.

The bus is also important to London’s economy during the day but also at night, and not just for those who use the bus to enjoy the capital’s nightlife. Half of those who travel on the night bus use it to travel to work, including hospital staff and hospitality workers.

The stark reality is that other modes of public transport are too expensive for many bus passengers. Compared to Londoners as a whole, you are more likely to use the bus if your household has an income of less than £20,000 per year. This makes those passengers particularly vulnerable to the removal of bus services, frequency reductions, fare rises and drops in reliability.

Given the ongoing cost of living crisis, it’s never been more important to protect London’s frequent and affordable bus services as the capital emerges from the pandemic.

In Transport for London’s (TfL’s) upcoming review of bus service use, as part of their latest funding deal with the Government, we need to ensure that the current frequency of buses is retained.

However, there are positive signs for the future. We welcome TfL’s new Bus action plan which sets out their vision of a better bus network in the months and years ahead. Their plans including improving journey times to make buses more attractive to people.

TfL have told us that if the speed of buses increases by 1mph it can potentially save TfL between £100m and £200m per year[1], which can be re-invested in bus routes, particularly those in outer London. If buses are more reliable then more people will use them, potentially generating additional revenue of £80m to £85m[2] [3]. So, improving journey times really is a win-win.

We have also called on London’s boroughs to help by producing a plan to #FreeTheBus. With 95% of the capital’s roads run by the boroughs, we believe there are a number of practical changes that they can make to help the bus become more reliable and reduce bus journey times.

Taking these initiatives together, we strongly believe that there is a great opportunity for better buses in London. By making buses as reliable and affordable as possible, it will both protect services for those who already use them and begin a new era which encourages more Londoners to use the bus.

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Links to our other bus work

Free the Bus Campaign

We call on London’s boroughs to help the bus

The London Bus Alliance

London TravelWatch Bus Summit – watch the full video here

Briefing on bus cost savings

Blog: Why London TravelWatch wants to #FreeTheBus

Blog: Clearing the way for London’s buses


  1. Based on formulas of speed operating cost elasticity and service elasticity. Professor David Begg, The impact of congestion on bus passengers
  2. Based on formulas of speed operating cost elasticity and service elasticity. Professor David Begg, The impact of congestion on bus passengers
  3. Savings and revenue will vary depending on the circumstances such as location and existing demand on route.
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