Bus Networks: Planning for Growth in London

Bus Networks: Planning for Growth in London


J Barry, Transport for London - London Buses, UK



The author is from the bus network development team at Transport for London, involved in planning and procurement. The paper deals with the process of planning a bus network designed for growth.

The London example offers a number of features of general interest. It is large in scale with 1.4 billion bus passenger boardings per annum. There is a network of 600 routes provided by 6000 buses. Private contractors supply most of the service, though the system differs from that in the remainder of Great Britain. Demand for bus travel is currently growing by 6% per annum. The bus network operates as an integral component of an overall public transport network, and many of the other modes are also operated by Transport for London. There is intense competition for the allocation of roadspace. Expanding the bus network is a policy with political support at the strategic level.

A series of steps in the bus service planning process is described:

* understanding the market - research, data collection and liaison;

* defining the product - a simple, frequent, reliable and comprehensive network;

* service design and allocating resources - appraisal of options; * procurement and maintenance of services - including quality incentives.

The market evolves over time and is subject to a variety of outside pressures. In practice the planning process is cyclical and, in complex networks, the steps may overlap. Therefore the techniques must be both rigorous and flexible. The application of these steps to the planning process in London is described, though the paper focuseson service design. The importance of simple, frequent, reliable networks has been recognised and the London system has been working towards this for some years, while aiming to remain comprehensive. Progress is reviewed. A simple benefit/cost process to help with an appropriate allocation of resources within the bus service budget is described. The routine application of this technique at the level of local bus networks is uncommon in the UK.

To date there has not been ready sharing of best practice between those associated with the planning oflarge-city bus networks. The general conclusion of this paper is that the system described has produced benefits for the planning process and these may be worth comparing with systems elsewhere.


Association for European Transport