How the bus strike is going in Lewisham

As mentioned recently, there’s a London-wide bus strike today at 18 of the companies that operate London’s red buses for Transport for London.

No buses

Unlike most strikes, it’s relatively easy for anyone to gauge how effective this one is being at cutting back London’s bus service today because of the Countdown platform that TfL uses to tell you (and allow others’ apps to tell you) when your next bus will be along.

Using the Countdown system, sites like London Vehicle Finder and Live London bus map give you a clear overview of how any given route is operating in real time. (The only caveat would be where any vintage buses have been drafted in to plug gaps, these are presumably not fitted with the necessary equipment to track them through Countdown, so bear in mind all stats here exclude any of those.)

I’ve been through London Vehicle Finder (LVF) to check how each route that normally operates through Lewisham town centre is running today. I did this research at lunchtime but LVF also gives you a history of the route back to midnight on the day you search.

My research found that nine of Lewisham’s 23 routes have had no buses operating on them all day since the early hours when the strike kicked in – well done to the union members for observing the strike so collectively! In all it seems only approximately 21% of the bus vehicles that would normally serve Lewisham town centre have been doing so today.

Only one Lewisham route, number 75, currently appears to be operating with 100% of its bus fleet on the road. This is a strange anomaly for services based at a bus garage (Catford) where so many other routes have been completely off the road, and I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts on why this has happened with this one route alone!

My full findings are below in a table. Note that PVR stands for Peak Vehicle Requirement, meaning the number of bus vehicles needed in total to operate the route at its most vehicle-intensive period. This may well not be weekday lunchtime so you can take the percentages quoted as ‘worst-case’ ones – maybe there were more buses out in the peaks when the full PVR-sized fleet should have been… maybe.

Route No. of buses operating PVR % running
21 4 26 15%
47 9 20 45%
54 0 16 0%
75 14 14 100%
89 2 15 13%
108 4 14 29%
122 0 18 0%
136 5 21 24%
178 0 8 0%
180 11 14 79%
181 3 12 25%
185 4 24 17%
199 0 10 0%
208 4 16 25%
225 0 7 0%
261 4 13 31%
273 0 8 0%
284 2 11 18%
321 0 19 0%
380 0 12 0%
436 0 31 0%
484 3 13 23%
P4 7 13 54%
Total 76 355 21%

Source: live bus info from London Vehicle Finder, 13.30, 13 Jan 2015. PVR data from London Bus Routes.

Other nearby routes affected include the 453, on which just three Boris vanity buses (PVR 35) are operating at time of writing, and the 53, which has six out of 26 buses in service.

Someone over at BBC London has done similar research across all of London and also at lunchtime reports that 30% of London buses were running, with 330 routes not running, 630 routes affected in some way and just 44 routes not affected at all (including presumably the legendary B12, and B13, B15 and 160, run by Arriva Kent Thameside where there’s no strike today). 22 routes had just one bus each running on them.

So there’s no doubt this has been a major strike across London and hit the most-used form of transport in the city very hard – congratulations to those organising such an ambitious co-ordinated strike. Next we’ll see whether there’s any movement from the 18 companies involved on the issue of whether to negotiate towards a shared set of terms and conditions for bus drivers across the capital. And in the meantime, enjoy – for want of a better word – the strange sight of Lewisham town centre with only a fifth the usual number of buses in it!


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