The “Superloop” network of express buses linking the London suburbs will be 40 per cent complete by the summer, Sadiq Khan has promised.
The mayor previewed the branding that will be sported by the buses, which will have limited stops to reduce the time they take between suburban town centres, at a media event on Tuesday.
Transport for London’s plan is for the entire loop to be formed by 10 express bus routes – four already in existence and the others to be finalised.
TfL commissioner Andy Lord told the TfL board on Wednesday: “It’s our intention to move as quickly as possible in terms of enabling the entire network.”
The Superloop network will add five million kilometres to TfL’s city-wide bus network. Mr Lord said it was the “biggest change to the London bus network in nearly 20 years”.
But he admitted it “won’t be zero emission from day one” as there is no electric bus currently available that can be used on the X26 route that will become part of the Superloop network.
The X26, which links West Croydon and Heathrow, was said to be the longest route in London. It currently uses low emission buses as zero emission buses, such as battery electric vehicles, do not have the range to complete the route without being recharged.
Mr Lord vowed that the Superloop route would eventually be operated by zero emission buses.
The aim is to have the 10 routes in operation by the end of 2024 – but there will be no services crossing the Thames in east and south-east London.
Services linking both sides of the river will have to wait until the Silvertown tunnel is open, with 2025 being the target date.
Mr Khan said: “What the Superloop is about is connecting people and families faster to where they want to go to – hospitals, shopping centres, transport hubs.”
Asked when it would be completed, he told the Standard: “What is important is that we don’t impose the route. What I can say is that we are going to have buses going from Croydon to Bromley, from Harrow to Heathrow, from Ilford to the Royal Docks, from Harrow to North Finchley.
“But the other routes we will be working with Londoners about the best places to go to. The Superloop buses don’t stop at every stop. We want to consult on the next phase and on frequencies.”
Which will be the first Superloop routes?
Four existing express bus routes will be the first to be rebranded as Superloop routes.
· The X26 between West Croydon and Heathrow Airport. Its frequency will be doubled to a bus every 15 minutes.
· The X140 that connects Heathrow and Harrow.
· The 607 between Uxbridge and White City.
· The X68 between Russell Square and Croydon
The next part of the network will be a route linking Harrow with North Finchley, via Arnos Grove and Edmonton . TfL is expecting to consult on the precise route in April.
Other parts of the network are far less set in stone. TfL wants to create a link between North Finchley and Walthamstow, and another from Walthamstow to the Royal Docks via Ilford.
Links are also proposed between Bexleyheath, Bromley and Croydon. The Bexleyheath to Bromley Superloop would call at Sidcup and Queen Mary’s Hospital.
A new express link, the X239, between Grove Park and Canary Wharf has already been consulted upon but cannot open in full until the Silvertown tunnel opens.
How much will it cost to travel on a Superloop bus?
£1.75 – the standard London bus fare. Passengers will also benefit from the Hopper fare, which allows multiple bus journeys within 60 minutes for no additional charge. This means passengers could switch from a Superloop bus onto a regular bus service, or vice versa, to complete their journey.
Who thought up the name?
There has been talk of focus groups – though others say ideas were simply shared on WhatsApp groups. City Hall aides have taken to re-word the Abba hit Super Trouper as Super Looper.
Mr Khan said: “There are lots of people in City Hall claiming the credit. All the great ideas come from the mayor.
“We are speaking to the Abba Abbatars because, Super Trouper, Super Looper, who knows…?”
Will the Superloop be ready in time for the Ulez expansion?
Only partly. The Ulez is due to expand to the Greater London boundary on August 29. Only a few of the existing express routes are likely to have been rebranded by then.
What kind of bus will be used on the Superloop?
The bus at the media launch was London’s most futuristic electric bus, currently on use on route 63. It is thought the full route will be operated by electric vehicles but that will depend on the tendering process for each route leg.
What do the mayor’s critics say?
Tory transport spokesman Nick Rogers dubbed the scheme a “superflop” and “nothing more than a repackaging of existing routes and vague promises that will not be delivered before his Ulez expansion hits Londoners”.
Lib-Dem Caroline Pidgeon pointed to the Mayor’s bus cuts in central London, such as the decision to axe the eastern section of the 11 route.
She said it was important for the Superloop to consist of new bus routes not rebranded existing routes.
“As I highlighted to the Mayor last week, there have been significant cuts to London’s bus services under his administration with persistent attempts to cover this up by rebranding slightly altered existing routes as ‘new services’,” she said.
Green Sian Berry, speaking as chair of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “The majority of these changes are not due to come into effect until 2024, and we need alternative options in place to coincide with the Ulez expansion.”
Mr Khan said people opposed to the Superloop were “curmudgeons”.