AN ASTONISHING nine of the capital’s ten most congested bus routes serve south east London, according to a passenger survey.
Long-suffering commuters, already poorly served by public transport compared to the rest of London, have painted a damning picture of bus travel in the area.
The survey, published by the London Assembly’s transport committee, showed that, according to passengers, the 185 from Lewisham to Victoria was particularly overcrowded.
But buses serving Woolwich, Brockley, Catford and Eltham have also been slammed by the people forced to squeeze on each day.
One passenger of the 162 connecting Beckenham to Eltham told the survey: "I have seen elderly people falling over on this bus because there is nowhere to sit."
The committee has warned that, with a rising population, action needs to be taken to address the problems and listen to passengers concerns.
London Assembly Member Darren Johnson, who is on the committee, said: "News that nine out of the 10 most crowded bus routes in London run along a corridor through Camberwell, Peckham, Forest Hill and Catford will come as no surprise to residents of south east London.
"Unlike other parts of London this is an area poorly served by the tube and this route is is exactly where the Bakerloo line should be extended beneath London’s packed streets. I will continue to lobby hard for the Mayor to get moving on plans for this desperately-needed extension.
"Given that this would take at least 30 years to complete, TfL need to invest right now in bus services in the south east of the capital so that the discomfort and difficulty is reduced for passengers travelling today.”
Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander said: "This is a really important piece of work and highlights the huge pressure that the public transport system is under.
"We know that the population in south east London is growing rapidly and proper planning must take place to ensure we have enough capacity on buses to deal with rising demand.
"Anyone who has seen a crowded bus sail past when they are rushing to work in the morning will welcome the recommendations in this report.
"We need to understand in detail what journeys people want to make – this might mean extra buses on popular routes or the introduction of new routes all together."
Transport for London’s managing director of surface transport Leon Daniels said: "We are committed to maintaining and further improving this network and ensuring it continues to expand to meet the needs of London’s growing population.
"To achieve this we need the government to continue to support our investment whilst we work hard to get the most out of the existing network and match capacity to passenger demand."
Reporter Robert Fisk on his regular 208 woes
Overcrowding on the buses seems to be caused by the fact Transport for London cannot tell the time.
The 208 supposedly comes every 12 minutes on weekdays but this is rarely the case.
Instead passengers are left waiting for 25 minutes in the cold and wet until a packed bus turns up.
Because the bus takes so long to arrive it is full to bursting with double the amount of passengers which would be on it if it arrived when it is supposed to.
This means it is usually standing room only when schools finish for the day – and not just downstairs.
Children are often seen standing on the stairs or on the top deck as they don’ t want to wait for another bus which will be just as packed 25 minutes later.
The routes most frequently cited as busy or overcrowded
185 from Lewisham to Victoria station via Catford and Forest Hill
208 from Orpington to Lewisham via Downham and Catford
96 from Bluewater to Woolwich via Plumstead
38 from Clapton to Victoria
176 from Penge to Tottenham Court Road via Sydenham and Honor Oak
172 from Brockley Rise to St Paul’s via Crofton Park and New Cross
484 from Camberwell Green to Lewisham via Brockley
336 from Locksbottom to Catford via Downham
162 from Eltham station to Beckenham Junction
358 from Orpington to Crystal Palace