Overcrowding on the X26 bus

The X26 limited-stop bus service runs from Croydon to Heathrow Airport and the route includes Sutton, Kingston and of course Worcester Park. It is a very useful service for getting from the South West edges of London to Heathrow which is otherwise very poorly served by public transport links to London’s largest airport. The single journey fare, currently £1.50, is the same as all other London buses which I’m sure adds to its popularity.

I use the route whenever I need to travel from Heathrow and have noticed that I usually have to stand when boarding at Worcester Park station. It is not just a problem at peak times as I have also had to stand when travelling early on weekend mornings.

I logged the capacity problem via FixMyTransport.com back in 2011 before I was a councillor, in fact before I had even thought about becoming a councillor, and was told ‘Recent reviews of route X26 have shown that capacity is sufficient to meet passenger demand’. I had no way of knowing how they interpreted their data but their conclusion was not in line with my experience as a passenger.

As soon as I was elected as a councillor for Worcester Park ward in May 2014 I decided to try to tackle the problem again with the help of Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee. Consequently the issue was raised in July 2014  at the Mayor of London’s question time (Frequency of X26 bus route) and the Mayor, Boris Johnson, stated ‘TfL has identified a crowding issue in the morning peak on route X26 and is investigating potential solutions’. It was encouraging to get it raised at this level but the answer was only partly accurate because, as I have mentioned, the overcrowding can occur at other times of the day.

During an event with our MP Paul Burstow someone mentioned a case where a family including elderly members was split when some got on at one stop then the remainder could not join them at a later stop as the bus was by then full, leaving the elderly members stranded.

More recently I attended the London Councils Summit 2014 at the City of London’s Guildhall and had the opportunity to discuss the issue with representatives of TfL. I was encouraged to receive a written reply from TfL advising that they would review the loadings for the service.

This week I attended Sutton Council’s Public Transport Liaison Group and I was pleased to see my question and their commitment to review loadings was included in TfL’s report to the Group.

I am eagerly awaiting the result of TfL’s review of the X26 loading data and am looking forward to seeing the solutions they offer.