In March 2017 the 167 bus route from Ilford to Debden was curtailed to terminate at Loughton Station. We have now learnt that the 20 from Walthamstow to Debden may also be under threat in 2019. Transport for London have revealed that the total costs for these routes in Essex exceeded fare income by around £1.5m, of which £0.6m was repaid by Essex County Council. In April 2016 Essex CC abruptly withdrew this subsidy and TfL then held a public consultation on the 167. Despite overwhelming opposition from residents in Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Debden, TfL went ahead to curtail the service to running between Ilford and Loughton only.
At the same time, the frequency of the 549 from South Woodford to Loughton was reduced from 60 to 70 minutes, allegedly to improve reliability, but this will mean that occasional passengers will no longer be able to just turn up at the same minutes past each hour; they will have to consult the timetable or potentially face a long wait.
TfL are under further pressure to eliminate their current £500m subsidy from Central Government, and this will lead to a reappraisal of all routes, particularly those which extend outside the London boundary. TfL have explicitly stated that London should not subsidise services in adjoining counties.
We cannot disagree with that. Transport policy in Essex is the responsibility of the County Council, and BHRS will be joining with residents of Loughton and elsewhere to lobby Essex CC to negotiate with TfL to maintain services. We recognise that this might involve either increasing fares on journeys within Essex or raising Council Tax to restore their subsidy. Essex CC must not be allowed to simply walk away from their responsibility, as they did last year with the 167, and pass the blame to TfL. The current contract for the 20 expires in 2019.