The G1 bus on Sabine Road
The G1: disliked by Sabine Road, unwanted by Eversleigh Road, but loved by everyone.

It was a hot night for a public meeting, and a hot public meeting to discuss the Transport for London (TfL) proposals to re-route the G1 bus route. Around 50 people attended and, for 90 minutes or so, had their say on the G1. I was surprised that the turnout exceeded that of the Shaftesbury Let’s Talk meeting earlier this year. Proof, perhaps, of the truth in Tip O’Neill‘s adage that all politics is local.

The background and suggestion are fairly simple. Residents on western part Sabine Road have suffered with the “stereo effect of the G1” travelling on the road in both directions, and have lobbied for a change ever since the current route has been in operation. These concerns were raised with TfL who suggested another option would be run the westbound route for the full length of Eversleigh Road.

The current situation is that around 120 people have replied to the TfL consultation, and the results are something like 65% against and 35% in favour: unsurprisingly there is an incredibly strong correlation between whether someone is for or against and whether they live on Sabine Road or Eversleigh Road.

Looking through the notes I jotted of the meeting I got the sense that the proportions last night were about the same, and again, largely a function of where the resident lived (I had some admiration for the Sabine Road residents who spoke up for a move; it is never easy to speak up in favour of something when a majority of those present have been vocally hostile towards it). Several additional points were raised, including a perception that the buses speeded through estate (although previous council traffic surveys didn’t find evidence of widespread speeding by any vehicle) and that something needed to be done on speed. Unfortunately enforcement of 20mph zones is not national police policy.

A few misconceptions were raised. Several seemed to think it was essentially a conspiracy by TfL because the introduction of Boris Bikes would require a new route. In fact, the two issues are separate and even if the bikes did need a new route—which they shouldn’t since they do not take road space, only parking spaces—it is invariably the case that Bernard Ingham’s version of Hanlon’s razor is correct.

Another misconception, which might be a matter of opinion, is that the council and TfL were wrong to even investigate this. Personally, whatever the outcome, I think we would have been wrong not to consider the complaints from, and issues faced by, the Sabine Road residents.

The consultation is still formally open and will probably be extended until 26 July so there is plenty of time for those who still want to comment. As I have said before, in technical terms I do not think there is much difference between the options, so it really is down to the consultation.

Unfortunately it is one of those topics in which it is not possible to end with a result that pleases everyone, since while there was widespread love for the bus service (any mention of the service’s value and wanting to keep it on the estate triggered applause), no-one really wants it going past their home. If there is an overall positive from this, it’s that the issue has resulted in the formation of the Shaftesbury Residents’ Group, and hopefully the energy they have displayed opposing this will go on to help with other issues and topics affected the Shaftesbury Park Estate.

The G1 bus on Sabine Road

The G1 bus on Sabine Road
The G1 bus on Sabine Road
If the Transport for London proposal to re-route the G1 bus vexes or delights you, then you might be interested in a public meeting taking place next week.

Organised by the three ward councillors the meeting will be attended by officials from TfL and the council and will allow residents to express their views—for and against—the proposals. As I stated in my previous post, I suspect a great deal of weight will be given to public attitude since the technical arguments for either route are quite marginal.

The meeting is open, so you can just turn up, and will take place at 7pm on Tuesday, 9 July at Shaftesbury Park School on Ashbury Road.

The G1 bus on Sabine Road
The G1 bus on Sabine Road

I have a soft spot for the G1. It has always struck me as a cozy route and is probably the most friendly bus on which I have ever travelled in London. However, not everyone is a big fan of the route, so Transport for London are consulting on re-routing it for part of its journey through the Shaftesbury Park Estate.

In essence, the proposals would mean that on its journey southbound it would remain on Eversleigh Road, rather than travelling half-way along Eversleigh Road before turning up Grayshott Road and then along Sabine Road before leaving.

TfL made the proposal in response to complaints residents of Sabine Road made to the council about, among other things, speeding buses, damage to cars and traffic congestion caused by the buses.

To deal with the bread-and-butter of the issue first the formal consultation runs until 12 July, and a letter and map of the changes should have been sent to all households in the area. However, following the negative response from Eversleigh Road it looks like they will be extending that consultation period. As councillors we are trying to organise a public meeting on the issue in conjunction with TfL. If you would be affected, positively or negatively, by the proposed changes I encourage you to respond directly to TfL.

Less straightforward is how to satisfy everyone. Or, if you assume that not everyone can be satisfied, how you achieve the most satisfaction for residents.

The G1’s route was changed fairly recently. Until a few years ago its southbound journey took it on a dog-leg out of the estate via Eland Road. While that change was not universally popular I have no doubt that Eland Road was unsuitable for a bus, aside from being a fairly steep hill, there are no natural passing places and the entry onto Lavender Hill is narrow.

To my mind—which is only that of a mildly well-informed layman on traffic management matters—the arguments between Eversleigh and Sabine Roads are less clear. Indeed, they are so unclear that some of the arguments can be made both ways depending on viewpoint. One argument raised is that the change will mean some less mobile passengers will have further to go to catch the bus. The obvious counter argument is that some less mobile passengers will not have to go as far to catch the bus.

But cherry-picking that argument should not detract from some of the real concerns about the impact on traffic at the junction, the loss of parking spaces on the final corner and the impact of the bus on a road that already has significant noise issues from the railway line to the north.

At the risk of being overly philosophical (and as ever, I considered self-censoring, before deciding to publish and be damned) there is a utilitarian dimension to the issue. There is clearly dissatisfaction with the current route from Sabine Road residents. There is also dissatisfaction with the proposed change from Eversleigh Road residents. Given that no-one is suggesting removing the route from the estate and there isn’t a magical solution that pleases everyone (unless I lack the imagination to see it) which option creates the fewest problems and least unhappiness?

I’m happy to admit that, at this stage, I just don’t know. Indeed, this may be one of those issues where there is never enough concrete evidence to favour one option over another. I suspect that TfL are in a similar position, so whatever your views, I’d recommend making sure they know.