Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Dr Ronghui Liu gives expert advice in London’s Bus Network Report

Following a decade of strong growth, bus passenger numbers are now in decline. Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the number of passenger journeys made on buses fell by six per cent.

How can we get more people to use the bus network? The London Assembly Transport Committee report 'London's bus network' has taken expert advice from Dr Ronghui Liu on how to tackle the difficult decisions facing the Mayor and Transport for London.

Dr Ronghui Liu says:

"One design in the network that [TfL] could consider are different layers of different functions: the trunk roads serving the main corridor routes, perhaps long distance, more direct routes, [and] more local feeder types of bus services serving more local areas.”

This would make a clear distinction between local ‘feeder’ routes that take people relatively short distances to interchanges, and major ‘trunk’ routes offering faster, high capacity services. Hong Kong is an example of a major city offering distinct feeder and trunk services. This approach could also involve the creation of a more clearly defined central London bus network.

Another suggestion is to improve the bus passenger experience to attract new passengers. On this point, Dr Ronghui Liu states:

“…for people who have not been using bus services before, what they want is better information - they need to know what services they can get and where to get them - and they want better interchange and bus stop facilities.”

On-board passenger information needs to be enhanced as, unlike on the tube, buses tend not to have on-board displays of the bus routes and interchange points. This information could help to increase passenger understanding of the bus route network.

The report recommends:

  • Moving towards a more efficient network design based on the principles of the feeder/trunk model.  Articulated buses (aka bendy buses) might be the best option for these routes as they provide both a higher capacity and faster loading/unloading than standard double decker vehicles.
  • Improving the bus experience to attract new passengers, including the information provided online, at bus stops and on-board, and making it easier for people to change. TfL should also consider introducing Wi-Fi on buses.
  • Prioritising new orbital bus routes and express buses.
  • Redistributing bus capacity to outer London. There are currently too many buses in central London.
  • Reforming the bus service tendering process.
  • Tackling congestion to halt the decline in passenger numbers.

Further information


Find out more about the London Assembly Transport Committee report.