Schoolchildren only buses start next week – with extra buses added

Buses restricted to school children will be launched across many routes in London next week as the return of schools meets the need for social distancing.

However, to alleviate the obvious difficulties this will cause 230 extra buses will be running.

Around a quarter of a million children used buses to reach schools in London before lockdown. To help prevent gridlock on roads if many now start to be driven, buses plus walking and cycling measures aim to prevent increasing car use.


Some of the routes in London that will see children-only buses running among buses available to all in the mornings are 53, 54, 96, 99, 160, 161, 177, 180, 229, 244, 301, 321, 469 and 472.

A much more limited restriction applies in the afternoon with routes mentioned above open to all with one of the few SE London routes restricted being 469.

Additional buses will run on 492, B11, B14, B15 and B16 alongside normal school buses on routes numbered in the 600s.

Bus in Greenwich
Why this is happening

Car use in London is already at the same level – if not above – pre-March levels even with many still working from home, on furlough and without schools back. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are being blame by some for rising traffic though areas without are also seeing heavy congestion as more drive. The point of LTNs is to encourage people to shift behaviour where possible as people return to work and children to school, as without doing so London is heading for extreme levels of gridlock.

Removing all LTNs will not stop that given the sheer numbers of people and cars in London. Three million commuters alone used public transport in the capital on a daily basis. Public transport is of course now restricted. It’s a tough balancing act, and whatever happens there will be many difficulties in weeks and months to come.

Funding is coming from central government according to TfL with £5.8 million from the Department for Education.

TfL also state: “There will be no changes to fares and ticketing for children in September and a start date for the temporary suspension of under-18 free travel requested by the Government in the funding agreement between them and TfL has not yet been confirmed”. Some sources have now mentioned October.

Further details on routes and this policy can be seen on the TfL website here.


Adverts are far from enough to cover site costs and my rent.

You can support me via Paypal here

Another option is via Patreon by clicking here

You can also buy me a beer/coffee at Ko-fi here

There's also a Facebook page for the site here

Many thanks

J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

18 thoughts on “Schoolchildren only buses start next week – with extra buses added

  • So the stupidity continues with tfl

    • 1) Not funded by TfL
      2) Do you want then all to be driven?
      3) 230 extra buses laid on

  • When only carrying children all seats can be occupied.

    The single deck 386 can only carry 11 passengers at the moment but runs past 3 large schools and a 6th form college. Only runs every 15 minutes.

    • I agree Chris L I was thinking of routes like the 386 which use smaller buses and run less frequently. I hope the children respect these extra buses and do not cause any vandalism or Graffiti on them.

      A lot of parents travel to school with their children and younger siblings which bus would they get on a school children only bus or a normal bus?

      We have been calling for extra school bus routes and frequency increases on busier routes for years but it has fallen on deaf ears at TFL.

      Why cannot these extra buses be permanently added to schedules and operate as 53S,54S, 96S for example and operate during during school timesin addition to normal route frequencies. (S being school bus)

      It would be also an ideal opportunity for TFL to permanently increase frequency on routes like route 492 and B14 and R7 from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes through out the day

      Also increase the frequency on routes that operae every 20 minutes like B15 and 273 for example to every 15 minutes through out the day. Routes like 386 mentioned by Chris L which operate every 15 minutes with smaller buses be increased to every 12 minutes through out the day.

      This will go some away to easing social distancing on buses why allowing us still to get to work and hospital appointments etc on time. I do not think many bosses will except the excuse sorry i had to wait for the bus !!

      I think TFL would rather us go back to our cars so we can get to work on time. Hence more fare revenue being lost to TFL and a lot more traffic back on the roads which would higher than pre-covid 19 levels.

  • I agree with Chris L and Graham.

    Also as these extra school children only buses will be used by mainly secondary school children aged 11 years or older than the wearing of mask will be compulsary on these buses and enforced ?

    I apprciate that they say children are less likely to be seriously ill from covid-19. Although 675 hospital addmissions of children with Covid-19 and 6 deaths is still far too many.

    Children also suffer from underlying health conditions and need to be fully protected from covid-19. Also children can still pass on Covid-19 to adults with underlying health conditions and the elderly.

    So i hope the rules around social distancing and the wearing mask will still be compulsary on these buses.

  • Chris L Graham and CDT you make some very valid points. The wearing of mask is vitally important when travelling on public transport is vitally important along with social distancing.

    .Covid-19 is still out there and cases are on the increase again pointing to a possible major second wave of Covid-19 and possible further lockdowns over the winter months,

  • i totally agree with the post above and with Kevin’s post. I have witnessed a lot of people in Asda’s Charlton not wearing a face mask.

    I am really very concerned about children returning to school and using school children only buses unsupervised during the covid-19 pandemic as so many people are not wearing mask or social distancing.

    Sadly but very very true many of them ignoring the rules are from the BAME communities who become very sertiously ill if they contract Covid-19 and are highly at risk of serious complications. So it is really important to them that they protect themselves when out and about.

    So it is very important that we all follow the rules on the wearing of mask and social distancing. Otherwise we will see another winter lockdown due to the second wave of covid-19 which will result in a loss of further jobs and lives.

    So please wear your face mask (Unless medically exempt from a GP and proof provided of this) and keep your social distance.

    We must remember the rules apply to us all. We are all in this together,

    Keep safe out there.

  • To be honest with regard to route 53 Plumstead Station to County Hall i think the frequency should be increased to a permanent new improved frequency of every 6 minutes peak hours and Monday to Saturday daytimes to provide extra capacity on this very busy bus route.

    Also as the Crossrail Elizabeth Line has been delayed again until 2022 and could be possibly 2023 if we see a second wave of Covid-19 this winter,. I think that The Mayor of London and TFL should reverse the cut on route 53 and extend it back to Whitehall (Horseguards Parade) or even better back to Traflgar Square or Oxford Circus to maintain the Boroughs bus link with Central London.

  • I agree. I think all the cuts made to Central London bus services by the Mayor of London and TFL in readiness for Crossrail opening should have been re-instated immediately the first annoucement that the opening of crossrail was delayed back in December 2018.

    We need the cuts reinstated to provide extra capcity of these busy routes to aid social distancing on buses.

  • The 53 curtailment was nothing to do with Crossrail. It was coming for a long time. The hopper fare means transfer to the 453 is the West End link.

    Lots more 20mph speed limits now mean that drivers struggle to complete trips over the shortened route – not helped by Plumstead garage running the route. Ideally a garage in the middle of a route works better.

    Bus routes as a whole need to be reviewed to make sure they reflect changes in travel patterns.

    Transport to/from large schools needs it’s own services.

  • Chris L. The curtailment of route 53 was announced as part of the Central London bus service cuts along with routes 171cut back to Elephant & Castle and changes to route 172 along with many other bus routes in Central London.

    The running times for bus routes were altered to take in to account the new 20MPH speed limits. The problem with buses being delayed are more traffic on the road, poorly parked vehicles and road works, Along with cuts to frequencies,

    I totally agree Chris that large secondary schools need they own school bus services.

    I am surprised schools like Thomas Tallis, John Roan, Blackheath High School, St Matthews Academy, The Halley Academy Corelli Road and St Mary Magdalene C& E School Greenwich Peninsula to name just a few do not have School bus routes serving these schools on school days,

    • As I said it was not related to Crossrail.

      Just recently a whole stretch of roads in the Plumstead Common area has seen 20mph limits imposed. More and more such limits will be imposed.

  • The 20 MPH speed limits are required due to the poor driivng standards on the roads today.( I wonder how many people have passed their driving test these days)

    I am sorry Chris L but you are wrong. As a bus driver I totally agree with CDT the cuts to route 53 were announced as part of changes to Central London bus routes (ie curtailments, frequency cuts and re-routings),

    However, as TFL have always tried to cut route 53 back the so changes were introduced earlier than the other changes along with changes to the 171 and 172 as stated.

    Route 53 despite being a main bus route in to Central London is now a shadow of it’s former self. Route 53 used to run all the way from Plumstead common to Camden Town and Parliament Hill Fields passed London Zoo. Route 53 was previously cut back to Oxford, Circus, then Trafalgar Square and Whitehall (Horseguards) with a temporary curtailment due to Lambeth North due to roadworks.

    The permanent cut back to County Hall is a cut too far for route 53 I think we will not see Crossrail fully operational until 2023.

    • Kelvin. Sorry but the Central London changes were separate to and ahead of the Crossrail changes. They were supposed to reflect reductions in passengers in the area and save resources. (Cutting back between Whitehall and Lambeth North. (not County Hall) is nowhere near Crossrail. It probably would have been Elephant & Castle if they could find somewhere for the buses to stand.

      The Crossrail changes are in the suburbs and aimed at making it easier to get to Crossrail stations. Most have been delayed but some like the new route 301 have been introduced earlier.

      The 453 is now the Central London part of the old 53. There is no way that a route could run from Plumstead to Camden Town nowadays.

      • ‘The 453 is now the Central London part of the old 53. There is no way that a route could run from Plumstead to Camden Town nowadays.’

        Even then, the 453 terminates at Marylebone. Long gone are the days that the 53 went all the way to Parliament Hill Fields.

  • That’s true Chris L. With today’s traffic conditions it would take route 53 far to long to get from Plumstead Common to Camden Town. Traffic is only set to get worse and be higher than pre-covid-19 traffic levels as more people revert back to their cars to get to work.

  • I wasted my time by emailing TfL about schools on the 386.

    Got the standard holding reply saying the Network Development Team will consider it but no resources etc so nothing will happen.

    With the re-opening of another large school on Old Dover Road the route will not be able to cope.

    Buses on many routes now have 3 notices in the windscreen. Bus full, School service and Not school service. Ridiculous.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.