RV1 bus route: on diversion for years, now facing a halving of the service

RV1 bus route coverage in South London Press

The RV1* bus runs, or rather should run, near where I work. But as near where I work is the huge London Bridge station redevelopment the route has been on diversion for years. Now it faces being halved on top of that without consultation – and despite it being one of few zero-emission bus routes.

Here’s what Southwark Liberal Democrats have been saying about the proposed RV1 cuts:

Southwark Liberal Democrats are calling on the Mayor of London to take urgent action to stop the RV1 bus service being cut in half.

Borough Liberal Democrat councillors David Noakes, Adele Morris and Maria Linforth-Hall have written to Transport for London (TfL) to demand that the plans are immediately halted so that residents can have their say.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Borough and Bankside Victor Chamberlain has also launched a petition, which will be handed to Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon and presented to the Mayor at the London Assembly Plenary meeting in March.

Last week TfL announced out of the blue that they plan to reduce the RV1 service from six to three buses an hour. The service is well used and loved by local residents, office workers, commuters and tourists alike. It is the only bus that connects Covent Garden, the London Eye, the South Bank, Tate Modern, the Globe, Borough Market, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The RV1 is notable as one of the few zero emission bus routes as it is operated by a fleet of hydrogen powered buses.

TfL claim that demand for the RV1 has fallen significantly in the last year. However, during this time there have been major temporary diversions to the route on Tooley Street and on Upper Ground.

Local councillor David Noakes said: “The RV1 is a lifeline to many communities around Borough, Bankside and London Bridge. Many older residents and those who want a cheaper option than the tube rely upon it. Residents are up in arms that no one has asked for their opinion.”

Cllr Adele Morris added: “Local people know that the RV1 has been on temporary diversion to allow the improvements at London Bridge to take place. This is bound to have reduced the number of users this year but users will return when the full service does. The RV1 is a valuable local resource that residents want to keep”

Local resident Victor Chamberlain who set up the petition to the Mayor said: “I live in Borough and work in Covent Garden. I know how useful the RV1 is to local people and our visitors. It’s outrageous that the service has been halved without anyone even asking our opinion. When we need to cut air pollution it just doesn’t make sense to cut a zero emissions bus. I hope the Mayor puts a stop to this as a matter of urgency and we are able to save the RV1.”

Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon AM said: “Before the Mayoral election Sadiq Khan promised that “as the son of a bus driver” he would be the champion of our buses. Under his Mayoralty London bus services are getting worse and the loss of the RV1 is just the latest cut he has implemented. The RV1 is a vital resource for the thousands of tourists that use it on weekly basis connecting them to many of London’s top attractions and popular areas. The Mayor needs to listen to the needs of local communities and tourists and reverse his cuts.”

You can sign their RV1 petition here:

We are concerned by the lack of consultation held by TfL to reduce this service.

We believe it is important to promote the use of public transport to improve air quality and make London more sustainable and green.

We call upon the Mayor of London and TfL to request that the reduction in this service is paused or stopped to allow a full and proper consultation on these proposals.

Halving the service to just three buses an hour would, I suspect, have a disproportionately large impact on its usage. That’s because of the risk in dense urban areas of a tipping point at which a bus route goes from frequent enough that people are happy to turn up and take their chances with wait times to so infrequent that people no longer even try using it. It’s the converse of the argument often used for more frequent train services – when a service becomes a version of turn up and go, the convenience of not having to plan your movements for an exact train makes the service disproportionately more attractive.

PS Impressive work by the local Lib Dem campaigners to get coverage for their campaign even in The Sun, a newspaper read by more Lib Dem voters than some activists realise.


* RV stands, sort of, for Riverside. There were never plans for an RV2 or higher as far as I know, though it’s a good instinct to avoid bus route names that might become a problem with future expansion.

4 responses to “RV1 bus route: on diversion for years, now facing a halving of the service”

  1. I use this bus to get from Somerset House to Tower Bridge. As you say, of course reduced usage because of diversion. You will know, but i wqould have thought diversion will end very soon as London Bridge project ends

  2. I was a rv1 passenger from long time ago for london bridge when Mercedes bus was running than hydrogen bus that use to be full bus .hydrogen bus was less capacity for passengers. Driver have to left passenger.some time ticket mitchine not working. Passenger not been registered how many travelling.when toole st work start.bus been put a crazy diversion tward covant garden not even touch london bridge .tfl could make a diversion via shorter st,greate twer st monumet london brd. Passenger of tower brd north and tower gateway east can be directed to bus stop tower of London. Now thay cut service I think thay plane it before.first disrupt passengers with a silly diversion.2nd now toole st is about to open.and cut service excuse is people don’t use this services.we should demand for investigation we fare paid passanger whay did not get the best possable way to reach our point. and incovince compainsiation.
    I think rv1 bus now should extension to Whitechapel via royalmint st high way cable st and Whitechapel post office.for cross rail Heathrow and canary wharf connection. And every 10 minute service.
    Thank you.

  3. TFL have really fallen down by not publicising the existence of this service. I, myself, only learnt about its existence a few weeks ago although I have been travelling into London via CTC and District line from Havering for the last 10 years in order to visit the many theatres and galleries on the route.

    Everyone knows that once you reduce a service you will have fewer users as people will find alternatives. On the other hand ,frequent and efficient services attract passengers. There are numerous examples of this.

  4. Absolutely ridiculous to cut back on RV1. This represents the only direct bus from certain areas of the City of London – Tower Hill area, but more importantly the center of the Insurance world – to London Bridge and ultimately Waterloo.
    It would be crazy to change things, but of course the current Mayor and Mike Brown, of TFL, have probably never travelled on the RV1
    It must be preserved at all cost.

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