Why are buses terminating at random stops?

The other day i was on the 97,and the bus changed its destination to Crooked Billet Roundabout.Note it is a just a roundabout and is not an official destination?

It was meant to go to Chingford Station instead.

The tender document for each bus route specifies a number of additional allowed destinations which allow the service to be controlled by turning buses short if it helps avoid large gaps in the service. This has been common practice in London for decades, though it is more formalised now. The document for the 97 is at https://www.londonbuses.co.uk/Tender-specs/097.pdf. The list is on pages 24-26 and - hey presto! - Walthamstow, Crooked Billet is one of them.

I have responded to this purely because it may be useful to some to know that the route specs are available on line. But there is nothing remotely tech about this query and I do think you should ask yourself before posting so often whether the query is really appropriate for this forum.

This supposedly allows the bus operator to overcome traffic delays and therefore provide a more predictable service. But in practice this must surely mean that the service in both directions beyond the turnround point becomes less reliable.

Perhaps it seems to make sense where buses have bunched up and two buses are running together with few passengers. But unless there’s already a spare bus and driver waiting at the end of the route, it means that a return journey from the terminus to the opposite stop will be missed.

TFL claims that buses aren’t turned early unless there is another bus soon behind, but in practice I’ve had to wait more than 20 minutes for the next one – which is often full and unable to accept more passengers.

My suspicion is that it’s not done to improve the actual end to end reliability, but to cosmetically improve the statistics collected at specific monitoring points that aren’t representative of the route “as a whole”.


The key monitoring points should be spread along the route but I take the general point. The moment you set performance targets for anything, people start “gaming” the targets. Think of how a target to reply to letter within seven days drifts into nobody getting an answer until the seventh day.

As you say, turning a bus short means a longer gap or gaps coming the other way but that may be a lesser evil than perpetuating two or three buses bunching for the rest of the day. Buses have been turned short in London for decades; the difference now is that route controllers can see at a glance where all the buses are so should be able to do it better.

The other reason for turning buses short, I suspect, is to get the driver back to base before the overtime bill gets too excessive!