More and more rough sleepers are sheltering on London's buses - especially the number 25

The 25. Image: Au Morandarte via Flickr.

If you work with homeless people, or have ever been homeless yourself, you’ll know that public transport is a cheap way to stay warm for a few hours. Last year, a charity took the step of giving young homeless people bus tickets when they couldn’t give them a bed. 

That’s why it should come as little surprise that as London’s homelessness problem worsens in the midst of shelter closures and budget cuts, rough sleeping on buses seems to be on the rise, too. A leaked report from TfL, seen by journalists Peter Yeung and Alli Shultes, suggests that rough sleeping on buses has shot up - by 121 per cent in four years, to be precise.

The most popular route for rough sleepers seems to be the 25, probably thanks to its route through traffic-jammed central London.  Traffic and distance = more shelter for your £1.40. The 25’s round trip lasts three hours. 

In response, Yeung and Shultes have put together a compelling online art and journalism project, A Journey on the 25, which takes you through the statistics and then works its way along the 25 bus route:

The journalists also spoke to rough sleepers he met on buses. Gaz, 42, a painter, tells them that London’s rents have pushed him to sleep rough despite the fact he is employed: “Sometimes I’m working in some of the wealthiest homes, and they’d never guess that I'm homeless.”

By email, Yeung tells me that the TfL data he’s seen consists of “Driver Incident Reports” (DIRs), which is when a driver flags that he or she needs an “emergency response", in these cases because of the actions of a rough sleeper. He says 95 per cent of these types of reports are “classified as disorder, largely linked to them not wanting to alight at the end of the route.

“Therefore, it's likely that the actual figures for rough sleeping on London's night buses is much higher than [this data shows].” Indeed, publicly available statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government showthat rough sleeping in general in London has increased by 127 per cent since 2010.

According to  his figures, there were 23 DIRs reported on the 25 bus route between 1 November 2015 and 24 January 2016 – which is about one every three days. The next highest were the 29/N29 with 9 reports, and the 5/N15 with seven.

I contacted TfL for confirmation of the leaked figures and was referred to the mayor's office. A spokesperson sent over this statement, which does not deny that the figures are accurate:

"This shocking report is yet another example of the previous Mayor's failure to deal with the housing crisis and, particularly, homelessness in London. Sadiq Khan will be working closely with government, TfL, local authorities and the voluntary sector to tackle the issue of rough sleeping in the capital.” 

Yeung is also collecting more stories and testimonies about rough sleeping through the project- you can submit yours at the bottom of the page here.


Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.

At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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