The changing face of transport in south-east London

Nov 28, 2021 | Things to Do

South-East London is a vibrant area that has benefitted from vast regeneration in the last decade. As more people move to the area, attracted by the relatively lower property prices,abundance of schools and green spaces, the population in the area has grown and so has the need for efficient transport.

Although residents of South-East London make trips to many areas in and outside London, most trips have both their origin and destination within the sub-region. Within South-East London many people make a commute outside of the neighbourhood, particularly to central London, whilst education, shopping and leisure trips are more likely to be contained within the sub-region. This reinforces the need to ensure a well-functioning transport network that can support the vast range of local movements, particularly by bus, walking and cycling, as well as the need for a network that can support both orbital and radial movements.

National Rail and Overground train services are the preferred way to get around in this area. There are also good arterial road connections: the South Circular Road cuts across the area, while the A2 offers easy access to the Kent coast. Other South-East London travel links include the DLR, connecting Lewisham and Greenwich with Canary Wharf and the City, as well as several bus routes. Most of South-East London however, London Bridge train station serves as the area’s main transport hub which runs services to the South-East.

A graph showing change in cycling trips in London
A graph showing change in bus trips in London

Both the bus and various railways play substantial roles in local commuting trips in the area, particularly to Canary Wharf and to Central London as employment opportunities has increasingly moved towards these locations.

Although travelling by car is still a popular mode across the outer boroughs, rail plays a significant role in enabling the South-East’s residents to access central London.
Apart from the Underground and Overground rail services, the number of journeys made via buses has also increased, particularly after 2010 as major investment into the bus network was made during the 2000s to increase frequency, consistency, and service quality, although the number of trips by bus has now remained stable in the recent few years.

On the contrary, the number of trips made using private cars seems to have fallen during the same period, as more people have switched to public transport and active travel options like walking and cycling. One of the driving forces behind this shift has been the fact that South-East London’s population has been increasing much faster than previously projected, increasing the demand for transport. This much faster rate of growth means that the demand for transport is already much higher today than anticipated, leading to crowding and congestion being a grave issue across many parts of the network, which has led to a sharp increase in the number of people cycling and walking.

Enabling the neighbourhood’s residents to make their journeys by cycling and walking will be a vital step in reducing highway congestion as the population continues to grow. Key to this will be the provision of an extensive network of cycle routes to allow simpler and safer access to local town centres.

Future plans

According to the latest Sub-Regional Transport Plans (SRTP) for the area, the goals for South-East London are listed as following:


Manage highway congestion and public transport crowding and make efficient use of the transport network


Reduce physical barriers to travel (including proximity to the River Thames in east London) and improve resilience of the transport network


Ensure that the benefits of existing and funded transport investment are maximised


Support the efficient movement of goods and encourage sustainable freight movement

An extension to the Bakerloo Line has been in the works for a while. An extension would improve transport connections in South-East London and to enable growth in properties and jobs. An extension of the line to Lewisham via the Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate has been chosen as the best option to achieve these goals. According to the latest report in 2019 the plan is to:


Extend the Bakerloo Line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham


Build a new Bakerloo Line ticket hall at Elephant and Castle


Take the route from Elephant and Castle along the Old Kent Road where two new stations are proposed


Create a new station at New Cross Gate to provide better connectivity to National Rail, Overground and buses


Improve the interchange station at Lewisham linking National Rail, DLR and buses

A map of the London Underground Bakerloo Line Extension

The recent regeneration has turned a formerly overlooked part of the capital into an area buzzing with energy and opportunities. Transport is one of the many areas that is constantly improving within the neighbourhood as more people begin to call this area home.

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