Residents of Norbury are "furious" with the council as they face their third straight winter without borough-wide bus shelters.

While Croydon Council has announced the installation of four TfL-funded shelters, many bus users may have to brave the elements for the foreseeable future. 

The lack of shelters has led community groups across the borough to petition the council to reinstate the old TfL shelters that were taken down three years ago.

Although the council has today announced the implementation of new shelters residents complain the lack of a comprehensive bus shelter network is hitting the elderly and disabled the hardest.

Regular bus user Valentine said: “There definitely is a lack, and they’ve got to do more.

"I never could understand how governments can quickly get rid of things that people need but never replace them. Instead, they give us everything we don’t need.”

Another bus user, Ibrahim, commented: “It’s not bad now but when it rains, there’s nowhere for us to go.

"We’ll all get soaking wet just waiting for the bus to come. It’s not right, especially at this time of year.”

The reason for the missing shelters stems back to a contract dispute between Croydon and an offshore company called Valo.

In early 2021, the previous Labour administration entered into a deal with the company, which would provide 185 new bus shelters, complete with Wi-Fi and CCTV.

However, it transpired Valo had no prior experience in building shelters and never honoured its commitment. 

Croydon’s current TfL-operated shelters were unaffected by the deal and remain in place.

According to Councillor Scott Roache, Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment: “Council officers have undertaken a range of actions since then to try to get Valo to deliver on the contract, including issuing two default notices earlier this year, but to no avail.” 

The LDRS understands the council has now terminated the contract and is considering pursuing Valo for damages for their failure to deliver on the contract.

Being on the edge of the borough, with minimal tram access, Norbury relies heavily on buses.

Local residents and members of the Love Norbury group, Ann Creighton and Michael Woodruff, both feel strongly that the community has been let down by the local authority on this issue. 

Speaking to the LDRS, Ann said: “All we want was a shelter, no bells and whistles needed.

Your Local Guardian: Croydon Council is currently considering pursuing Valo for damages for their failure to deliver the 158 shelters Credit:

"Initially, we didn’t notice they had been taken down until about six months after it. We didn’t realise we needed it until then.”

“We realised around September, but we didn’t do much at the start because we were told they were coming in September and then the next September, by which time we all got really cross because it was clear that they weren’t.

"To be honest, we don’t have a huge degree of faith that all the shelters will be there next year either.”

Michael added: “I don’t really need the shelter, but it’s affecting school children and the elderly, disabled and the most.

"The massive delays caused by traffic on the road only exacerbate it.”

Ann also spoke of their frustration with the council’s mishandled dealings, which they both saw as a drain on the public’s purse.

Ann said: “There are 14,000 bus shelters in London, 12,500 of which are run by TfL. The other 1500 are in Camden and Croydon. They are the only councils that manage their own bus shelters.

"I wrote to the former deputy mayor for transport to ask if she had any idea why there was this disparity, and she didn’t know or know who I could ask.”

When asked why Croydon entered into the deal with Valo instead of accepting the standard TfL shelters built by JC Decaux, Ann said: “Their first excuse for not having the shelters built was COVID, then it turned out that the town hall department charged with sorting the new shelters was digital services, not the usual street services.”

“Digital services had never put a contract out for bus shelters, but it was thought it would make a lot of money because they would put the electronic advertising in. The council hoped they could turn a profit.”

Michael added: “I don’t know if the company ever had any intention to fulfill the orders. I can imagine Croydon thought this would mean they would get a better deal than they would have done with TfL.”

The Love Norbury group, along with other groups across Croydon have since petitioned the council for what they see as an unsatisfactory response to a problem that has been allowed to go on for too long. 

When asked about the council’s engagement with the group, Ann said: “The mayor’s statements are pure hot air, they say it’s going to happen at some point. There are no dates.”

The group has persistently questioned the progress regarding the return of the bus shelters, including at the most recent council meeting last Wednesday.

When the group asked for an update on the current status of the shelters, Councillor Roache replied: Clearly this is a very unsatisfactory position.”

“We have to reflect on how past decisions allowed a contractor who had no track record of delivering a contract like this in the UK to win it, and why the existing bus shelters were allowed to be removed before the new contractor was in a position to replace them.”

“We have asked officers to prioritise moving forward to secure alternative arrangements for getting bus shelters back in the borough as soon as possible, and they have been working at pace to find alternative ways of doing this.”

Following last week’s council meeting, Croydon Council announced the immediate return of four new bus shelters in the borough. The locations of the new shelters are as follows:

Wellesley Road, outside of Appolo House

Brigstock Road, outside #32 (pictured)

London Road, opposite Fairholm Road

Whitehorse Road, opposite Devonshire Road

Executive Mayor of Croydon Jason Perry said: “I am delighted to announce that in partnership with Transport for London, four new bus shelters have just been installed in high-traffic areas of Croydon – with more to come in the new year.

“We are pleased to finally be able to take action on this incredibly frustrating situation, which stems from decisions taken before I took office to allow the removal of all existing bus shelters well in advance of new shelters being delivered. Council officers have made several attempts with the contractor to deliver, but as it became apparent this was futile, we are now considering all options available – including pursuing damages.

“Getting bus shelters in place is a key priority for me – and while we welcome these new ones, I want to assure residents that this is only the beginning, and we have more work to do.”