London's red buses will have to speed up if they are to meet new reliability targets set down in a citizen's charter launched yesterday.

Buses must not be more than 1.6 minutes late at their destinations under the London Bus Passenger's Charter.

This means they will have to improve their performance on last year (1993-94) when the average reliability achieved was 1.9 minutes behind schedule. On suburban routes with less frequent buses, the number leaving on time in 1993-94 was 66.7 per cent. In 1994-95 this figure will have to increase to 68 per cent.

No more than 4.5 per cent of buses will be able to depart on routes early under the terms of the charter. Last year 5.8 per cent left before their allotted times.

A spokesman for London Transport Buses said yesterday there were often 'very good reasons' for buses leaving early, although it was avoided whenever possible.

'If there has been a gap of three quarters of an hour and you've got a bus waiting, you don't want to hold it back, especially when you've probably got another one coming in a few minutes,' he said.

The bus charter follows the lines of similar charters for mainline and Underground rail passengers. However, it differs in that bus users will not be able to claim discounts for delays to their journeys, although LTB has said they would look closely at individual complaints from disgruntled customers.

The LTB spokesman said passengers who are forced to flag down a taxi because the last bus fails to run might well have a case for compensation.

Dr Brian Mawhinney, Secretary of State for Transport, said at yesterday's launch at the London Transport Museum, that the new charter - the fortieth produced under the Government's Citizen's Charter programme - would 'spur' London bus operators to deliver a more cost effective and high quality service.

Sir Alan Bailey, LTB chairman, said the charter was 'packed full of useful information' which should help drivers improve performance for the 3.5m passengers who travel by bus every working day.

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