New Routemaster buses will be converted to front boarding only in a bid to tackle criminal fare dodgers.

The 55-bus route, which runs through Walthamstow, will be one of the first routes to implement the change on January 25.

The middle and rear doors will become exit only following a trial on the route 8 which found the changes more than halved fare evasion.

Customers with wheelchairs and pushchairs will still be allowed to board using the middle doors.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates £3.6 million is lost every year from fare evasion on the Routemasters; Fare evasion on Routemasters is more than double the rate of other buses.

Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operations, said: “Fare dodging is criminal and unfair, and it deprives London’s transport of the investment it needs. Our successful pilot on the route 8 has shown that boarding using the front door only doesn’t delay the service and reduces fare evasion, so we will change all other New Routemasters to follow suit.

“Customers with wheelchairs and pushchairs will still be able to board using the middle doors and will find it easier to access the priority space on buses as – like on other buses – they will be able to use the middle doors to board without having other customers doing so at the same time.”

Drivers have undergone training, in preparation of the move, to “improve customers’ experience”, TfL says.

Customers will be advised of the changes to boarding with emails and on-board announcements. Signage will also be changed on buses.

Fare evasion is a criminal offence that could lead to prosecution, a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.