Mayor’s Question Time, May 2010 – Part Three: On The Buses

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(Editor’s note: selected questions and answers only, and some have been edited for brevity. If any notable questions are missing let me know via the comments and I’ll update.)

In this post: Those new buses. Buses in Brent, Camden and Wandsworth. Commercial Road bus garage. Bus routes 78, 181, 202 and H98. Bus apps.

[C]an you tell me what is the average cost to an operator of a brand new conventional diesel hybrid-electric double-deck bus? [and] Do you still anticipate that the cost of this vehicle to operators will be less than £250,000? — Darren Johnson

The purchase cost of a new hybrid bus depends on the supplier and configuration of the vehicle. The cost of a single deck hybrid would be approximately £200k to £230k, and a double deck hybrid from £290k to £310k. TfL expect costs to reduce as volume purchases commence […] I anticipate that the cost of production vehicles will be comparable with that of conventional diesel-electric hybrid double deck buses.

Is it your intention to specify the use of the new bus for London as a tender condition for the operation of certain bus routes in central London? [and] Will you do a comparison tender on the initial routes between the cost of a conventional bus and that of the new bus for London, including any additional costs to the operator of liability insurance? — Darren Johnson

The new buses would be introduced as route contracts are retendered. They will be used on busy central London routes, which have yet to be selected.

TfL do not believe the operators’ insurance premiums will be significantly different. Detailed cost breakdowns are already provided by operators in the tendering process and this will continue.

Are TfL considering any measures to improve bus services in Brent, particularly to the dire problems dogging the 79, 114, 226 and 228? — Navin Shah

TfL and the relevant operators have already taken steps to address the difficulties affecting the performance of these services. This has included introducing new schedules to operate on route 79 in February 2010, and on route 226 in April 2010, to balance the impacts of traffic congestion. The 228 had been disrupted by the impacts of road works on Harrow Road, and TfL is working closely with the operator to ensure performance improves. TfL has also worked closely with the operator of the 114 to improve its performance, and their monitoring has shown that the service has subsequently improved.

Following the announcement of the £81m redevelopment of the RNOH Stanmore, will you now direct TfL to look at improving bus services to the hospital, in particular providing a link from Stanmore to the very doors of the hospital? — Navin Shah

Transport for London has previously considered options for extending bus services onto the hospital site, for example from Stanmore Station. This would improve access in comparison to the current walk from stops on the nearest routes, 107 and 615. However the costs involved could not be justified due to the relatively low demand.

The Transport Assessment undertaken as part of the planning process for the redevelopment forecasts that there will only be a small effect on public transport use following the redevelopment of the hospital. Thus it will remain very hard to justify improved bus services to the RNOH. However TfL will continue to work with the London Borough of Harrow and the RNOH to better understand the levels of demand at the new hospital and associated development, and any possible sources of new funding.

Will you and TfL look into the possibility of a Camden bus terminal to alleviate traffic and disruption to [Bayham Street, Camden, through which 17 bus routes pass]? — Nicky Gavron

As Camden High Street is restricted to northbound traffic only, southbound buses have to use Bayham Street in order to serve Camden Town station and the shopping area, and to enable them to provide convenient links to other destinations.

Moving these buses away from the heart of Camden Town would cause very great inconvenience for passengers, whether those boarding and alighting there or those travelling to other destinations.

Can the Mayor describe the process that TfL will go through when planning a new bus route and how long this will typically take? [and] Given the strong desire for a bus route from Trinity Road Wandsworth over Wandsworth Bridge to Fulham, how soon could such a route be introduced? — Richard Tracey

TfL would always carefully research the cost, benefits to passengers and feasibility of the routeing proposed. TfL would also consult stakeholders and may need to undertake an assessment of the physical suitability of the roads proposed to take the new route. The time taken will vary from case to case.

[…] TfL wrote to you and other interested parties in early 2009 explaining that the high cost of a new service along Trinity Road could not be justified. Subsequently, recognising the continued support for improved links over Wandsworth Bridge, TfL carried out a consultation on a scheme to deliver some improvements at low cost by diverting route 295. This would of course result in negative impact on those areas where this service would no longer run. This consultation has closed and there has been some support and some opposition. TfL will write to respondents shortly with its conclusions.

What’s the long-term future of the bus garage on Commerce Road within TfL? — Murad Qureshi

The garage in Commerce Road (which is owned by bus operator Metroline) will continue to operate in the long term. There is a proposal to redevelop the surrounding area, and a modernised bus garage will form part of that development.

When will a decision be taken [on putting double-deckers onto route 78] and will stakeholders be consulted prior to a final decision being made? — Val Shawcross

TfL has consulted stakeholders in February 2010 on a proposal to operate the 78 with double deck buses, and is considering the feedback it received. TfL anticipates that it will be in a position to provide feedback by the end of May.

[…] I have received representations from passengers stating that [route 202] gets particularly crowded during peak ‘school run’ times in the mornings and afternoons, especially along the Catford/Sydenham part of the route. Please could this be passed to TfL so that the use of double deck vehicles at these times can be further examined? [and also] Could TfL consider [the diversion of route 181 along Hither Green Lane, crossing the South Circular and running along Verdant Lane] as a permanent arrangement? — Len Duvall

Yes. TfL will review this. They will report back by the end of June, also covering their investigation of links between Whitefoot Lane/Verdant Lane and Bell Green.

Will consideration be given to the long standing requests calling for Transport for London to extend the H98 bus route from its present terminus at Hayes End through Oak Farm East along Windsor Avenue up to Hillingdon underground station and then on to West Ruislip underground station? — Caroline Pidgeon

Route H98 runs at a high frequency (a bus every eight minutes during the day Monday – Saturday), so the suggested extension would be expensive to operate – in excess of £1 million a year.

Windsor Avenue, Oak Farm and Hillingdon Station are served by the high-frequency route U2 between Uxbridge and Hillingdon Hospital. The extra convenience of a new link to West Ruislip would not generate enough new trips to justify the high additional cost of extending route H98, and for this reason TfL has no plans to implement it.

[H]ave you looked into applications for smartphones to provide people in London with up-to-date bus information? [and} Have you considered making the bus location data an open source freely available? — Caroline Pidgeon

The new Countdown system will deliver real time information for all bus routes across London’s network. Bus users will be able to access bus arrival time predictions for every one of the 19,000 bus stops and 700 routes in London via the internet and mobile phones. Hence all users of mobile phones with web browsers will be able to access Countdown information from spring 2011.

In addition, TfL is actively pursuing how best they can make this information more widely available, either directly or through third party ‘Apps’ developers.

Written by Totteridge