Listen carefully. The sound you can hear is the Whiplash Lawyers Association rubbing their hands together as they drool over TfL keeping them in the manner to which they have become so accustomed.

In April 2010, Michael Cockerill, in his excellent programme for BBC on the Great Offices of State, found out that in the Treasury a repetition of mistakes in policy occurred with alarming regularity as soon as the last senior person in the department who had been scorched by the previous fiasco had retired. This is a process well known to management consultants who describe it as “Change the names – Erase the tapes”

Sadly it may be happening again in the world of transport. In the early 1970’s, after leaving university, this author worked, briefly, in a very junior capacity for one of the then newly formed Passenger Transport Executives. Trying to weld together twelve local authority and private operators into one coherent bus company was at the time truly “Alice in Wonderland” stuff. Labour relations lingered on with operating precedents established in the days of tramcars and trolleybuses. Arcane inter union conflicts between the Tongue and Grove (aka the Transport and General Workers) and NALGO (the National Association of Local Government Officers) were fought out for years over who did what and when. Razor sharp elbows flashed in the sunlight as the twelve general managers, twelve chief engineers, twelve commercial managers (and so on) fought to retain their prior autonomy and establish new territories in the new order. Mayhem, arguably, would be the term of choice to describe the times.

Amazingly, about the only thing that there seemed to be general agreement about amongst all parties was that rear entrance buses with open platforms had to go.

Firstly, they were expensive – as they required a conductor. This increased the quantum of management complexity in scheduling the workforce as well as costing a lot more than OMO (One Man Operation) – a cost that grew throughout the entire vehicle life cycle.

Secondly, the open platforms were dangerous. Passengers were always falling down the stairs – although not as often as the conductors (why? – because conductors would be going up and down stairs over forty hours a week whilst customers usually only went up and down twice a day).

Although strictly prohibited from doing so, passengers would also board and disembark at any point that suited them – often whilst the bus was moving.

Fortunately our legal department was small – most legal functions remaining vestigially under the control of the various Town Clerk’s departments who would send out standard letters with the basic message – “ if you disobey the clearly displayed terms and conditions of travel about getting on and off the bus (moving or not) don’t come crying to us”. Is it conceivable, however, in these days of day-time television adverts inciting people to sue others for compensation (of which of course you will get 100%) that TfL will be able to take such an old-fashioned response with its emphasis on individual responsibility and liability?

Similarly, is it conceivable – given today’s traffic conditions – that motorists will not find themselves having to break or swerve sharply to avoid giving ex-bus passengers involuntary lifts on the bonnets of their cars? Will truck drivers have to worry about the risk of latter day “leap for freedom” daredevils falling victim to their front tyres?

Finally, is it conceivable that – given the ageing population – a drastically reduced seating capacity downstairs is going to go down well with the elderly and infirm, armed as they all are with their Freedom or English National Concession bus passes? As for Mums with their Cairngorm-capable mountain bike tyred baby buggies – I regret dear reader; I must draw a veil to save your delicate sensibilities.

The new Routemaster was a dream of halcyon days that never really were. It was an overdose of that fantasy dust, “nostalgia”, snorted through an election manifesto. Once Boris Johnson had been voted in we were doomed to go through this fantasy quadrille.

An Opportunity Missed?

It is so sad – we could have had something that really was a new Routemaster.

The key feature of the old Routemaster was not; repeat not, the door at the back. It was the undoubted systems engineering strengths of the original design – modular parts and effective asset life cycle management leading to cost effective maintenance and robust operation. We could have been first in a world with the next generation of emission free electric buses. We could have had designs and patents capable of spreading the new Routemaster’s development overheads over global scale production runs, with per unit divisors in thousands not hundreds. We could have created a “here and now” demand for new technologies from the London Universities world-class research bases. We could have had long easy access public service vehicles on our street with known kinetic envelopes – like London’s rivals such as Paris, Zurich or Frankfurt. They were called IIRC trams.

(By the way, City Hall may care to ring up Imperial College and ask them to browse their archives for their studies on the dangers of rear entrance buses. They did work on this in those pre-internet days – so unfortunately we have no link. Professor Peter White at University of Westminster may also be worth contacting too for an expert view of the period. He arguably knows more about the bus grant scheme put together by the Government to get rid of rear entrance buses than anybody else in the capital).

Like Hans Christian Anderson’s little boy shocked by his King’s nudity, who will tell the Mayor that he is similarly exposed over his bus? In these straitened times, somebody really has to subject this programme to a comprehensive spending review.

If only there was an Assembly Committee prepared to ask tough if not downright pithy questions?

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There are 368 comments on this article
  1. Dan says:

    Sanity. So rare these days.

  2. Tom says:

    Amen to that. Mind you, the old RM maintenance regime wouldn't be possible now, either, very labour intensive and costly. Modern maintenance has to be able to be done by tiny groups of not particularly experienced staff working to tightly specified procedures, not vast teams of craftsmen.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great article. Absolutely spot on! It only makes sense for London to design its own bus if it has genuine advantages over what is available off the peg and it we can get the money back by selling/licensing our demonstrably better bus technology to other countries. I don't think many other countries will be queuing up to buy a bus where people occasionally fall out the back.

    "Although strictly prohibited from doing so, passengers would also board and disembark at any point that suited them – often whilst the bus was moving."

    I am pretty sure that I have heard Boris touting this as a major plus point for his new buses!

    Fortunately, the new buses will have a closable rear platform and I very confidently predict that they will remain closed in everyday use, making the whole exercise a total waste of money, but at least making sure that nobody gets killed.

  4. Andrew says:

    Much of the benefit of a Routemaster (ignoring the nostalgia element) could be gained by training and allowing drivers to let passengers on/off when a bus is stopped in traffic, and in some cases by relocating bus stops or providing more stops (eg along Oxford St). You'd also have to train some cyclists not to overtake on the inside, but as that's dangerous in general that would be a good thing.

  5. Max Roberts says:

    "Finally, is it conceivable that – given the ageing population – a drastically reduced seating capacity downstairs is going to go down well with the elderly and infirm, armed as they all are with their Freedom or English National Concession bus passes?"

    Not sure what the comment on lack of seats downstairs is about. The elderly have always needed somewhere to sit, and are currently badly catered for. Care to count the number of downstairs seats on a current low-floor dual entrance double-decker and compare with an RML, or even an RT for that matter!

  6. Tom says:

    "Much of the benefit of a Routemaster (ignoring the nostalgia element) could be gained by training and allowing drivers to let passengers on/off when a bus is stopped in traffic"

    Never understood this one. Surely *making the bus move faster* has the same effect, and incidentally encourages modal shift, too.

    "Care to count the number of downstairs seats on a current low-floor dual entrance double-decker and compare with an RML, or even an RT for that matter!"

    Or a bendy, which has 49. Modern double decker about 26. RMs were substantially smaller than modern double deckers, too, but crucially none of the seats are accessible and there's no standing room (what was it, five standing places allowed on a crew bus?)

    In terms of accessibility, then, bendy wins, modern DD second, RM nowhere. Obviously the Borismaster will be basically a modern double decker in layout, with the same number of seats and thus not very many downstairs – you'll have to have room for three entrances and two staircases, remember.

  7. Greg. Tingey says:

    After the RM's went, bus services got MUCH SLOWER – incredibly so.
    Because people could NOT get on-and-off at places other than the stops.
    Usually, traffic lights, or when the bus was stuck in a jam.
    And the drivers were almost all jobsworths who wouldn't open the doors, even when you'd been jammed, 60 metres from your proper stop at Liverpool Street, and 95% of the people on the bus had a train to catch.
    (Solution – pop the emergency open button & tell said jobsworth to F off )

    This was because of Pay-as-you-enter.

    NOW, with "oyster" and something like 98% of people using said cards, that problem has vanished, and with it MOST of the need for an open platform.
    Unless, of course, your'e stuck outside Liverpool Street again …..

  8. unravelled says:

    OK it's Friday afternoon. I often wondered why all the variants of a routemaster couldn't be combined to solve all requirements, adding a bit of modern tech. Starting with the basic bus, , modernised country variant doors would allow controlled access, perhaps only at low speeds. Then we have the airport variant allowing a trail load. Would it have been impossible to design a low floor trailer for accessibilty compliance? Integrate all these components with modern ticketing and cctv for OPO, and you'd have a real routemaster for the (alternative) future.

    But being serious, I've always thought that one of the biggest design pluses of the RM was having wheels at the front corners. I hate to think of the number of times I've had to take a hasty step back as a front entry bus scythes across the pavement. The wheels may stay on the carriageway, but the front end certainly doesn't.


  9. Tom says:

    "I've always thought that one of the biggest design pluses of the RM was having wheels at the front corners"

    Unfortunately, if you want more than one entrance (and you do) and only one crew (and you do) it's quite hard to find somewhere to put the wheels ahead of the front door. Optare's Solo does it, but that's a quite small single decker (although not, these days, that much smaller than the original RM, which was really pretty tiddly). It loses out on maneouvrability, though.

    Routemaster fundamentalists also forget that, er, people are rather bigger than they were in the 50s. Taller and wider.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on a very good article. It was almost an accident that the RM had an open rear platform: the essential feature of the RM was the thorough design and testing, which meant it was designed in the 50s but entered large-scale production in the 60s (by which time most double-deck buses elsewhere were Atlanteans or Fleetlines).

    To start with the objective of changing to double-deck buses with a door at the front wasn't one-person operation: it was reducing the number of missed fares on busy urban routes with quite a big bus. As seating capacity went up from about 56 to 78, the conductor didn't get round the bus if he/she also had to keep going back to the platform or the top of the stairs at every stop. Atlanteans arrived in 1960 while conductors in the provinces lasted until the early
    70s. Double-deck OPO was permitted in about 1968 by which time Atlanteans and Fleetlines were well established.

    However the point remains that the RM lasted 40 years in London because
    – it was a bus designed to be driven and maintained in London traffic conditions
    – OPO was never easy to introduce in London, and made bus journeys extremely slow, so if you had to have condutors on some routes you might as well keep some of the existing design of bus. But eventually the RM itself got too old and expensive to maintain, and Oyster cards came along making OPO workable in London.

    The true legacy of the RM was that it carefully designed and tested. Some of its features, such as power-assisted steering, were pioneering and were widely adopted in other vehicles. The open-platform of the RM was an anachronism almost as soon as it was built. My bet is that in 2015 there will still be more original RMs on the streets of London than new ones.


  11. Mike C says:

    Surely the falling down the stairs is down to the design of the staircase, which was both (a) contricted and (b)lead directly outside, rather than the open platform itself.

    I'm sure legal wording could be place inside the bus, saying passengers get on and off at their own risk etc, after all the heritage RMs wouldn't still be in service, if they were considered such a legal risk? And all those years I remember riding Routemasters around London, I don't remember seeing carnage everywhere. If you were just worried about deaths on the road, you'd ban bicycles and motorbikes, as they are far more likely to be traffic victims.

    Why do people want open platforms? It's because a lot of times buses are waiting at traffic lights and jams, when it's perfectly safe to get on and off, thus (a) shortening journey times, and (b) reducing times spent at stops, as many of the people have embarked/disembarked already.

  12. Timbobean says:

    Great article. Bendies are used successfully throughout the world – and the UK – and in London are a victim of newspaper campaigns – not reasoned analysis. In these recessive times, spending money to a) loose bendies early and b) design vanity bus (is it true the new bendies have blonde wigs on the front dome) is a scandalous waste of money. Especially so when there are other transport projects in th capital that are starved of funds.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I asked Val Shawcross to get some numbers on this, which she did (see

    Injuries per million bus kilometres for RM versus articulated:
    Route 2004/05(Routemasters) v 2006/07(Articulated buses)

    Route 12: 17.43 v 14.97

    Route 38: 24.39 v 9.51

    Route 73: 20.68 v 6.76

    You can do the maths – accident rates fell significantly when they were converted, and will therefore rise again when open platform buses return. The Mayor should explain how this improves passenger safety, which his own Transport Strategy claims to do, and how many more passengers will be injured per year if a fleet of open platform buses is indeed introduced.

  14. grumpy says:

    Good article but might I suggest the principal reason the PTE's and others were buying front entrance buses was the existence of the government bus grant which gave them 50% off the cost of a new vehicle but only if capable of one man operation. Agood example of government subsidy skewing the economs of the industry and did long term harm to operators and British manufacturers.
    And forget Routemasters-the model for excellence was a Roe bodied Daimler

  15. Jim says:

    I'm surprised they didn't my submission seriously.

    Meet the "BusTrain":

  16. Tom says:

    "And all those years I remember riding Routemasters around London, I don't remember seeing carnage everywhere"

    Sorry, this is just nonsense. Data is not the plural of anecdote and conclusions drawn from a single personal experience do not form the basis of policy. Period.

    Anyway, it's pretty well established by now that during RM days you had double figure bus deaths annually and now you have fewer than ten. This is partly going to be due to people not falling off the back of them, which is a failure mode unique to open platforms.

    Also, since bus traffic declined catastrophically during the RM heyday (I've never seen that one addressed, either, if the things were so brilliant why did people stop using them?) the rate of deaths on buses is much lower now.

    Mind you, both forms are safe in absolute terms compared with many activities (cycling and motorbike riding, for two), which makes the whole bendy jihad case on safety irrelevant propaganda too, but we knew that.

    A final point – most of the noise about RMs seems to be made by people at or close to retirement, rather than people representative of the 2010 bus user. Notably I've not seen a business case for the new bus at all, which suggests it'll cost the bus user overall.

  17. Arf!! says:

    I'm just happy that you managed to engineer the term "Rear Entry" into your post. I bet there are web surfers all over the world who are confused that Google sent them here after searching for THAT…

  18. paul says:

    Not all Routemasters had a rear entrance/exit, of course….

  19. straphan says:

    Interesting article. Just to add a few points:

    The New Bus for London was – as compared to the bendy – have the following advantages:
    – Fare evasion would disappear as people would have to validate tickets under the watchful eyes of the driver or conductor
    – The NB4L would be far more ecologically friendly than a bendybus
    – Passengers would no longer be stuck in traffic jams as they would board/alight as they pleased

    And what did we get?
    – When the rear platform is open, passengers may enter through any door. This includes the middle door where there is no-one present. Furthermore, the person on the rear platform is a ‘safety operative’ whose job description and contract explicitly states they are not there to check tickets;
    – According to the Boriswatch blog (possibly the most rabidly anti-NB4L people on the planet), an NB4L shows approximately half the fuel savings compared to a ‘standard’ hybrid manufactured by Alexander Dennis or Wrightbus themselves.
    – The ‘safety operative’ at the rear is specifically there to prevent people getting on and off between stops.

    As for cyclist deaths – I have not seen any statistics to suggest improvements in road safety on ex-bendy routes. But then again someone died the other day on the junction of Whitechapel Rd and Commercial Rd – under the wheels of a bog-standard double-decker.

    A separate issue is the road infrastructure in London. I have to concede it was not suited to bendybus operation – by and large. Bus stops were never enlarged to accommodate longer buses (that would have meant the loss of so many precious parking bays!), and road layouts were not really amended for bendies – aside from the removal or trimming of the odd traffic island. You have to remember that cities in continental Europe were far worse affected by WWII (or a certain Baron Haussmann in the case of Paris) than London and therefore tend to have wider streets – many of which evolved over decades to accommodate bendy buses since they first were allowed to operate in the 1950s and 1960s. If London actually invested in similar measures (along with more plainclothes ticket inspectors as you have on the continent), we would have had a completely different result.

  20. Brian says:

    Not all Routemasters had a rear entrance/exit, of course….

    Or open platforms. As in RMC or RCL.

  21. timbeau says:

    Not all Routemasters had a rear entrance/exit, of course….

    Only one RM built for London Transport did not – the FRM prototype. In the mid-seventies LT did buy up the 65 BEA forward entrance buses (RMA), and about a dozen of the fifty built for Northern General (RMF), but apart from a brief spell on route 175 for a dozen RMAs they saw no use in passenger service. The rest were used for driver training, as staff buses, on sightseeing tours and as sources of spare parts for the ageing standard fleet.

  22. Mike says:

    Timbeau – not quite correct re LT front-entrance RMs: you’ve overlooked RMF1254

  23. timbeau says:

    Indeed – although it never saw use in normal London bus services.

  24. timbeau says:

    oops – pressed “send” too soon. Technically RMF 1254, and the Northern General and RMA examples were “forward entrance”, rather than “front entrance” like the one-off FRM was.

  25. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – re RMF1254 – well except on the last day of RMs on route 38 😉

  26. JimJordan says:

    Having travelled on many continental “Bendy Buses” I can tell you that they are often used on narrow roads with tight corners. Possibly the best example was the trolleybus route 3 in Gent, now alas gone.

    I can claim to be the first person to put a dent in RMF1254, not relevant to this thread!

  27. LadyBracknell says:

    Four years’ later and the bus companies, aided and abetted by the ‘elf and safety’ lobby, are keeping the rear platform closed between stops. So much for being able to hop and off between the increasingly distant bus stops.

    Passengers really need to take responsibility for their own actions and not look for someone else to blame for their own STUPIDITY. If you cannot get on and off a bus without falling into traffic, then you ought not be out and about on your own.

    I actually think the Boris, sorry I mean new bus for London, is hideous. It’s one redeeming feature is the open platform.

  28. Castlebar (Restore cash payment availability for women on London buses after 7 p.m.) says:


    Many years ago, (1960 ish ??), London Transport ran a “Hop on a Bus” campaign, to highlight the advantages of open-platform buses

  29. Southern Heights (Low lands explorer) says:

    @JimJordan: Yes, that was always utter testicles…. Bus 71 in Brussel was a bendy bus, down the Elsense Steenweg it’s very narrow, a bit like sending a bendy bus through Soho! Regent street is a highway…

    All it needs is the willpower to make it work… Interestingly, it’s due to be converted to a tram…

  30. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – it is worth stating that the route contracts for NB4L operated services only specify crew operation for limited times on some routes and not at all on others (8 and 148). The 11 has crew operation during peak and shopping hours 6 days a week. The 9, 10, 24, 38 and 390 only have crew operation peak and shopping hours 5 days a week with the 38 having the added complication of crew operation only between Mildmay Park and Victoria. The section from Mildmay Park to Clapton is driver only daily. The bus companies should be running things as TfL demand but I guess if a conductor isn’t available then running in OPO mode with the back door closed is no great hardship for most people.

    The rumour machine suggests the 453 is the next route for conversion with the 189 also a possibility but no official statement about that.

  31. Anon5 says:

    This morning the rear oyster reader on a number 8 was out of use but there were so many people stood between the rear and middle doors that it was impossible for passengers to move down to touch in. I’m not convinced there are any fewer passengers without tickets than the bendy bus either.

    The number 8 OPO route suffers from the small ‘half’ door at the rear and like all the Boris Buses, congestion downstairs as passengers boarding at the front and wishing to sit downstairs sidestep passengers boarding at the middle and wishing to go upstairs. I saw another number 8 broken down by Shoreditch high street station tonight. On the plus side they are cooler inside than a regular bus but I do miss the larger windows.

  32. Greg Tingey says:

    “open” platforms.
    There’s the other elf’safety/jobsworth problem too … happend to me last week.
    Traffic locked, bus stopped, up against pavement, stationary, 2 bus-lengths from designated stop. Doors kept closed for nearly 3 minutes, until we moved forward about 20 metres …..

  33. LadyBracknell says:

    @Walthamstow Writer: notwithstanding crew operation on route 11, the platform door remains closed. I have seen September as the changeover date for the 453.

    @Anon: the lower deck aisle is narrow and congestion soon builds up. I anticipate a lot of very unhappy travellers on the 453 as this runs from Deptford, through New Cross and down the Old Kent Road. This route is used a lot by women with children in pushchairs, people with multiple shopping bags or shopping trolleys, not to mention customers of the various diy outlets. A lot of people are going to be left on the pavement.

  34. Long Branch Mike (Allez en Ecosse) says:


    “Traffic locked, bus stopped, up against pavement, stationary, 2 bus-lengths from designated stop. Doors kept closed for nearly 3 minutes, until we moved forward about 20 metres …”

    Happens here in Toronto too, and very frustrating! As a former bus driver in TO (Toronto Ontario), we were told in training (in 2003) that we had the latitude to open doors if we felt it was sufficiently safe. I suspect that’s now changed as you say as a risk reduxion effort.

    Given that most of our streetcar route kms don’t have islands, this is a bit more of an issue letting pax (passengers) off (and on) to cross a lane of stopped traffic. But common sense has gone out the Hopper window.

  35. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – I think you need to give some more detail because whenever I’ve seen route 11 at times when the platform should be open it has been open. I’ve seen 1 photo from the early days of NB4L operation on the route where the bus had the rear door closed when it should have been open. Are you saying that the conductors routinely close the rear door when it should be open? I’m surprised London General would tolerate that and it’s a heck of a risk given the 11 runs past several outposts of the TfL empire where someone would spot the non compliance.

    I agree with your concerns about the 453 conversion. I am not convinced that the NB4L works very well in intensive stop start short hop conditions where people are laden with buggies or shopping. Most of the early conversions were of routes with less of that sort of usage and more commuter / tourist orientated where you get fewer buggies and less shopping. The more you stretch into the poorer inner area suburbs then the more buggy and shopping “wars” you’re going to get given the ability for people to shove buggies in via the front and centre doors with no one in control of the process.

  36. LadyBracknell says:

    @Greg and Long Branch: bus drivers routinely stop two, three or even four bus lengths away from the stop forcing passengers to walk to the doors or risk being left behind. No point in complaining to the bus company because it is simply not interested in addressing the issue.

    @Walthamstow Writer: I am going into the City today and will look out for a 11.

  37. 1C says:

    A route 453 conversion would be welcome news to me.

    Having just moved from Kensington to Blackheath, I was struck by going from having 2 NB4L routes almost on my doorstep, and another 2 a short walk away up Kensington Church Street, to having none even coming into my quadrant of the city. Whatever your views (I happen to think the NB4L is great) TfL are treating having a local NB4L route as a “good thing”. So I’m surprised by what looks like favouratism for more affluent / fashoinable areas. I suppose they might be constrained by the way route contracts come up for renewal (I’m not familiar with this) but even so, the pattern is fairly stark.

    So good news (in an egalitarian sense) that the south east might finally get a route.

  38. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ 1C – you can look at the pattern of early NB4L conversions in lots of ways. You can see it as taking a low risk approach by equipping some of the lower frequency central area routes. You can see it as trying to clean up some of the more congested roads in the Central area. You can see it was a way of getting lots of exposure for the new design by putting them on key roads in the West End. You could see it, if being extremely cynical, as a nice ploy to have shiny new buses with smiling conductors in parts of London with a particular political complexion in the run up to local elections. Don’t ask me to say which of the above (or any I’ve missed) are the genuine criteria for the conversions.

  39. LadyBracknell says:

    IC the South East already has a NB4L in the shape of the 148 which terminates at Camberwell. I took one today from White City and it was horrible. The air-conditioning is about as effective as a gnat’s fart (maybe it needed to be turned up) and coupled with not being able to open any windows and the platform door being shut between stops, it was stifling. People who had been foolhardy enough to go upstairs were coming down pretty quickly. Fortunately, I was able to change on Park Lane for the 436, which was tolerable as the driver had managed to get the air-conditioning working properly.

    NB4L is a badly designed, giant wasted opportunity.

  40. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – I don’t think the driver has any control at all over heating or ventilation on modern buses. It is set by garage staff to work automatically based on the temperature in the passenger saloon. The driver usually has cab air conditioning or a fan or can open the side windows so is able to control their work environment. I’m referring to modern spec vehicles not ancient ones. As for the NB4L – I’ve not seen an official explanation as to what mods have been done to the buses or why they seem to be so hot. I have seen some speculation but that’s not appropriate for here.

  41. 1C says:

    @Lady Bracknell

    Camberwell is hardly south east – it’s west of London Bridge! Though I grant it was an early exception to NB4L destination bias.

    I caught the 9 (as an NB4L) to work every day for 8 months, never once had an issue with the heating / aircon. I’d go on but I think this bit of the debate is akin to the cross channel artillery duels in 1940 – fire away all you like but neither side are going to move an inch.

  42. LadyBracknell says:

    Camberwell is SE5 as in South East [London] and south of the Thames. If people ask me where I live, I say I life in South East London and not ‘West of London Bridge’.

  43. AlisonW says:

    People keep referring to ‘conductors’ but I do not think that word means (in the case of the BB4L) what you think it means. I’ve yet to see any of these uniformed passengers actually *do* anything. Except chat with their mates, that is.

  44. 1C says:

    @ Lady Bracknell

    No offence intended! I’m not sure we’ll get very far trying to establish what counts as “south east London”, but if you take somewhere in the square mile as the centre point, then between the 148 and the 8, there’s a 90 degree “slice” of greater london with no NB4L routes at present.


    Thanks for clarifying – I wasn’t aware the routes picked were the less stressed central ones. I could also see some sense in “exhibiting” the bus in the more visited iconic west end routes.

    @ Alison W

    I tend to agree – they spend most of their time telling people to hold on tight or stand less near the edge. I’m guessing more to avoid lawsuits than out of a genuine corporate concern, & at which in any case the libertarian (& grown up) in me baulks. Some are better than others, but in general a sad contrast to the conductors on the heritage routes who are walking encylopedias & always keen to help.

  45. AlisonW says:

    Went into town this afternoon to meet up with friends for a picnic (and yay, no thunderstorms). More to the relevancy though *every* NB4L I saw (routes 10,24, & 38) had the rear doors fully closed at all times except when fully stationary at a bus stop, and even then only one of the pair were being opened.

    Demonstrable a complete waste of money, I’d suggest 🙁

  46. Kit Green says:

    the rear doors fully closed at all times

    …and on one of the hottest days of the year.

  47. Fandroid says:

    @1C. “I’d go on but I think this bit of the debate is akin to the cross channel artillery duels in 1940 – fire away all you like but neither side are going to move an inch” Nice summary of the debate. It’s deeply depressing that the NB4L has been driven by political posturing, with the professional bit of TfL desperately trying to make something useful out of the ‘London icon’ nonsense. Please tell Boris that red double-deckers are the London icons. They really don’t need a fancy design consultant pasting on the retro concepts.

  48. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – only route 11 is specified for open rear platforms on Saturdays. All other NB4L routes are one person operated at weekends with no open platforms. I expect TfL would argue this was *saving* money rather than wasting it but let’s not revisit that debate again. I’m just sharing what has been contracted by TfL on the basis of the business case for crew operation on each route. This is what TfL have previously stated in press releases and I think a Mayor’s Answer.

  49. AlisonW says:

    WW: Oh dear, that seems a shame. If one thinks back to when *real* routemasters were everywhere there wasn’t this concentration on keeping people from exiting the bus (and given the conductor would often be upstairs)

    Given that the individuals standing near the rear exit appear to do very little to otherwise justify their existence I can’t help but feel that they will all be ‘disappeared’ within the year on grounds of financial stringency.

  50. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – the programme of NB4L conversions will continue as programmed until April 2016. The Mayoral Election is a month later so all the requisite Mayoral blather and hype over the 600th NB4L has to happen in April. I expect many more of the future conversions will be without conductors but some will have them M-F. If TfL convert the 73 then expect that to have the part route concept like the 38 as the 73 runs past the same Arriva staff depot at Mildmay Park where the 38’s conductors jump on board. TfL will undoubtedly argue that the “business case” only applies between Victoria and Mildmay Park for route 73 despite the fact that in the peaks all the 73s are full by Newington Green anyway!

    For all the hype the NB4L is really a double deck bendy bus with a hybrid engine and the bendy bit stuck on the roof. It also doesn’t carry 100 plus people either but that would be quibbling! 😉 The use of the Routemaster term is rather daft because they are clearly not the same thing at all and to try to pretend otherwise is crazy but the Mayor is happy to make claims without any great basis in reality.

  51. timbeau says:

    I read that as well as the 453 and 189, the 55 is also promised Boris’s mobile saunas, although not until next year.

    On the SE/SW Camberwell debate, London Bridge and indeed the whole Square Mile are actually quite a long way east of centre: look at Zone 1 to see what I mean. Most people would consider the centre to be somewhere near Trafalgar Square. The SE/SW postal area division looks as good a dividing line as any.

    Even after the 453 is converted, there will still be only two routes penetrating south of the river, and none west of Vauxhall.

    I was in the Otztal, in Austria, last year: it was very interesting to see how the drivers skilfully negotiated tight hairpins and narrow mountain roads on the route up to Obergurgl (always absolutely on schedule too). The buses in question were Mercedes Citaro artics, exact mirror images of the ones TfL ousted from London as “impractical”.

  52. Malcolm says:

    In slight fairness to Boris (why am I saying this?), he never claimed that bendy buses were unsuited to everywhere, just to London. While Otztal is doubtless a challenging environment, its challenges are of a rather different nature to those which London faces!

  53. Greg Tingey says:

    Most people would consider the centre to be somewhere near Trafalgar Square.
    Close, but not quite.
    The centre is DEFINED as the replica Charin Cross, or a point in the Strnd, just outside, is it not?
    That is “milepost zero” as far a road measurement is concerned.

    A long way (in time) from:

    Undone! undone! the lawyers cry,
    They ramble up and down;
    We know not the way to WESTMINSTER
    Now CHARING-CROSS is down.
    Now fare thee well, old Charing-Cross,
    Then fare thee well, old stump;
    It was a thing set up by a King,
    And so pull’d down by the RUMP.

    And when they came to the bottom of the Strand
    They were all at a loss:
    This is not the way to WESTMINSTER,
    We must go by CHARING-CROSS.
    Now fare the well, etc …..

  54. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – (dare I dip my toe in the pirahna infested pool of bendy bus argument?) Our dear Mayor offered no cogent argument for disposing of the bendy buses nor did he think about the long term impact of dumping costs on operators and lessors. He did apparently say bendy buses killed cyclists for which there is zero statistical evidence. The whole faux “Routemaster vs Bendy Bus” argument was a piece of nasty political attack to help unseat the previous Mayor. Now I recognise politics can be a nasty rough and tumble game for those taking part. However I do object, as a public transport user, to having daft decisions imposed on the network with vast and long lasting financial consequences (most of which are not yet obvious but they’re there, lurking in the shadows). There really should have been a consultation about removing bendy buses or adding NB4Ls on individual routes. Obviously there was a manifesto commitment that relates to Boris’s victory. TfL say they consult on such matters but there is tumbleweed blowing across the savannah when it comes to the current set of NB4L related vehicle type changes.

  55. There seem to be various alternative choices as to what the centre of London is for road measurement and other purposes but all are close to Charing Cross. I have known Charing Cross railway station, the site of the replica Queen Eleanor’s cross at Charing Cross railway station, the location of the original site of the original Queen Eleanor Cross, the statue of King Charles, the location of the original site of the statue of King Charles (only a few yards different) be referenced – at least one possibly in error.

    I thought it was taken nowadays from the current site of the statue of King Charles on the small roundabout south Trafalgar Square which I must say I think is in many ways the most sensible – not least because otherwise it is rather strange to base road distances on a place that either you can’t get to by road or is not readily accurately identifiable – which rather defeats the point of the exercise. I mean, on the first point, you wouldn’t base tube distances from a place not physically connected to the tube system would you? Oh, hang on, cancel that last argument.

    At the end of the day the distances involved are so insignificant so as to not really matter. If it was sometimes measured from Oxford Circus or Centre Point (clue in name) or Piccadilly Circus and other times measured from elsewhere that would be different.

  56. Malcolm says:

    @WW I agree with just about all you say about bendies etc. I was just niggling about their possible suitability for mountainous hairpin bends being thrown, quite mistakenly in my view, into the pot.

    As for consultation, I see very little point in pressing for it, on this or on any other matter. TfL (possibly with Boris pulling its strings, or maybe not) seems to make a habit of ignoring the result of any consultation which does not line up with what it had already decided to do anyway. I would welcome counter-examples, if any exist.

  57. timbeau says:

    the location of the original site of the original Queen Eleanor Cross, , the location of the original site of the statue of King Charles:

    As I understand it, these are the same place: the cross was demolished by the iconoclastic Cromwellians, and the statue was erected on the same site after the Restoration. All of the sites mentioned answer the description of “somewhere near Trafalgar Square” anyway! (Some might consider Centre Point or Piccadilly Circus, but I suspect very few would look as far east as St Pauls, let alone London Bridge – although London Stone on Cannon Street and the GPO building on King Edward Street (the beginning of the A1 Great North Road) have both been used as zero points as well)

  58. Malcolm says:

    @PoP Quite. Road measurements cannot anyway be done with an accuracy of more than about 0.5%, due to the lack of protocols as to whether you are expected to go down the centre white line, midway between the pavements, midway between the buildings, shortest route on the carriageway, etc. As the phrase “the distance between London and X” can only sensibly be completed by naming a place outside London, this makes all the places you mention totally equivalent.

  59. Pedantic of Purley says:


    As I understand it, these [Original site of Queen Eleanor cross and King Charles I statue] are the same place

    My understanding too but I wasn’t sure.

  60. Graham H says:

    @PoP/timbeau – Wyngaerde’s map of 1536 shows it [Queen Eleanor Cross] there, or perhaps a little nearer to where Northumberland Avenue (not there then, of course) meets Trafalgar Square. Morgan’s map of 1682 doesn’t show it all, just the statue of Charles II.

  61. Greg Tingey says:

    the concluding verse goes …
    Now, WHIGS, I would advise you all,
    ‘Tis what I’d have you do;
    For fear the King should come again,
    Pray pull down TYBURN too. Then fare thee well, etc.

  62. Melvyn says:

    55 & N55 – re-awarded to Stagecoach East London with new Routemasters, PVR 34 (up from 30) (amended item)
    56 – re-awarded to Stagecoach East London with new hybrid double decks, PVR 22 (up from 21).

    The start date for both contracts is 28 February 2015.

    Above announcement from TLB site gives date of conversion of route 55 to N Bakermaster 4 London !

    I know next year if I travel along Lea Bridge Road it will be route 56 with modern buses with windows that open and no dangerous open platforms . I suppose fare dodgers will use FREEMASTERS board by centre entrance pop upstairs !

    The greatest irony is that when the Real Routemaster was designed it was a bus for the future built of aluminium , larger capacity than RT ( though less than most Trolleybuses) and was in an era that 99% of fares were paid in cash and used a graduated scale by distance travelled.

    As for open platform well had London Transport opted for FRM then we would not be having this discussion !

    The real irony is TFL had the opportunity to properly design a new bus that was fit for London in the 21st Century taking into account cashless buses, passenger flows on an expanding market, modern air conditioning , electric propulsion and windows that can be opened.

    However, this was killed at birth by Boris living in a past age that never existed and the reality is with modern all electric buses ( some double deck !) coming onto the market his Vanitybuses will soon be museum pieces and that’s before we consider how his SIDRAT buses take up more road space ( and are less manoeuvrable than Artics which bend in the middle!) in fact a broken 38 was blocking Balls Pond Road recently .

    And how anyone can prefer their submarine windows more akin to old trams compared to large windows modern buses have which are ideal for tourists !

    And look at repeated problems this Summer of heat that even I could not stand on a short trip from Oxford Street to Euston Road so will passengers have to die before someone accepts these buses are flawed and should have been properly tested in a small number before bulk orders were placed ….

    Watching a recording of latest Mayoral Questions Boris was still spouting same nonsense about Thames Gateway Bridge as it seems he with his schoolmates in Downing Street are not prepared to admit getting things wrong ….

    The dogma re Artics could be seen by removing them from the two red arrow routes which link mainline stations and their increased capacity meant fewer were needed at less cost than singled eskers now used where almost double are needed !

  63. Melvyn says:

    News on TFL site today of full electric single deckers being introduced into service in west London –

    Article also talks of all single deck buses becoming electric by time ultra low emission zone is introduced .

    No doubt all electric double deckers will soon become available a project that new bus for London should have been about and not open platforms and sealed windows !

  64. Fandroid says:

    The Times this morning mentioned that the ‘zero emissions capable’ taxis (all new ones from 2018) will be set up to automatically switch to that mode when they cross into areas of high pollution risk. I just hope that the the air quality monitoring stations are in the right places. A quick look at the map today showed none in Camberwell or Peckham, while the Brixton one was showing that air pollution there exceeded the standard. Let’s just hope that places with no monitoring stations are not ignored when setting up the limits of this switch-off zone.
    Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s senior environment and energy advisor, stated in yesterday’s Standard that the bus retrofit programme is complete, and that by 2020, all single deckers will be electric and all double-deckers will be hybrid. He thinks that London will beat the government’s pathetic 2030 NO2 target.

  65. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – those Metrocities have been in service for weeks on the H98. TfL just haven’t said anything until now. 2 other all electric single decks are due for route 312 in Croydon. Some all electric double deckers with some form of charging facility at terminals are planned for route 69 – possibly by the end of this year. TfL are out to tender for that project at the moment.

  66. Southern Heights (Crayon Alert) says:

    @fandroid: all single deckers to be all electric by 2020? Where’s that herd of Giraffes when you need it????

  67. timbeau says:

    two electric buses have been used on the 507 and 521 for several months

  68. Malcolm says:

    @timbeau “When I were a lad” all bus routes in the 500 series (and 600) were electric!

  69. Greg Tingey says:

    Fandroid / Malcom
    SO the 69 will revert to the 559, will it?
    All electric – Chingford Mount to Victoria & Albert Docks?
    All we need now are some reconstructed versions of these models ahem.

    However, I hesitate to call it a lie, it’s probably down to plain stupidity & ignorance, but the TfL statement that: Mayor officially welcomes the first British built, pure electric buses to enter service on London’s roads simply isn’t true, as shewn by my link, above ….
    Pathetic, isn’t it?

  70. timbeau says:

    Quite – although they are the first in his lifetime.
    Given the way most electricity was generated fifty-plus years ago, some might quibble with the word “pure”!

  71. AlisonW says:

    Greg – worryingly, the third image which shows for me on that google link is a NB4l outside Selfridges. :-0

  72. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Well the NBfL is a pure electric bus with the electricity supplied by batteries topped up by a pure diesel generator.

  73. Greg Tingey says:

    There are much better images, elsewhere on the web, but I was pushed for time, this morning – sorry!

  74. James Bunting says:

    Greg Tingey @ 0835
    Much as I have an aversion to Borispeak his comments about the new electric buses might well be true. The majority of the vehicles shown in your link, much as I enjoyed looking at them, are not buses and could not be driven by bus drivers. Trolleybuses were, and I believe still are (hence the goings on in Leeds) legally different from buses and have more in common with trams. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could confirm.

  75. LadyBracknell says:

    Bring back the double-decker tram. LadyBracknell has now entered an alternative universe where trams are still running.

  76. Malcolm says:

    @JamesBunting I suspect that the law does indeed suppose that trolleybuses are not buses. However, in my view, ““If the law supposes that, … the law is a ass – a idiot”.

  77. Graham H says:

    @James Bunting – Are trolleybuses different to motorbuses? Yes, and no, of course! Yes, in the sense that their infrastructure requires statutory authorisation but no in terms of the regulation of their services, although this last point is somewhat moot as the last trolleybus services had disappeared before the 1986 Act. There isn’t a general piece of legislation dealing specifically with trolleybuses so there was nothing to amend in 1986 hence the limbo. The precedent of the busway schemes would seem to imply that there might be open access but then again, promoters would expect a concession arrangement with exclusivity.

  78. Castlebar (Pedantic of Arundel) says:

    I suspect the main differences are the taxation class, and the lack of gears

    For a good old London TRAM video, see “The Elephant will never forget”

  79. Graham H says:

    @James Bunting -on further reflexion, I concluded that these days, a trolleybus service would be no different to a motorbus service. The statutory definition of a bus service is something like “the carriage by road of passengers paying separate fares”. At the time when that appeared, all tram and trolleybus services were authorised separately by statute whereas motorbus services were generally covered only by generic legislation,so it would never have occurred to anyone to think there might be confusion between the two. But, the actual definition of a bus service is in fact sufficiently broad to include any form of traction – even by horse (although the last of those had disappeared 4 years before the Road Traffic Act 1930.)

  80. Ian J says:

    @timbeau: Given the way most electricity was generated fifty-plus years ago, some might quibble with the word “pure”!

    Given the way most electricity is generated now some might quibble still!

    @Graham H: For what it is worth the draft Transport and Works Act Order for the proposed Leeds trolleybus system carefully avoids the b-word in calling it a “trolley vehicle system” – this can’t be a marketing thing as the promoters are happy to refer to it as a trolleybus elsewhere

    The draft order also states that “the promoter has the exclusive right to use the authorised trolley vehicle system and any apparatus or facilities used for the operation of it and to permit others to do so on such terms as it sees fit” so it would seem open access or deregulated operation isn’t expected.

    Also note that “the whole of the route of the authorised trolley vehicle system is to be treated as a road including any part which is neither a highway nor a road to which the public has access” and the trolleybuses in the publicity material, unlike trams, carry number plates so will presumably count as road vehicles.

  81. Ian J says:

    Sorry, that link should be to here

  82. Graham H says:

    Ian J – Thank you -I think this reinforces my point. What the Parliamentary draftsman has bent over backwards to avoid here is to use any term that implies the installation is providing a bus service; furthermore, he/she has taken great care to prevent anyone applying the 1986 Act deregulation measures specifically to exclude the washover from any attempt to interpret the installation as meeting the 1986 definitional test. The clever legal trick is to piggyback that exclusion on the need to authorise the infrastructure.

  83. timbeau says:

    @Ian J
    ““the promoter has the exclusive right to use the authorised trolley vehicle system and any apparatus or facilities used for the operation of it and to permit others to do so on such terms as it sees fit””
    It also means that Joe Public can’t use the overhead as a free supply of electricity.

    Although “trackless trams” (trolleybuses) have always been subject to different regulations from other road vehicles, they have always carried number plates like other road vehicles, whereas trams do not, so they do seem to be neither fish nor fowl as far as road law is concerned.

  84. Graham H says:

    @Ian J/timbeau _maybe the easiest way to consider the matter is to say that there are three elements to the trolleybus definition:

    – the OHLE and associated equipment. This undoubtedly has nothing to do with buses (or railways) and requires specific statutory authorisation,installation by installation. There is no Trolley bus Act to define what that installation might be or what standards apply.*
    -the vehicles. These are road vehicles and are governed by the C&U regulations and their drivers are licensed through the driver licensing system (amusingly,my father, who acquire his drivers’ licence just before the 1930 Act came into force was licensed to drive a trolleybus and was therefore supposed to be able to turn left and right without dewiring – we never tried him out in practice.
    – the services operated by the vehicles over the installation. This is the tricky bit. Were it not for the TWA exclusion(as explained), the service would be a bus service.

    You need all three elements to make the system operable although it would,I guess, be possible to provide the service element relying on the generic bus service legislation but then that would bring with it all sorts of different grief.

  85. Castlebar (Pedantic of Arundel) says:

    Trolleybuses always carried number plates because they paid road tax, just like battery operated milk floats, (even the ones that Express Dairy used in the 1950s where the milkman walked along with the float).

    Trams never had number plates because being considered a street railway, they never paid road tax

  86. Mike says:

    In Wellington NZ, the only right-hand-drive fleet of trolleys (as we call them) in the world are treated as buses for all purposes, including the (regulated) services they provide, which are shared with diesels.

    If you want to experience them you have until 2017, when the Regional Council has decided (sadly and shortsightedly) that they will be replaced with hybrids.

    Now, back on topic…

  87. Graham H says:

    @Mike – it will be different in different jurisdictions. I did a job a few years back advising the City of Vilnius on a new tramway. After a bit, they rather shamefacedly admitted that there was no legislation in place to define a tramway and they had never had any (not quite true as I discovered a pre WW1 postcard which clearly showed the animal) but that left them in a complete quandary as to the rights and obligations of placing track in streets.

    The * in my last post should have been followed by “The fact that there was no general trolleybus legislation should have prevented HMRI from intervening in authorising and inspecting trolleybus systems; however, they lobbied early and successfully to have a clause inserted into most post-WW1 legislation making opening dependent on their say so even though it was patently an area in which they had limited expertise and had nothing to do with guided systems which formed the basis of their empire.” By the mid-70s, when I looked into it, there was no point in trying to be administratively tidy, however.

  88. Fandroid says:

    Getting back to where I left off. I slowly began to wonder if this ‘all single-deckers electric, all double-deckers hybrid’ stuff is possibly designed to bamboozle us into thinking something dramatic is being done.

    My case: (a) the worst pollution is in central London (b) most single-decker routes are in outer London (c) most central London routes are run with double-deckers. So the best pollution-busters are being introduced where the pollution problem is least. Good old diesel engines will continue to roar and splutter in the worst polluted areas.

    In 2020, I suspect that the problems will still be with us and the main current personalities will then be sniping from the sidelines saying ‘we had a brilliant plan, why couldn’t you lot make it work?’

  89. Graham Feakins says:

    Trolley vehicles – Here as an example is some comparatively recent legislation concerning same:

    In fact, trolleybuses always were referred to officially as “trolley vehicles” and Class H of the old format of driver’s licence was for “trolley vehicles”.

    In Section 192 of the Road Traffic Act 1988:

    ” “trolley vehicle” means a mechanically propelled vehicle adapted for use on roads without rails and moved by power transmitted to it from some external source.”

    I am amused also to read in that Act that a hovercraft is defined as a motor vehicle.

  90. Graham H says:

    @Graham Feakins – Hovercraft caused the Parliamentary draftsmen immense difficulties – aircraft, land/road vehicles, waterborne vessels? The result was a separate hovercraft Act. Pity trolleybuses weren’t tackled in the same way.

  91. Long Branch Mike (Aéroglisseur!) says:


    Are any hovercraft still in regular passenger/ferry service?

    Out of interest I did a search for the French word for these machines (Aéroglisseurs) and discovered that the French N500 was one of the world’s largest hovercraft; transporting up to 400 passengers, 55 cars and 5 buses. It was also one of the fastest and reached a speed record for a travel from Boulogne to Dover at an average speed of 74 knots (137 km/h). But proved to be unreliable so was scrapped in 1985.

    On my first trip to England I really wanted to take an Aéroglisseur but the Channel was too stormy and had to settle for a regular traversier (ferry). Maybe that answers my own question, plus the incredibly loud noise. I should stop now lest I further digress to ekranoplanes…

  92. Graham H says:

    @LBM -the Portsmouth – Isle of Wight run still has them (and they are often more reliable than the conventional ship in my experience). We sometimes used to use the cross-channel service (not sure when that finished) which was quite a rough ride even in calm conditions, leading to interesting discussions as to whether it was better to drink the G&T in the conventional way, or simply place one’s mouth over the glass and wait for it to come to you…. I still find the sight of them swarming up the beach from a cloud of spray at Ryde improbable-the Birth of Venus it is not.

  93. Greg Tingey says:

    Hovercraft had other advantages …
    You could safely land on Earl Godwin’s Land from one of them.
    I still have a “Goodwin Sands Potholing Club” T-shirt to prove it!
    I believe the Soviets Russians still have & use them, as seen here with this “class Zubr” landing on a packed beach!.
    Though, as you say, Ekranoplans are fun, for interesting values of “fun” if you include the Caspian Sea Monster (!!)
    Lots more available on-line if you use that as a search term

  94. timbeau says:

    Seaspeed (the hovercraft wing of the BR/SNCF ferry operation Sealink) , and its private-enterprise competitor Hoverlloyd both started operations in 1966. Hoverlloyd ran four SRN4s on a Ramsgate to Calais route. Seaspeed operated SRN6s on the Isle of Wight route, and two SRN4s on the Dover – Calais and Dover- Boulogne route, augmented in 1977 by the N500 mentioned by LBM, although this did not stay in service for long. Around the same time the SRN4s were enlarged to take 418 passengers (up from 254) and 60 cars.
    Seaspreed’s IoW services were transferred to a new operator, Hovertravel, in 1976 and continue to this day.
    The two cross-channel companies merged in 1981 to form Hoverspeed, which closed the Ramsgate operation shortly afterwards. On the other cross-channel routes, the hovercraft were progressively replaced by catamarans, the Boulogne service in 1993 (transferred on the English side to Folkestone), and the Calais service in 2000. These catamaran services, and others to Ostend and Dieppe, had all closed by 2005.

  95. Graham H says:

    @timbeau -many thanks for the history. It’s slightly surprising that the hovercraft never acquired TOPS numbers unlike the ships.

  96. It’s slightly surprising that the hovercraft never acquired TOPS numbers unlike the ships.

    I was not aware that hovercrafts ever carried railway wagons. Unless they did there would be absolutely no point in them having had TOPS numbers. Although ships had TOPS numbers, as far as I am aware, TOPS had no concept of a ship. They were simply locomotives that were allocated special numbers so that they were human-recognisable as ships.

    There was even a TOPS office at Dunkerque I think it was. It was very useful for forewarning which wagons were coming into the country. Unfortunately there was a considerable language barrier problem as the office was manned by two Frenchmen. Their written English was fine, excellent in fact and they could read English perfectly. The problem was that by total coincidence both of them had been billetted in Scotland for the duration of World War 2 and no-one in London could understand what they were saying due to their strong Scottish accent.

  97. Graham H says:

    @PoP – thanks, and a good story.

  98. timbeau says:

    Indeed, the only ships to carry TOPS numbers (class 99) were train ferries

  99. Greg Tingey says:

    Talk about thread drift!
    Rear-entrance buses to rear (& front) entrance hovercraft & Soviet Ekranoplans ….

  100. Walthamstow Writer says:

    The catamaran service to Ostend used to be excellent in the Summer when there was a wide spread of departures both ways. Perfectly possible to have a decent day trip to the Belgian seaside using the coastal tram or to Bruges. Much missed as Eurostar really doesn’t offer the same opportunity or value for money.

  101. Long Branch Mike (Aéroglisseurs) says:


    Thank you for the fascinating résumé of the (short) rise and fall of air cushion vehicles. I did of course Wiki them after posting my LR comment ; what I had meant to ask for, and happily what you provided, was analysis and personal experience of some of the background reasons for their demise.

    As a boy in the 70s I used to read excitedly about hovercraft, hydrofoils, V/STOL (vertical/short take off and landing) aircraft like the Harrier, the Concord etc. I even had a plastic model of the SRN1. I must now go and add SRNx to my Glossary…

  102. Mark Townend says:

    Just returning to this thread and quickly backtracking through the fascinating Hovercraft and ‘trolley vehicle’ diversions, it struck me what a regulatory nightmare the robo-car/autonomous pod phenomenon is going to be. The Ultra system at Heathrow is covered under ROGS with HMRI as the approving body.

    That’s fairly clear cut in that as a system it runs entirely over dedicated guideway and is really no different in principle to other rubber-tyred airport people movers.

    I wonder what happens next if similar shuttle pods are allowed out on the general road network along with other traffic though, or sharing cycle paths in Milton Keynes. Even if confined to relatively small and mostly segregated networks, I wonder if HMRI would be equipped to deal with (potentially) hundreds of simultaneous small automated public transport oriented schemes if the technology takes off* as its proponents anticipate.

    * and I don’t mean hover!

  103. Graham H says:

    @MT – indeed – and then there’s the insurance question. Suppose your autonomous vehicle has an accident (software failure, or whatever) – who is to blame – the luckless OAPs/drunks/infants sitting within, who merely pressed the GO button or the software manufacturer or…? In the railway industry, where a train can belong to one party but be running a service on behalf of another, perhaps even with a crew from a third party altogether, the lawyers have evolved the concept of “the directing mind”. I can see that that might be applied here but even then the answer as to who is responsible is unclear. A field day for lawyers and experts.

    Two other points:

    – how is the vehicle to be delivered to its actual destination? Based on post codes, the vehicle will be lucky to reach the right street, let alone your front drive. Given that all controls are supposed to be taken away, how is this to be done?
    – what price the first government panic when your average terrorist on the streets packs the vehicle with explosive, targets 10 Downing Street, wedges the controls to go and nicks off to have a quiet lunch in a foreign country?

  104. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – on your second point is there any possibility that the errant vehicle might arrive just off Whitehall in the very near future? 🙂

    Alternatively imagine what would happen if a driverless pod arrived at number 10 with an angry MP inside? The mind boggles as to what might happen with the police! 😉

    More seriously your points are well made as to just a fraction of the practical and legislative issues that might arise. Interestingly the topic of driverless cars featured on the weekly Dateline London programme on BBC news. One of the correspondents said that driverless cars would be ideal for sending kids to school without tying up parents’ time. Can you imagine the consequences for the school run and road space outside schools if masses of driverless pods all try to deliver “Timmy and Julia” to school at the same time?

    The other thing that struck me was if the technology and a suitable pricing model do evolve into a practical proposition what happens to bus services? In a nightmare scenario bus companies could go bust and traffic congestion would be horrendous regardless of how clever the technology is in reducing gaps between moving vehicles. Loss of efficient people moving vehicles is not a sensible outcome for society.

  105. Fandroid says:

    Driverless car jams might actually make it easier for the politicians to accept the need for bus lanes etc! It’s not the cars that are the feared lobby, but the drivers!

  106. Rational Plan says:

    @ Walthamstow writer. Re, driverless cars. If the technology works then there are all sorts of implications. I suspect that such cars may have to allow some form of semi driver control to get the car into non standard parking spaces, driveways or just in front of the correct house. You as a driver could still ‘steer’ the vehicle and apply ‘brakes’ and ‘accelerators’ but the car it self would actually prevent you from hitting anything. In most cases after a car had learned how to half park on the pavement outside your house, or that that the actual best place to stop for this address is around the corner etc then the car maybe only need to be taught the idiosyncrasies of various parking spots once.

    Your phone may in the future contain a list of your top twenty destinations and how exactly to park at them, which you can sync when ever you get into a hired autocar.

    On a larger scale there is no way all the uses that people could use driverless cars for could be accommodated on even a moderately sized British town. There is not the road space, nor do people have the money to pay for their driverless car run around empty just so it can avoid high parking charges, or act as the personal taxi for everyone in the family.

    Also owning your own vehicle is still pretty useful, as you can keep stuff in your car you might need on your travels, which is not just practical from an auto taxi perspective.

    People may drop their need for a second car though and then rely on taxi services for top up requirements.

    As for the school run, have people actually thought about the problems of dozens of similar looking cars with no drivers all popping open their doors to pick kids up. At best dozens of kids could end up at the wrong house, never mind the more worrying possibilities.

    Road space issues will still lead to demand for public transport along main roads even in quite moderate sized cities.

    But public transport would have to change in response. In lower density areas auto taxis could take over buses in off peak periods. Buses would probably have to become automatic to be able offer lower fares to compete with the auto taxis.

    You could see auto buses offering service on main roads, acting as normal buses in the inner city, but as they move into the suburbs and beyond the could act as express routes linking transit hubs, were people picked up local taxis for the final journey home.

    In a networked transport system their could all sorts of competing options that the intelligent agent on your phone/watch etc will list price options when you ask it to get you to your mum’s house. Offering single seat ride in a taxi to stitching journey options from various roving autobuses and the rail network giving you a list of cost and journey times options. Your agent could hail down a bus and remind you to get off again to catch your next connection also letting the other bus that it has a passenger to pick up.

    At peak times with lots of buses and few taxis then it will be cheaper to catch a bus, with only the wealthy able to bid for a car into the city centre in the morning rush.

    In the evening however with lots of empty taxis and few travellers then cost of taxi travel would plummet.

    The exact mix will all depend on the size of the city and it’s density.

    London will see relatively few car journeys, while Milton Keynes may only have shared mini bus taxis that link three or four trips together for those who can’t afford their own car.

  107. Melvyn says:

    Talk about legislation needed for driverless cars ( someone’s watched to many bond films !) raises the issue of mobility scooters which seem to be expanding in use as those who have never walked now use mobility scooters and thus endanger pedestrians on pavements or even drive on roads without official registration plates ( Dad1 seems popular!) . I’ve even seem these scooters on main roads used by buses and lorries .

    As for daft comment about wall of buses well think of sea walls of single occupant cars I suppose people will think they can get drunk and tell policeman ” its alright officer my car will drive me home ….!”

  108. Anomnibus says:

    Rational Plan makes some very good points, but it’s easy to miss one of the most obvious advantages of the technology: it would work fine on vehicles of *any* size, from a tiny, single-occupant ‘pod’, all the way up to a virtual ‘train’ of coaches. All that changes are some settings in the pick-up / set-down parts of the software.

    This is why I don’t think most people would bother owning a car of their own. They’re expensive – not just maintenance, but the insurance, taxes, etc. all add up. You can easily pay well over a £1000 for higher- models in insurance alone. Why pay that kind of money for a machine that’ll spend most of its lifetime depreciating quietly in a parking space? It’s a terribly inefficient use of a resource.

    Self-driving vehicles (SDVs) become much more attractive when run as fleets for hire. You get massive economies of scale and, crucially, you’re not saddled with having to find a parking space for each vehicle while you’re not using it. Because it’s not yours: it’ll just head off to its next customer.

    Demand does tend to spike, but as the vehicles drive themselves, there’s no reason why they should clutter up expensive city-centre space for parking: most can head out of town, with only a reserve kept in the city itself ready for the next peak.

    The key advantage of such systems is when you start joining the various networks and systems together and let them talk to each other. E.g. if you buy a ticket for a show in London’s Theatreland district, the various systems will know (a) where you live, and (b) when you need to leave in order to get to the show on time. They’ll also know how many are going with you, so the SDV’s size is set automatically for you. You get a ping on your phone when the SDV is heading over to your place to pick you up. (Your phone’s GPS can tell it where you are.)

    Once you’ve been collected, the vehicle can either take you all the way to the theatre – if you’ve paid a suitable premium – or it can take you to the nearest suitable ‘high-capacity SDV corridor’, where you can change to a larger self-driving bus for the rest of the journey. (Given the number of theatres in the area, that it may be worth reserving one or two such self-driving buses just for that traffic. What we’d call a “Special” bus service today would become far more common.)

    Fundamentally, self-driving vehicles let us create an automated, nationwide public transport logistics system that can provide everything from automated school runs (with suitable buses) all the way down to a single-person ‘pod’ travelling from Eltham to Croydon.

    As our rail-based transport networks are already computerised, linking the above into these is also a no-brainer; that trip from Eltham to Croydon could therefore include an interchange with Tramlink at New Addington.

    Legally, the insurance issue is already covered: if the software is at fault, the software developer shoulders the responsibility. If the hardware is at fault, the hardware’s manufacturer (or owner, if it’s a maintenance blunder) gets the legal nastygrams.

  109. Anomnibus says:

    Despite all the verbiage above, there is a major obstacle in achieving that utopian goal: the transition phase.

    Eventually, a government is going to have to mandate that all vehicles be self-driving by a certain date, but until that date, there will be an inevitable period of transition where the SDVs and manually-driven vehicles have to share the same roads. That’s going to be the hard part.

  110. Greg Tingey says:

    I suspect that what will happen is that all vehicles made after $_DATE1 be made capable of self-drive,
    All vehicles made after $_DATE2 must have self-drive built in from the start.
    Any vehicles made before $_DATE3 can remain, as driven by a human.
    I would guess that $_DATE3 will be about 5 years before $_DATE1
    Something like 5th April 2015 at a guess …..

    A model already exists for this w.r.t. emissions & other regulations.
    It relies on the vast majority of vehicles wearing/rusting away.
    The numerically few exceptions are tolerated, simply because there are so few of them, & therefore the risk (actuarilly speaking) is very low.

  111. Graham H says:

    @Anonomnibus – I very much doubt if the real world of driverless cars will be as simple as you claim. Consider the nearest present analogies: fairground rides, or the DLR. Whom do you sue when an accident occurs? Not the people who made the rolling stock or who wrote the software (different as between train and signalling, no doubt), nor the people who own or maintain (different again) the infrastructure. You sue DLR (or even TfL) or the fairground owner. They may then have recourse to third parties later. This is my point, you go for the directing mind. In the case of a driverless car, who is that? The owner, the occupant, the person who pressed the GO button? The car manufacturer even? Who is the person who (a) provides the “system”, and (b) who took the decision to use it? These are the legal tests which will be applied – a lawyers paradise and an insurer’s nightmare. If you thought delay attribution in the rail industry was arcane and expensive, now think on…

  112. Rational Plan says:

    The transition will creep up on us. Cars are getting more sophisticated. Look at the latest Ford Focus. It offers automatic parallel parking, a system that prevents lane drift (ideal for people falling asleep at the wheel). Automatic car spacing with automatic break application. It also has sensors that read traffic signs and project them onto dash, really handy for the rapid change in speed limits these days. Plus it has a blind spot detector system that warns you about changing lanes into other traffic.

    Thats on a mid size family car now. These new cars will keep getting safer and take over more driving responsibilities. Give it ten years and the insurance premiums on different types of vehicles will drive the market one way.

    Given Googles size and the speed they have progressed on this technology, I would not be surprised if some automatic taxis are rolling around California within 10 years.

    10 years after that they will be everywhere. It does not even require everyone to buy one for it cause big changes.

    For two segments of the Population automated cars/taxis could make a big difference.

    For the old in rural areas owning your own car is essential. An auto car may mean you don’t have to sell your house to go live on some estate in town, so you are near a regular bus service. As fewer and fewer old people need a concession bus pass. What happens to the bus industry then. There could be calls to move the subsidy to passes for auto taxis. Either offering unlimited trips in a defined area or 20, 30 or 40 trips a week.

    If I was a bus company I’d look at buying taxi companies and start looking at mobility solutions.

    The same freedom could be taken up by the young.

    I suspect people living in cities will most likely end up using taxis more and owning fewer cars, while those in rural areas will still need to own their own car.

  113. Paying Guest says:

    @RP – as village dwellers deep in Wiltshire the self driving car would be ideal for us. On days when I travel to London it could drop me at the station (4 miles), return and park in our garage, take my wife shopping later, pick me up in the evening. It could then take us to another village for a decent pub meal with a couple of glasses of wine for both of us and no danger of drink driving. And in addition we would be saving the cost of a day’s parking at FGW rates.

  114. LadyBracknell says:

    @GrahamH: it will not be at all difficult to apportion blame in the case of an accident involving a driverless. It will almost certainly be because of a system failure in which case it will be fault of that provider.

  115. timbeau says:

    @lady bracknell
    If the cars are called up on demand, like taxis, then presumably the operator (the person to whom you pay money to use it) is responsible for your safety and that of anyone around it. The situation is rather different if the automatic car is your own – was the system failure because of an inherent fault in the software, have you properly maintained the vehicle (including installing all software updates), have you (deliberately or through incompetence) made any unauthorised modifications to the programming?

    If my computer develops a fault and causes a fire which burns my block of flats down, will the landlord come after me, or the manufacturer?

  116. Graham H says:

    @ladyBracknell – I am glad you can be so confident because it seems to me that some accidents are caused by mechanical failure, some will be caused by the interface between systems and the hardware, and some will arise because the events couldn’t but may should have been foreseen by either the systems or the hardware provider.There is the further complication as to what constitutes the system, as I have now twice tried to explain in this thread: is it the onboard software, the landside signalling system, or the interface between the two? The rail industry has much to teach in the respect, and apportioning delay -the equivalent of accident blame – is a major task even though there are only a few thousand movements a day. Gross that up to a few million and transfer the operating environment to something much less closed than the railway network, and the problem becomes a significant one.

    The only simplification is that at present, there usually only two parties to an accident and blame is usually quite easy to apportion; in the future, one of the usual parties – the pedestrian who wanders carelessly out in the path of a vehicle will, in future be resolved of pretty well all blame. Presumably, this will make pedestrians less, not more, careful?

  117. Anomnibus says:

    @Graham H:

    What you’re describing is a user interface issue, not a technical one. As long as the “sue-chain” ends up at the right door, it doesn’t fundamentally matter who the initial nasty letters are sent to. This is a problem that requires political, legal and technical input to nail down, but as you’ve pointed out, Network Rail and the rest of the UK’s rail industry have been refining this very technique for some years now.

    Personally, I think this is one of the reasons why private vehicle ownership will drop off a cliff once the technology goes mainstream: pay a subscription to a “Vehicle Service Provider” (VSP) and they’ll provide the means to get you from A to B. You won’t need to worry about maintenance, hiring competent mechanics and engineers, etc., as that’ll be your VSP’s job and responsibility, not yours. If anything goes wrong, you point lawyers at them.

    The only exception is if an idiot calls their VSP to send over a vehicle, and then deliberately tamper with it themselves. VSPs will therefore be very likely to spec vehicles that make such tampering bloody hard to achieve undetected.

  118. Graham H says:

    @anomnibus – I agree that provided the writs arrive on the right desk, all is well, although I suspect paying for the sort of “get out of jail free” coupon you describe will not be cheap – and it won’t prevent whole stage armies (as in the rail industry) pursuing the causation issues to the n-th degree – and that will cost. It might be simpler if the UK adopted the kiwi “no fault ” legislation which is designed to prevent just such pursuits into the legal undergrowth.

  119. Anomnibus says:

    @Paying Guest, and others:

    I think self-driving vehicles have the potential to partially reverse the urbanisation of populations. You can’t get economies of scale in a tiny village high street without blighting it with a massive supermarket of some sort, but…

    An SDV means you no longer need to pay to own a vehicle that is taxed and red-taped by default on the assumption that you live in a city and therefore don’t need one. Instead, you call up a local “Vehicle Service Provider” and have one sent round.

    The costs of owning a private car or other vehicle are a huge drain on rural economies. Everyone assumes that everyone else lives in a town or city, because most of us do. So taxes and fees are set accordingly. Never mind that, if you live on a farm, miles from even the nearest high street or other civic amenity, you can’t *not* own a car. Never mind that, if you live on a farm, that car also needs to be able to cope with rutted country tracks and ill-maintained, potholed roads, so a Nissan Micra is unlikely to cut it.

    Even in towns like Heybridge and Malden in Essex, that once had their own railway stations, the highest frequency bus services might include a *two-hour* gap during the middle of the day, while the ‘peak’ service is just one per hour. That means bus users are subject to the tyranny of their local bus timetables. You have to plan around the service. Self-driving vehicles means the service is planned around *you*, which is how technology *should* work.

    Finally, SDVs solve the “two-trip” problem that private vehicle ownership causes: It’ll be possible to take a walk into town, do as much shopping as you like, and know you’ll be able to get it all back home without having to carry it yourself, or fight your way onto a bus with half a dozen overstuffed shopping bags.

    High streets could provide shop fronts, while offering home delivery of everything they carry at a time of your choosing: you’d never have to carry a thing. And that’ll change the economics of our High Streets completely as they’ll finally be able to compete with out-of-town hypermarkets on convenience.

  120. Paying Guest says:

    @Lady Bracknell 15:03 – Are you assuming the demise of all driver controlled vehicles, because otherwise I suspect that once the concept has thoroughly bedded down the vast majority of accidents will be the fault of the manual driver. That is unless the driverless vehicle has to make assumptions regarding the fallibility of manual drivers and assume they may pull out into a traffic stream without looking. On that basis journeys would take for ever.

  121. Graham Feakins says:

    Time for a little London nostalgia, I feel (c. 22 mins. in toto), shewing vehicles with rear entrances. This one is especially for those with longer memories (Greg T mentions these vehicles a lot):

    whilst this one is for those with even longer memories (like me):

  122. Ian J says:

    @timbeau: If the cars are called up on demand, like taxis, then presumably the operator (the person to whom you pay money to use it) is responsible for your safety and that of anyone around it

    Even that is not necessarily as simple as it seems – Uber offer a hire service that takes your money in return for transport, but they maintain that they are only putting you in contact with the driver and will not accept responsibility for accidents. There has already been litigation in the USA about this.

    @anomnibus: pay a subscription to a “Vehicle Service Provider” (VSP) and they’ll provide the means to get you from A to B

    Such services already exist – sharecar services. They fill a niche but haven’t eliminated car ownership.

    Self-driving vehicles means the service is planned around *you*

    Actually self-driving vehicles mean that the service isn’t planned as such at all. Which is fine, but poses a problem for those in rural areas. It is unlikely that a self-driving vehicle will be near your farm at the precise moment you want to travel, so you will need to wait for one to drive to your farm before you can go anywhere. And of course the cost of the trip to come and fetch you (including the opportunity cost of the fact the same vehicle could be earning money ferrying people around the nearest town) will be built into the fare. So much more convenient to just keep a vehicle in your drive and drive it away whenever you want. Buying your vehicle is a sunk cost and, anyway, it is a legitimate business expense for your farm so perhaps you can pay for it out of pre-tax income?

    @Paying Guest: once the concept has thoroughly bedded down the vast majority of accidents will be the fault of the manual driver

    But what about accidents caused by poor road maintenance, for example? If a self-driving car hits a pot-hole and swerves into the path of another self-driving car, is it the fault of the council for not maintaining the road, or the software for not avoiding the pothole? And if the other car hits it, is that the fault of the first car, or the second car for not serving out of the way of the first? What if that car calculates that the only way of avoiding endangering the occupants of the car is to veer into a passing cyclist? Are we expecting self-driving bicycles too, for that matter?

    There are some very optimistic timetables for widespread adoption of self-driving cars here. Remember that self-driving trains have been technically feasible for 50 years or more, but train driving as a profession is likely to last for at least the next 50.

  123. Greg Tingey says:

    My memories are just as long – I have been down the Kingsway tram tunnel on a tram.
    We rode along the Victoria Embankment to get to “The Festival of Britain” when I was 5 years old.
    So there.

  124. Paying Guest says:

    @GF – Ahh, a mere youngster!

  125. Anomnibus says:

    @Ian J.

    “Such services already exist – sharecar services. They fill a niche but haven’t eliminated car ownership.”

    Not quite. That’s like comparing the first Motorola carphones with an iPhone. The key to changing peoples’ habits isn’t technology alone: that’s just an enabler. The key component is the user experience. Nail that, and you can engineer societies with ease.

    And the user experience for car-sharing services is rubbish. The services tend to only be available in urban areas, and someone still has to drive the thing from point to point. Furthermore, if demand is high, you’ll have a very long wait. And it fails utterly at handling goods.

    You’ve fallen into the same trap so many others do: self-driving vehicle technology does *not* apply only to motor cars! The exact same technology can be easily adapted for vans, HGVs, low-loaders and even JCBs. Consider the logistical advantages of delivery trucks and vans that don’t have to pull over every four hours to give the driver a rest. Consider the advantages of not having to worry about paying drivers to work unsociable hours, because you won’t *need* drivers.

    “Actually self-driving vehicles mean that the service isn’t planned as such at all. “

    Yes it is. It’s just that the plan can be adapted and changed on the fly, in real time. Just because it’s computers doing the planning, it doesn’t mean no planning is going on. Major logistics chains are *already* almost entirely computerised. Watch a container ship being loaded and unloaded at Tilbury sometime: it’s a very intricate dance, but almost all those few people you can see doing the work are following instructions produced by a computer.

    When a job is reduced to merely following computer programs generated by another computer, expect that job to be replaced by a machine.

    Your point about farmers I accept, but I suspect even they will be more likely to lease than buy a car outright. Many businesses prefer to lease as it’s easier on their budget and helps with taxes, so there’s no reason why a farmer would be any different. And that means the leasing company takes the responsibility for ensuring the car is maintained properly, removing that burden from the farmer.

  126. Anomnibus says:

    Regarding automated trains:

    The Victoria Line was automated from the outset, but it has always had a *very* simple topology. (The Northern Line would have been impossible to convert at the time; we needed more advanced, smaller, and cheaper, computers first.)

    The DLR is one of the few examples of a fully-automated railway that has a complex layout. It has proved the technology works at this scale, but nobody I’m aware of runs a fully-automated mainline network as yet.

    There’s a good reason for that: a mainline railway network typically has very few trains per mile of infrastructure. Contrast with, say, the Northern Line, which requires an insane number of trains to maintain its high-frequency service. Eurostar run services all the way to Paris and Bruxelles, but require far fewer trains to do so.

    Where the driver is a much greater proportion of running costs, it makes sense to replace them with machines, which is why we’re seeing the technology seeping into our urban metro networks.

    The UK might be borderline as it runs much of its national network as a glorified high-frequency metro service, using more, but shorter, trains. Most countries run longer, but fewer, trains instead, so the financial case for automation is much worse for them.

    Eventually, total automation of the railways may happen, but it’s unlikely to do so for decades yet. It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s just not a high priority. It may happen by ‘stealth’ as signalling is replaced periodically: automated systems may become cheaper than conventional signalling systems, at which point it becomes a no-brainer.

  127. Rational Plan says:

    Accident blame will be relatively easy to apportion. Already more and more people are fitting dash cams to their cars to record what is going on in front of their cars. (common in Russia to avoid corrupt police and gangs staging accidents for extortion). An automatic vehicle will have cameras recording everything.

    About 95% of all accidents have human error as the main cause. They will be able to quickly determine if the vehicle reacted quickly enough to a situation. If it did but the pedestrian did step out in front of the vehicle, then they were not at fault. Police can pretty much determine this already from skid marks on the road and point of impact. In the future all the data will be downloaded.

    In a mixed traffic situation the prime suspect will be the manual driver.

  128. Graham H says:

    @Anomnibus – drivers’ costs are not really a major factor in railway operation – all staff costs amount to about 1/3 of total costs, and drivers are probably, even in a metro operation, about 1/3 of that 1/3. Nice to make a saving like that but not a deal breaker.

  129. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ G Feakins – thanks for the video clips. Amazing to see how busy the Bakers Arms at Leyton was – all those people. I also liked the change in music clips on the tram one – the “villain” tune when the Charlton graveyard was first shown and then the “This is your life” theme at the end.

    One question – at the start of the tram video you see a conductor putting a chain across the tram entrance as the tram entered the subway. Was this normal practice on all trams or just a safety precaution in the Kingsway subway?

  130. Mark Townend says:

    @Anomnibus, 5 August 2014 at 12:59

    On the main line network, there is plenty of centralisation and automation work taking place in signalling and control rooms. In overall operating costs that makes good sense especially on secondary routes where traditional signallers are a high proportion of costs for a relatively small number of trains operated. Even in early panel schemes the number of SEUs (signalling equivalent unit, a measure of signalling complexity: 1 unit = 1 turnout or one signal) overseen per operator, or train passing signal events, can be significantly smaller than for the best ARS assisted workstation positions in a modern control centre. Any future consideration of ATO will require modern signalling first anyway. Thameslink work on this will hopefully provide a template for other high density corridors. At higher speeds, although cab signalling and ATO functions will be compelling upgrades, I predict complete removal of a human eye from the cab will be much less palatable on main lines than on central tunnel and viaduct metros due to the part a driver plays as a ‘moving watchman’ overseeing the state of the much more extensive route network, less effectively segregated from surrounding livestock, trespass and weather damage risks than in the central urban corridors.

    @Graham H, 5 August 2014 at 13:45

    Driving automation could also make provision of extra services cheaper using the same rolling stock for longer, perhaps for extended operating hours.

  131. Graham H says:

    @MT – “Driving automation could also make provision of extra services cheaper using the same rolling stock for longer, perhaps for extended operating hours.” Well, in theory it would where the marginal costs of fuel and maintenance were less than the revenue; but the structure of rolling stock maintenance contracts doesn’t exactly encourage their marginal use – there’s usually a step change in per mile costs just above whatever is currently being run with perverse consequences as seen regularly in the SWT allocation of stock to services. A legal and financial problem, of course, that ought to be soluble as such, but the rail industry is full of cost step changes that have this effect, alas.

  132. Castlebar says:

    AFAIK, all US trains now carry a dash cam and some carry side cams. I think all Canadian & Mexican engines do as well now. Some of the level crossing incidents you see in N.America (Youtube has plenty of them) are (almost) unbelievable due to people’s stupidity such as being so engrossed in sending a text whilst driving, you completely ignore the presence of a level crossing.

    VERY useful to determine accident cause, especially with level crossing incidents.

  133. Slugabed says:

    Walthamstow Writer 16:50 5/08
    I suspect the chain was put up by the conductor to stop passengers getting off at the Tunnel Stations on the wrong side.
    As they both had island platforms,passengers boarded and alighted on the right,unlike at normal tram stops.
    There is a picture somewhere of a trolleybus converted to be accessed from both sides…there was plan to run a trolleybus service through the tunnel,but this was never to be..

  134. timbeau says:


    Not converted – No1379 was built like that. It did run through the tunnel a couple of times on August 13th 1939 but had to go a long way north to recharge the batteries in between (it obviously couldn’t take power from the conduit). The experiment was not a success – clearances for an unguided vehicle were just too tight – and there were other preoccupations at the time. It ran in normal service, with the offside platform doors closed (as was standard, there were no doors on the nearside) until withdrawn with other non-standard trolleybuses in 1955.

  135. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – and yet the Board drew up comprehensive plans to replace the rest of the S London trams and the subway with trolleybuses. One wonders how they intended to deal with the clearance problem.Maybe as early as 1939,the trolleybus system was seen as short term despite the new orders.

    @slugabed – what was that offside woman thinking when she bought that hat?

  136. Slugabed says:

    Graham H….when she bought that hat,she probably thought it was the dernier cri…how long this feeling lasted…not long,I suspect,such is fashion!

  137. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    The Kingsway subway problem caused the replacement of the trams using it to be pushed further and further back in the various iterations of the plans, and it eventually closed with the last trams in 1952. For several years after trolleybuses had taken over all other north London routes, the Kingsway tram routes operated alongside them, requiring two electrification systems on the streets they shared.

  138. Malcolm says:

    Couldn’t trams (not having bow collectors) just work off the positive trolley vehicle wire? Or was it conduits there?

  139. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – it was conduit. 1379 ran through on batteries, as noted earlier. Interestingly,the link provided by slugabed shows 1379 on route 627* – a route that was not planned to use the subway (the subway routes were intended to be 533 and the 535 as direct replacements for the 33 and 35 tram routes).

    *One of the weaknesses of the trolleybus for tram programme was that the routes were tweaked only very slightly on conversion and the opportunity for major reform was missed even where no new wiring was needed. (avoiding new wiring was important given the opposition of the City and Westminster to any extension of the OHLE).

  140. timbeau says:

    New wiring was always needed, even when the trams ran on OHLE – trolleybuses run on rubber tyres which are not very good for earth return, hence the need for a second (negative) wire.

  141. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – you are right to chide me by implication; by “new wiring”,I meant – more laboriously – additional sections of road over which the wiring was strung. There were, in fact, systems where the trolleybuses used the tram overhead with the return via a metal skate towed behind the vehicle, but almost invariably only for short distances such as off-route depot runs, and London wasn’t one of them. In London, where trams and trolleybuses shared the same road, normal LT practice was to string both sets of wires, though there are reports of trolley crews using the tram wire where the outer trolley wire was unavailable for any reason, to get past the obstacle.

  142. Castlebar says:

    …….in fact, photographs exist as evidence of this.

    I shall try and locate one

  143. Castlebar says:

    On Youtube, see “The Elephant Will Never Forget 1952”, and you will see at 2:30 a tram in normal service using trolleybus wires

  144. Greg Tingey says:

    London trams always had single trolley-poles in the suburbs & conduit in the centre – changeover is shewn in the tram vimeo.
    Glasgow were much more sensible & used bow-collectors

  145. timbeau says:

    @Castlebar – indeed a standard tram can use a standard trolleybus wire. But a standard trolleybus cannot use a tram overhead unless there is provision for a return path – a second wire, a skate or the like. (A metal brush sweeping along the tramlines would do the trick).
    Unlike trams, trolleybuses also need turning loops.

  146. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar/timbeau – I took the opportunity this morning to check through that invaluable vade mecum “London trolleybus Wiring”, volume 2, which states categorically that between Woolwich and Abbey Wood,the trams and trolleybuses shared wires on some stretches but not others. On the other hand, vol4, dealing with the north and north east, shows pictures with clear separation of wires albeit strung from the same cross wires. So,LT practice clearly differed from place to place but – no skates.

  147. Mike says:

    GT: “London trams always had single trolley-poles in the suburbs” – actually, the ones that had trolley poles had two, using just one at a time. An exception: near the Greenwich Observatory there was trolleybus-like overhead to minimise stray return currents upsetting the observations. Presumably those trams had four poles, two for each direction?

  148. Graham Feakins says:

    “The Elephant will never forget” – Many mentions above but nobody appears to have provided the link to view it, from this page:

    I think the longest extension of trolleybuses in London along a road not previously served by tram was along Silvertown Way from Canning Town to North Woolwich (it appears more than once in the film I originally sent).

  149. Malcolm says:

    Timbeau said “ For several years after trolleybuses had taken over all other north London routes, the Kingsway tram routes operated alongside them, requiring two electrification systems on the streets they shared.”

    Responses to my query about this have shown various interesting things, including reference to unbritish skates and quadruple trolley poles. But my query still remains, though I now feel obliged to make it at greater length, as follows:

    By “two systems on the shared streets”, do you mean conduit for the trams and overhead for the trolleybuses? (In which case, why was overhead allowed in these streets for buses when it had not been for trams?). Or do you mean overhead for both? (in which case, particularly as the trams were knowingly doomed, why couldn’t they use one of the trolleybus wires?).

  150. Graham Feakins says:

    @Malcolm – Where London trams ran on the conduit and later were replaced by trolleybuses, acceptance of overhead wires was greater in the 1930’s than when the tramways were laid some thirty years earlier. Where the two ran in tandem during the conversion period, the trolleybus overhead was usually aligned to follow where the trolleybuses would normally run, i.e. somewhat closer to the kerb. In any case, there were strict instructions from the Electrical Department that the two supply systems should be kept separate and the conduit trams were only to use the trolleybus overhead in emergency in conduit areas. As noted, however, where the trams were already running on the overhead beyond the conduit area, there seemed to be variance where both trolleybuses and trams ran together. However, the separation was still preferred where roads were wide enough to permit trolleybuses to overtake on the inside of the trams, such as at Abbey Wood. If the trams used the trolleybus overhead, then the tram pole would block the passage of the trolleybus pole running on the same wire. Even with trolleybuses alone, the film clip I provided shows multiple examples of where there was ‘double track’ overhead for the trolleybuses to permit them to pass one another at diverging junctions.

    Incidentally, LT did experiment with both a bow collector and a pantograph for the trams and there is photographic evidence of same with a couple of trams on Downham Way. I know not the exact reason for their rejection (but I can guess).

    BTW, the more observant might have noted in the first tram link I sent that a tram is seen sailing around the curve out of Downham Way into Downham Village headed northwards. That’s the point/junction where it was hoped that the tramway would have been extended ‘straight on’ southwards up Bromley Hill to Bromley Market Place (by Bromley North). Bromley would have none of it and so it didn’t. Contrast that to neighbouring Croydon, which supported a 3 min-interval tram service all the way from Purley, through Croydon, Streatham, Brixton and onwards to the Embankment.

  151. Graham Feakins says:

    @WW – Glad you liked the clips, too. Note the intensity of service (both of trams and trolleybuses), needed to serve the crowds witnessed at the likes of the Bakers Arms; there always seemed to be so many more folk out and about on the streets then.

    Whilst Slugabed explained that passengers boarded and alighted via the driver’s platform at the front of the tram at Kingsway Subway stations with island platforms, it was also the practice for conductors to put the chain across when the tram was full – note that he directed the last passengers onto the lower deck as I assume the top deck was already full.

    @timbeau – just for clarification – the Kingsway Subway closed at the penultimate stage of tram abandonment on 6th April, 1952, including services 33 and 35, with the rest going on 5th July. There was also service 31 which ran through the subway (Wandsworth, Shoreditch, Hackney) but that was replaced by a trolleybus conversion in 1939 to bus route 170.

    Note that I use “service” for the trams. The LCC followed American practice and reserved the term “route” (pronounced “rowt”) for the actual tramcar running numbers out of each depot. The latter were used extensively ‘on the road’ by inspectors to ensure that trams ran in the correct order, especially on services around the lengthy Embankment loop, such as the 16/18 from Purley, which split at Kennington for “via Westminster” and “via Elephant/Blackfriars”, each running at 3-minute intervals and were expected to meet up again on the outward journeys at Kennington in the same order as they split.

  152. Ian J says:

    @anomnibus: That’s like comparing the first Motorola carphones with an iPhone

    This is a comparison you make very frequently. It puts me in mind of the (fictional) exchange between Microsoft and General Motors. This article is interesting in that it points out that all the car manufacturers are proceeding much more sceptically on the self-driving car thing than the IT companies. The likes of Toyota and Mercedes don’t share your, or Google’s, optimism about the timescales involved. And since Google has no intention of building cars, it will be the car manufacturers that drive the process.

    The services tend to only be available in urban areas, and someone still has to drive the thing from point to point. Furthermore, if demand is high, you’ll have a very long wait.

    The first and third points that you make apply just as much to self-driving cars (the first for the reasons of density I explained earlier). As for the second, well, some people like driving and some don’t.

    You’ve fallen into the same trap so many others do: self-driving vehicle technology does *not* apply only to motor cars

    Quite. It applies to buses too. So if you can halve the cost of running a rural bus service by not having to employ a driver, the hourly bus service you mention becomes a half hourly service, which is probably about the time it would take a self-driving car to reach you anyway.

    Self-driving delivery vehicles are certainly possible but at the moment the driver usually doubles as a loader/unloader, so the cost savings may be less than you think. I suspect the typical parcel delivery driver spends more time carrying packages than they do actually driving.

    a mainline railway network typically has very few trains per mile of infrastructure

    On the other hand, Rio Tinto’s iron ore trains in the Pilbara have very small numbers of trains per mile of infrastructure, yet they are currently automating them (and they already run driverless trucks).

  153. Anomnibus says:

    @Ian J.

    The incumbent car manufacturers have no incentive to go the self-driving route: their businesses are built around franchises selling cars to private owners, and the occasional spot of leasing for fleet owners. All those Ford, Toyota and Nissan sales forecourts would disappear if self-driving technology leads to a preference for leasing / spot-hiring instead. That’s a very disruptive change in the business model for car sales: instead of trying to attract private owners, the incumbents would find themselves having to sell to leasing / hiring companies instead. That’s not something these companies would know how to do right now, which is why they’re not pushing particularly hard for the technology. Although many are increasing their efforts on the ZEV front.

    Google, on the other hand, are interested in selling (or, more likely, licensing) their technology to other manufacturers, so they have a huge incentive to do this – and to get it right. If they can prove that their technology clearly reduces accidents, it’s not hard to see government increasingly pushing for it to be included as standard in all new vehicles.

    No incumbent company has a ‘right’ to continue trading forever. Just ask what’s left of Nokia.

    “So if you can halve the cost of running a rural bus service by not having to employ a driver, the hourly bus service you mention becomes a half hourly service, which is probably about the time it would take a self-driving car to reach you anyway.”

    Exactly how far away from their nearest market town do you think most rural areas are in the UK? In the Scottish and Welsh Highlands, it will indeed make more sense for individuals (or, more likely, small groups) to just lease a couple of vehicles to ensure there is one available nearby most of the time. Ditto for some places in the US, where you really can drive for hundreds of miles without seeing any sign of (intelligent) life in some areas.

    But these are edge cases. Most of us don’t live in such sparsely populated areas. Most of the Old World, for example, is densely populated enough that you could easily walk from one market town to the next in a day.

    Travel demand tends to be spiky, not smooth, and rural districts merely exacerbate that problem. In urban areas, the spikiness manifests itself in a simple frequency change from, say, 10 buses per hour, to 16 per hour during the high-demand periods, because there’s always a minimum background level of demand regardless. But you don’t get that minimum level of demand out in the backwoods of Tiptree.

    With SDVs, the computer logistics system can predict those spikes and ensure SDVs are available nearby. The vehicles wouldn’t simply cruise around like sharks looking for lunch. You’d just park them up. (Even electric cars have moving parts.)

    Note, too, that we already set up small depots for emergency services to reduce response times. If it’s taking 30 minutes for an ambulance to get to you, you have far bigger problems to worry about than SDVs.

  154. Anomnibus says:

    “On the other hand, Rio Tinto’s iron ore trains in the Pilbara have very small numbers of trains per mile of infrastructure, yet they are currently automating them (and they already run driverless trucks).”

    Those ore trains can be loaded and unloaded entirely automatically and the railway is basically just acting as a very long conveyor belt with very simple topology. The driver was never that necessary to begin with. It’s actually the same reasoning behind automating urban metros. (The length of the infrastructure is less of an issue for these routes as the climate and ground conditions mean maintenance is very easy to deal with.)

    The US and Canada might also see moves towards driverless freight flows, but initially, only on routes where that flow is the only use of the line, and also only if the line itself is already low-maintenance.

    For similar reasons, I suspect the UK’s merry-go-round freight flows would be among the first to go driverless when existing signalling is replaced by suitable driverless-train enabling technology during future renewal cycles.

  155. Ian J says:

    @anomnibus: ahh, “disruption”, the favourite word of the Silicon Valley techno-utopians. How is Elon Musk’s intercity rollercoaster tube going these days? Meanwhile Nokia is a profitable seller of network equipment these days.

    I don’t think topology has much to do with how easy automation is – after all the Post Office Railway had a complex topology but was automated years ago. And there are plenty of extravagantly complex model railway layouts that operate without human intervention. The difficulty lies in the presence of humans, as passengers and as sharers of the environment with the vehicles – there aren’t many of them around in the Pilbara, but there are plenty on the streets of London.

  156. Anomnibus says:

    @Ian J (and anyone else who survives this wall of text):

    I wouldn’t call myself a techno-utopian; I have been working (on and off) in IT since the early ’80s and spent many years as a programmer. I know, intimately, how computers work, how they ‘think’, and what they can – and cannot – do. So when I say it’s technically possible for X to happen, I’m talking from personal knowledge of the industry, not from a brief skim of some worthless BBC “Click” article written by some ignorant arts graduate who makes even Stephen Fry look knowledgeable.

    The reason I post what I do is because I know it can be done. We’ve got the sensors; now it’s mostly processing power and time. The latter being necessary primarily to bring costs of the former down to reasonable levels.

    We could automate most transport networks today if we could be bothered to build the necessary segregated infrastructure for it. Heathrow’s ULTra installation proves that much. That system needs to be segregated to work reliably and safely.

    Most of the delay in making all this stuff happen is because we can’t afford to build all that segregation, and we certainly can’t afford to do it all in one go. So we’re having to invent and test systems that let the automation work while sharing existing infrastructure with humans. That’s the part that’s slowing it all down: all those additional interfaces the computers have to cope with.

    Most people think the big applications, like Word and Excel, are the hard part. They aren’t. Those are trivial compared to the technology used by something like Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana. Both are incredibly hard to do well, and that’s why it’s taken so long for speech recognition to get to this point. Anyone who remembers what speech recognition was like in 2004 will attest to this.

    This isn’t stupidity: it’s ignorance and the result of an education system that values reading 400-year-old plays as if they were novels, above reading Donald A. Norman’s seminal work on design. We really ought to be teaching more about cognition too.

    This shows the huge chasm between the mental models most of us have of computers, and the way they actually work.

    It’s this ignorance that causes so many problems in politics and life today. I’m well aware that, if it takes longer to happen, it’ll be because people, not technology, are obstructing progress. And I have no illusions about our ability to royally bugger things up either.

    Nobody can possibly know everything there is to know about every branch of science today, so there’s a very real danger that ignorance and misinformation are going to be far bigger problems in future as we become ever more reliant on technology. Politics is no exception.

  157. LadyBracknell says:

    “Most of the delay in making all this stuff happen is because we can’t afford to build all that segregation, and we certainly can’t afford to do it all in one go.”

    We can’t afford it? We have possibly the highest fare structure in Europe, yet a miserable travelling experience. Year on year, money is gouged out of the travelling public on the basis that it is needed for improvements, which are so slow in coming. In the meantime people who are paying £3,000 plus a year for a ticket cannot even get a seat. I know I have conflated several issues, but my point is that it is in no-one’s interest to make things better if you can make a profit by delivering a sub-standard service.

  158. Fandroid says:

    Sorry chaps, I have restrained myself so far, but can no longer let this use of the word ‘topology’ go unchallenged. If we continue to indulge in malapropisms we run the risk of losing a distinct word from the English vocabulary.

    try this:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
    Not to be confused with topography

    Topology (from the Greek τόπος, “place”, and λόγος, “study”) is the mathematical study of shapes and topological spaces. It is an area of mathematics concerned with the properties of space that are preserved under continuous deformations including stretching and bending, but not tearing or gluing. This includes such properties as connectedness, continuity and boundary.

  159. timbeau says:

    trolleybuses etc

    What goes around comes saround

  160. Malcolm says:

    I think there’s a bit too much use of photoshop and/or “reporters” swallowing and regurgitating porkies here. Is the test track in a German-speaking region of California, for instance? And how come many of the wires have been photographed as dotted lines?

  161. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I am a bit confused in what you are trying to say. Are you suggesting that Siemens faked the videos on this page (best viewed at full page resolution). The lower one is shorter but has more footage of the test track.

    And why would Siemens build a test track in California and run trucks with German number plates and German adverts over the side of them? The Wired article never stated that the test track was in California merely that Siemens expected the first large scale implementation of this in California.

  162. Malcolm says:

    From the Wired article: “The test track, based in two lanes of a street in the city of Carson in California…”.

    However, on looking again, I withdraw my mention of photoshop; the dotted lines are an artefact, and the photo could be genuine; as is presumably much or all of the Siemens material: some of the video appears to includes animations, but not, I think, in any deceptive way. If there is any lazy reporting, it is courtesy of Wired, not Siemens.

  163. Mark Townend says:

    I recall seeing articles about the Siemens electric truck technology a few years ago, with pictures, so I assume they already have a well established test track somewhere in Germany. That is alluded to in the Wired article, which claims the system was first developed in 2011. The article seems to be more about entering the American market with partner Mack Trucks, part of Volvo Group, for a possible application at a port, so the Californian facility may be a more recent development.

  164. Mike says:

    Malcolm: as I understand it the Wired article is accurate, and the images etc are genuine, both to be expected. The issue is not the conspiracy-like one of Photoshop and “porkies”, but of very low-level (if that) cock-up: the article refers to the new American tests while the images are of the German test site, which has been in operation for a couple of years or so.

    It’s just a simple disconnect, so it’s not just allegations of Photoshop but more so of “porkies” that are way over the top. I think you owe both Wired and Siemens an apology.

  165. Malcolm says:

    I certainly apologise to Siemens, who obviously did nothing wrong. I still think the Wired article comes over very odd, with a disconnect between picture and words, but yes, my accusations were still over the top. I will try engaging the brain more carefully, to prevent myself from making such potentially objectionable comments in the future.

    I’m not sure if the technology pictured has potential. I think I’d prefer real trolleybuses!

  166. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – well, there have been a number of trolleylorry systems – Norway, several in Russia (you can still see them on the streets of Moscow, albeit only used for internal stores these days) and some of the very earliest Austro-Hungarian systems had swap bodies for freight that could be substituted for the passenger body. The Grevenstein system even went so far as to have trolley freight trains – a bit like the late, lamented Rechtsufrige Thunersee Bahn near Interlaken which managed trolley trains complete with mobile postal sorting office and 2 wheel luggage trailer!

    That said, it’s difficult to see what advantages Siemens would expect from their system,let alone how they might overcome the commercial and operational issues in daily use.

  167. timbeau says:

    Obvious question, but how would the electricity be paid for? Would ANPR systems be needed, and how can they tell which of several trolleylorries* is actually connected up? What’s to stop anyone hooking up? (For the matter of that, if I had one, would it be illegal to drive my own electric vehicle along a tramway laid in a public street, or collect power from a trolleybus wire.

    *nice name, but technically they are not trolleys as they use pantographs rather than wheels or skates physically guided by the wires


  168. Mark Townend says:

    Never mind paying for the power whats to stop too many lorries hooking up, overloading the circuit, blowing the breakers and bringing everything to a stand?

    All “official” vehicles drawing power will presumably have to be hybrid so they can drive off the wires, and they will have to be managed on board so they will only draw what the management system allows them (and what is payed for or within an account credit limit), making up the difference from their on board power source or storage system. If you wanted to steal power using an unofficial vehicle you would have to be able to retract and hide your pantograph quickly when passing traffic cameras or if there were any power cops about . . .

  169. Mike says:

    It seems to me that the main area of advantage over traditional trolleypoles is being able to wire/dewire on the move – the trolleybus systems that use duobuses all pole/depole at stops, I think. And provided the guidance system works, the risk of dewiring should be less.

    Charging for electricity would be easy through onboard remotely monitored meters, and the “too many lorries on the wires” issue is similar to the current “too much traffic on the road” issue.

    Altogether, not insurmountable – big problems would be making a positive business case and the visual effects, I would think.

  170. Rational Plan says:

    Diesel is a major pollutant and HGV’s and Buses are major users of Diesel. HGV’s, unlike cars are concentrated on major roads and motorways and can make a significant % of the vehicles on some major routes. If this could be made to work a hybrid system that plus direct into mains power has obvious advantages over battery power. A few major motorways strung up with these power systems could make a major difference to air quality in Urban areas. Pollution maps of any city follow the roads closely.

    Similarly if only we could get the major streets in zones 1 and 2 wired up, imagine the difference to the bus network!

  171. Malcolm says:

    @Rational Plan. Each of your statements is true, but they do not add up. It is in urban areas where the air pollution from diesel engines is worst (e.g. Oxford Street). Cutting down the amount of diesel burnt on motorways (however desirable from other angles) will not significantly improve the air quality in towns.

  172. Graham Feakins says:

    I suspect that Siemens have drawn on their experience in Zambia:

  173. Mark Townend says:

    One argument for wiring up longer distance fast routes would be to allow vehicles travelling on them to charge up their on-board storage (batteries or similar) en-route for subsequent off-wire use in the denser urban areas where the complexity of networks and visual impact concern could militate against any widespread overhead wiring. Whilst the method could be useful for a long distance distribution application it wouldn’t work for wholly urban delivery or public transport routes with no lengthy trunk interurban segment to use for charging.

  174. Graham H says:

    What’s difficult to understand about the Siemens’ proposal is its economics. Fuel is typically only about 5-8% of operating costs -important in an industry with such slim margins as logistics- but conversion to electricity is unlikely to save more than, say, half of that – and that saving has to pay for the extra cost of both the fixed kit (OHLE + HT distribution) and the mods to the vehicles. You could perhaps justify a public subsidy on the grounds of pollution reduction,but a simple remission of VED isn’t, again,going to be a very large deal (and you can’t remit fuel duty because an electric vehicle isn’t paying any).

  175. Mark Townend says:

    @Graham H, 19 August 2014 at 07:57

    I’d suggest it’s likely to be a fairly niche market. In the African mining application the benefits seemed to about the great increase in traction power and speed of the haulage operation that electrification offered. Note that on the hill section illustrated in the video, only the uphill loaded direction was wired. The possible American operation the Wired article referred to is a port. Some of the traditional Caribbean and Pacific ports in the US are fairly hemmed in without the nearby large container stacking areas that a modern expanding operation demands. This leads to a lot of short distance road haulage through urban areas to satellite facilities for box stacking and rail transfer. Electrification of a small network of such routes could significantly reduce emissions and noise and the logistics would be much easier with the only fleet using the wires being the port transfer tractors. Wired as opposed to hybrid battery storage power alone would allow such tractors to operate for much longer hours, as charging breaks would not be required.

  176. Graham H says:

    @MT – I agree -there’s nothing new under the sun of course: I came across one trolley freight operation such as you describe – the Hamburg Port Authority which installed a trolley freight tractor to haul horse drawn carts up the hill out of the port – can’t now retrieve the pictures but a nice piece of pre-WW1 technology…

  177. Anomnibus says:

    @Graham H:

    The Congestion Charge, despite its name, is already being used to ‘nudge’ people into buying low- and zero-emissions vehicles by offering discounts on the Congestion Charge to owners of such vehicles. This is despite the fact that an electric or hybrid car has absolutely no effect on congestion: they take up about the same space on the roads.

    There’s every reason to expect the Congestion Charge to be modified in future to encourage similar adoption of low- and zero-emission LGVs. The only reason it’s not happening today is because the infrastructure and technologies needed for this simply aren’t available yet: we’ll need some kind of overhead wire (or induction) system in place first as current battery technology makes a fully electric, plug-in LGV unviable at present.

    I’d give it about 10 years.

  178. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – surely the proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone is the mechanism to shift vehicle choice to help reduce pollution? It’s planned for introduction in 2020.

  179. Fandroid says:

    The Zambian mine system saved money by speeding the uphill heavy-load carrying operation so that fewer trucks and drivers were needed for the same output of ore. Presumably the same effect could have been achieved with more powerful diesels but at the expense of greater fuel consumption. My guess is that it is another trial operation by Siemens to check out the viability of trolley freight lorries in specialist situations.

  180. Anomnibus says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    That’s pretty much what I was thinking about. Sooner than I expected—six years seems optimistic to me, but I’m a natural pessimist*.

    I can see something like this happening sooner in countries like Italy. Rome is already suffering heavily from pollution, to the extent that increasingly implements an “odd-numbered / even-numbered license plates” policy to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.

    This is a country that has to import almost all its energy—both electricity and fossil fuels—at some cost to its economy. Photovoltaic and solar heating panels are finally at the tipping point in terms of value for money: it now makes sense to invest in them as they will pay for themselves before they need replacing. And they’re still getting cheaper and more efficient too.

    Solar heating panels are also doing very well, despite getting far less media coverage. Given that 25% of the average home energy bill is used to heat up water, these can make a big difference, and they’re cheaper than photovoltaics too.

    That means the national grid will need some tweaking as it will become much more polycentric** than it is now. For many, it will become more like a virtual battery, ‘storing’ your excess electricity—in reality, it’s just being sold to businesses and heavy industry—and letting you get at it when the sun’s gone away.

    And that changes the economics of electric cars too: they already spend most of the day sitting by the side of the road doing nothing. Now they can be charged while they depreciate quietly to themselves.

    * (No, seriously, I am. I do try to be realistic and consider socio-political aspects—it’s not just the ‘pure’ engineering aspects of the puzzle I enjoy—but I have no illusions about the chances of my ‘solutions’ ever actually coming to pass.)

    ** i.e. it’ll be distributing electricity from loads of solar panels distributed across the country, rather than just from the cross-border nodes and the nation’s few power stations. That will require some serious engineering as suburbs will likely have an awful lot of homes that are empty during those hot, sunny days while their owners are at work. All that excess energy’s gotta go somewhere.

  181. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Agree with the national electrification topic. The bigger costs however, which are already having to be addressed, are two-fold: the regional distribution networks which now have to start handling large two-way electrical flows instead of it all being a ‘one-way street’ (good business for supplier companies like ABB); and the gross increase in demand for electicity as an energy source (see the forecast increase in energy requirements in London 2050 documents, for example).

    Docklands has already had to increase radically the electrical supply capacity, including for DLR – slightly amusingly, in an area which once got most of its energy for the Docks and warehouses from the London Hydraulic Company (who also powered many early lifts in London) and whose pipes are now used for telecoms. Rail schemes such as HS2 and CR2 will need their own additions to national and regional electrical capacity as they are power junkies.

    A silly question which someone with a tech knowledge might be able to respond to. Why can’t bus roofs have built-in solar cells, and what difference might that make to external energy supply requirements for an average big red machine? 1% 5% 10% allowing for average British weather? If 1%, possibly not worthwhile.

  182. @Jonathan Roberts,

    1% would be worthwhile if it is cheap enough. I suspect it is not even that. For all their horrors, diesel engines provide a lot of power that is hard to create any other way. The photo cell idea is probably not helped by tall buildings in London.

    I suspect that, however you played with the economics, you would be better off putting the photo cells on the roof of the bus garage than on the buses themselves.

    The other worthwhile place is at bus stops to illuminate them at night (using a storage facility obviously) which is done at some stops. The real advantage there is that it saves cabling up for mains supply. Maybe one day we will manage to use the cells for lighting bus shelters in more rural areas.

  183. Graham H says:

    @PoP – “Maybe one day we will manage to use the cells for lighting bus shelters in more rural areas.” Yes, brilliantly lit but not a bus in sight… [Still, round our rural way, bus shelters’ prime use has little to do with stage carriage services}.

  184. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Yes, garage roofs could be a good place for cells.

    Out here in the rurality, quality elements such as a bus shelter (personally I’d prefer to shelter the passengers) and bus passes (whether or not illuminated) are secondary factors, though no doubt beneficial if there were any service.

    We’d be happier still if a bus existed. The main local commercial operator is also not known hereabouts for putting quality, er, First. Meanwhile the County Council saves money twice over, by (1) not giving much direct operating subsidy to the local operators, and (2) consequently not having to pay out for a lot of free or concessionary travel, because you don’t have the service volume or network coverage to start with. Locally, the nearest bus is 2.7 miles away, unless you are a kid when there’s a school bus in the season.

    Our last local trains were on 7th September 1963, and weren’t much use before then at only 4 per day, weekdays only. There is pub talk of hiring a coach to put on the back of the village’s frequent stone trains which run via Frome to Westbury, Woking, Acton (easy interchange with Crossrail 1) etc. The village had paid for its own station in 1860, so where with that sort of ‘can-do’ spirit there could be a way.

    Ghosts of passengers wait
    For a skeleton service
    From invisible stops.
    First Bus runs the last bus
    But the last bus went years ago.
    So we aspire for ghost trains –
    To serve our manifestations.

  185. timbeau says:

    Solar power does see use in some street furniture – many of the parking ticket machines round my way have solar panels, and I have seen them on motorway emergency telephones as well. It is a lot cheaper than getting a mains supply to each terminal.

    Roof-mounted solar panels are available as an option on the Toyota Prius, to power the airconditioning.

    London buses have white roofs to reflect heat and keep the top deck cool. Solar panels absorb heat, and only convert part of that heat into electricity, so they get hot. I suspect that more the power generated by such a solar panel could well be less than that needed to power the extra air conditioning needed to deal with that absorbed heat.

    (In the same way, Blackfriars station keeps the lights on all day because the sunlight is blocked out by the solar panels on the roof that power those lights)

  186. Fandroid says:

    I have long had a mildly crazy notion that vehicles (including buses which have a big roof area) could be fitted with roof-mounted solar panels linked to air conditioning. Most overheating in vehicle passenger compartments is due to solar gain, so the power would be available just when it’s needed. I have no idea what temperature control could be achieved by the output of such roof panels. The car notion was mainly based on the panels being able to at least limit the temperature gain in a car parked in sunshine. Something for the Borismaster?

  187. Greg Tingey says:

    In the same way, Blackfriars station keeps the lights on all day because the sunlight is blocked out by the solar panels on the roof that power those lights
    Yes, crazy isn’t it?
    The entire “design” is completely cacked ….
    They SHOULD have had a “Dutch” roof, with sloping sides, holding the solar cells, at glass centre to the roof & closed off the sides, thus avoiding the inevitable Pneumonia that will afflict the staff in winter ….
    /RANT ]

  188. Mark Townend says:

    @Fandroid, 21 August 2014 at 10:01

    A second roof skin with photo-voltaics could also help insulate the cabin from much of the solar gain in the first place.

    Any surplus could be offloaded to the traction batteries.

  189. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Many bus shelters in London that had solar panels fitted have had them stolen. Looking down from the top deck of double deckers I’ve seen so many devoid of their panels with litter, water and dead leaves filling the remaining void on the shelter roof. TfL seem to have given up doing anything about it – presumably because it would be throwing good money after bad in replacing kit that will simply be nicked again. I can’t see cash strapped local and county councils installing panels at rural bus shelters due to the theft risk.

  190. Anomnibus says:

    “Why can’t bus roofs have built-in solar cells”?

    Off the top of my head…

    They require very frequent cleaning as well as additional maintenance: it’s not just the panels, but also the ancillary equipment they require to convert their electricity output into something the rest of the bus can use. That kit also has to be installed somewhere, and there just isn’t that much space to play with.

    A moving bus will be passing under trees, bridges, through the occasional tunnel and underpass, in all kinds of weather, and at all hours. In darkness, those panels are just dead weight that the diesel engine is carting about the streets. Even trees would need their branches kept well trimmed, or a low branch might damage panels on passing buses. Even a few scratches a day will add up very quickly. And those branches will be scratching every bus that passes beneath them until they’re cut back.

    And finally… where are you going to put the air intake and exhaust for your air-con system when your bus’ roof is already covered in solar panels?

    With a fixed structure, you can easily predict the worst case scenarios. With a bus, just one of the worst case scenarios involves a low bridge and a sudden, violent conversion into an open-top bus with some very crinkly edges.

  191. AlisonW says:

    To just mention the topic again, I note that when I was in the centre of town on a recent Saturday I didn’t see *any* NB4L with its rear doors open while moving, and only opening one part of the rear door when at a stop.

    (And don’t mention the way that bus drivers now don’t stop at “non-request” stops so wait for 3-4 minutes at a stop towards the end of the route to get ‘back on the timetable’. Crazy!)

  192. ChrisMitch says:

    That’s because the ‘conductors’ who man the open rear door are only
    paid Monday-Friday.

  193. @Greg,

    You can’t have a higher roof at Blackfriars as it would never get it approvef due the need to preserve the sight lines of St Pauls.

    How many times? Pneumonia is primarily an infectious disease transmitted from person to person. Blackfriars is probably the least likely station to catch pneumonia at due to its wonderful air circulation – and a change of air, not re-circulation,

    I should ban any future posts containing the words “Blackfriars and “pneumonia”.

  194. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – the 11 has crew operation M-S. The other NB4L operated routes are all OPO at the weekends.

    There has been no distinction between compulsory and request stops for years. TfL abolished the rule. Buses should stop if there is someone waiting who wants a bus but I don’t leave it to chance – I will always hail the bus I want. That gives the driver no opportunity to say “I didn’t know you wanted my bus”. If you wish to alight from a bus you must ring the bell for any stop. In other words you catch a bus in London just like you’d do anywhere else in the country – stick your mit out to get on and ding the bell to get off.

  195. DavidG says:

    @Greg, PoP, the (slightly) open sides at Blackfriars are intentional: to reduce the stresses acting on the structure caused by the wind. And the platform staff are to be provided with small shelters for the winter months.

  196. timbeau says:

    @Alison W/WW
    “the 11 has crew operation M-S. The other NB4L operated routes are all OPO at the weekends.”
    And indeed the No 8 and 148 are OPO all day every day, which makes you wonder what is the point of putting them on those routes.
    (I understand the 453 will be OPO 24/7 too – can bus conductors (“platform assistants”), like cabbies, not go “sarf of the river”?

  197. Greg Tingey says:

    I thought you could get “that ailment” from severe exposure to cold & wet – but since the people at the draughty station will, at least be dry … it would seem I was wrong – & for the wrong reasons … oops.
    Agreed re roof-height, but I was thinking of a flat roof-top at the same height as the present maximum, with sloping (45 degree) sides, then vertical transparent panelling lower down.
    Hadn’t thought of wind-stress on whole structure (silly me!) but, with careful bracing, surely this could have been overcome?
    The principal (non-cold-weather) fault is you have a prime-site above-ground station which is DARK, even when the sun is shining.
    Bad PR, if nothing else?

    Somewhere recently, I saw a suggestion that whoever the next mayor is, might just do to the boilingmasters as Boris did to the bendies.
    Wasting even more money of course, but at least we might be able to see out of the windows ( & open them )

  198. Greg,

    You are sort of correct but I understand it is the cold and wet that lowers resistance that allows the germs to flourish. Personally I have found the station particularly pleasant but probably haven’t experienced the worst of the winter there.

  199. timbeau says:

    Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs (from the Greek “pneuma” meaning “breath” – “pneumatic” comes from the same root). Like all respiratory infections,it is more easily spread in damp conditions.

  200. AlisonW says:

    WW: “There has been no distinction between compulsory and request stops for years. TfL abolished the rule.”

    I am only aware of this change *because I have read about it on LR*. Almost every journey I make I see passengers – and would-be passengers – vociferously complaining about their bus not stopping because TfL have entirely failed to TELL anyone else about this change in their policy.

    Also the case, of course, that bus stop signs still come in compulsory and ‘request only’ flavours, as also detailed in the highway code.

    And, as my secondary point said, bypassing ‘apparently non-request’ stops only to pause near the end of the route to get back to a timetable is utterly crazy.

  201. timbeau says:

    ” to pause near the end of the route to get back to a timetable is utterly crazy.”

    A classic example of “running the service” taking precedence over “providing a service”. The end of the route is probably an important connection for many of the passengers, so sitting one stop away for minutes on end is frustrating and pointless, not to mention obstructing the traffic.
    Yes, you still get there at the time the bus was scheduled to do so, but if all buses on the route are running early, the bus that you should have caught is the one ahead of yours.

  202. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – I know from other groups I participate in that this is one of those issues that causes tempers to fray. I’ve never been unduly bothered by it because I’m one of those interlopers from elsewhere in the country where there was no such thing as a compulsory stop. I’ve always stuck my hand out or rung the bell because it was the only way to get a bus to stop.

    A search on Google threw up this FOI request from several years ago. It includes various bits of info from TfL which explains their approach even though I doubt it will make you any happier.

    I understand the frustration about pauses at stops and slow running. it’s particularly prevalent at the moment because the schools are off so there’s not the same level of traffic. However I am not sure we necessarily want to return to the days of bus drivers and clippies making it up as they go along and abandoning the notion of a timetable altogether. I think the fact that the bus companies have targets and are monitored against them, so the public stand a chance of a decent service, is rather better than the nasty days of a rock bottom quality, low cost, no subsidy type operation we had under LRT (Government control) in the late 80s and 90s. No system is perfect but I think many people outside London would wonder what on earth Londoners are complaining about when they see the quality of service and breadth of bus service provision we have in London for what is really a pretty cheap flat fare. I really don’t think we want to know what London would be like with a fully commercial bus operation with TfL just paying for the socially necessary bits.

  203. Greg Tingey says:

    I really don’t think we want to know what London would be like with a fully commercial bus operation with TfL just paying for the socially necessary bits.
    I’lll tell you:
    Roads jammed utterly solid as people revert to their cars, that’s what it would be like ….

  204. LadyBracknell says:

    @AlisonW: I think bus operation in London is absymal. I hadn’t realised that the distinction between compulsory and request stops had been abolished, so there is no point in complaining about drivers who sweep past stops, nor is that any point in writing to the bus company about drivers who, in a queue, open the doors forcing passengers to walk to the bus or risk being left behind, not to mention those who make no effort to get near the kerb leaving the elderly, infirm or people with children in pushchairs to negotiate the yawning gap to the pavement. Another bugbear, are drivers who do not stop if there is another bus in front, notwithstanding that they are on an entirely different route.

  205. RichardB says:

    @ LadyBracknell – in all honesty I have to say as one who strongly prefers rail to bus travel we actually have little to complain about in London. The bus service overall has improved immensely following the improvements fostered under Ken Livingstone. For example I live in New Malden and have the choice of eight bus routes and with two exceptions all routes have a frequency of not less than 15 minutes and most of those offer a greater frequency than that. Included is a night bus from central London plus the 213 which also runs through the night. Only one service the K5 is a six day service with hourly intervals and no late evening service all the rest operate on seven days upto past 11:00 p.m. The night bus from central London operates on a 15 minute frequency Sunday to Thursday and increases to a 10 minute frequency on Friday and Saturday.

    The services are all generally reliable and most of the bus drivers are considerate. The buses are clean and relatively new. My experience within London also extends to places and routes outside New Malden and all in all they are also consistently good. I am not saying that there is no scope for improvement and I also accept some patrons have a negative experience on some occasions but I think it is untrue and unfair to say the service is abysmal.

    The bus service in many ways a victim of its own success as some locations can become choked with buses for example Aldwych and Eden Street in Kingston but to say it is abysmal you first need to compare it with services outside London especially outside other major cities. I think we get a pretty deal and the flat rate Oyster fare is not excessive compared to outside London. Don’t misunderstand me I acknowledge things could be improved but it is nowhere near abysmal.

  206. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – I am sorry but I must disagree with you. I am perfectly happy to criticise London Buses when it is called for and Leon Daniels reads enough of my moans to be able to vouch for that. I do know that he considers those “moans” as feedback (probably only up to a point though!) and things do get fixed – I’ve seen it happen as documents get corrected or I spot a change in how things are done.

    However to say the service is abysmal is simply not true. We are light years away from the low quality of the 1990s with minibuses running routes that should have been using double decks, with rock bottom “cowboy” type operations and no way of knowing when or if a bus would turn up. I would not say things are perfect and it is often the staff *and* the passengers that cause the problem. If passengers decide to have a “buggy war” inside the bus how is that the fault of the driver? However the driver can’t drive if people are screaming and yelling. He needs them to behave and for the buggies to be safely stored.

    As a complete coincidence I happened to rewatch a recording I made of a repeat of the “Route Masters Running London” series earlier today. It was the episode featuring buses and it was quite clear that driver behaviour is a cause of complaint. The programme said TfL receive 100,000 complaints a year. The rules are perfectly clear (in the Big Red Book [1]) but no one obeys all the rules in every job – that’s human nature. I recently experienced a driver not stopping and driving past another stopped bus. I complained to TfL via their website with the requisite info I’d carefully noted. I got a response within 2 days with a promise the issue had been referred to the operator in question. If you experience bad service then complain. All complaints go via TfL not via the operators. I have also commended good drivers too just to show I’m not a serial moaner.

    Despite all the actual or perceived weaknesses with the bus network we are vastly better off in London that almost anywhere else in the UK. Nowhere has the same level of evening, night and Sunday services as London. Some cities come close but they are something of an exception to the general rules that apply with deregulated operations. We also don’t have the threat of the complete withdrawal of public funding for bus services unlike Luton and Hartlepool (all support cancelled by the relevant council) and Hertfordshire looks to be following suit with no funding for evening and Sunday services proposed. That’s a tragedy given Herts have long had a reasonable attitude towards public transport. The actions of a tiny minority of drivers really can’t override the level of successful bus operation that happens day in, day out which receives virtually no recognition or appreciation. Londoners just expect buses to turn up.

    [1] see and page down to read the Big Red Book and associated guidance.

  207. LadyBracknell says:

    Yes, we have plenty of buses serving London, but my everyday experience of using them is one of misery. You can complain until you are blue in the face, but there is no real culture on the part of the various operating companies to improve the attitude of the drivers towards the travelling public.

    Another problem is the distance between stops. Some of them are very long indeed and the new bus for London could have alleviated this except that most of them operate with doors closed.

    Not enough thought is given to the number of routes that share a stop nor are sensible plans put in place for re-routing services. A good example is the work being done in Lewisham Town Centre. The bus station that used to be at the foot of Lewisham Station has been moved to a new location. All buses that terminate at the station are now stopping a considerable distance away before diverging to the new termination site. There is a stop much closer to the station that could be used, but this has been ignored. Further, the buses that terminate at Lewisham Station coming from Catford are being funnelled down the High Street, so that as many as 10 buses are served by a single stop. There is a road parallel to the High Street that should have been used and already has a stop for people wanting the shopping centre and through which they could walk to catch any connecting services from the High Street. On this same road is a lay-by close to the junction of Loampit Hill that is only a few metres from the station that could have been the final stop for passengers wanting Lewisham Station. Why has no-one seen the obvious solution?

  208. MikeP says:

    Pneumonia – not just damp, but for some sources, hot too. The ideal temperature for Legionella – a cause of pneumonia undiscovered until 1977 – to multiply is 32-42 deg C, according to one paper at the WHO.

  209. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – we’re not going to agree about the value of feedback and complaints. You also seem not to understand that TfL do take into account “soft” measures when looking at an operator’s performance. Having endless complaints about drivers or a specific route does the incumbent operator no good when performance is reviewed.

    Lewisham has always been disastrous in terms of stops and walking distances. It is much worse now because of the Gateway development. The old bus station was really just a bus stand and that’s been moved to the west of the station off Loampit Vale. TfL have had to add extra buses to several routes because of the extra distance and run time involved. That’s why the 108 no longer reaches the station – to save money. Having researched the phasing of the work and highway changes there is actually some logic to how things are being done now even if it is very awkward. The road layout and roundabout will change considerably over the next 18-24 months so there is little point installing stops in areas which will disappear or be remodelled. I suspect there isn’t much point in serving Molesworth St and expecting people to walk to the High St if there are times when Lewisham Shopping Centre is closed so walking routes differ. Most people will prefer to have stops close together so it’s a short walk or same stop interchange as it is on the High St for many routes. There will be new bus stops located much closer to the station when everything is finished but it’s not clear to me how the various routes will use the new arrangement and how convenient interchange between buses will be.

  210. LadyBracknell says:

    @Walthamstow Writer: you have obviously looked at the Gateway plan, so you will have seen the present and future layouts. The shopping centre occupies a very large site and all traffic circulates around it. The ‘last stop’ in Lewisham before the various routes go their divergent ways – towards New Cross or Deptford – is at the end of the High Street. All buses passing through Catford and taking the direct route to Lewisham use the High Street. People wanting to change to a different route can do so at the first of the two stops serving the town centre, so there would be no inconvenience to passengers when the shopping centre is closed.

    Molesworth Street is the termination of routes 21, 180 and the 436 and these buses turn into the High Street on the return journey. Molesworth Street is not an official route for buses going through Lewisham, although there is a stop to drop off passengers who can enter the shopping centre from the back or walk to the High Street for the shops that front it. The drivers would then have headed for the old Lewisham Station termination. My point is that given the availability of Molesworth Street as a runaround, it seemed the obvious solution to routing some of the buses.

    The old Lewisham Station termination was, indeed, only a stand but buses entered Station Road and passengers wanting the station had a couple of minutes’ walk to the platforms. If the buses terminating at the new bus stand had been allowed to drop off passengers at the Loampit Vale stop, it would simply be a matter of crossing the road and going up Station Road at its other end. Instead passengers have cross the High Street at TWO points before walking the long way around to the station. If you are loaded down with baggage or shepherding children, this is very inconvenient.

  211. Anomnibus says:


    “Why has no-one seen the obvious solution?”

    Because it’s not a “solution”. You can’t just rearrange bus stops every few days around a major redevelopment project. Bus routes are defined in legal contracts, so every change requires multiple lawyers to get involved as even an apparently simple change might involve hiring in an extra bus (+ driver!) to accommodate.

    Lewisham’s road network is about to undergo some serious rearranging, with the loss of the Loampit Vale roundabout the most obvious. The resulting layout will be very different. New buildings will be going up, and the Quaggy river is going to be opened up a bit too. Even the area adjacent to the station will see major changes.

    A critical element of any major redevelopment project like this is logistics. Right now, all the traffic that has traditionally snarled up in and around Lewisham is also facing additional traffic in the form of construction equipment, lorries bringing supplies and taking away rubble, and so on. Some spaces that seem like ideal candidates for other uses may be earmarked for things like staging points for tower crane assembly, or for stockpiling construction materials for use on a site nearby.

    Contrary to popular belief, town or city planners usually have degrees in the subject. Unless you have convincing evidence to the contrary, it’s usually best to assume that they do, in fact, know what they’re doing.

  212. LadyBracknell says:

    I take it you live in Lewisham and are familiar with the town centre and have seen for yourself the work that is currently taking place. You know the various building sites and the location of ‘off site’ equipment.

    As for assuming that those in charge might know what they are doing, I find it best not to rely on people who will not actually be affected by the changes they implement. As you are convinced of the wise sagacity of town planners, let me disabuse of your thinking:|countryGB&cr=countryUK|countryGB&sa=X&ei=TS_7U6-vDcjhaqyagZAJ&ved=0CA8QpwU

  213. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – I really think you have no idea how variations to bus contracts work. There is decades of experience in TfL and the bus companies. There is good knowledge on both sides of the negotiating table so little scope for nonsensical game playing if all that is wanted is an adjusted schedule to reflect roadworks or the use of different roads. The simple fact is that hundreds of adjusted schedules are implemented every year, some at very short notice, without any apparent delay or nonsense. I can’t believe TfL or the bus companies would employ “multiple lawyers” to change a timetable. It would cost far too much money and deliver NO value whatsoever. Care to provide some evidence to the contrary? I’ve heard Leon Daniels describe the scale of changes and variations several times and I think he’d know.

    Heck we negotiated multi million pound variations and settlements on the PPP without “multiple lawyers” involved. There was probably 1 lawyer on each side involved at a pertinent point in the process and to draft / review any specific settlement agreement. That is standard practice and good governance that you’d find in any decently run business.

    TfL managed to conjure up loads of extra buses last week to cover for the Central Line drivers strike on Friday. I suspect there might have been some E mails and phone calls made but I don’t believe a lawyer would have been anywhere near that process. Oddly loads of extra buses duly turned out on the streets to get people to work, home or play.

  214. LadyBracknell says:

    Anomnibus made a selective reading of my post and overlooked the fact that there is already one bus stop on Molesworth Road and buses did use it as a route to the old bus stand, so the comment ‘You can’t just rearrange bus stops every few days around a major redevelopment project’ is rendered pointless. Further if bald statements about town planning is to be made, it would be a good idea to check that such assertions cannot be countered.

  215. timbeau says:

    @lady Bracknell
    “there is already one bus stop on Molesworth Road and buses did use it as a route to the old bus stand,so the comment ‘You can’t just rearrange bus stops every few days around a major redevelopment project’ is rendered pointless.”

    It’s one thing to divert the buses at short notice, but if you want people to catch the buses from a different stop every few days you need to publicise all these changes.

  216. LadyBracknell says:

    For the last time, we are not talking about moveable bus stops. Molesworth Street is an established route for buses and the people of Lewisham were well aware that it is sometimes used for the buses that terminated at the old bus stand. Sure there was moaning as the bus continued down Molesworth Street instead of negotiating the mini roundabout onto the High Street, but it was hardly an inconvenience.

  217. Anomnibus says:


    “I take it you live in Lewisham and are familiar with the town centre and have seen for yourself the work that is currently taking place.”

    I lived in the area for over a decade—until late 2008, before the redevelopment work began. I’m familiar with what the area looked like at the time (and even before the DLR), but have to rely on Google Maps / Street View for recent changes; bus stops are small and easy (for me) to miss. Unfortunately, my Internet connection has been very flaky of late, so I was relying on my recollection of earlier ‘virtual tours’ around the area.

    Frankly, I’m still stunned that anything has happened there at all. Lewisham Council did not have a reputation for fulfilling their promises at the time. The Catford Gyratory is, I note, still there, for example.

    Nevertheless, you said, and I quote:

    “On this same road is a lay-by close to the junction of Loampit Hill that is only a few metres from the station that could have been the final stop for passengers wanting Lewisham Station. Why has no-one seen the obvious solution?”

    The only lay-by I can see in Street View is a disabled / parents-with-kids parking bay that’s clearly intended solely as a drop-off or pick-up point. It is nowhere near long enough to accommodate a bus, let alone more than one of them at a time.

    How is this an “obvious” solution?

    As for town planning mistakes: yes. I’m aware that they don’t always get it right. This is the London Borough of Lewisham we’re talking about after all. (Have you seen Eros House?) But they aren’t always wrong. The Downham and Bellingham estates have worked rather well given our understanding of planning at the time. They’re clearly inspired by the “Garden City” model popular at the time.

    Mistakes are a learning opportunity. Judging by what I’m seeing on Street View, Lewisham Borough Council has finally achieve something other than a shiny new town hall in Catford and some light demolition. There’s a first time for everything. The only nit I’d pick with them is their choice of Barratt as a partner. They’re the Tesco’s Value Range of housing developers. And that’s being polite.

  218. Anomnibus says:


    I sit corrected.

    I assumed that forcing changes that required additional buses would involve contractual changes, as opposed to simple diversions around road works. That did seem to be the case in other parts of the country, where local councils were subsidising the route, but I forgot TfL has the luxury of a different system.

  219. LadyBracknell says:

    Anomnibus, Lewisham Council is re-positioning the town centre as somewhere that people who work in Canary Wharf, in particular, might like to live. Loampit Vale and the old Thurston Road industrial estate site are now blighted by expensive high-rise developments that will plunge the Gateway into darkness and funnel the wind. There is very little social housing content and a tiny, ticky, tacky one bedroom flat starts at about £280,000. The site that was the former bus stand is to have TWO high-rise buildings, one of 15 storeys and the other of an unbelievable 25 storeys.

    Every scrap of land is being gobbled up by developers with pound signs in their eyes and before you can blink, another high-rise is being flung up. I shall soon be moving to the more civilised Blackheath and will really appreciate the wide open spaces of the heath and Greenwich Park.

  220. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – of course there are contract changes but you seem to equate that with multi million pound lawyers sitting at the table arguing for nine months over the first sentence of a 900 page document. The reality will be two people having a discussion where one specifies the issue and the preferred solution and the other provides a solution or solutions and costs. They might then knock the ideas around a bit, chip a bit off the price and then they agree what needs to be done, what the cost and confirm that TfL will pay for it. A variation document will be done and signed off. A big route extension will have a bit more protocol and process to it but we are talking about routine procurement activities here.

    Most councils publish their bus route tender lists and the sums paid to operators. Given we are often talking about small sums of money to pay for socially necessary journeys there is no point in over complicating things. Clearly people in authority will keep a watching brief in the councils and in the bus companies to ensure value for money is achieved and the process is fair and legal but you don’t need teams of lawyers to do that either as I’m sure you know.

    I’ve negotiated and settled hundreds and possibly thousands of incident and fault attributions and my team did vastly more than I did. I can’t recall a lawyer sitting in any of those commercial meetings. Only on very rare occasions did items end up in the formal dispute process and that did involve the lawyers as you would expect.

    I fear to tread on the disputed streets of Lewisham but using Streetview will not give you an up to date view. I have been kicked off a bus (at short notice) in Molesworth St at the stop I believe Lady Bracknell is referring to. It meant I had to discover the delights of the Lewisham Centre for myself as I wanted to change buses! I suspect the reason for the bus’s diversion was to make up for lost time and to get back on time for the return trip. That’s a reasonable service regulation strategy. The current bus stop situation is not ideal and it will clearly change several times as the highway changes are phased in. I think we all have different perspectives as to what is necessary and what is desirable in terms of routes and stop locations in Lewisham. That’s why I gave up several posts ago trying to “persuade” Lady Bracknell of the merits or otherwise of the current situation. She won’t be persuaded and that’s fine. It’s clear from her most recent remarks that she also really dislikes the Gateway development so that’s a double “no no” to deal with. I’m not that brave! 😉 I’m sure she’ll get used to trekking to Belmont Hill to jump on the 54,89 or 108 to Blackheath. The 380 serves other stops.

  221. LadyBracknell says:

    I actually live on Belmont Hill (two minutes to the High Street) and consequently am as close to the town centre and it’s current state of development as it possible to be without living in one of the shops.:-) I do drive, but despite the moaning, actually like public transport.

    You are right to say that I dislike the Gateway development. An ‘exclusive enclave’ has been dropped into what is essentially a poor part of South East London. There are hardly any shops to support the ‘lifestyle’ of the in-comers and it is Blackheath and Greenwich that will benefit from their spending power.

  222. Slugabed says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if “I’ve checked it on Street View” should be given the same level of credence as “I heard it from a friend”?
    There really is no substitute for getting down to the site under discussion and walking through it AS IT REALLY IS NOW.
    Even a little familiarity with sites under discussion would act as a bridle to some of the more wayward crayons…
    I remember some while ago someone suggesting that “they” should “just” completely re-configure a substantial proportion of Clapham Jct until it was pointed out by those who knew the place well,that,contrary to how it might seem on Street View,the site is not straight,level or unconstrained (in any sense of the word).
    What do you say?

  223. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I absolutely share your frustration. I really see one of the functions of this site as to dispel these rumours or at least put them in their proper place – not give them food and nourishment. Wonderful though Streetview etc. are they may not be up to date and often visiting the place just makes you aware of extra complexities that haven’t been thought of when sitting at home. Or they have not appreciated just how busy (or quiet) a station is.

    If there was a way of banning a person making suggestions for a location they haven’t been to I would enforce it. There are exceptions but if referring to somewhere specific in an article I nearly always make a point of visiting first and I don’t rely on a visit made many years ago. I could give examples of the past howlers of others but have no wish to embarrass people.

  224. ngh says:

    Re Slugabed.

    May be everyone should check the date of the street view photos before commenting? Google maps images can often be 4-5 years old.

  225. Slugabed says:

    Well,that is certainly true….but there are also the structural limitations of the format….as I understand it,you can only see what can be “seen” by the special camera on top of a car.This means that not just “blind spots” (of which there are many) exist,but also anywhere not accessible by a motor vehicle (correct me if I am wrong).
    Moreover,the lenses used give an odd perspective,making gradients and relative positions seem different from “Mk.1 eyeball”
    I understand entirely what you are saying,and there is no cut-and-dried answer,but perhaps I’m thinking of a “nudge” from the top,in the same sense as,say,happened during the discussion of the structural integrity of a particular piece of signalling infrastructure in a parallel thread….?

  226. Greg Tingey says:

    Bing maps aerial view is usually no more than 18 months (max 2 years) out of date in London – often more up-to-date than Google.
    Can I also recommend “open Street Map” which is a crowdsourced wiki, so kept fairly well up-to-date?
    As I’m sure Graham H will recognise, personal, local knowledge ( hopefully recent too) tends to trump all other sourrces

  227. Graham H says:

    @GT – absolutely. Which is why I keep away from discussions about the minutiae of bus stops in Lewisham and the like. (Nothing against the place – just don’t go there much).

  228. AlisonW says:

    The other, quite major, aspect of bus stops now is that where once the bus would pull off the main stream of traffic into what was effectively a lay-by the stops are now on pavements extended outwards such that buses stop in the main stream and woe betide drivers behind.

    In some ways this is good – safer for pedestrians and passengers, better for the bus driver who doesn’t have to wait until some kind driver lets them back into the stream – but is very dependent on dwell time for the general traffic flow.

  229. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – and the next development is to narrow traffic lanes so that it is impossible for vehicles to overtake at all if a bus stops. I have just fallen across two consultations for road changes in Waltham Forest. One of these removes a bus lane in its entirety and narrows the road so as to create a cycle lane. Oddly the consultation document doesn’t mention the loss of the bus lane at all – guess who is funding the work? Yep TfL via the local funding process. The second one also narrows a main road to create a cycle lane in one direction only and also moves bus stops so passengers will have a longer walk to interchange with the tube. You couldn’t make this stuff up. I’m now convinced that buses are now viewed by planners and councillors as being as “evil” as cars and deserve to be slowed down and generally messed about with.

  230. Graham Feakins says:

    @AlisonW & WW – This is all barmy, of course.

    When I first read Alison’s comment (also witnessed along the Walworth Road from The Elephant), my immediate thought was that the pavement boarding areas are being pushed towards the centre of the road and that’s where folk had to board and alight from the trams of another era! The trams got the blame for holding up the other traffic, especially “as they hogged the middle of the road”, so the ‘more flexible bus/trolleybus’ replaced them but it’s clear in reality that the aim was to provide a supposedly less interrupted journey for private road traffic.

    Indeed, a pro-tram argument was (and remains) that the buses had to weave in and out of the kerb at bus stops, especially disrupting the ‘natural’ flow of other traffic when attempting to rejoin that flow from those stops, whereas the trams maintained a steady and predictable course, whilst permitting where possible the rest of the traffic to take its own lanes past.

    Now what do we have? The exact opposite, as you both describe! With the trams running in the centre of the road, often wide enough (courtesy the L.C.C.) to accommodate cars and buses running outside, there was, and remains, also room at stops for pedestrian islands to board and alight, should anyone have been minded to construct them – but they didn’t, bar places like Manor House. Many of you will have witnessed Continental tramways today where trams still run in the middle of the roads, islands are provided for boarding/alighting passengers at the stops and the other traffic can circulate between there and the pavements, whilst tram passengers have crossing lights and so on if required to permit them to reach the pavements in comparative comfort.

    There was a lovely bit of logic used by those campaigning to retain the South London trams: What is safer, an average of 50% of bus passengers alighting from a bus at the side of a road having to negotiate crossing the whole road and thus all lanes of traffic, or 100% of passengers alighting from a tram on a pedestrian island in the middle of the road and thus having to negotiate crossing only half the road? Answers please on a postcard.

    Just who (or which department) is influencing this latest, adverse posture as you both describe? Can we pin it down?

  231. timbeau says:

    I understand that bus opertors have given up on lay-bys because in practice, whatever the Highway Code says, other drivers simply do not let buses out of them. With no cash payments any more, dwell times are much less than they used to be as well, so delays to traffic are less.

    Less sure why build-outs are necessary except to raise the kerb high enough to allow level access. It does allow the bus to have a straight approach to the stop rather than having to swing into the kerb, which causes the long front overhang of modern buses to sweep over the kerb and risk hitting objects such as bus stop flags or indeed waiting passengers. Indeed, a particular problem with low-entrance buses is that the driver’s position is so low that, to be useful, the nearside wing mirror has to be only about five feet above the ground, ideally placed to hit intending passengers on the head – which is presumably why they are all now painted yellow!

  232. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham F – as I have postulated before I think a lot of the highway changes are a mix of what is the “fashion” amongst traffic engineers at a point in time combined with hysteria about road traffic accidents and speeding vehicles. Please note I am not advocating vehicles travelling at 80 mph in built up areas or ignoring the emotional and societal costs of road traffic accidents before someone accuses me of that. Politicians feel they must react to the hysteria and be seen to be “doing something” regardless of the overall effect of the something. I just feel that we are at or very close to a “tipping point” where the cumulative effect of narrower traffic lanes, road humps, parking restrictions, road closures etc just slows the traffic to a standstill. I also think that slower road speeds and more congestion will start causing bus reliability problems. Removal of bus lanes is idiocy when TfL has had to find £200m over 10 years to ease “pinch points” and add bus priority for new development areas. What about stopping new pinch points being created? What about more bus priority in areas that are already developed? Where is the policy for that?

    I fear to mention this because of the possible reaction but the cycling lobby (or part thereof) seems to be very content to see bus lanes removed in order that cycle lanes can be installed. I also believe that the Cycling Commissioner has “tunnel vision” when it comes to cycle priority in that it comes before any other form of transport priority regardless of traffic / travel volumes etc. That feels wrong headed to me but I then I don’t want the effectiveness of the bus network reduced. There are ways to sort this out but I see little clear evidence that it is part of the policy framework or particularly acknowledged by those who want segregated cycle lanes everywhere. One recent cycling blog article called bus users “antisocial” for using the bus and not cycling. To be accurate and fair the author has reworded the article but to me it betrayed a mindset and has made me less inclined to support cycling initiatives. Good rational debate is fine, insulting people who should be your natural allies against unrestrained car usage is not.

    @ Timbeau – have you really noticed a reduction in stop dwell times since buses went completely cashless? I haven’t made many bus journeys since the change but I’ve not noticed any difference at all. It seems to have gone rather smoother than expected although there have been tweets about people getting stuck and being booted off buses at night. I’ve only seen two instances of trying to pay with cash but then I haven’t been in Zone 1 much so have not witnessed “tourists trying to pay cash” syndrome.

  233. LadyBracknell says:

    I am more and more convinced that ‘traffic management’ has contributed to the frustrating conditions for all road users. The available road space has been diced and sliced with traffic being forced into an ever narrowing conduits. I think traffic flow would improve if these segrations were removed.

    There has been no diminuition in dwell times with the introduction of cashless boarding. Indeed, I have twice this week managed to catch buses that had been stopped for a considerable length of time.

  234. timbeau says:

    “have you really noticed a reduction in stop dwell times since buses went completely cashless?”
    No, of course not – it has been a gradual process over the past decade or so as more and more people switch from cash to Oyster. Indeed, the change of plan on keeping the Routemasters ten or more years ago was, I believe, largely driven by the erosion of their supposed advantage in reduced dwell times, as boarding OPO buses was streamlined by Oysterisation.

  235. Greg Tingey says:

    WW @ 14.23
    It’s not some evil conspiracy … I happen to think it’s a combination of “perverse incentives” & no-one looking at all at the “big picture” re: traffic flows & ease of use.
    You, yourself commented some time back about the appalling effect of “speed humps” in main roads inside LBWF [London Borough of Waltham Forest. LBM] f’rinstance.
    Now – to solve this we need to get someone (or a group) to take an overall, & above all integrated view. Any suggestions?

  236. Greg Tingey says:

    Talking of proper, rear-entrance buses ….
    This article from “Spitalfields Life might be of interest?
    [ All RT’s by the way – & note the destination blinds to places outside the current London area, too ]

  237. Malcolm says:

    With regard to vehicle mirrors being painted yellow, I can report my own anecdotal but extensive record of collisions between my head and vehicle (bus and truck) mirrors. On every such occasion, the vehicle and its mirror were stationary and I was not. Due to the lack of eyes in the back and top of my head, yellow paint would not have prevented many of these, but it would probably have saved a few.

    Certainly seeing buses swooping towards a line of people /looks/ dangerous, but I suspect the actual record is not bad at all, as moving buses, with or without protrusions, seem to provoke natural caution in nearby humans.

  238. Castlebar (Restore cash payment availability for women on London buses after 7 p.m.) says:

    I was on a bus about 3 weeks ago where dwell time at one stop was increased because a bloke was arguing with the driver because he wouldn’t take a cash fare. (I suspect, from his accent, the intending passenger was South African). Certainly a 3minute+ delay.

  239. timbeau says:

    “all RTs”
    if you stretch a point to include the RLH, which was after all really an RT with a stoop

  240. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops – forgot that one!

  241. Jim Jordan says:

    ” the RLH, which was after all really an RT with a stoop ”
    I can’t agree with this. The RLH was a standard AEC chassis with a very provincial body – a bit of an emergency order to get a few low bridge deckers. The radiator is a different shape to that of the RT.

  242. Graham H says:

    @Jim Jordan – and rode and sounded like one – you could tell the difference between a 209 and a 230 with your eyes shut…

  243. timbeau says:

    I stand corrected – I had always understood the RLH and RT to both use the Regent Three chassis. And the difference in grille is too subtle for my eye – they look very similar to me – compare the front end view of the RLH in the Spitalfields article with that of the RT in the preceding picture.

    The actual history is more interesting

    On a related topic, can somebody explain to me why London Transport felt it necessary to split its bus operations into “Central” (red) and “Country” (green)? And is it coincidence that the GLC, when it came along 32 years later, coincides very closely with the “red” area? – I can’t think of a single red garage outside the GLC, or a single “green” one inside.

  244. timbeau says:

    Oops – linkie to RLH history fell off

  245. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – the split between red and green reflected the pre-history of the undertaking. Essentially, the red area was based on the LGOC and the independents that were amalgamated into it, whilst the green area was a composite of the former East Surrey, National and independents that were rolled into that. The influence on licensing of the Metropolitan police (and therefore of their boundary) was another factor leading to different operating practices.

    Some garages were certainly outside “their” area – for example, Romford (RE) was a Country area garage within the red operating area, albeit a GreenLine rather than bus shed and Uxbridge – a Central area shed – was (just) outside the red area. It’s also possible -but I’d need to check – that there was an early red bus shed in Watford before the great rationalisations there. Possibly also Swanley Junction (SJ) although I’m not sure of the boundary there.

  246. timbeau says:

    @Graham H

    OK – and I read from

    “LGOC had services in the country areas run on its behalf by companies it owned, or had an interest in or agreements with. In January 1932 it formed the London General Country Services Ltd., (LGCS) which took over most of these companies or routes. Initially their buses had the LGOC red livery but with the fleet name “General Country Services”. In May 1933 LGCS buses first appeared in green livery.”

    So how was the outer boundary of London Transport’s country area decided? Why were East Surrey taken over but not, say Aldershot & District or Eastern National?

  247. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – basically because (a) the LGOC had no financial interest in BET and British Bus (? need to check that group’s status) companies,and (b) the BET/BB lobbied very hard to be excluded from the LT legislation -successfully. The outer boundary was simply where the predecessor companies had chosen to fix it as part of the area agreements between them. For example, East Surrey agreed with Southdown not to work south of the A25 (with minor exceptions) and some very odd places became frontier points for no other reason than that was what was settled by private agreements between neighbouring entrepreneurs – Northfleet, for example, or Ascot.

  248. AlisonW says:

    The Watford London Country bus garage was in Garston. I only recall ever seeing green buses there; the two red routes were, I believe, based in Harrow.

  249. Graham H says:

    @Alison W – that was the situation in the later years of Country Buses,but Watford started with two – possibly three – country bus sheds: Watford High Street (WA) and Watford Leavesden Road (WT); a third shed was taken over with the Lewis Omnibus fleet (in fact, the former Metropolitan Railway bus depot) but it is unclear whether it was ever used for operational purposes. Garston (GR) eventually replaced all these after the war.

    As far as I recall,the red buses to Watford were, at least by the ’50s operated by Harrow (the 158) and Edgware (the 142) although I see that in 1920-1, WT operated their predecessors alongside the “green” routes stabled there, which lead to some industrial relations problems around the differential wage rates, as you can imagine, and indirectly to LGOC divesting itself of its future country operations to “agents” such as National and East Surrey which it controlled financially and technically.

  250. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W / Graham H – and nowadays Garston Garage runs both red contracted services for TfL and commercial services in the Watford and Herts area. It runs the 142 and 258 for TfL into Watford and Bushey as well as several local TfL routes in Edgware and Harrow. It has also, I think, just gained some snazzy new Wright Streetlites to “Sapphire” spec for commercial route 321.

  251. 3078260061 says:

    @Timbeau Potters Bar was and is a “red” garage well outside the GLA area. It runs both TfL routes and commercial/Herts CC routes 84 and 242 which used to be well-established LT routes; the 84 dates back to 1912.

    @GrahamH Swanley Garage was “green” and is located well outside the GLA area.
    The East Surrey/ Southdown boundary was Horsham – Crawley – Turners Hill – East Grinstead, well south of the A25. The A25 was agreed as a boundary between the LGOC and East Surrey spheres of influence.

  252. Graham H says:

    @30..61 – Yes, I knew that SJ was green – you’ll see that what I meant was that I thought it was possibly within the “red” area. Glad to clarify the point. (BTW red doesn’t = GLA;the GLA/GLC area appeared thirty years after the red/green split). Similarly with PB, where in fact, the town was placed in Hertfordshire only in 1965, having been in Middlesex for the previous 1200 years – but not relevant, again,to the red bus/green bus split. As noted above that split had zero to do with local government boundaries and a very great deal to do with LGOC’s own arrangements.

    You are right that the initial split between East Surrey and the LGOC saw the boundary as the A25, but subsequently, as the two companies worked closer together, East Surrey was used, as the LGOC’s agent,to run trunk routes such as the 405 (S5) in what was originally supposed to be LGOC territory. In effect, the LGOC moved the boundary and that is what formed the basis of the split in 1932-33.

    The only time the red/green boundary was driven by local authority considerations was between 1965 and 1986 when the GLC took over responsibility for red buses and the NBC took on the green ones. This led to some very awkward anomalies – not just for the red buses – but also for the outer reaches of the Central and the Metropolitan. Essex argued strongly that routes such as the 20 and the 254 should be paid for as if they were in the GLC area,because they were “red” and operated by LT. As the official responsible for administering the Transport Supplementary Grant system at the time, we, and ministers, spent more time on trying to get Essex to accept its statutory duties in relation to LT outcounty services than on pretty well anything else other than Picc-Vic. (Hertfordshire swallowed the medicine, however, and picked up the 242 and 284 as did Surrey with the 216 etc).

    @WW – the red/green boundary has been eroded,as you imply, by privatisation and deregulation and tendering. Indeed, in many areas -Guildford – for example, it’s now quite impossible to see even the split between the former Country area and the pre-privatisation operators.

  253. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “Similarly with PB, where in fact, the town was placed in Hertfordshire only in 1965, having been in Middlesex for the previous 1200 years ”
    It is a curious anomaly that Barnet, although south of Potters Bar, was in Herts – almost but not quite enclaved by Middlesex.
    As noted above, there were slightly different licencing arrangements within and outwith the Metropolitan Police area – which doesn’t coincide with pre-1965 county boundaries to the south and east, but is a fairly close match with the Middlesex boundary to the north and west. Were there any “green” garages in Middlesex?

  254. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – Staines (Staines was moved out of Middlesex in 1965 a part of the gerrymandering of GLC boundaries – former GLC colleagues recall with wry amusement that the week before Middlesex was abolished and Staines moved to Surrey, there was a cascade of all the oldest Middlesex fire appliances and other equipment into the Staines area…)

    As to the very odd boundary in the Barnet area, the consensus amongst Dark Age historians appears to be that the boundary reflects the limits of the land ownership/jurisdiction of S Albans Abbey in the late eighth century; at a time when the future Herts/Mx boundary was apparently thick woodland, S Albans and whatever entities lay to the south and east (Essex at that time extended well to the west as per the mediaeval boundary of the diocese of London) split the woodland resources equally – leading to a division based on resources not admin convenience (not a concept that would have troubled them in 800!).

  255. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    Thank you

    I had thought of Staines, but looking at it from the inside so to speak, from which direction it was served by no less than seven “red” bus routes, (90, 116, 117, 203, 216, 218, 224) I had overlooked that the garage was in fact “green” .

  256. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – other than politics, there was no reason at all for Staines to be moved into Surrey – a county with which it has virtually no physical or economic ties. The boundary between the GLA and Surrey runs through housing estates, divides built up roads lengthwise, and – as you say – most of the bus routes (and rail routes) link back to Hounslow and Kingston.

  257. John U.K. says:

    @Graham H – 2 September 2014 at 13:29

    I seem to dimly remember that Staines wouldn’t, no way, go into London. The only alternative, presumably, was that it remained the rump of Middlesex – a non-viable non-starter – so Surrey it was. Don’t know if Bucks was ever considered a possibility?

  258. Anon says:

    Bucks would have made less sense – across the Colne, rather than the Thames: a shorter and less populated border (though narrower), Given we’re looking at Shepperton and Sunbury as well as Staines and Stanwell, the more obvious pairing is with Weybridge, Walton and Egham, rather than Wraysbury, Colnbrook and Slough. And Staines would have joined Slough in Berkshire within 10 years if that had happened 😉

    PS: There’s going to be a lot of old London County Buses once more in Amersham on Sunday, running a free shuttle from the station to the Old Town for Heritage Day.

  259. timbeau says:

    Although the border between Spelthorne and Bucks (now Slough UA) is both shorter and has less roads across it than that between it and Surrey proper, what matters is how close toether those crossings are – there are quite long gaps between Sunbury and Walton Bridge, or Walton and Chertsey, or Chertsey and Staines.

  260. Jim Jordan says:

    Ref: timbeau 31 August 2014 at 21:01

    “I stand corrected – I had always understood the RLH and RT to both use the Regent Three chassis. And the difference in grille is too subtle for my eye – they look very similar to me – compare the front end view of the RLH in the Spitalfields article with that of the RT in the preceding picture.”

    I measured an RT radiator today and a standard AEC 1950’s radiator and the result was: RT 43in high by 29in wide, Standard AEC (I am sure this is the Regent 3 size) 44in high by 27.5in wide. I accept the difference is minimal. It is noticeable when comparing vehicles but not so obvious in pictures. The RT chassis was special to LT although a couple of provincial operators did buy them (St Helens, Birmingham?) Must get out more!

  261. Graham H says:

    @Jim Jordan – the RLH was a much rougher sounding engine, too – much more of a provincial roar than the quite smooth, almost apologetic, RT note (at least at this distance in time and with LT maintenance – it would be interesting to hear whether anyone has done the comparison on any of the preserved vehicles).

  262. Castlebar (Restore cash payment availability for women on London buses after 7 p.m.) says:

    @ GH

    Your comments regarding the sound of the RLH is exactly what I remember too

    I understand there is a bus/transport rally at Hampton station this Sunday.
    See website

  263. Greg Tingey says:

    John UK
    Just like Epsom & Claygate (?) which fought tooth & nail not to be part of the “nasty eevvvul socialist” GLC & succeeded.
    Now, of course, the inhabitants are cursing their predecessors roundly.
    House values are lower, bus transport in particular is rubbish &, of course, people over 60 don’t get the London “pass” benefit.
    Very clever.

  264. timbeau says:

    “Epsom & Claygate (?) ”
    To answer the implied question, Claygate is part of the borough of Epsom & Ewell.

  265. Greg Tingey says:

    Ewell – that was the bit I forgot, thanks

  266. Chris H says:

    The TfL Finance and Policy committee will next week consider a proposal to introduce a further 200 New Routemaster buses by April 2016, bringing the total to 800 (200 more than the original target).

    These buses would all be one person operated, i.e. no conductor so no open platform in between stops. The rationale is given that the New Routemasters are good for the image of Buses, TfL and London in general and so the increase in costs in using them is worthwhile.

  267. timbeau says:

    “introduction of cleaner low-carbon vehicles ”

    Plenty of other low-carbon designs around without the useless length and weight of a rear platform that can’t be used for its intended purpose when operating in OPO form

    “and the development of a unique bus for the capital”
    And likely to remain unique – I don’t think Wrights has had the world beat a path to its door for copies. In that, at least, it is repeating the history of the real Routemaster.

    “good for the image of Buses, TfL and London in general and so the increase in costs in using them is worthwhile”

    Worthwhile to whom? Surely we should be spending money on useful things like CR2 and replacing 40+ year old tube stock, before splashing it around on “image” and vanity projects?

    The production run is actually pretty slow – 792 (not counting the prototypes) in three years (by 2016)? It was only 18 months between RM5 and RM800 entering service.

  268. Fandroid says:

    From the report:

    the PM and NOx benefits of NRM at Euro VI are marginal compared to standard Euro VI hybrids

    The uniqueness of NRM will also disfavour the
    financial deal that operating companies can obtain with the leasing companies

    The standard model, whereby the operators or lease companies finance and take the ownership risks of the vehicles, is still considered the best model for the majority of the bus fleet

    The emissions benefits for Euro VI NRM buses over Euro VI hybrids are expected to be marginal (as detailed in paragraph 3.9), which would reduce the BCR to around 0.2:1.
    However, given the popularity of NRMs with passengers (as noted in paragraphs 3.3 and 3.4) and their impact in driving up overall customer satisfaction and brand momentum for buses, it is considered that this is a worthwhile investment

    I get the feeling that Mr Daniels is trying hard to say (between the lines) “this is a lousy deal – please say no!”

    Nowhere does the report say what the comparable cost of other EuroVI hybrids would be, but note the amazingly low BCR 0.2:1 (Treasury watchdogs- where are you?)

  269. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @Fandroid – it’s the b/c ratio and the “buy these because people really lurve them” aspect of the paper that I find astonishing. If I’d ever tried to put up a paper like that “in the old days” it would never have reached that level in the process [1]. The process is supposed to be several times more rigorous and challenging than in the past so how this has got through, other than by ultimate political dictat, I do not know.

    [1] I was once asked to put up an authority paper using some “speculative” data. It got massacred by the operational research people and I was caught in the cross fire between them and my boss at the time who just “wanted the damn paper approved”. We found a decent answer in the end but it wasn’t much fun ducking the bullets.

  270. Ian J says:

    @WW: so how this has got through, other than by ultimate political dictat, I do not know

    I think you just answered your own question there. Note the buses are meant to all be delivered by April 2016: the current Mayor’s term ends on 5 May 2016.

  271. Greg Tingey says:

    However, given the popularity of NRMs with passengers
    Someone actually believes this?

    Ian J
    Your cynical note is, unfortunately, all too apposite

  272. @Greg,

    I am going to stand up and be counted. I really like catching a 24 going down Whitehall running smoothly and almost silently when the engine isn’t running. And, other things being equal, I will normally choose a New Wotsit than the alternative.

    I know there are other hybrids but I have never experienced them feeling as if they were a proper hybrid. From my passenger perception they might as well not be.

  273. timbeau says:

    There was a comment recently on District Dave remarking about similar about a bus “running smoothly and almost silently when the engine isn’t running”. This was on the 49 – not a NBFL route. The original poster on that thread had no idea it was a hybrid until he was told.

    I’m sure many people think that the NBFL drive train is something special – but there are plenty of other hybrids about in London – many of them lighter and therefore more efficient than the Heatherwick Heavyweights.

    I can only speculate about why TfL is not blowing their trumpet more about this.

  274. Pedantic of Purley says:


    People keep telling me that other hybrids are just as good or better. But I only ever seem to experience a decent silent run on the NBFL. I have no special affinity for NBFL but it does seem to me and my entirely subjective opinions that it gives the more pleasant ride.

    I would be more than happy to see other bus manufacturers produce something I considered as good or better. And on the subject of silence both the hydrogen and the pure electric buses are, somewhat surprisingly, horribly noisy. As noisy as a diesel but as you are not used to the noise it appears more unpleasant.

  275. timbeau says:

    It is in the nature of the stop start technology of hybrids that different people at different times will hear different noises from them. I have heard noisy hybrids and quiet hybrids, and there doesn’t appear to be much difference bewteen NBFLs and others in this regard (although it is not always obvious that a bus is a hybrid).
    The NBfLs are either silent or very noisy indeed – I think it’s the air conditioning.

  276. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – you must be very lucky. Whenever I hear NB4Ls trundling around they sound like clapped out tractors with their diesel engine churning away. My, albeit few, rides on the 24 have been horrifically noisy (engine, announcements, air con, door chimes) to the point where I had to get off as my head hurt so much. I now deliberately avoid NB4Ls which means some bus routes are “off limits”. Call me mad if you wish. I can recall my first ride on a prototype NB4L on the 38 and that was smooth and quiet but something seems to have changed with the buses in mass service.

    I have no issue with ADL or Volvo hybrids but I have yet to ride a euro6 spec ADL hybrid double decker. I’m also interested to see what the brand new ADL E40H MMC decker is like – they’ve only reached Oxford so far but are due in London early 2015.

  277. timbeau says:

    “I can recall my first ride on a prototype NB4L on the 38 and that was smooth and quiet ”

    My first and so far only ride was also on a prototype on the 38. It was anything but quiet and so hot (in March!) that I had to get off and walk.

    They always seem to be making a lot of noise when they pass me.

  278. Fandroid says:

    My one and only ride on a NB4L did strike me as smoother and quieter than normal double deckers. TfL’s effort to get a step change in hybrid buses may have been worth-while if it pushed the manufacturers into developing economic upgrades of existing designs. However, the push to re-create the Routemaster has driven TfL into a bus design cul-de-sac, as the committee paper effectively admits. It’s a huge shame, as the Wright-Volvo design had already demonstrated that good-looking, iconic even, double-checkers were well within the capabilities of the industry. It really did not need a politician and the Heatherwick studio to send London buses off into a dead-end branch line. I hope the non-execs ask the right sort of challenging questions, especially as they know that the mayor is off to further his career elsewhere. They might save London taxpayers some money!

  279. Greg Tingey says:

    So, you reckon the NB$L is worse than the tube for noise, then?
    Actually, other hybrids seem better to me, too, the Borismaster is a complete triumph of style over substance – the actual, internal ride & experience is not an improvement.
    Unfortunately it will almost certainly cost us money – as the new mayor orders new different-again buses & probably scraps or sells-on the Borisnasties

  280. AlisonW says:

    I suspect that the lovers of NB4L are predominantly tourist, as most Londoners I have spoken with about them are not pleased with them at all. Most comment centre on temperature control (lack of).

  281. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I made no mention of the tube. I don’t use the tube very much these days. Costs too much to go via Zone 1 so use only limited to suburban bits. Obviously I use the buses more but the onward march of the NB4L is slowly reducing the options available to me. Losing the use of the 55 will not be much fun as that can be a useful link. If / when TfL extend the 76 to Tottenham Hale then that’ll give me a 2 bus connection from home to the City and edge of the West End.

  282. timbeau says:

    “Unfortunately it will almost certainly cost us money – as the new mayor orders new different-again buses & probably scraps or sells-on the Borisnasties”
    Depending on whether they get funding for the extra 200, by 2016 there will be between 50% and 100% more Borismasters in London than there were bendies at their peak in 2006-2008.
    That is a huge number to get rid of if there is a policy change.
    It won’t be so easy this time: both the mayor and the operators have been very shrewd in ensuring that it will be TfL, and not the operators, who are lumbered with the Heatherwick Heavyweights should there be a change in policy. From the operators’ point of view, they don’t want a repeat of the problems they had getting rid of about 400 bendies – hence Arriva’s enthusiasm for the Malta contract – that didn’t go well……..

    From the mayor’s point of view, he has ensured there will be a constant reminder of his legacy (which he presumably thinks is a good thing….) trundling up and down Whitehall every few minutes for the forseeable future. (In the Thatcher era, the Grey-Green 24s served the same purpose, with the added bonus that it was the route the honourable member for Blaenau Gwent, (former Leader of the Opposition, and strong opposer of privatisation) used to get to commute to Whitehall…..)

    The bendies only ever worked twelve routes. NBfL is already on eight: the number on order suggests there will be between seventeen and twenty routes by 2016.

  283. LadyBracknell says:

    I see that the latest routes that have gone over to the ‘Borismaster’ are the 12 and 15, although the heritage routemaster is still running, but for how long. Boris won’t be happy until all double decker routes have been taken over by these lumbering beasts.

  284. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – the Heritage 15 is out for retender at the moment so we will learn soon enough if TfL award a contract for a further term and how long that term is. They can, of course, terminate or amend contracts if they choose to at any point so a 5 year contract term is no guarantee of 5 years service.

    It is worth stating now that we are only just over half way through the NB4L delivery programme with 800 on order and we’re at about 440 deliveries. The 73 and 149 are the next routes in line for conversion and the 189 is rumoured to be due for conversion at some point. At some point we will see the “Mark 2” NB4L vehicles turn up with the improvements that were stated in the TfL Board Paper when the extra 200 were ordered. As all the buses have to be in service by April 2016 there has to be a pretty aggressive conversion programme between now and then to meet the programme target date and so the Mayor can claim completion before purdah for the 2016 Mayoral Election.

  285. Rational Plan says:

    @ww any idea what the improvements on the Mark2 are?

  286. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Rational Plan – the Board paper mentioning heating, ventilation and engine insulation changes. I have heard there may be changes to the rear door design / operation and the Board paper hints in this direction. There are other “rumours” whizzing around about other possible changes but they’re not substantiated in any way so they can carry on whizzing around the “gossipsphere”.

  287. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Just to update people on all things “NB4L”. We are about to resume a further series of route conversions having had the 159 convert to NB4L before Christmas. Routes 3 and 68 are next in line with the 91 due in a few months plus the 211. This means Abellio London will have very quickly acquired three NB4L routes having not run any for a couple of years. Route 91’s conversion is dependent on highway changes at Crouch End Broadway to allow the longer NB4Ls to turn at the roundabout there.

    A single shorter length NB4L has been produced – rumoured for use on route 91 but we shall see what happens. This bus has been numbered ST2001 as anyone answering the LR Christmas Quiz would know. There are also suggestions that Wrightbus are putting the NB4L body design on top of Volvo B5 hybrid chassis. This is a similar concept to the recently developed Alexander Dennis E400 City which has various “styling cues” from the NB4L. A batch of these buses is on route 78 (Shoreditch – Nunhead).

    No sign yet of any NB4Ls appearing out of the factory with the promised opening windowns. Also no sign of an existing vehicle having been converted either. The very first NB4L, LT1, has returned to service having been away for a couple of years on a “sales mission”. Despite no orders having been received it seems LT665 (a new delivery) is off to Singapore where Go Ahead have one of the new area bus contracts. Given the heat and humidity in Singapore I simply cannot see a non air conditioned bus being remotely acceptable to politicians and passengers.

    More surprising news, given that TfL denied there were any plans to order more NB4Ls when they appeared in front of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Cttee last September, is the emergence of a paper requesting authority to buy 30 more NB4Ls. Even more shocking is that the Finance and Policy Cttee paper requesting 30 more buses has transmogrified into a Board Paper asking for 195 more buses. If approved this would take the fleet up to the magic 1,000 vehicles when TfL can license the design to manufacturers other than Wrightbus. It is noteworthy that Questions to the Mayor on this topic have gone unanswered since mid December 2015.

  288. 100andthirty says:

    On my sole trip to Singapore, many years ago, buses weren’t just air-conditioned – they were like fridges. I had to get off to warm up!

  289. LadyBracknell says:

    No definite news on whether the ‘New Bus’ will go any further into South East London than Deptford DLR, which is where the 453 terminates. I have spotted what I presume to be test runs in Lewisham and Blackheath Village, but would be surprised if any routes are converted.

  290. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – Wrightbus have a repair centre in Orpington so you may be seeing test / delivery runs of buses having been repaired rather than trying out a specific route. The known conversions are routes 3 and 68 (happening now), 189 (a recent tender award), 91 (due April when they find a way to make a roundabout the right size for a NB4L to turn 180 degrees at it) and possibly the 211. There are rumbling rumours about the 139 and 59 but no confirmation. Beyond that we do not know other than 195 more of the wretched things have been ordered. There have been recent tender awards for some SE London routes this week and that means new hybrids for the 21, 63 and 363. These are not identified as NB4Ls in the award notice. The 47 through Lewisham is receiving brand new hybrids right now so that’s ruled out too.

    There is a backlog of pending tender awards but only a small number of routes on the list could be considered potential NB4L candidates and even then some have route restrictions that make the use of 11.3m long buses impossible. TfL may, of course, order shorter versions within the batch of the 195 extras to get round those constraints. We shall see what transpires.

  291. LadyBracknell says:

    Thanks Walthamstow Writer. A repair depot at Orpington now makes sense of the sightings south of SE8.

    Route 47 is gradually changing over to the Enviro 400H and seems to be more spacious than its replacement, especially at the rear – however, this probably means fewer seats. As I have often said, I am no fan of the lumbering NB4L, especially as operators have kiboshed Boris Johnson’s promise of open platform running, so if no more of them appeared on the streets of London that would suit me fine. I do really like the look of the Enviro 400H City being operated on route 78 and this seems more like what a modern bus should be. I hope to see this model on more routes.

  292. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lady Bracknell – just to be clear the operators do what TfL tell them to do under their contracts. Therefore none of them have kyboshed anything. It is absolutely clear in TfL papers released to the London Assembly about the NB4L business case that TfL never intended to put crews on more than 250 buses. That is roughly what runs now. The policy was always that the NB4L fleet would be largely OPO. I leave it to the reader to decide who hasn’t been entirely truthful about the bus.

    The 47 is getting Volvo B5L hybrids but with ADL MMC bodywork. The 26 is also getting a batch of Enviro 400 Citys when CT Plus take over the route later this year.

  293. Fandroid says:

    I assume that if TfL get to the magic number of 1000 NB4Ls they hope to be able to cut unit costs by a bit of competition. However, would the overall savings be greater than the extra expense of buying 135 more NB4Ls from Wrightbus, as opposed to getting operators to supply 135 alternative modern hybrids?

  294. Malcolm says:

    Pardon my memory, but is this reference to “competition” something to do with the legal terms of the NB4L design? And if so, is the price reduction (from manufacturers rushing to produce the bus) expected to outweigh the bus’s perceived shortcomings?

  295. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid / Malcolm – the cost of the 195 extra buses is apparently in the region of £310k per vehicle. This is lower than the cost of the previous two batches. I understand that once the “magic” 1,000 orders value is reached that TfL gains the right to licence the design from Wrights to other manufacturers. The crucial question is whether anyone would be interested in taking on the task of building someone else’s design and whether they could stand a chance of being price competitive. The other aspect is what TfL decide to require / request via route contracts or if they decide to try for another capital purchase. The next Mayor will also be a crucial factor but we know next to nothing about the candidates’ intentions about buses and bus services.

    I think it is impossible to know what savings there might be in such an uncertain situation with too many variables in play.

  296. Fandroid says:

    @WW. Exactly. The level of uncertainty is so great that it might look as if TfL are playing games with taxpayers’ money on the offchance that they might get something back from 100% ownership of the NB4L design.

    Other LR articles on NB4L have pointed out how TfL have made the most of a Mayoral obsession by pushing the boundaries of hybrid bus design. I suppose it’s possible that it’s these elements that TfL is thinking of grabbing the rights to, rather than the more superficial ones of body shape plus extra doors and stairs. Even then, it would still look to be a big punt to spend that much in the hope of grabbing more back.

  297. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – Don’t get me started on taxpayers’ money and this sudden order for 195 buses. The money is *unbudgeted* – how on earth do TfL find £60+m at a moment’s notice? This is the same TfL that won’t provide Countdown displays at stops at a mere £8k a stop despite endless requests from politicians for them to be provided. This is the same TfL that has said there was “no money” for route improvements for the last 7 years. Yes those things are on my “shopping list” but it makes me wonder what’s going on when cash can fall out of the sky for one thing but nothing else.

    I am very sceptical that any of the underlying technology in a NB4L is within Wrightbus’s gift to licence. It’s all bought in and no supplier is going to licence hybrid drives or motors or anything else to TfL for use by someone else. The only aspects that are likely to covered by the license are the bodywork design, interior design, moquettte design etc. I’m more and more convinced that “someone” is trying to recreate the 1950s or 1960s single type of double deck bus philosophy so loved of the old London Transport but in modern form with the NB4L. I’m not sure what London has done to deserve that fate but then I’m not a fan of the NB4L. I am sure some people are in paroxysms of joy at the prospect of every double decker in zone 1 being a NB4L.

  298. Greg Tingey says:

    And if so, is the price reduction (from manufacturers rushing to produce the bus) “expected to outweigh the bus’s perceived known shortcomings?”

    but we know next to nothing about the candidates’ intentions about buses and bus services. I am given to understand that the next two issues of the printed magazine may go a long way to remedying that shortfall.

    I am sure some people are in paroxysms of joy at the prospect of every double decker in zone 1 being a NB4L. Particularly on a sweaty July day with the temperature at 28 & the rel. humidity at 95% you mean?

  299. Fandroid says:

    @WW. I share your misgivings. It really is not the time for TfL to play fast and loose with the cash. There really has to be an absolute focus on how to provide the transport and cut the emissions all within a constrained budget. A tertiary objective might be to ensure that London’s buses are all of a high design quality.

  300. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    NBfL IP etc.

    I suspect the situation is a bit messier than might be expected hence there might be some options / opportunities / control for TfL especially if they want to modify them without Wright involvement or Wright partners involvement.

    The major supplier for hybrid bus systems worldwide is a partnership of BAE systems and Cummins* (and ZF). They supply mechanical hybrid transmission systems which for example Alexander Dennis buy the whole lot as complete integrated package… But not on the Boris Bus.

    *Partnership originally for Hybrid Tanks! BAE has plenty of “electric drive” experience with submarines and surface vessels with RR too.

    But for NBfL (with more advanced electric transmission hybrid) it looks like Wrights bought in the various component technologies and took the lead on some of the integration themselves (Cummins engine, Siemens electricals and Valence (in bankruptcy for the batteries)), hence TfL might want to get more control if they want to re-engine them or do design changes in due course (petrol engine for NOx emission reduction???)

    Bombardier have very recently become public gate crashers to the more advanced hybrid electrical drive party (obviously after years of R&D and testing behind the scenes.)
    Their system is very interesting in that it has vastly larger supercapacitor banks than other systems so there is less or no cyclic charging and discharging of the batteries they are aiming for 10 year battery life and can also handle induction charging (they also have electric buses in mind). The electrical systems are mini versions of the Mitrac sytems found on the Electrostar EMUs and their Battery /OHLE trams.

  301. Greg Tingey says:

    It’s almost like the period 1814-30 with steam locomotion, or 1895-1910 with “petrol” powered vehicles isn’t it?
    With all sorts of permutations & combinations of motive/drive technologies vying for pre-eminence.
    Noting the 15-year span of both the previous examples, & the first hybrid buses were in proper road service – when? ( Wiki says 2005/6 ) then I presume we will see the equivalent of “Rocket” by 2020 & the equivalent of Planet/Patentee before 2025 – after which I presume we can forget about road-pollution in towns (!)
    A n other example. First practical fixed steam turbine (Parsons) 1884,Turbinia built 1894, Spithead review 1897, large transatlantic turbine liners ( Carmania ) by 1905 ( = 21 years maximum, or 11 years for ships )

  302. timbeau says:

    the first hybrid buses were in proper road service – when? ( Wiki says 2005/6 )

    The first in London, and, if I understand the article, anywhere else, were in Feb/March 2006, on route 360

    But hybrid buses were around before that – 100 years before to be precise, as Tillings started operating petrol-electric buses in 1906.
    See also :

  303. ngh says:

    Re timbeau,

    Battery only powered is not Hybrid (and neither is electric transmission on its own)

  304. Walthamstow Writer says:

    It is also worth noting, in the context of technology changing, that TfL is trialling a number of “all electric” vehicles. No moans about trolleybuses please – been done to death. We have single deckers running in Central London and Croydon and Hounslow plus the recharging double decks on the 69. What has yet to come into service are the Chinese built all electric double deckers on route 98 out of Willesden Garage. In August 2016 all the “Red Arrow” buses at Waterloo garage will be swapped out for new all electric Chinese single decks with Alexander Dennis bodywork. Apparently the switchover is planned for the Bank Holiday weekend with the entire new fleet entering service on the Tuesday morning. That’s going to be worth seeing.

  305. timbeau says:

    Won’t be the first time the Red Arrows have been changed over a Bank Holiday. The 20 year old Leyland Nationals last ran on May 31st 2002, and the Bendibuses (London’s first) entered service on June 5th (a Wednesday), taking advantage of the extended bank holiday weekend marking the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

  306. Greg Tingey says:

    plus the recharging double decks on the 69.
    Are they actually in-service yet? I haven’t seen one that I had noticed ….

  307. timbeau says:

    According to LOTS, “Route 69 [passed] from Stagecoach to Tower Transit, Saturday 6th February using 19 Stagecoach Tridents on loan”.

    With any transfer there will be a learning curve, even if the drivers (as well as the vehicles!) have been TUPEd. Could this have resulted in the electric experiment being put on the back burner for the time being?

  308. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – yes they have been in service. I’ve had a ride on one to Stratford. To be fair and not unexpected their appearances have been a bit spasmodic and I understand some / all of the 3 buses have been away for modifications at ADL’s premises in Harlow. They are amazingly quiet inside. I put a photo in the group Flickr pool a few weeks ago.

    @ Timbeau – I don’t know if the transfer to Tower Transit of the full route 69 workings has had any impact on the trial of the all electric deckers. None out today from looking at London Vehicle Finder. Anecdotal reports suggest the 69’s operation hasn’t been sparking since the transfer but I haven’t had cause to use it so no direct experience of the new operator on that route.

  309. Melvyn says:

    I have used the new buses on the 47 a couple of times and they are far far better buses than NB4L and I am not just referring to lack of open platform that just wastes space . I am talking about the full size windows at front of upper deck which provide a view some passengers pay thousands of pounds to see but find themselves on buses with Windows more like those ” Uncle Albert” had his navy adventures …

    Another major fault with NB4L is the steep staircases which I have slid down a few times or missed steps because you can’t see them .

    It’s also worth remembering that the NB4L arose out of a competition to design a new bus for London however just like Mr Ford sold cars as long as you wanted black , BOJOS new bus had to come with an open rear platform leading to a 3rd entrance thus reducing passenger capacity and with promise ALL would have a conductor who in fact turned into a rear platform safety attendant!

    The irony is bus technology and emission control is advancing at a pace which means NB4L is already out dated and with full electric double deck buses coming on stream they will be as outdated as slam door trains used on GN electrification were .

  310. Greg Tingey says:

    WW / timbeau
    Thanks for that – I Pass the bus station 2 – 3 times a week & hadn’t noticed anything different, but if there are only 2 or 3 electric buses at present I could easily have missed them
    Where’s the photo – so that I can know what to look out for?
    Are they modified Alexander/Dennis Enviro 400 models?
    I can’t “see” the members, because I can’t enter “yahoo” at all ( Yahoo only allows one user per e-mail address & it’s not me … )

  311. timbeau says:

    Seems from the comments under that Flickr photo that the electric buses (recognisable by their “65” registrations) were delivered to Tower Transit, to be operated by them alongside Stagecoach until the transfer of the main contract. That transfer has itself been brought forward, but as TT do not have enough of their own conventional buses available until the transfer of the 26 from them to CTPlus releases some, they are borrowing Stagecoach vehicles for the time being.

  312. Greg Tingey says:

    I assume they are virtually silent. I also assume that “life was too short” to remove the presumably now unnecessary louvres & vents at the rear, now there isn’t a big diesel engine down in there?
    Thanks again – I’ll keep a look-out for them.

  313. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops – my bad
    I had forgotten that they still have a diesel engine, hopefully not used a lot, or at all?

  314. Melvyn,

    The irony is bus technology and emission control is advancing at a pace which means NB4L is already out dated and with full electric double deck buses coming on stream

    Yes, and the question that we will never know the answer to is how much NB4L spurred on that advancement and how much would have happened anyway at the same pace regardless of the NB4L order. I suspect the order woke a few people up. A bit like Siemens getting the Thameslink order which woke Bombardier out of their complacency. It does raise the question of why persist with buying more NB4Ls though?

    However much people criticise NB4L I think the mere fact that TfL made it clear that they weren’t happy with what was available off-the-shelf and made the bus world deadly serious about its intentions for the future regarding emissions mean that at worst this will all be a glorious failure.

  315. Rich Thomas says:

    From the Flickr comments: what are these ‘virtual electrics’ and how do they work?

  316. ngh says:

    Re Richard Thomas,

    Similar to Boris Buses except with bigger batteries which can also be external charged. (similar to a PHEV in car marketing terms).

  317. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – I’m sorry but come on! The NB4L was a Mayoral demand and nothing else. Yes a lot of load of old nonsense has been spun by TfL to “justify” the vast sums spent but the bus industry was already working hard to proceed to very low emission hybrids and electric buses. A lot of this has been supported by EU funding and projects in a number of cities. The NB4L was overtaken by better performing and cheaper euro6 vehicles so quite what “push” it or TfL’s “demands” gave to anything is highly debateable. For the vast sums spent and to be spent we could have had far more double deck hybrids in service or due to arrive. The Mayor was completely unable / unwilling to explain why he cancelled the previously announced policy of buying only hybrids was scrapped when he was challenged at the Plenary meeting.

    The real answer is “lack of money” to support such spent on less busy outer suburban routes which have been equipped with new diesels instead. That trend is still carrying on. The other major area where London has not pushed the market is hybrid single deck vehicles – there is a palpable lack of such buses in London and some fleets have been sent to the scrapheap and replaced by diesels. Given how many hybrid single decks there are in the USA you have to wonder why the London can’t cope with them. The other oddity is that major commercial operators are buying large fleets of micro hybrid single decks that are also lightweight giving fuel savings but very very few run in London – the 444 route has some but beyond that there are few routes with the requisite technology (some Go Ahead run routes have midibuses with flywheel technology as Go Ahead have partnered with a technology supplier).

    If TfL wanted to take credit for the early push towards low floor buses and also the early adoption and trial of hybrid technology then I would not have any disagreement with that. The place of the NB4L in all this is dubious at best especially given its other notable failings which are NOT replicated on standard commercially produced double deck buses.

  318. Walthamstow Writer,

    I knew you would disagree but it was based on comments from one of the project managers at Alexander Dennis. Until Wrightbus came along in force I got the impression that Alexander Dennis just presumed that much of the London bus market was already theirs for the taking. All they needed to do was concentrate on doing what they already did. Although they knew they wouldn’t get the contract (for various reasons) NB4L was a bit of a wake up call. Whether it was a mayoral demand or not is irrelevant.

    We will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  319. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – I am genuinely surprised anyone at ADL would say that and mean it. London’s bus market has never ever been theirs for the taking – especially double deckers. Certain groups have had a long attachment to buying Volvos and Arriva had a special relationship with DAF / VDL. ADL deckers have only been bought by some operators because Volvo and Wrights could not supply in time. It is worth noting that ADL have considered it sensible to offer the new MMC bodywork on Volvo hybrid chassis – so far a sensible decision as several batches have been ordered. Single deckers are different as the Enviro 200 / E20D (Dennis Dart of old) has long been considered a London centric vehicle with vast fleets of them across all operators. I could understand some ADL “arrogance” or “smugness” about their market dominance for London single decker orders.

    The fact remains that technology, operator demands and emissions regulations have been pushing the industry towards lighter, more fuel efficient, more capacious and low emission vehicles for the last 10 years. The NB4L fails on several of these aspects and the weight / capacity issue is getting worse not better with the need to retrofit opening windows which will be heavier. As you say we won’t agree on this so I’ll shut me gob now!

  320. Greg Tingey says:

    Bit still with non-opening windows.
    Which I regard as a disgrace, given the known & much-reported problems in warm/humid weather conditions.
    FWIW, I also agree with every point in critique raised by WW, too.
    Especially the (IMHO disgraceful) apparent dropping of electric/hybrid single-deckers for use in the outer zones – why this retrograde step, & will someone in TfL/Mayoralty please explain, especially in light of European (etc) drive towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles?

  321. Greg,

    Believe me I share your disappointment in things not getting sorted out. Let us not forget the original Routemasters were introduced with underwhelming reviews and they had their share of faults which took years to sort out – but that is no excuse particularly in this day and age.

    In many ways I am more disappointed than you or Walthamstow Writer because I want the bus to succeed whereas I get the feeling a lot of people want it to fail and that appears to be partly brought about because it is associated with Boris.

    I think it is also unfortunate that people go on about Boris’s involvement. The nitty gritty is the three doors and two staircases together with the intention of reducing emissions below any existing double deck bus on the market at the time. These were all very much TfL aspirations unrelated to the Mayor (who primarily wanted it “iconic” and to have bus conductors).

    I still think it was game changer in a positive way even if to see the benefits of this game change you actually have to look at other modern buses.

  322. Littlejohn says:

    PoP, Greg, WW.

    I have no difficulty with the concept of *a* NBfL, simply with *the* NBfL. The current Mayor pledged to introduce a NBfL as part of the manifesto on which he was elected. No doubt the Boris-bashers would have been equally scathing in their comments if he hadn’t kept to his manifesto. The problem is that what was produced has more draw-backs than positives. It is a matter of regret that someone in authority hasn’t been prepared to publicly say so.

    Strictly speaking we should now be talking about the NRM, as licensing details and maker’s plates changed to New Routemaster from LT 517 (i.e. with the revised rear door).

  323. 100andthirty says:

    I think the challenge is to learn lessons. Like PoP, I reckon that the three door, twostair layout was the key feature the TfL would have wanted (more doors – shorter dwells). I would contend that the series hybrid was necessary to deliver this layout; a smaller diesel, tucked away. What I suspect is that the industrial design is the achilles heel. It lokks nice at the front lower deck (my opinion) but the rest is a pastiche of the old Routemaster with its worst features exaggerated. The interior looks lkke a 1960s routemaset with the earliest LED glow worm lights. All that curved glass around the stairs adds to weight and does nothing for modesty! And there would have been space for a bigger aircooler if they hadn’t put in that grossly exaggerated rear roof “dome”.

    Who’s for a mk 2 version with a proper industrial designer involved who is used to dealing with vehicles?

  324. Walthamstow Writer says:

    There are several issues with the NB4L (I simply won’t use it’s other name).

    1. The political basis on which it was created. Boris was the front man for a reprehensible campaign and it’s the latter that’s the issue not the front man.

    2. The fact it costs far, far too much money compared to other vehicles that perform better.

    3. The fact that the proposition put to voters ended up being proven to be a lie – i.e. they’d all be crew operated with hop on, hop off operation. TfL’s own papers show this was never intended beyond 250 buses.

    4. The design simply does NOT work. The ventilation, heating, seat comfort, inward opening back door that thumps people, the metal step edges that burn people’s legs during sunny conditions, the claustrophic upper deck, the botched lower deck seat layout and the poorly designed wheelchair bay are all problems. You then move on to all the battery related problems, umpteen crashes involving the buses and seemingly poor reliability given how often they break down and routes run with other vehicle types. If there had been a proper evaluation period over a decent time period and a genuine commitment to amend the design to resolve those issues then I might have been much more sympathetic and we may have ended up with a half decent bus. However the political deadline has left us with a flawed and deeply compromised design with no commitment to put all the errors right.

    I was initially impressed with the quiet, smooth ride on one of the 38’s prototype vehicles but a long ride on the 24 not long after they introduced left me feeling ill with a thumping headache. No other form of transport makes me ill – not even cross channel ferries during a repeat of “Great Storm” conditions (yes I did go to Calais and got stuck there because of the weather). I fail to see why I should use a vehicle that makes me ill. I know I am not alone in not enjoying the NB4L’s travelling environment.

    5. Despite having a great interest in buses I was never wedded to the “London must have its bespoke bus design” idea. The market can and does provide perfectly decent bus designs and I see nothing wrong with supporting manufacturers who take the risk with their designs. Quite why the taxpayer had to fork out £11m for the deeply flawed design of the NB4L I really do not understand (apart from the poisoned politics).

    6. The NB4L carries fewer passengers that modern equivalent designs. That’s ludicrous given the demand pressures on some of the routes the vehicles are deployed on. We need long vehicles with lots of seats and standing space and not necessarily bending in the middle either.

    7. The routes on which the NB4L is deployed are lumbered with less effective technology for up to 14 years which doesn’t feel right when they’re running through the upcoming ULEZ. This means the NB4L either perform suboptimally in the ULEZ or are scrapped prematurely or are cascaded to suburban routes where they really are not the right answer at all.

    I think London and TfL should concentrate on gently pushing the market place to develop good marketable and affordable buses for London. It should completely give up spending money on bespoke buses with no cascade or resale value. So Mr “130” – no Mark 2 versions please. We just need some boring, plodding work from TfL to sort the traffic out, provide some decent bus priority, get service reliability back and get services expanded and improved to do the job they’re supposed to do instead of being the disaster area they are increasingly becoming. The latest Surface Transport MD’s report makes sobering reading – patronage down, patronage below target, excess wait times worse than last year and worsening period by period.

  325. timbeau says:

    “inward opening back door that thumps people, ”
    That, at least, has been fixed – but the mod makes it impossible to operate in “open platform” mode.

    “umpteen crashes involving the buses ”
    are they involved in significantly more accidents than other buses? Or are they just more likely to make the headlines?

    “I simply won’t use its other name”
    Credit where its due (or the converse) Heatherwick’s Heavyweight: why let him off the hook?

  326. ngh says:

    Re 130,

    Technologically the Mark 2 design is effectively already available see WW’s mention of the ADL E40H MMC above.

    Greg et al.

    NB4L ventilation easily sorted, small opening windows at the front like the modified original RMs and at the rear a 4″ hole saw and 4x 70-80cm lengths of 4″ PVC waste pipe per bus. The pipes would need to extend 40-50cm horizontally beyond the upper curved rear piece of the bus (but within the overall bus length) in to the low pressure area just behind, correctly positioned they will suck the air out of the top deck very nicely while in motion (In the same way as a F1 car exhaust system effectively sucks the exhaust gases out of the cylinders so engine power isn’t directly wasted pushing the exhaust gases out while in motion). For aesthetics you could fake chrome plate the pipes to give the NB4L the boy racer look 😉

    If you want a triple doors, 2 stair and a reasonable capacity you probably want to be looking at a triple axle design.

  327. timbeau says:

    “If you want
    a: triple doors,
    b: 2 stair and
    c: reasonable capacity
    you probably want to be looking at a triple axle design.”

    Well, look what happened last time TfL tried a triple-axle design. (Mind you, it only scores two out of three of the criteria above)

  328. 100andthirty says:

    I am not actually all that far from WW’s position. I was focusing on the concept, not the product, and I agree that open platforms in the 21st century are anachronistic unless attached to 50 year old heritage Routemasters on route 15.

    There is no reason why the air conditioning shouldn’t work…..that’s down to an inadequate specification or execution. No one has complained about S stock air conditioning, because it work. So engineers need to get to the bottom of the problems on NB4L Having the rear door open all the time probably doesn’t help. I confess though, that I haven’t been on a non conductor route in hot weather so haven’t been able to judge for myself.

    To add spice to the controversy, what about double bendy buses like the ones run in many cities in Europe? They have 4 doors.

  329. AlisonW says:

    WW: “the poorly designed wheelchair bay” – Actually, just about *all* buses have a poorly designed wheelchair bay, in that the demand for parking yourself backwards is fine but no bus actually has the room to turn around in (given one goes up the ramp forwards). The NB4L is actually slightly better though in my experience.

  330. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ 100 and thirty – the S Stock’s air con works because it is actually air con and train builders now have decent experience with trying to make it work. The NB4L does NOT have air conditioning. It has an air cooling system which struggles hugely with the immense heat generated at the rear of the bus combined with, one some routes, an open platform in the same area. Trying to suck in air via vents over a hot engine/battery area was never going to work. Anyone who saw the NB4L on its very first run will have noticed the upper deck “steaming up” somewhat and it wasn’t just down the excitement levels of those on the bus. 😉 TfL and Wrightbus have had specialist engineers in umpteen times and the problem still isn’t fixed because it’s intrinsic to a poor design. We then had years of denials despite years of social media and other commentary from people complaining about the travelling conditions in warm / hot weather. Then we get a “oh we have listened to our customers” routine about fitting opening windows but we have yet to see a single bus with such windows. TfL tweeted the other day that “most” buses would be sorted out by the coming Summer but it would be reassuring if the new buses being delivered were emerging with opening windows and none of them have done.

    The NB4L cannot be air conditioned in the way it is done for the Far East because it involves a heavy refrigeration unit at the back of the bus, extra fuel / power consumption and extra weight to get the chilled around the vehicle. The NB4L is already immensely heavy and air con would take it way over the permissible axle loadings for a two axle bus. Almost all HK and Singapore air conditioned deckers are tri-axles but, to Alexander Dennis’s great credit, they managed to produce an air conditioned two axle Enviro 400 for use on the Central – Stanley routes run by Citybus HK. They required a waiver from the HK government for their axle loadings and they are diesels not hybrids. However moving on again ADL have now developed an Enviro 500 tri-axle hybrid double deck with air conditioning and it’s being trialled in HK. And in another development, just to prove my point that the market place does respond to market pressure, both ADL and Volvo / Wrightbus have produced 12.8m long tri-axle deckers for Kowloon Motor Bus and these are being trialled on particular busy routes in HK. I’m not even convinced that London really needs or can justify full air conditioning on its buses. We just need buses that have opening windows and ideally vents on the front upstairs that can generate a breeze within the vehicle. On those (non NB4L) buses that do have air cooling Londoners haven’t twigged that they work best if the opening windows aren’t opened!! However TfL haven’t told them NOT to open the windows to allow the system to work properly. Therefore we have the worst of all worlds in that heavy kit and venting is fitted to buses and never works properly because we have opening windows that are all opened as soon as the sun shines and temperatures rise. I’ve only ever been on a couple of London double deckers where windows were closed and the air cooler did its job well and provided a lovely cool and comfortable environment.

    TfL seem reluctant to even try tri-axle deckers in London – even on something like the 607 Express which has longer distance trip lengths and is massively oversubscribed and uses most straight roads. I do understand TfL’s reluctance to use twin doored tri-axle deckers on some routes because the sheer volume carried over two decks would result in long dwell times thus pulling down efficiency on a route and increasing costs. However there are some routes in London where the capacity would be really beneficial but there are not such crucial dwell time issues as there are on routes like the 25 which can have vast numbers boarding and alighting all along the route.

    Hong Kong has long just had to cope with ridiculous numbers travelling on their buses so long dwell times, even with Octopus Cards and cashboxes, are a fact of life and there are generous fleet sizes and spare vehicles deployed to fill gaps at crucial points if there are any delays. London simply isn’t organised in the same way nor funded to provide the level of service you see in Hong Kong.

    As I said earlier we really need to get politicians (and everyone else) away from a fixation on vehicle design and features and on to just doing the drudge of making the bus network relentlessly efficient, reliable, dependable, safe and giving Londoners the travel options and capacity they need. No more gimmicks – we want boring hard work and solid performance and improvement.

  331. Graham Feakins says:

    @WW – “Trying to suck in air via vents over a hot engine/battery area was never going to work” – Indeed, except my VW Beetle had just such air ducts surrounding the exhaust manifold to *heat* the saloon – enough to melt the soles of my DM boots if on too high! You’d think they’d learn.

  332. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I am not actually all that far from WW’s position. I was focusing on the concept, not the product

    It’s nice to know someone else can draw a distinction between the two.

  333. timbeau says:

    Another design “feature” is the cave-like environment at the rear of the top deck. It is quite common for modern buses to have no rear window on the lower (or only) deck, but the NBfL is unusual in having so little at the rear of the top deck – and what little there is, is mainly below waist level so only suitable for two year olds (or for drivers of following vehicles to admire the legs of passengers using the stairs

  334. 100andthirty says:

    WW. You have pointed to a defect in specification or design of the air cooling or whatever they have fitted. Wandering off topic, but relevant to my next point, I am sure you have seen the endless debates in various professional and enthusiastic fora, both about S stock, before it was delivered, and about New Tube for London regarding whether air conditioning and air cooling had been specified and the precise definition of both terms. Much heat was generated and not much light ( or should it be cooling in this case?) The point is, and the requirement is, that customers feel acceptably cool in the summer and acceptably warm in the summer irrespective of the technology employed. In that respect, NB4L has failed, and if the design is doing what was asked of it and is working perfectly, then the specifiers or designers got it wrong.

    I disagree that air conditioning is unnecessary on a bus, but then that starts a debate about whether buses are a bargain basement travel for the masses or quality transport to encourage people from their cars. I wonder whether TfL pursues the former in the suburbs and the latter in the centre?

    I would finish by saying that the size/weight of any air conditioning kit needed on a UK bus will be smaller than that needed in HK or Singapore due to the significant differences in ambient conditions.

    I make no comment on the desirability or otherwise of a bus design for London; buses are an interest but I have little knowledge of the market. My field was tube trains where there is not such thing as a standard product.

  335. timbeau says:

    “cave-like environment ”
    I’ve found a picture of the interior of the first low-floor double decker in London – DLA1

    Note how the high-backed longitudinal seats obscure the side windows. And that aperture in the rear bulkhead houses the route number blind – it is not a window.

    It does seem to be a tendency on all public transport to assume passengers don’t value a view outside. The rot actually started with the Mark 3 railway coach, which used the same window spacing in both 1st and 2nd class, but a closer seat pitch in 2nd, which therefore did not line up with the windows. With seating arrangements having changed so much now, even 1st class doesn’t guarantee a window.

    here is a Class 456 unit on SWT

  336. Greg Tingey says:

    about bendies.

    What, if anything, was actually wrong with them?
    That couldn’t be fixed, that is?
    As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve used them in Germany, down some very twiddly streets & there didn’t appear to be any problem.
    Or was it a specific “hate” campaign got up by … ( I think I’ll leave the names out, because I suspect some people are overly hypersensitive about that )

    Ditto, what’s wrong with 3-axle buses?
    After all, London used to have them, some a very long time ago [ “LT” ] & some in living memory [ Dare I mention type “K” or “N1”? ] & other people use them, including some long-distance coaches in this country.
    Are there any rational explanations in this field, at all? [ Rhetorical question, answers not necessarily required ]

  337. timbeau says:

    Triaxles are used on some tour buses in London

    I don’t think K or NS types were triaxle, although as far as “living memory” is concerned, you would have to be well into your eighties to have seen them in service – the last K type was withdrawn in 1932 and the last NS in 1937. The LT type lasted until 1952.

    Not all the routes chosen for bendies were ideal, but their ability to swallow queues on the 521 at Waterloo was legendary. As far as I am aware, despite the comments from certain high-profile cyclists, they were no more accident prone than any other London bus type.

    As for manoeuvrability, I saw one execute a three point (well, thirteen point!) turn on Cheapside once, after the driver had missed a diversion sign.

  338. Philip says:

    Bendies – apart from the false or exaggerated claims about risks to cyclists and faredodging that were created by certain journalists and politicians, the big problem so far as I know was the length of the buses causing serious problems in certain locations where traffic light controlled junctions were close together – so that they could either not make progress at all because a long enough gap would never appear, or block the entire junction for a lengthy period of time while forcing their way in. My personal experience of this was with the convergence of multiple artic-operated routes at the junction of Bloomsbury Street and New Oxford Street and along the front of Centre Point, and someone else commented in an earlier thread about problems with 149s at the junction of Tooley Street and London Bridge and entering London Bridge bus station.

  339. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I don’t think anything is actually wrong with 3-axle buses but we appear to have a rule that stage buses cannot exceed 12 tonnes (or maybe tons) laden weight. There seems to be no underlying logic to this as tourist coaches with 3-axles are generally permitted to use the same roads.

    What, if anything, was actually wrong with them?
    That couldn’t be fixed, that is?

    I know you are referring to bendies but I feel the same about NBfL. Clearly Walthamstow Writer and others don’t like the layout, lack of rear upstairs window, small upstairs windows etc. but I don’t have a problem with any of that. To me, the frustration of NBfL is that I think it could be good though I accept it will forever be a marmite bus. I can’t believe that the things that are wrong, as opposed to personally subjectively disliked, are not fixable.

  340. Fandroid says:

    If the NB4L remains more expensive than similar alternatives, isn’t that a ‘wrong’? The argument for it has to be based on it providing superior performance in same way or other.

  341. Graham H says:

    @Greg/timbeau – well, then, try tri-axle trolleybuses – well nigh universal on London routes.

    @Philip – perhaps the artic drivers on the 507 were unusually skilled but it never seemed to be a problem there, even when the light spacing was ridiculously close and combined with an absurdly close stop spacing – eg in Victoria Street between the House of Fraser and Victoria Station. The villain of the piece seemed to be Ken’s demands for all-pedestrian phases at the lights which meant that some sets of lights never cleared for two or three cycles (even when a conventional bus, or indeed, no bus, was present).

  342. timbeau says:

    “what’s wrong with 3-axle buses?”
    On a low floor bus, you would have six wheels taking up floor space instead of only four. By the time you’ve provided for the driver, the stairwell and a wheelchair space there would be no room for any seats at all.
    Why were all but one London trolleybuses triaxle? Was it simply a perceived difficulty in getting that much traction through a single axle?

    As I understand it the axles were not independently powered, so it cannot have been a practical limit on the physical size or power of the motors. (And anyway, apart from the solitary two-axle bus (no 62), there was a twin steer one (No 1671), which both seemed to work.

  343. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – I believe the trolleybus design had something to do with axle loading and length.

  344. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – there is nothing with any type of bus provided they’re used in the right way on the right routes. Some logic rather than emotional clap trap is what is needed to get us back to sane decision making.

    @ Timbeau – really don’t understand your comment about “no seats”. I’ve used tri-axle deckers of varying lengths in Hong Kong and have never boarded one with no seats on the lower deck. The buses were also low floor so had wheelchair bays and dual doors. I am surprised you’d make such an inaccurate remark. Clearly the thing to do is to try to deploy longer tri-axle DD vehicles if the route characteristics / demand makes it sensible. HK is different because of local axle loading rules plus the very high demand levels which means you get tri-axles even on routes which have physical constraints limiting the use of longer buses (e.g. routes to the Mid Levels in HK Island).

  345. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Agree completely there are loads of seats on the triaxles I’ve been on (HK and Dublin). In London the key would be choosing route that have relatively low passneger churn so passengers are happier to go upstairs.

    Interestingly AD are later this year going to build some triple axle AD 500s for St Gallen (SUI) with 3 doors and 2 staircases sounds remarkably similar to what London might want.

  346. Greg Tingey says:

    “K” & “N1” were Trolleybus types(!)
    As Graham H has noticed …

  347. timbeau says:

    “K and N1”
    light dawns!

    triaxles – I was exaggerating, of course, but three sets of wheels inevitably take up more floor space than two, and the seats perched on top of the wheel arches are not easy for mobility impaired people to get up into. (Not all disabled people bring their own chair…………)
    Of course if three axles allow a longer bus then there may be an improvement in floor space, but the two axle NbfL is already considered too long for some London routes, so I doubt there is much scope for a longer bus.

  348. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – hence all my carefully crafted words about the right bus for the right route and not saying one type should override others (unlike current policy for Zone 1 routes). London can be more picky and selective about what bus type runs where and obviously has to be where there are physical constraints impinging on vehicle width / length / manouevrability.

  349. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    No surprise here the Boris bus has reached its greatest extent…

  350. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ SHLR – not sure why it’s taken the Guardian quite so long to realise the Mayor has done what he said he would do. The fact remains that while no more are being ordered they are still in build for a few more months and several more routes are due to be inflicted with the wretched things including routes 48, 76 and 254 as well as a mini network of “EL” routes in Barking. I know it wasn’t feasible to cancel the order that Boris dashed through with indecent haste but I’m not happy that two main routes that I do use from Zone 1 out to Zone 3 are being lumbered with them.

    It will be interesting to see quite what does get ordered in their stead in terms of electric or hydrogen powered double deckers. I understand TfL are also looking at how they can combine some of the emerging technologies together as well as continuing to experiment with different charging technologies for “virtual” electric buses which recharge batteries at route termini.

  351. Melvyn says:

    Having read the comments on Khans decision to stop ordering Borisbuses well many of them are not suitable for this site and have little to do with buses . One would think Khan is destroying London heritage instead of a bus that was so badly designed that nobody other than Mayor Boris has actually ordered a single one since production began which proves how nobody wanted these buses.

    The fact that a new version without the rear entrance is now on the market the SRM(?) is not mentioned and London will still get new buses only they will be bought by private bus companies and not TFL thus saving Londoners money is totally ignored.

    The reality is the bus design is now nearly a decade old and its old fashioned diesel bus with some batteries while modern buses are now all electric or hydrogen and are far better designed inside and out with greater capacity without rear entrance or 2nd staircase.

    With 1000 Borisbuses then perhaps Khan could announce a competition for someone to design a better interior for these buses which could include sealing off rear entrance ( if it can’t be removed like centre entrances are when buses leave London service) and removal of 2nd rear stairs allowing more seats on lower deck which hopefully will face the direction of travel !

    At least Kens Artic buses found further use but the same may not apply to Borisbuses well unless someone wants to set up a mobile sauna business!

    I reckon a new article ” Wither Borisbuses ” might feature on this site in 2017 considering what to do with these 1000 buses given that just throwing them away would repeat the needless waste Boris did with Artic buses which could have easily remained on red arrow routes 507/521 and even an expanded network of these routes linking mainline stations and thus continued use of about 100 Artic buses but as they say Dogma took priority…

    So can anything be done to improve these buses or is scrapping via bus tender system where bus companies buy new buses as Borisbuses simply move routes and gradually get scrapped the only option ?

    Could Artics return on heavily used central London routes given their greater capacity means fewer buses needed and they were far more accessible with space for at least 2 wheelchairs and moved the crowds at mainline stations? Lessons learned from last time would mean they would not be used on long routes like the 18 and 25 which simply encouraged fare dodgers .

  352. Purley Dweller says:

    The extra entrance is the most useful thing about them. Great for crowd shifting at bus stops in the central area. Now they are getting opening windows they should be fine in summer. No point scrapping them until they are old enough to be scrapped.

  353. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – you seem to be carefully ignoring the fact that TfL owns several of the electric and hydrogen buses that are in use. You are also ignoring the fact that a lot of this technology is not yet mature or affordable hence why trials are continuing and more are planned. We should also note in passing that many of the trials secure EU funding and this funding source may well be lost in a few years time thus imposing more strain on TfL’s budget and / or pressure to “mature” a technology or design faster than may be prudent. Now where has that happened recently? TfL is also having to fund, directly or indirectly, the electrical infrastructure at garages for electric buses or recharging points in bus stations and is out to tender for a possible second hydrogen supply point at a garage(s).

    It is quite clear that TfL will keep buying, via the route contracts, diesel or diesel hybrid buses until 2018 with the exception of a few routes run with single deckers in Central London. The diesel buses (cleaned up / modified to euro6 spec) that we do have will be in service for a great many years yet because it is unaffordable to scrap them. That applies to the NB4L too. They won’t be scrapped or modified in the Mayor’s first term. There is not the cash. If Mr Khan wins a second term, unlikely in my view, then something might give then. It is far more likely that NB4Ls will be cascaded off Central London routes onto suburban double deck routes to while away their existence in London. Poor suburbs is all I can say.

    We can forget about bendy buses too. They won’t be coming back. TfL and the operators have a tough two years to try to prove emerging technologies as well as modifying thousands of buses by 2018. That is going to take buses out of use for a number of hours / days (depending on the work) plus changes to maintenance regimes. Given that many fleets are highly utilised with not much float it’s going to be a challenge to keep services going. TfL haven’t even managed to get opening windows in all the NB4Ls yet – that’s taken months and months longer than it was supposed to do.

  354. quinlet says:

    The other reason why bendy buses should not come back is that they are inefficient in road space compared to a conventional double decker. That is, in terms of people per square metre of road space.

  355. Malcolm says:

    Some debate would be (in theory) possible about the road occupancy of bendies versus double-deckers, involving staircases, standing passengers, space between buses, dwell time at stops, swept envelopes, and doubtless many other factors. But since there is no realistic prospect of bendies being re-introduced to London in the short or medium term, and since these matters have been thrashed to death on this site and in many other places, let’s refrain from re-running it here now.

  356. ap says:

    This is probably not the right space but I keep wondering in this post NB4L world, what are the costs of the various alternatives.

    My local London General garage is currently having its buses replaced by hybid EH’s and WHV’s.

    For the passenger the EH seems a much more pleasant and comfortable option. Are there huge differences in price?

    I’v recently been on a Metroline TE hybrid on the 332. That probably qualified as the most comfortable bus I travelled on in 2016. A world away from the WHV’s. Are they a Rolls Royce in terms of prices?

  357. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ AP – I don’t have up to date numbers but I think standard hybrid double deckers are around £300-£310k. The NB4L was always bought at a premium to that although there was a price reduction on the last batch with the premium being around £25k per vehicle.

    I doubt there is very much in it between an Alexander Dennis product (TEH, EH) or the Wright bodied Volvo hybrid (WHV) as several operators dual source or swap between types. Choices tend to be more about what can be delivered at a given point to meet contract needs or a particular engineering preference by an operator or at garage level. The Alexander Dennis buses are integrals so are designed from the “ground up” and avoid some of the foibles you see with the Volvo buses with their odd engine arrangements affecting rear seat layouts. Nonetheless all of them are vastly more comfortable, brighter and airier than a NB4L and that’s even with London’s fairly basic interior specs. Rather “posher” interiors are specced by operators outside of London where they use that as a marketing tool to get people to use buses.

  358. Littlejohn says:

    @WW – ADL do of course also body other manufacturers chassis – such as both Volvo and Scania for Stagecoach.

  359. Melvyn says:

    It seems according to London Live tonight that hundreds of Borisbuses are going to have to be withdrawn from service due to safety issues on the rear doors which are not staying closed while in service and adding further costs to TFL budget .

    So it seems the problems with these buses continue.

  360. ngh says:

    Re Melvyn,

    The safety issue is apparently that when the rear door do open unexpectedly and the interlock does work very effectively so the bus come to a very sudden halt as the brakes are applied very quickly. Presumably there was a accident caused by a Boris Bus stopping without the driver intending to…

  361. Melvyn says:

    Please see extract from Evening Standard report giving details of this problem. –

    Gareth Powell, TfL’s director of strategy and contracted services, told the Standard that Wrightbus would be carrying out the update and it would not cost TfL anything.

    “The fault we identified would only occur at very low speed and if the driver doesn’t follow the correct procedure,” he said.
    “As a precaution, the manufacturer, Wrightbus, is carrying out a software update at no cost to Transport for London.” 
    TfL said that the recall notice had occurred because of an incident last November.
    The bus driver had repeatedly pressed the door close button overloading the system and causing it to open the door.
    The bus was moving – at under five miles per hour – at the time which meant it suddenly halted and a passenger was “slightly hurt”.
    TfL added that more than  half of the affected buses have already been updated.

  362. ChrisMitch says:

    Wasn’t one of Boris’s reasons for these buses the open rear platform?

  363. timbeau says:

    @Chris Mitch
    It wasn’t one of his reasons – it was the only reason, and the only thing that distinguishes it from any other modern double decker..

  364. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – please get your facts right. The buses are subject to a “recall”. This does NOT mean hundreds are to be withdrawn. The identified issue also only affects those vehicles fitted with a sliding, plug door at the back. Approximately 500 of the buses, with the inward turning rear door are NOT affected by this issue. I’m no fan of the NB4L but it is important that issues like recalls, which affect all sorts of buses and all manufacturers, are not subject to inaccurate reporting or political grandstanding (as I saw earlier via the Standard website). It is quite clear the problem is understood, has been identified and a preventative measure is being implemented. This is how you would expect things to be done especially when the buses can operate safely if the driver follows the right procedure (as noted in the quote in your second post).

  365. timbeau says:


    The press do tend to exaggerate these things. They recently reported that the new mayor is going to scrap the entire NBFL fleet, when in fact he is simply not going to order any more.
    Even Boris didn’t scrap the bendybuses – most were sold on.

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