With the Olympics and Paralympics over, September brings something of a return to normal for London’s Transport network. On the Underground, this means the unfortunate (but sadly necessary) return to weekend closures. In the corporate offices of TfL, however, it means it is time for a Board Meeting – along with the Commissioner’s Report and its accompanying appendices, which are always well worth digging into.

This September’s Board Meeting was no different, with the Commissioner’s Report itself providing some interesting background on both current operations and future plans, and also including for the first time a breakdown of the complaints received across the TfL Network. It makes interesting reading, and thus as well as our normal sweep through the content of the Papers we have included the breakdown tables in full below.

In addition, the Papers this month include a report that will be of particular use to those interested in the rollout of the New Bus for London (NBfL) and its future. A short summary of happenings here can be found below, but the NBfL is a topic to which we will return – in full – imminently, as part of our sweep through surface transport that began with Pedantic’s recent posts on the Tramlink. In the meantime, the NBfL information below will hopefully help provide some immediate detail and context to the debate that has already begun once more in both the media and the Assembly about the bus’ effectiveness and TfL’s future plans.

On the Underground

Something which has slipped somewhat under the radar, but which the Commissioner’s Report confirms, is the end of the PFI contract for the operation on London Underground’s electrical power network.

Powerlink had originally been setup to run this in 1998 under a 30 year PFI deal, but this will now come to an end in August 2013, with operations once more returning in-house. The “split,” so to speak, appears to be relatively amicable and, perhaps more importantly, doesn’t carry the kind of financial overheads that Metronet’s collapse or indeed Tube Lines’ takeover carried. The contract included a 15 year break clause which TfL have decided to make use of, something the Report indicates will result in significant savings in the long term.

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Londonchap for additional information on this – JB]

On the Sub-Surface network, the Board Papers confirm that the Metropolitan Line officially ran its first full S8 Stock Service (57 trains in total) on Friday 20 July. This service pattern is now the norm, and according to the included Investment Programme Report (IPR) the Metropolitan Line rollout will officially complete next month. With the Olympics and Paralympics now out of the way, the rollout of the S7 Stock onto the Hammersmith & City/Circle has also resumed, augmenting the limited runs out of Moorgate that had already begun. According to the IPR, the S7s are still on schedule to begin official timetabled services on December 9th.

On the Tube, the (somewhat forgotten) upgrade of Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 Station was also completed within this reporting period, with two larger lifts, additional gates and a reworked ticket office all now reported complete.

With regards to the planned Northern Line Extension to Battersea, the Papers indicate that the current plan is to progress the scheme to a point whereby a Transport & Works Act Order could be submitted by April next year. This would lead to a design freeze in October 2013 and a largescale public consultation in November that year. Discussion is currently ongoing with SP Setia, the new site owners, over the full nature of the scheme.

The Overground

The Overground set a new passenger record this year on the 16th April, with nearly 472,000 passengers recorded that day. Overall, the line’s Public Performance Measure continues to put almost all the other TOCs to shame, hitting 96.4% during this reporting period.

In addition to the above, the Commissioners Report confirms that down south the ELLX2 is now effectively complete, and is ready to be officially opened with the December Timetable change. Breaking away briefly from the Papers themselves, this also seems a good opportunity to highlight the incredibly useful comment that ELL Driver 2 recently added to our last post on the subject of the ELLX2. It really helps paint a good picture of the operating characteristics of the Line and so it is repeated, in full, below:

Through the core section – notably Dalston Junction to Surrey Quays there are some quite severe gradients and some extremely short platforms with short distances between stations. Braking to stop accurately at the stop board (which is sometimes ‘off’ the platform) on either an uphill or a downhill gradient requires a more considered and careful approach. On the Southern sections if you overrun the stop board by 6 feet it doesn’t particularly matter. If you do so on some of the core stations (such as Rotherhithe on the up) you will have the passenger doors beyond the barrier and it really will be an overrun (with all the associated delays and inconvenience. I am aware that even experienced drivers who come over to the ELL speak about the ‘intensity’ of the route and the concentration required.

The linespeed between H&I and NXG is no greater than 40mph at any point but there are about 14 speed changes (one direction) compared to just two between NXG and say Norwood Junction (these being at either end – the rest of this section being 60 mph on the slow). On the core drivers pretty much take it up to linespeed – especially at peak times otherwise you will fall behind. Safety of course comes first, so this doesn’t mean notch 4 and shut off at 40, it will more than likely mean shutting off a few mph sooner and letting it role up to linespeed. We know where to do this to avoid having to brake to avoid overspeed. If we were braking constantly the longitudinal seating and large numbers of standing passengers would soon account for complaints about jarred necks! As someone mentioned already, we tend to use brake step 2 and ease down to 1 for reasons of comfort as well as for control of the unit on those short platforms. Step 3 is held in reserve for times such as low adhesion (it is surprising just how slippery certain sections get in light drizzle – such as at Hoxton or on the flyover past the depot). It’s also used on the odd occasion where a driver was a second or two late with their braking point (that’s all it takes). The emergency brake is obviously there for just that – an emergency.

At rush the timetabled dwell times at Dalston Junction and Canada Water are necessary. Without them there would be no separation of services (it is not much fun for drivers or passengers to constantly be running on restrictive aspects). The same applies to the Southern section to a degree. The morning rush on the up normally makes for more of a struggle to keep to time as people force doors, trains take longer to load and before you know it you are a couple of minutes down and you know the dwell times are already taken care of further up the route. On the down, I tend to agree that on most occasions the timetable is generous between Honor Oak Park and Anerley. This is partly why drivers rarely take up full power as it is better for passengers to feel like they are on the move (allbeit not at full line speed) than push it to 60 and then dwell for 2 minutes at each station. We generally all adjust our acceleration and braking techniques to take these factors into account. Of course if we constantly hit linespeed and delayed braking we would get ahead of the timetable – a no-no for those expecting to catch a train at a given time.

Generally speaking the turnaround times at West Croydon, Highbury & Islington and New Cross are reasonably genreous if things are running to schedule, but if they were made tighter there would certainly be delays. Running a high intensity metro service requires there to be some built-in measures to get back on timetable. Crystal Palace only has about a 6 minute turnaround, which if you were to get in 2 mins late is beginning to push it. Remember that drivers ideally need that small break otherwise the intensity of the service would be quite exhausting – but there are times when of course it is a straight turnaround and go.

On the door delays, we are DOO on the ELL. Again, safety comes first and to reduce the chance of wrong side door release we move the TBC from brake step 1 to 3, switch the DDS to neutral and then release the doors after a brief pause. It does make for a short delay but in my view it is preferable to my experiences on the tube when on many occasions the doors have been opening before the train has been fully stopped. I respect tube drivers but I have to say that the approach speeds into stations (perhaps some of these are automated?) and the ‘relaxed’ door operating procedures would never form part of mainline driver training these days.

Returning to the Board Papers themselves, these confirm that the Overground has now returned to its non-Olympic timetable. Something they don’t highlight, however, is that this does seem to have brought about a slight change to both the NLL and ELL timetables.

Notably, it seems that the ELL now features two extra Surrey Quays – Dalston Junction services – presumably PIXC busters – at 0804 and 0849 respectively, which don’t appear on the official timetable. On the NLL, it seems that some off-peak Clapham Junction – Willesden Junction workings have now been extended to Stratford, and finally that more eastbound evening services from both Richmond and Clapham Junction have been timetabled in.

On the DLR

It seems that all is largely quiet, for now at least, on the DLR, but it too set a new passenger record.This was on the 3rd August, with 501,000 passenger journeys made. Overall, largely thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic effect, traffic was 24% higher this reporting period than it was at the same time last year.

On Yer Bike

The Papers confirm that TfL have now completed their junction review programme and have identified 100 junctions on the TfL London Route Network which will now be redesigned and improved before the end of 2013. Improvements will include widening junctions and the addition of “early start” signals (as seen at Bow Roundabout) where appropriate.

On the Cycle Scheme, the Papers confirm that this too saw record usage in the summer, with a new all-time record number of single-day hires being achieved on the 10th August on which day 47,102 trips were made. Overall, new memberships are currently averaging out at about 700 per week.

Something that is also worth highlighting here is the new “Hire Leisure Routes” section on the TfL website, which the report confirms was put together by our friends over at London Cyclist.

On a less pleasant note, the Commissioner’s Report confirms that prosectutions and convictions have now been completed for those involved in a serious fraud incident on the Cycle Network two years ago. In December 2010 Serco discovered that several employees had been involved in a cash refund fraud scheme that had seen “refunds” totalling £46,700 allocated to a number of accounts.

The resulting TfL/Transport Police investigation resulted in the arrest of 11 people – including 3 former Serco employees – of which 9 were subsequently charged. All appeared in court in June this year and were convicted, receiving a variety of sentences.

On the Buses

Before looking at the NBfL, it is worth highlighting that the report confirms that over 300 diesel-electric hybrid buses are now in service across the bus network. It also confirms that a further 178 standard hybrid buses are now on order, funded by a DfT grant. This is an increase on the planned 70 additional buses that the DfT had initially agreed to finance, which TfL have negotiated upwards.

Moving on to the subject of the NBfL itself, the Commissioner’s Report confirms that TfL now plan to order 600 units of the NBfL from Wrightbus. The New Bus For London Rollout document within the Papers provides a more detailed overview of the “wheres” and “whyfores” of this deal which can largely be summarised as follows:

  • The unique design of the bus means that they must be considered as restricted to usage in London for their full economic life.
  • The above means that the normal strategy of relying on Bus Operators to source the buses themselves (either through purchase or lease) is not practical – because the buses aren’t standard and are restricted to London, TfL would have to carry the book cost of the buses. TfL will thus purchase the buses themselves and the Operators will run them.
  • Wrightbus have indicated that if the Mayor’s Manifesto promise of 600 new buses by April 2016 is to be met, then a provisional order will need to be placed by the end of September.
  • This would result in the first full route conversion being possible by April 2013 with approximately 30 buses in service by that point

For the purposes of this article, the above represents a reasonable summary of the status of the NBfL. We will, however, look at both the bus and rollout in far more detail in a future piece.

On the Roads

The Board Papers contain an interesting summary of Operation Kansas, a joint initiative between TfL, the VOSA and the Police. Between March and June 2012, the Operation looked to crack down on illegal luxury or novelty cars on the streets of London. Overall, the Operation seems to have met with some success, with 24 vehicles impounded and 186 prohibitions or Fixed Penalty Notices issued.

The TfL Complaints Report

Finally, reproduced below are the key tables from the new TfL Complaints report. This can be found at the end of the Commissioners Report, and it makes interesting reading. When looking at these tables, it is always worth looking at the total number of complaints made at the top before looking at the percentage breakdowns. The reasons for this should be reasonably obvious – the smaller the sample size, the less should be read into any seemingly large percentage blocks of complaints.

Cycle Hire Complaints

Cycle Hire Complaints

Congestion Charge Complaints

Congestion Charge Complaints

DLR Complaints

DLR Complaints

London Buses Complaints

London Buses Complaints

London Overground Complaints

London Overground Complaints

London Underground

London Underground Complaints

Oyster Complaints

Oyster Complaints

Tramlink Complaints

Tramlink Complaints

Train Operating Company (TOC) Complaints

Train Operating Company (TOC) Complaints

TOC Complaints By Category

TOC Complaints By Category

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There are 62 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    Various of the links appear broken (prepending”)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am sure the PIXC busters on the ELL ran before the Games timetables shook things up for a while. The WLL through to Stratford service has always been half hourly off peak and a quick look at the timetable doesn’t look different to what went before but I may be missing some fine detail.

    The Board approved the purchase of the NB4Ls so I look forward to your future article – I have lots to say about that bus!

    I stuck some piccies on the LR Flickr group site of ELLX Phase 2 test runs and bits of the new alignment. Not long now until we see an orbital railway in action.

    If you are interested the latest Mayor’s Answers (on the Mayor’s website) include an Appendix giving a detailed breakdown of Emirates Airline usage by day, week and ticket types. Not unsurprisingly there are distinct weekend peaks in usage and quite a decent number of return tickets issued. There have even been a few “private hires” of a cabin for a Thames crossing.

  3. John Bull says:

    Well spotted on the broken links – there seemed to be some mangling of the speechmarks going on. Should now be sorted hopefully.

    With regards to the NBfL, yes we’ve had various bits half written on this for a while, but thought it best to wait and see how the testing went and what the rollout plans were. Now we know that, it seems time for a write up.

    I saw the testing photos – thanks! I’m trying to source some decent shots of the reopened Crystal Palace ticket hall, and if I can find some then I’ll run them both together. It’d be nice to have a proper photo post as I’m conscious we haven’t had one for a while!

  4. Greg Tingey says:

    “Door Opening”
    Well, the Paris Metro seems to manage quite well with lift the latch & wait for it to pop – often before a complete stand has been achieved …..
    Paris Metro manages without being deafened by repetitive morons, as well!

    Bow Roundabout
    Needs a complete rebuild &/or redesign – preferably with dual-use pedestrian/cycle routes, like the flyunders at “Crooked Billet” & Gt Cambridge Rd. Trying to cross that Jn on foot or bike is, curreblty a complete death-trap.

    The ordering “for London” procedure is a reversion to the practice operated between the RT’s & the end of the RM’s. And it worked very well.
    Wasn’t closing Aldenham a stupid thing to do?
    The problem with the NBfL is the current design & finish faults, which need rectification before mass roll-out.
    It should be remembered that the RM was not trouble-free on introduction, either, but it is important to get it right, as soon as possible.
    “Uper deck cooling”
    Yes, well – make the windows OPEN, you idiots!
    And, put a rear (triangular?) window in the upper rear, please?

    1] CC – I have one, which isn’t going anywhere…
    I have a car which is CC-exempt ( An lwb Land-Rover ) but to get exemption, I have to Re-apply IN FULL EVERY YEAR, not renew – there is NO provision for renewal of existing.
    And I’m sure it is deliberate.
    I must add, that I am likely to drive into the CC area about once every three years, but that isn’t the point, is it?
    It’s deliberate offcious obstructionism.
    2] Buses – I note the top complaint with no suprise.
    The jobsworth attitude of some drivers, deliberately trapping (Unlawful imprisonment, actually) passengers when a bus is completely wedged & immovable in traffic-jams, against a pavement, & then refusing to release the doors is a pereninal classic. I know they can always claim elf’n-safety (Boo! She’s behind you! – sorry heard a wonderful mummers’ play about being challenged by the “Wicked witch of elf’n-safety …) regulations, but, some sense should be applied here.
    3] Overground – top complaint is “Safety/Security… You what? I find that v. hard to understand – what is happening here?
    4] UndergrounD – no box for “Bloody deafened & confused by multiple repeating much too loud 150% un-necessary “announcements”, then?
    5] Oyster – wasn’t that unexpected! The system does need revision – time-limits & inter-bus transfers (Most people don’t know you can get an “extension ticket” for instance) are the obvious points of failure here, I suspect.
    6] Tramlink – I understand that ticket-machines on TLk are a pain, still …….
    7] TOC’s – The depth to which the once-great GNR/LNER main line has fallen is a disgrace. A combination of inherited crap cheap overhead (better than none, though) and idiot operators.
    The number of complaints against bum-fluff rail (Branson does NOT have a proper beard) is a good indicator of why his crap company has been told to eff off, I suspect.

  5. Steven Taylor says:

    Re some changes to London Overground services. They have issued new Timetable booklets valid from 16th September 2012, which I was not expecting.

  6. Tim Burns says:

    @Greg Have been working in Paris for the first six months of this year and found the early door opening on themetro a luttle diconcerting: but fun. I can see why modern practice frowns on being able to jump from a moving train of probably around 10 mph (albeit decellarting). Indeed this practice is being hased out as on the new stock on lines 1, 14 & 2 (amongst others) the doors do nt pen until a complete stop has been achieved. Only the latter line is manually operated.

  7. Tim Burns says:

    Dear me, my spelling was poor – apologies. Corrected:

    @Greg Have been working in Paris for the first six months of this year and found the early door opening on the metro a little disconcerting: but fun. I can see why modern practice frowns on being able to jump from a moving train of probably around 10 mph (albeit decelerating). Indeed this practice is being phased out on the new stock on lines 1, 14 & 2 (amongst others), where the doors do not open until a complete stop has been achieved. Note that only the latter line is manually operated.

  8. Fandroid says:

    Not only in Paris. The Berlin S-Bahn door-opening buttons light up before the trains stop and I’ve seen the doors open while the train is still moving. As you say, more fun that way! (Completely off topic, but I’ve noticed recently that some doors on SW Trains class 444 Desiros only open about an inch and I’ve had to stick my hand in the gap and drag them before they fully opened.)

    Unfortunately for trying to reinforce my prejudices against Virgin Trains, I see East Coast has more complaints. However, in the current row about the West Coast bids, it is instructive to see that First Great Western is well down the list. (Although I am always complaining to myself about the vertical coffins that they have installed as seats on their HSTs. )

    @Greg, note that ‘other’ is consistently one of the top two complaint categories for the Underground. Perhaps that includes persistent and loud announcements.

    Bring back those lovely bendy buses. (Very off-the-shelf) I’m sure the Leeds trolley-buses will be bendy ones.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anyone know the reason for the spike in complaints on the DLR, in period 5, under category Penalty Fares Issued?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Northern Ireland Railways used to be terrible for opening doors early, and the step from train to platform was/is huge in some places!

  11. Valentine says:

    I agree with a lot of Greg’s stuff.

    The new bus needs ironing out. For one thing, it lacks handles to grasp by the open backdoor area. Ive always thought that a bit odd considering the song & dance made about it’s safety. And for gods sake someone crack a window (talking in the american sense naturally!). That air con unit is always set to max which means you get a incessant whirling noise. Whats the point of sealing windows to hide traffic noise if you only fill the silence with an air con unit going clap out?!

    The sound issue on the underground is pretty bad. There’s a recorded message stuck on repeat at Victoria station which says ‘when using the escalators down to the victoria level platform, please, stand on the right and walk on the left, stand on the right and walk down on the left to avoid unecessary congestion, at the bottom of the escalataaahr’. Only the guy who recorded it sounds like a ‘right geezer’ the way ee sez it. I’m not sure if ‘right geezer’ is the best tone of voice for a professional transport system announcement?! And the fact I can type that message word-for word because its imprinted on my brain is not good. Why not just suspend clear graphical icons above the escalator entry points? A standing man on the right side and running man on the left? Graphics are much more effective than rambling announcements which tourists ignore anyway.

    Those guilt-tripping and aggressive platform announcers trying to control crowds! Train these people to stay calm and polite! Infusing your voice with un-disguised condensation for customers who are ignoring your instructions is not good, and yes, neither is the behaviour of those customers doing the ignoring. But doesnt the fact platform passengers still slother around doors leaving a slither of a worms-trail for embarking passengers tell us the announcements arent working? Must be a better way surely?!

    Ahh the things I could do if I was in charge hehe!

  12. Anonymous says:

    “Not only in Paris. The Berlin S-Bahn door-opening buttons light up before the trains stop and I’ve seen the doors open while the train is still moving.”

    It’s pretty standard practice across the Continent to release doors just before the train has halted so that they’re completely open open as soon as the train has stopped.

    As well as metros, I’ve noticed that early door release tends to occur also on TGV, ICE and Thalys, but not Eurostar. It also applies on most regional trains. So just about everything, in fact!

    On metros with frequent stops it must amount to a considerable time saving overall.

    I wonder what accident rates are compared with our completely opposite practice. I’m genuinely interested as to whether accidents because of early door release are significant or whether it’s another example of H&S overkill in the UK.

    Also to put things into context, over the next few years 600 buses are going to be introduced into London where you can jump on and off the open back while it’s moving. The HSE seems happy enough with this.

  13. John Bull says:

    I get off the Hammersmith & City Line at Ladbroke Grove every morning and I’d say at least 3 times out of 5 it’s closer to stepping off an escalator than walking out a building.

    Nothing wrong with that, but the “rolling stop” is certainly not unknown in these parts!

  14. Anonymous says:

    @ John Bull – I have been to Crystal Palace this afternoon and have taken a series of photos in the new ticket hall and of the exterior. They’ll be on Flickr tomorrow and you’re welcome to use them for an article if they’re good enough. I have to say they have done a very nice job indeed – there is a mini exhibition about the ticket hall and a nice looking cafe in part of the station building. The old exit is now closed. Work continues on the lifts which it seems to me will only connect down to the Overground / Victoria / London Bridge platforms but not to the Beckenham Junction platforms.

  15. Paul says:

    Ironic isn’t it, a conservative Mayor comes into office during possibly the world’s worst ever financial crisis, with his party bemoaning huge public debt, vowing to cut waste and farm everything out to the private sector.. and what does he do? Blows £200m of public money directly buying unneeded new buses that the private sector won’t touch with a bargepole. What’s more there’s no business case, no cost saving, no real fiscal prudence at all to it. Just pure populist politics.

    You can imagine the headlines if Ken had done this – it would all have been about commie Ken and his plot to take over the world with a fleet of overpriced proletariat transports with crews creating unneeded jobs. There’d have been corruption, scandal, and some quip about lizards.

    Funny old world eh? And it goes to show what can be achieved with the press on your side and a bit of will.

    Is it a “good thing”? I don’t know really, maybe London will get less ripped off by private operators with state-owned vehicles, but I can’t help feeling the money could be better spent elsewhere. Fare cuts maybe, GOBLIN electrification, more accessible stations, tramlink extensions, DLR to Dagenham, Bellingham service. There’s a big list of worthy projects.

  16. Ian says:

    “It’s pretty standard practice across the Continent to release doors just before the train has halted so that they’re completely open open as soon as the train has stopped”

    I can’t find a copy of the technical specification for the Thameslink rolling stock Invitation to Tender online, but I’m pretty sure it envisaged that doors will work this way, being released once the train speed is below 5mph. Dwell time is going to be the biggest issue with running the full service and every second makes a difference.

  17. Greg Tingey says:

    Paul @ 23.40
    Ken / Boris
    Well, one wonders how much of a backhander was passed for Ken’s inflammable bendy-Merc’s?
    A lot of us, I suspect, voted for Boris, with gritted teeth, just to get Ken out, because of a specific non-transport issue, One that garuanteed that anyone who believes in equal rights for women (& others) for instance, could not, in conscience vote for Ken.
    As it is, if Wolmar gets the Labour nomination, I’ll be voting for him, next time around …….

    LUL “announcements”
    What scares me is that one day, there will be a real emergency, & no-one will take a blind bit of notice, because it’ll only be the LUL loudmouths spouting off again ….
    As it is, in some places you can get 3 simultaneous announcements audible – with the result you can’t actually HEAR any of them – & all three are usually unnecessary, anway!

  18. Mikey C says:

    “Blows £200m of public money directly buying unneeded new buses that the private sector won’t touch with a bargepole. What’s more there’s no business case, no cost saving, no real fiscal prudence at all to it. Just pure populist politics.”

    But because TfL have bought the buses, the private operators will be paid a lot less to operate them than if they had to supply their own E400s or Geminis, so it’s not a case of £200m extra being spent.
    And as it was in his original manifesto, something that has a democratic mandate too, which surely is the whole point of having an elected Mayor.

  19. Anonymous says:

    @ Mikey C – I do not know how you can appear so certain about the cost of the NB4L relative to other buses. The NB4L is more expensive than other hybrids and certainly way more than a conventional decker. There is no public visibility of the actual price that Wrightbus, effectively a monopoly supplier, will charge TfL. Further Wrightbus are in line to undertake most or all of the maintenance if I am reading the Board paper properly. The maintenance has not been competitively tendered AFAIK so how do we know that is value for money compared to the operators doing it? We also no information as to the relative reliability of the NB4L compared to other buses where there is a decent track record, even with the hybrids. If operators have to lay off engineering and depot staff because a lot of NB4Ls are deployed on their routes then who picks up the costs of this? At present the operators carry the contractual risk and financial consequence of vehicle breakdowns / bus unavailability. With TfL and Wrightbus carrying the ownership and maintnance risk have the public sector also taken on part of the contractual performance risk? I think we should be told. TfL have no option but to go down the direct ownership route courtesy of this ill conceived Mayoral policy.

    The question that needs answering and which no one can answer is “what problem is the NB4L the solution to?” Why is this bus *needed* and why do we have to fork out £160m on them plus up to £40m pa on “conductor” costs where the conductor does absolutely nothing meaningful apart from preventing people using the rear open platform between stops. I recognise the point about political commitments but there is no cogent rationale for these vehicles nor is there any recognition from the Mayor about the potential knock on consequences for bus services in London. It is a financial and political disaster waiting to happen.

  20. Fandroid says:

    I too fear that it is a vanity project that will cost TfL money that could well be spent on other (less glamorous) priorities. It’s just another triumph of spin and media hype over the real needs of the travelling public. Bendy buses may have had their teething problems, but I’m absolutely not convinced that a model that is almost universal elsewhere is somehow not appropriate in London. Their lifetime costs must be dramatically cheaper than those for NB4Ls.

  21. swirlythingy says:

    Paul makes a good point. I have been wondering recently why all the opposition to the NBfL comes from the left, and all the praise and defence from the right, when it is, after all, a textbook socialist policy.

    The principle argument deployed in its favour is that TfL will own the vehicles outright, so they will not need to pay a long-term greater sum to the private sector in leasing costs – very similar to arguments made against ROSCOs, or indeed privatisation in general. And you certainly wouldn’t normally expect the Evening Boris to argue in favour of a second member of staff on the basis that it increases employment – surely it’s just another few hundred commie workshy unionists to terrorize the poor defenceless commuters?

    The principle arguments used against it is that it costs a lot of public money, and that the task would be better and more efficiently carried out by the private sector, and that the cost of an additional job is unaffordable – arguments made, with a straight face, and I promise you I am not kidding, by Labour voters.

    It couldn’t be that celebrity politics engendered by London’s Mayoral system have trumped all serious examination of the respective candidates’ policies, and that most people make their decision on whether or not they should support a given policy based purely on whether it was ‘their guy’ who suggested it in the first place, could it? Surely not?

    Just to be clear, I don’t think the NBfL could be any more of a useless vanity project if it was painted blue instead of red and had Ken’s head on a pike at the front. It is, for the most part, a non-solution to a non-problem, and all the problems it claims to solve could have been solved without it (e.g. bendy buses were supposedly scrapped because of fare evasion, something which could easily have been stopped by employing a second member of staff like, I don’t know, exactly the one they’re employing on the NBfLs now). But it’s still a fascinating microcosm of the problems that tribal politics bring us.

  22. Rational Plan says:

    Vanity project, vanity project vanity project. Or as it used to be called civic pride.

    Everyone has certain ideas about what makes up London. Be it Red call boxes, unique taxi cabs and the London bus. The routemaster or the equivalent has strong emotional ties to how people think of London. People liked the open platform for the ability of getting on and off when ever the bus was stopped in traffic.

    What is wrong on a high quality bus, which also looks special on the inside and the outside. Despite what the detractors say the majority of the public seems to really like the new bus.

    If you are all really wedded to low cost utility, then we should take a hatchet job to London taxis, some of the most expensive in the World. There is no reason for a special cab, everywhere else just use ordinary cars. There is no longer any purpose to the knowledge, everyone has SatNav. Lower barriers to entry would mean lower taxi fares. But no one would ever propose such a thing. They allowed the old bus to be killed off because in the end the could not be bothered. The bland and mundane will do, ‘we’ll cry health and safety and high costs’ and let a bit of London slip away. They could have done what Boris did, it was not that hard at the end of the day. It was only a bus.

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ swirlythingy – I suspect you are, in part, correct about tribalism. However the NB4L is the culmination of some nasty (IMO) politics stirred up by Policy Exchange and then promulgated by Mr Gilligan and others in an unparalleled exercise in political and journalistic vitriol. The Routemaster was their chosen attack “vehicle” and the end result is the squandering of public money on the NB4L. A Google search will bring up the relevant papers that they published on this topic. To maintain some balance I am sure that similar tactics are also dreamed up on the political left but they have rather less ability to swing the press behind them. I know transport in London is inseperable from politics and you have to get political support for anything major to happen but the waste of money in removing bendies, buying new conventional deckers and now the NB4L could so easily have delivered far more benefit for London than 600 buses ever will.

  24. Anonymous says:

    “Well, one wonders how much of a backhander was passed for Ken’s inflammable bendy-Merc’s?”

    If I recall, six of these went up in flames. About the same as the number of Routemasters when they were new.

    What do you say about the 100+ Dennis Tridents that have gone up in flames in London over the past decade?

  25. Fandroid says:

    I’m just deeply suspicious of a bespoke solution to a problem that is just about the same all over the world. London remains distinctive by painting its (off the shelf) buses red. That’s not a bespoke solution. That’s just a factory option.

    BTW has anyone noticed that Berlin has unique double-deckers too? Three doors a la NB4L, two staircases. Three axles just like old trolleybuses. Painted yellow, and available from tourist shops in a ‘Dinky’ version – just like London!

  26. Anonymous says:

    “surely it’s just another few hundred commie workshy unionists to terrorize the poor defenceless commuters?”

    Have you come out of nursery school yet?

  27. Greg Tingey says:

    Anonymous .( @ 16.54)..
    “Wrightbus, effectively a monopoly supplier..”
    Just like the Aldenham bus works, then?
    “At present the operators carry the contractual risk ….”
    HUGELY inflated, of course. This business of supposed “risk” in investments in the public transport sector genarally has been a huge inflator of costs for no practical return whatsoever. Thank you, complete tosser John Major & idiot & corrupt friends ….
    “I think we should be told. TfL have no option but to go down the direct ownership route ..”
    Just like we used to have in the period 1933 – privatisation, in other words. And that worked very well.
    ” Why is this bus *needed*…”
    Because it was a manifesto commitment.

    I note that swirlythingy has noticed this anomaly as well!
    Rational Plan, too ….
    ( Let’s hear it for Civic Pride – & can we hang all of LBWF’s planning heads & council subcommittee? )
    The absence of a proper sucessor to the RM back in the 1980/90’s was a big mistake – but that was against the ethos of the time – I mean centralised procurement & public transport vs. cut-throat competitive tendering and atomised non-existent “society” all using cars..
    [ Am I really writing this semi-socialist stuff? What am I on? ]

    Anon @ 21.59
    I think that they (the recently-inflammable buses) should have been withdrawn until the problem(s) were sorted – as would have happened on the railways.
    As for the Dennis Darts, I understand they also have other dangerous/serious problems – see back issues of Private Eye for this.
    & @ 22.05 (assuming, of course that it is the same “Anon”)
    Erm it’s called IRONY – can’t you recognise a snide quote from the Satandard/Mail/Express when you see one.
    Oh dearie me!

    [Moderated for personalness – JB]

  28. D-Notice says:

    I see that quite a few NB4L supporters say it needs to be done because “it was a manifesto commitment”, or that London needs a “new Routemaster”.

    Those are not reasons in themselves. After all, any bus would suffice. The only requirements are that the replacement works well, i.e. gets people from A to B with no real difficulty; is high-capacity; and that is cost-effective.

    The issue is why money has been/will be spent on this particular type of bus, instead of simply buying more of the existing double-deckers.

  29. Anonymous says:

    @ Greg – please refrain from calling me an idiot and accusing me of historical ignorance. I will not accept this sort of response on what is typically a well mannered and well run group. Please apologise or else I shall have to make a formal complaint to the owners of the group.

  30. John Bull says:

    Mod Note

    Greg, I’ve moderated you comment. You know the rules. Please remember to attack the argument, not the man, as this is a place for discussion and making it personal is neither fair nor justified.

    Now if we can return to the discussion at hand please, that’d be good.

  31. Anonymous says:

    1. Bendies suited some routes, particularly the Red Arrows. However, there were some places they just didn’t fit, taking up both sides of the road to turn left, overhanging pedestrian crossing places, etc. They were also off the road at the merest hint of snow or ice.
    2. Another problem is that there was nothing “London” about them.
    3. By the way, I wonder if the NB4L has the same uncompromising, badly designed, painful seats as in all other buses since the last Metrobuses and Olympians were retired?

  32. Anonymous says:

    @ anonymous 1327 – to be fair plenty of buses are whisked off the road at the merest hint of snow and ice these days. I was not aware bendies were any more prone to withdrawal than other types. Also thousands of the things operate in cities where winter weather is more prolonged and more severe than what we experience in London. I therefore don’t think this is a fault with the vehicle concept.

    There is nothing “London” about Alexander Dennis E400s or E200s but there are hundreds of those in service across London and no one, apart from the odd crazed bus enthusiast, is demanding their withdrawal and replacement with “custom” buses. Buses are here to carry people, they are not mobile art displays and we simply cannot afford to be trading such esoteric aspects for the integrity of the bus service itself which is what we are in grave danger of doing. I have no objection to good quality and well designed public infrastructure designed with the right long term capacity but we have to balance the priorities when money is short.

    One of the better aspects of the NB4L are its seat cushions – they are reasonably well padded. My main grouse with NB4L seating is the lower deck where legroom can be extremely poor and the rearward facing seats near the rear platform are extremely difficult to use given the proximity of the step down to the platform. I know side facing seats over wheelarches on low floor buses are difficult to achieve but I would have liked TfL to have tried. The rear side seats on a RM are ideal for short hops and pretty easy to use – in marked contrast to the NB4L.

  33. Mikey C says:

    The genesis behind the NB4L would appear to be

    1) Many people miss the Routemaster, (albeit some of them weren’t necessarily bus users) as a symbol of London
    2) Many people genuinely miss the open platform and conductor

    Hence Boris’s (successful) manifesto pledge. In addition,

    3) TfL want to speed up buses with multi door vehicles. Their first attempt was the bendibuses.

    The solution is the Borismaster
    1) Gives an ‘iconic’ vehicle for London – this isn’t to be ignored, when you consider London’s place as an international city and tourism destination
    2) Provides the open platform and conductor that many people desire
    3) Gives TfL the multi door bus they wanted

  34. Timmy! says:

    I’ll start this off to say politically I’m red (Labour) but I’m also blue (Everton) for football. Blue and red, y’see…

    As much as I’m glad we have the Routemaster heritage routes, as the bus has an iconic design, I’m pleased they’ve gone for these reasons:

    1: as I’m tall, I could only sit in a few seats comfortably and it was always awkward;
    2: as a new parent, they would have been awful for prams or the disabled;
    3: as they’re old, I presume they were bad for the environment (although presumably good to stay on the road in bad weather due to their weight but more fuel consumption)

    The NBfL has a good design and I’m pleased they’ll be owned by TfL but I don’t understand why there are two stairwells, especially if the back set of doors will be closed at times. London deserves a new iconic bus that’s predominately red, I just hope this design is fit for purpose.

    I’ve never had any issues with bendy-buses and I have cycled regularly on the routes covered by them. As others have said, thy just didn’t suit each route.

    Politically (I know!), I just want to know why the Emirates Air Line has a charge despite the fact my annual travel card covers the zones. I know it’ll be a tourist attraction for East London but with the amount saved by the corporate sponsorship, I don’t understand why I should pay more. The cable cars in New York are covered (-ish) by their version of the travel card, the Metrocard…

    But more importantly, how will Blackfriars be shown on the next TfL maps… ?! It’s got to cross the river.

  35. Rational Plan says:

    re the NB4L. I wonder how the bus will evolve. If only 600 buses are going to be on the road then that won’t cover much of London’s route network, If people really like the design they might want it all over London.

    The major cost of the bus is the hybrid engine. Despite worries about air quality I doubt hybrid buses would ever become the norm across London.

    There could be other versions of the bus, with two doors and an ordinary diesel engine (unless the cost of hybrids can be brought down).

    If a two door version was produced then much of the worries about cascading it across the country would vanish. If the rear platform is not needed in the suburbs, they could still have the new style bus. If the double staircase really works out then it may prove it’s use across the city.

  36. timbeau says:


    “3: as they’re old, I presume they were bad for the environment (although presumably good to stay on the road in bad weather due to their weight but more fuel consumption)”

    You presume wrongly –
    The comparisons in this Daily Mail article are interesting

    Weight: 7.3 tons v 11.8 tons
    Fuel consumption – 10mpg v 11.6 mpg

    The first figure is the original Routemaster !
    The RM was of aluminium construction (a technique learnt by London Transport’s bus factories during WW2 when they built Halifax bombers) and considerably lighter than many modern SINGLE deckers, let alone the NBfL behemoth. Their fuel consumption was better than many more recent types as well, especially as many of them had been re-engined in the late 90s (at some expense) with new low-emission engines for a projected fifteen to twenty years further service, timed to expire in 2017 when a 100% “accessible” fleet finally becomes mandatory.

    “accessible”= a term used by the politically correct to gloss over the fact that once you have “accessed” the vehicle, you find there are hardly any seats downstairs unless you wheel your own in!

    That expense was of course thrown away when the about-face happened: although I can understand the reasons: with the success of travelcards and Oysters the main operational disadvantage of one person operation (long dwell times at stops) had disappeared, but open platforms are incompatible with OPO.

    And some of the features of the new bus show no joined up thinking at all – why no rear window on the top deck? The first ,low floor deckers had no rear window on the bottom deck, and they had to be retro-fitted as people like to be able to see out – and in particular whether the bus they want to change to is coming up behind. Have they learned nothing?

    And who specified air conditioning in a vehicle whose main selling feature is that it is open to the outside? No wonder the thing is so noisy: it’s trying to cool the whole of London: it’s like oprating a fridge with the door open.

    I have been on one: stuffy and claustrophobic upstairs, noisy and nowhere comfortable to sit downstairs. Give me a Routemaster or a Leyland Titan any day.

    As for the cable car, it’s another vanity project: it has a surcharge on Oyster for the same reason the boats do: for all but a tiny number of people it’s not a practical means of getting about. It is quicker to get from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria by tube and DLR, changing at Canning Town, (even for the point to point trip, never mind as part of a longer journey). same with the boats: any time advantage is lost in the time taken to board and disembark.

  37. Whiff says:

    One of the reasons London spent billions of pounds was to advertise itself to the world as an attractive, modern city that people will want to come and visit. In that context spending a couple of hundred of million pounds over the odds on new buses that will act as both part of the transport infrastructure and as an iconic attraction for tourists doesn’t seem quite so egregious.

    And most readers of this website will be locals who, if they travel by bus, will use the same routes regularly and therefore know where they are going. It’s, therefore, easy to forget how re-assuring it can be for visitors to have a conductor to talk to and ask directions from while the bus is moving.

  38. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 08.38
    Noted – the web-master has done it for me.
    I would prefer to address people by NAME – even if it is a psedonym, though……
    And, Aldeham was a (almost) complete monopoly supplier/heavy maintainer of London Buses, wasn’t it?
    And the LPTB (etc) did a very good job – and this was all trown away for doctrinaire political reasons, wasn’t it?
    These are relevant historical facts, which you certainly seemed to ignore – or am I incorrect?

    Now, back to the subject ….

    Anon @ 13.27
    Wouldn’t be suprised about seats
    After all, all new train seats seem to be thin hard & hideously uincomfortable.
    Appently the excuse id “Elf’n-safety for “fire resistance” – which is total cods, because the airlines manage.
    Someone is lying & I think we should be told.

    Rational Plan
    Hyubrid engines & eletric transmissions are gaining in efficiency all the time.
    Be careful about predictions of that sort!

    Having done a quick search – the solution is obvious.
    – – – We just order up about 2000 local variants of the new Berlin double-deckers, painted RED with hybrid transmissions.
    They remind me of the much-loved Trolleybuses of my childhood – routes 559, 523, 558, 557.
    Which, remember, seated MORE people than an RM!

  39. Whiff says:

    Sorry – I meant to write that London spent billions of pounds on the Olympics!

  40. Anonymous says:

    @ Greg – your lack of apology is duly noted.

    You introduced the reference to Aldenham and the LTPB. I don’t really think they are relevant to how things are done today. It is all a bygone era that was a way of dealing with a “problem” that LT gave itself. That scale of employment and activity to maintain a bus fleet is just not appropriate these days as technology and manufacturing has moved on as has knowledge as to how and why buses and their components fail. I understand why people look back to “the good old days” with fond affection but we can’t go back no matter how much we may want to. I also don’t view the NB4L as being somehow “equivalent” to the RT or the RM no matter how convenient it is for politicians (of any hue) to dredge up history as some poor foil for their inane policies. I would prefer that they spent their time concentrating on the real nuts and bolts of transport issues and coming up with solutions and funding to give transport users across all modes improved services and infrastructure.

  41. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Yes, Anon 09:52, the comment about Aldenham is very pertinent. In between the unnecessarily acerbic comments Greg often says stuff that has merit – even if I don’t agree with him on all occasions. However, I am bit puzzled by his repeated comments on Aldenham though and not only for the reasons you give. Greg of all people must know that Aldenham was originally built as a depot for the abandoned Northern Heights tube extension. Even assuming it ever genuinely fulfilled a useful need as a bus overhaul works it was far to big for its purpose and not conveniently located. I always thought it only ever existed to cover up the embarassment of something that would otherwise be a white elephant.

    When the M1 was built and firms wanted large distribution centres near London the building changed from one looking for a sensible use to one in demand that was worth a lot of money. If they hadn’t have sold it and got a lot of money for something that was a drain on resources I would have thought that that would have been scandalous.

    In a similar way I think it is tragic that Acton Works stayed open so long. If its closure had been planned for the 1960s they would probably have built the Victoria line with 14 foot diameter tunnels. This was considered. The overall cost would have only been slightly higher, it could have kept the same alignment and the slightly larger trains would offer many other benefits of sub-surface stock (not least significantly higher capacity). Apparently the main reasons this was not pursued were the desire to be able to operate the tube stock on different lines during its lifetime (which never happened *) and the need to get to Acton Works for heavy overhaul (which became unnecessary with beefed up depots).

    * To satisfy the uber-pedants I will concede that at one stage it ran on the Central line between Woodford and Hainault but that was hardly a critical factor in the argument.

  42. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, I did know that Aldenham was originally meant for something else, and I do know that we don’t need as many people to operate those depots as we used to, and that generally, stock (& usually buses too) are more reliable, so(again) you don’t need as many warm bodies in maintenance … but.
    In spite of all that, you still need some maintenance/repair/build capacity.
    Look at the mainline railways.
    Part, or all of: Eastliegh, Ashford, Derby, Crewe, Doncaster, Wolverton, St Rollox ( & Kilmarnock) are still in operation, in spite of the apparently deliberate campaign by the civil service and their political servants (oops, shouldn’t that be masters – “Yes, minister!” ) to destroy British manufacturing capacity.

    The tube stock operating on different lines was an old policy decision, dating back to the LPTB, I think, as there were at least two really builds of stock which did this: the “standard” stock, with the motors over the end bogies, which I can just remember on the Central line, and the 1938 stock, operating on the Bakerloo & Northern lines. This had worked in the past, & there seemed good reason to continue. The present policy of having completely different, or almost-different stock for different lines is “recent”. So it wqas probably a good & apparently valid idea at the time, that turned out ot be mistaken.

    As for acerbic comments – I’ve said elsewhere, one of the things I used to do was be a teacher, which should explain a lot.

  43. Paul says:

    Just to reinforce the point I was making for those who seem to have misunderstood – this is a supposedly right-leaning mayor from a right-leaning party with a major policy that is entirely socialist in nature. I don’t necessarily object to that, but I wanted to highlight the back-to-front politics at play here.

    The fascinating thing to me is that Boris is getting away with a more leftist policy than Ken could ever have done, because as an Eton boy with right-wing credentials and the media on his side, he can spin it as “vision”, “manifesto commitment”, “strong leadership” or whatever he wants to. What’s more he’s outmanoeuvred Labour by doing so, as they’re struggling to credibly critique the policy or suggest an alternative that doesn’t sound either outlandish or wet. Say what you like about Boris and his team, but you can’t help but admire the political gameplay.

  44. Fandroid says:

    If the conductor is not going to be there on all routes all of the time, I wonder how the second staircase is justified. Presumably the rear doors will be locked when there is no conductor. Even with only two doors open I guess the second staircase helps speed disembarkation at popular destinations (Waterloo in the evening peak?). However there must be a penalty paid in terms of seating (and standing) capacity. Conductors just seem to be a form of economic madness. I cannot see them lasting more than one or two TfL financial reviews. If they put a price on it, and charged more on passengers’ Oystercards when there was a conductor on board, Boris would then genuinely see how popular the concept is ! (As everyone ignored the NB4Ls and waited for the non-iconic version following).

    The three-door Berlin double-deckers rely on trusting the passengers to have a valid ticket before boarding (like most big cities in Germany) plus a team of fairly intimidating-looking plain-clothes inspectors. However, if my memory serves me correctly, even on those buses you are expected to board at the front set of doors. I randomly wave my tickets at German bus-drivers: it normally works!

  45. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I have used the NBfL for London once. It was stuck in a traffic jam in Piccadilly so I thought I would hop off and get the tube at Green Park. “Wait until we get to the bus stop” said the ‘conductor’. “Look” said I, “the whole point of having the open platform is so that we can get off betweeen stops. Otherwise what is the point of the open platform?”. There was a confused look on the ‘conductor”s face and no reply.

  46. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to point out, that a lot of the complaints on here seem to be aimed at measures which are designed to make the transport network accessible to people with disabilities.

    It’s all very well complaining about announcements and requesting signs instead, but if you’re blind or partially sighted it doesn’t help much.

    Likewise, nostalgia for high floor buses is basically saying ‘why should wheelchair users be allowed on public transport’.

    The windows on the NBfL obviously don’t open because it’s air conditioned, which, as pointed out up-thread makes the open door incredibly stupid.

  47. Greg Tingey says:

    Paul @ 13.42
    Your analysis of Boris’ “Strategy” is very perceptive. HAs anyone else noticed, btw, the complete reversal he has executed, ’cause when he came into office, almost the first thing he did was cancel all work on tram schemes – some of which have now bee re-instated. A very quiet U-turn, there.

    & Liverpool Street exits too!

    Yup, another jobsworth about getting off & on …. pathetic, isn’t it?

    Anon @ 01.37
    Caeful that you don’t become part of the “disabilty taliban” ( Copyright Roger Ford )
    Making access for the less able is a very good aim, but making it worse for the normally able is not – & that has happened more than once. The attempt to effectively remove perfectly good rail rolling stock, because the door-buttons were 5cm too high or the in-carriage signs were 2mm too small are cases in point.
    As for “announcements” …
    If a normal person (me) is dazed, deafened & confused by the perpetual hectoring, bullying loudness of these, how do you think a blind or partially-sighted person is going to react – it will be EVEN WORSE FOR THEM than it is for someone who can rely on sight, particularly if there are 2 or 3 so-called “announcements” going on at once!
    Someone has swallowed LUL’s lies, I think?

  48. timbeau says:

    As I have pointed out before “Accessible” is no good if the thing you have accessed is unusable. The scarcity of usable seats on the lower deck of a modern bus is a disgrace. It seems the disability lobby think that everyone is eiither in a wheelchair or can use the stairs. There is a large section of the community who rely on buses but fall in the gap between these two groups.

  49. Fandroid says:

    Being bombarded by ‘security messages’ seems to be a plague of the modern world. They are just as prevalent in continental European airports as they are here. Thankfully, German trains don’t seem to be as worried about ‘people acting suspiciously’ as our own security taliban (sorry Roger) are.

    The bizarre contradictory logic of voice announcements about not leaving packages unattended seems to have escaped the above-mentioned nanny-state guardians of our travelling health. Someone with visual impairment is absolutely not going to leave their packages on a station platform and then wander off. They would risk never being able to find them again! So, permanent posters would cover the security issue perfectly well (especially for the hard of hearing!) and leave the rest of us alone.

    While appreciating that wheelchair facilities can mean a real compromise for other passengers, please don’t get too shirty about them. My wife managed to break her ankle (twice!) and as temporary chief wheelchair pusher, I can testify that it immediately becomes apparent how very hostile the physical world is to those who cannot walk.

  50. Anonymous says:

    @ Greg 0907 – I still do not see how quoting what is relevant to the *rail* industry in any way supports the use of Aldenham in the past or is relevant to my comments about the potential impact on existing, employed fleet engineers and mechanics being ousted by TfL imposing the use of Wrightbus for maintenance of the NB4L. Wrightbus have a monopoly, possibly for 14 years, and how the heck is value for money ensured in that situation? If Go Ahead or Arriva are forced to sack their engineering staff because they end up with loads of NB4Ls (quite likely given they run plenty of central London routes) then there is a cost which the taxpayer is lumbered with at the point of redundancy and then the further economic cost due to reduced consumer spending and benefits being paid out. It makes little sense to me and is another potential hidden cost of this Mayoral indulgence.

    @ Greg 0721 – I understand the comment about the tram “U turn” but I wonder if it really is one. Planning on several schemes was stopped due to “no money”. Although Boris seems to have been persuaded to resume some planning activity on manifesto schemes he has damaged what was a good continuity of work and schemes that were in the pipeline and which could have kept skilled, experienced teams together. Boris bangs on about house building and infrastructure being essential but killed off the DLR Dagenham Dock project which could have been under construction now and being opened by him before 2016. That would have been genuine legacy (for him,) for transport and for supporting further private sector investment in an area ripe for redevelopment. Such a missed opportunity and it could quite easily have been funded given how much money TfL was able to splash to get out of so many contracts and funding mechanisms it decided it did not like.

    He was forced, for obvious political reasons, to dangle some carrots about DLR and trams to the voters in outer South East London. I remain sceptical that any of these schemes will ever be funded because Boris wants government to pay and it seems we are now in “Cameron payback” mode where central government is no longer minded to play ball because Boris has been getting too big for his boots. Rumbling rumours about further rail devolution for London being “out of favour” were in the Standard just last week.

    Boris can force TfL to find £160m for buses but pleads complete poverty when it comes to GOBLIN electrification or extending the DLR to a Labour voting area in East London or running some extra buses in Peckham. I fully accept that the same criticism, of political partisanship, can be put at Ken’s door but schemes like the Overground benefit vast swathes of London as would reduced fares. I fear Boris has set back the progress of beneficial substantive rail / tram schemes by at least 10 years, if not 20.

    Oh and I note your comment about having been a teacher – not sure how this somehow “excuses” rudeness and insults and obviates the need to apologise. Did you happen to teach Richard Littlejohn, Jeremy Clarkson and Kelvin McKenzie? 🙂 [please note the smiley]

  51. Timmy! says:

    @ Timbeau – thanks for the information on the environment, very interesting. I agree with vanity project comment on the cable car despite the fact it’s fun to ride.

    With the NBfL, it should have more wheelchair space and access for those who can’t use the stairs (e.g. those with luggage, prams, everyone else who doesn’t want to sit upstairs). As I said, the bus should and has an iconic design but I don’t understand the interior design with the two sets of stairs or the three sets of doors. It seems a waste of space (and air-conditioning).

    If the two sets of staircases speed the time it takes to get off, I’d like to understand how this is better than the bendy-bus design (3 doors, no descending stairs).

    I don’t think it’s wrong to attempt to improve public transport for those who struggle with access and it’s good that TfL have issued guidance to bus drivers to assist here ( I hope that the NBfL design for large order will be reviewed to address some of the concerns raised above.

    PS thanks for the article LR writers and to ELL Driver 2 for the insight!

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 11.29
    Now, that’s more interesting!
    I agree locking Wrightbus in as a monopoly supplier might be a very bad move – we’ll have to see how it develops.
    Though using a rail analogy again, DafT have successively screwed Brit rail suppliers, because “continental” (or Japanese) suppliers are not the Brit monopoly ones – who don’t exist any more, thanks to their stupidity!
    Who else in Britain could do the job – I’m not up on bus manufacture….?
    I thnk Boris’ U-turns are simply explained – when he first came in, he was listening to Thatcherite tory policy-wonks, and followed their advice.
    Now, a full term later, he has grasped the realities of London, & what really needs to be done (Arab-fly dangleway notwithstanding) – hence also the fascinating,& to local residents amazingly annoying, internecine tory & ministerial in-fighting over GOBLIN electrification, which is just postponing this absolutely essential work even further.
    I’ve been @ Stratford & Barking recently, and the number of massive freights going onto GOBLIN is ridiculous – some are crossing from Pf10 @ Stratford, with the sig-feather showing “right round the curve” – i.e. not on to the NLL, but up to Temple Mills & presumably on to GOBLIN @ S Tottenham Jn. Boris has a point: GOBLIN is National infrastructure, where freight would benefit probably even more than the London passengers – even with the service extended at both ends, with through emu-running, so at least a sizeable slice of the money should come from DafT’s coffers.

  53. Fandroid says:

    It’s very fashionable to lock in maintenance to a supply contract involving specialist equipment. (SWT Desiros, Alstom’s Northern Line trains and West Coast Pendolinos) It firmly places the risks associated with design onto those who should be responsible, and means that bidders compete on whole-life cost, not on an illusory cheap capital cost. However, to work properly those contracts have to be for the expected lifetime of the vehicle, hence Wrightbus’s 14 year contract. The alternative is to buy proven designs and off-the-shelf products. The contract terms alone then should be enough to protect the purchaser from the consequences of unexpectedly high running costs. The latter way is almost always cheaper, unless the new design incorporates a breakthrough in fuel consumption or manufacturing techniques.

    Wrightbus are certain to have their maintenance facility in London, so the local opportunities for skilled fitters are very unlikely to be reduced (unless Wrightbus have managed a breakthrough in maintenance frequency too!). There may even be nice opportunities for a redundancy hand-out followed by a pay increase!

  54. Anonymous says:

    @ Fandroid – I agree that some TOCs / ROSCOs opt for a tied in maintenance arrangement. They can work if you can get “all the ducks in a row”. The Northern Line contract performance has been at different times OK, bloody awful and now good – I saw at first hand some of the shenanigins that went on between all of the parties and it would make your hair curl. Thank goodness everyone grew up and the incentives and joint working were all realigned so it worked. The TOCs are in a different position to TfL because they don’t own anything and only care for about 5-7 years – they have no long term view with the exception of Chiltern. The ROSCOs also struggle to take a long view too because they keep being sold by their owners and government is incapable of creating a viable rolling stock strategy that would help the ROSCOs understand the future likely earning stream for their assets. Somehow out of that mess the trains keep running but it could be much better. It will be interesting to see what approach TfL take when they get round to ordering the next lot of “Deep Tube” trains.

    TfL are taking on the ownership of these buses because there is no alternative no matter how the press release “spins” the alleged virtues of direct ownership. It is not remotely clear where the risks sit around the new bus. Who does “own” the design? Do they carry the risk if, for example, all the motors blow up and render the fleet inoperable? What warranties are there and who benefits from them? Under the bus contract regime where does the reliability and performance risk sit – with TfL, with Wrights or with the operator? If the buses are not available and the operator has to hire in buses to run a service who pays for the hire charge? At present all this is clear for conventional buses and it must be clear for the TOC’s rolling stock regime given 15 years of experience. I just hope TfL have not bought a “pig in a poke” with the NB4L.

  55. Greg T ingey says:

    “I just hope TfL have not bought a “pig in a poke” with the NB4L.”
    Don’t we all!
    Given the crap (noisy) air-con, & no opening windows, & no view out the back & the fear of jobsworths making open-platform nugatory, and no real information on reliabilty & limited downstairs seating …
    One begins to wonder, at the very least!
    I’m reminded of a description form “Hitchiker” about a car/space-ship, “….looks like a dream, sounds like s deram, handles like a cow” (or similar)
    Oh dear.

  56. Fandroid says:

    @Anonymous 09.00pm

    I fear you may be right. TfL going through the motions of a sensible contract strategy while failing to appreciate where the true risks lie. Does anyone know if Wrightbus has a big enough owner to be able to ride out any serious claims against it? (Or alternatively, big enough to hire good enough lawyers and contract specialists who can fend off any claim from TfL)

  57. Littlejohn says:

    @ Fandroid 12:09PM, 2nd October 2012
    Does anyone know if Wrightbus has a big enough owner to be able to ride out any serious claims against it? (Or alternatively, big enough to hire good enough lawyers and contract specialists who can fend off any claim from TfL)

    A good question. A quick search on Google is a bit confusing. Looking for Wrightbus leads you to Wrightbus Ltd and then on to Wright Group. From a bit more digging it seems that the controlling entity is Wrights Group Ltd (note the different spelling) which is privately/family owned. My understanding is that as a Limited Company, rather than a plc, less financial information is publicly available

  58. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that “conductor” on the NBFL telling people not to get off the open platform until a proper stop. It’s happening on the heritage routemasters as well. Conductors on the 9 are now trying to stop people going to the edge of the platform before it stops.

  59. Littlejohn says:

    @Rational Plan 09:10PM, 27th September 2012

    ‘we should take a hatchet job to London taxis, some of the most expensive in the World. There is no reason for a special cab, everywhere else just use ordinary cars’.

    This is all down to the Public Carriage Office. I’m not sure if there is still a requirement for the body to be high enough to accommodate a gentleman wearing a top hat but certainly the regulations have always specified a separate screened-off passenger area, with minimum dimensions, and a 25-foot turning circle. This is achieved on the Mercedes Vito by having steerable rear wheels at speeds below 10 mph. Would a normal car work in London? Personally I rather doubt it; it would lack sufficient manoeuvrability and security (for both the driver and the passenger).

    ‘There is no longer any purpose to the knowledge, everyone has SatNav’

    Yes, but taking a taxi in London, particularly for visitors, is about more than just giving a destination. Taxi drivers need to be able to interpret vague descriptions and act as amateur guides. SatNav is not as efficient as it could be anyway – mine defaults to giving directions by 1. Motorways 2. Dual carriageways 3. Other main roads. Not the quickest or most efficient way across London.


    I agree with Rational Plan’s views but I will keep my own comments back for the promised Borismaster post.

    Sorry to be a bit late with this but I have been away for a couple of weeks and still trying to catch up.

  60. Ian says:

    On taxis: Nissan have been promoting their NV200 minivan for London use. Presumably it meets the requirements as it is meant to be available from next year. The same vehicle is about to become the standard taxi for New York – so much for an iconic image and civic pride…

  61. Guano says:

    Are we ever going to find out the unit price of a NBfL?

  62. Transport morski z Szanghaju says:

    I wish public transport in the place where I live were as well organized as in London… Too bad that in Poland it’s not possible…

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