TfL have released a press release confirming that Route 24 (Hampstead Heath – Pimlico) will be the first London bus route to be fully served by the New Bus for London. Although actual timings are yet to be clarified, it is intended that the route be fully converted by the end of summer 2013.

It will not be the first time that a hybrid has graced the route, as the 24 was used to trial Enviro 400H hybrids back in 2008. The route has also had an on-again-off-again relationship with Routemasters, to which the NBfL is claimed to be a spiritual heir. These featured intermittently on the route until one person operation (OPO) was finally introduced in 1986. The announcement also comes shortly after the route switched operators, with Metroline having recently won the contract back from Go Ahead (who originally replaced Metroline as route operator back in 2007).

So far, the NBfL has been confined solely to limited service on route 38 and a brief day in service on route 23A (the “Imber Bus”). Fulfilling the entire service pattern of the 24 will thus arguably mark the first true test of the bus, something that both its supporters and opponents will now doubt watch with great interest.

Edited to add:

Leon Daniels has just given a bit more background on how the services will be staffed on his personal blog. The key information:

As currently on route 38, buses will run in crew operation mode during the day and with only the driver in the evenings. The existing prototype vehicles will continue to operate on route 38.

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There are 237 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    Metroline actually took over the service in late 2012 with a fleet of new Euro V standard Volvo diesels and the first 5 Volvo B5L hybrids for the Metroline fleet. It will be something of a record to see brand new buses displaced within 6 months by another fleet of brand new buses. This is even faster than the recent move of Volvo hybrids to replace newish diesels on the 73 and soon on the 29.

  2. John Bull says:

    I stand corrected – my mistake. I’d got it in my head that they only took it on in January this year, for some reason. I should have double checked.

    And yes. We’re replacing hybrids with hybrids.

    “Hmmmm” is all I think it’s safe for me to say about that.

  3. Jeanpierre says:

    There must be something about Route 24 – I can remember it being the route of choice when LT introduced the ‘experimental’ XA type Leyland Atlantean front entrance double-deckers in 1965. Makes me feel old!

  4. John Bull says:

    I can just about remember it having green buses on it back in the 80s!

  5. timbeau says:

    Typical – you wait ages for a new London Reconnections article and then two come at once!

    According to the oracle on these matters Route 24 first saw Routemasters when it converted from RTWs at the end of 1963, and had them until 1986 except for seven months in 1965/66 (XA Atlanteans) and three and a half years in the late ’70s (DM class). The “Green” buses which worked from 1988 onwards wereoperated by Grey Green (later part of the Cowie group – now Arriva) and were in fact predominantly grey (with a bit of orange as well as green).

    Whether the choice of such an obvoiusly private-enterprise operator for a route passing through Parliament Square was a policitcal statement, who can say? The fact that it was also the route used by the (old-Labour) former Leader of the Opposition to commute to Parliament would have just rubbed it in.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The 24 has not only had the daliance with Atlanteans in the 60s but the prototype Leyland Titan ran on the route in late 70s / early 80s. It then went crew again with RMLs after Fleetlines ran on it. Then it went OPO and as already mentioned was the first “high profile” non red liveried tendered route in Central London. It then see-sawed between Metroline and London General each time it was tendered. Strange to think it will be going “crew” again in 2013 (daytimes only, it’ll be driver operated in the evening according to the Leon Daniels blog).

  7. muthecow says:

    The “Green” buses which worked from 1988 onwards wereoperated by Grey Green (later part of the Cowie group – now Arriva) and were in fact predominantly grey (with a bit of orange as well as green).

    Of little interest to anyone, but my two cents – I have a fond memory of walking along the north side of Green Park as a child with my parents admiring the artists and their works. One of them had a painting of Parliament Square with a bright red bus and said I could have the painting if I could point out what was wrong with it. I looked at it for a while, but to no avail – it turns out it was a 24 that the artist had painted red rather than its real colours of grey/green as he thought it looked better!

  8. Greg Tingey says:

    Where will the displaced hybrids be going to?
    Quite frankly, the more hybrid buses we can get as soon as possible, the better (replacement costs allowing, of course).

    Which reminds me of another ancient thread.
    How long to a decent hybrid London Taxi, given that they can be made car-size & bus-size?

  9. Fandroid says:

    Apropos of nothing much. I had my first ride on a hybrid bus recently (no 42 in Manchester). I didn’t realise it when I got on, and went into grumpy mode when the engine cut out at the next bus stop. I thought the driver was stopping for a smoke! Then it lurched off silently and I thought it was running away out of control. They should put us passengers on a training course.

  10. Anonymous says:

    1. Please, please, not “trialled”. Delete “all” and you get the real word, “tried”. You’ll be going on about London’s railroads next.

    2. Hybrid and electric vehicles are a silent menace to us dozy pedestrians. They should be required to make a noise when under electric power. I suggest the whine of an electric motor combined with the rattle of empty glass bottles in metal crates.

    3. muthecow – IIRC, the Grey Green Scanias from the 24 were all repainted red for rail replacement work during a prolonged closure of the Bakerloo Line.

  11. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 11.46
    So, you are not in favour of trolleybuses then?
    They used to be almost totally silent – even the big 6-wheel London ones – all you could hear was the tyre noise!
    And, of course, they carried more people than an RM, grump …..

  12. Tim Burns says:

    I do remember the Grey Green operation. They had some double decks converted from single decks on this route. These could be easily spotted as the rear wheels were at the back with no overhang – in those days double decks were not legally allowed to be as long as singles. Was a pleasing livery, albeit in the wrong setting.

  13. JimJordan says:

    This takes me back a bit. If my memory serves me right the RM vs XA trial started with the Routemasters at Chalk Farm (CF) and the Atlanteans at Tottenham (AR). I was delegated to oversee the engineering side of things. The Atlanteans were a load of trouble. Leyland came out with their line “no-one else has this trouble” (I found they used this with all their customers which is why they lost out on the world markets). Eventually they sent down an engineer and I took him out on a service run from Tottenham. After a while he said “I have never seen traffic conditions like this” and Leyland lent us a fitter to help out! Happy days. That was why the Routemaster was worth £10,000 against the £7,500 of a provincial bus. I hope the NBFL is as successful.

    BTW I cannot agree with [email protected] about trolleybuses. If you are going to cross a road then look as well as listen. I don’t think the RML carried less that a Trolleybus but it was allowed only two axles. Lousy acceleration though!

  14. timbeau says:

    Most London Trolleybuses seated seventy – the SA types (orders intended for South Africa but diverted because of the lack of shipping during the war) took 72.

    Did the Grey-Green re-bodied coaches work on the 24? i recall them usually working the 188, although I understand they were first used on the 141.

  15. Valentine says:

    There’s an unusually long gap between the stop just before Victoria station, and the next stop in Pimlico. It’ll be interesting to see how they manage the safety aspect of passengers jumping off between these stops, especially tourists who weren’t aware they’ve missed the station and don’t want to be carried away into Pimlico.

    It will be very useful for the locals though, the kind of situation where the platform comes into its own. Granted, not everyone is fit enough to use the platform in this way I admit, but I for one am happy.

    Now if they could just build in some windows for some proper fresh air that would be grand.

    Side-point: I wonder if the useful hop-on hop-off aspect of the bus might impact on casual Barclays Bike use in the central areas?

  16. Lew Finnis says:

    I well remember the first day of the XAs on 24. I was a student in London at that time and decided to go into town for the day to see how things were going. The most amusing aspect was the confusion on the faces of would-be passengers who went towards the back to get on! I also seem to recollect seeing one broken down at the Pimlico terminus.

  17. Littlejohn says:

    There is an excellent picture of LT1 alongside Sir Peter Hendy’s own RM1005 at Imber on the 23A last year on Leon Daniel’s blog:

  18. Littlejohn says:

    On trolleybuses (and off-topic but picking up previous posts). I remember as a young bus spotter you could always tell if one was coming, even if you couldn’t see it, by putting your ear against the traction standard. The swish of the skates over the wires was amplified.

    Most has a seating capacity of 70 but classes B1 – B3 only seated 60 (if I remember correctly, stated to be for use on Anerley and Highgate Hills but also used elsewhere). Interestingly, my 1958 ABC of LT Vehicles says class D2 seated 69 but this could well be wrong as it also says bodywork was by Leyland but in fact the order was reassigned to MCW due to delivery delays.

  19. bobanobjob says:

    Valentine refers to ‘the useful hop-on hop-off aspect….’. Whenever, I attempt to ‘hop-off’ – I use the 38 from Victoria to Piccadilly, and back, daily – I get told to stand inside the bus and not on the platform by the off duty driver. Obviously, you’re only meant to ‘hop-on’. Recently, with the cold weather, every NBFL going up/down Piccadilly had the rear platform door shut. The bendy-buses were retired owing to fare dodging, but there wouldn’t have been any fare dodging had they had a two-man crew. Money down the drain.

  20. Littlejohn says:

    I have been looking at the specs for the Borismaster and the other hybrids in London. Different operators may specify slightly different fixtures and fittings but broadly:

    The ADL Enviro 40H is 10.2 m long, seats 61 and weighs 11900 kg. The Volvo B5LH /Wright Gemini 2 is 10.5 m long, seats 60 and weighs 11911 kg. The NB4L is 11.3 m long, seats 62 and weighs 12650 kg. The NB4L can also accommodate 15 standing. I’m not sure about the others but I suspect they can take more standing, as they weigh less to start with.

    So we have a bus that is bigger, weighs more, costs more to operate and probably has less overall capacity. It is known that NB4L has been put on a crash diet but also that the others are being redesigned as part of the Euro 6 programme so NB4L is likely to remain the one that is bigger, weighs more, costs more to operate etc.

    What a pity you can’t even trust Boris not to keep his election promises.

  21. peezedtee says:

    “The bendy-buses were retired owing to fare dodging” — That wasn’t the reason, that was just one of the excuses used. The actual reason was pure irrational prejudice on the part of B. Johnson, one of a number of absurd bees in his bonnet.

  22. tog says:

    …although Mr B. Johnson wouldn’t have been able to do any of that had he not been elected with a manifesto containing that actual policy. So any irrational prejudice (if that’s what it was) also lies elsewhere.

    For the reasons highlighted in JimJordan’s RM/XA post I do think London is more than deserving of having its own bus. Whether NB4L is that bus remains to be seen, but as a regular user of a former bendy route (73) I definitely (and I hope not irrationally) prefer the current double deckers to the Citaros. Pure stats have a part to play, but if the man (or woman) on the Clapham (or Hackney) omn(ew)bus finds a particular vehicle more attractive or comfortable then that should not be overlooked as a factor either.

  23. peezedtee says:

    I am also a regular user of former bendy routes (12 and 453). I see no evidence that people generally prefer the double-deckers that have replaced the bendy buses. Many people clearly dislike them because they for various reasons do not want to, or simply physically cannot, go “upstairs” and yet there is nothing like enough room enough on the lower deck.
    See and

  24. Fandroid says:

    Bendy buses are quasi-trams in that they allow very rapid loading and unloading, and more room for the ubiquitous buggies and pushchairs. The London bus mentality of not trusting everyone (anyone) to have a valid ticket/card is probably the real reason for killing them off. If they designed the routes in much the same way as they would design a tram route (gentle turns, segregated right-of-way as much as possible, priority at lights), I’m sure they would get most of the tram benefits from bendy buses at a much lower price than trams (or NBfLs).

  25. jungle says:

    Jeanpierre: “There must be something about Route 24”

    It goes past Parliament, right through the centre, and through Camden, Primrose Hill, Hampstead…

    Given the NBfL was primarily aimed at getting Boris elected, it’s hardly surprising that they want a successful impression to be projected to residents of the most prosperous/trendy parts of the capital – they want senior media figures, senior politicians and senior civil servants to see this thing regularly and think they’re everywhere now.

    It’s all about PR… (or am I being too cynical?)

  26. Anonymous says:

    I think you’re spot on. Boris took the NBL to Bromley High Street to capture the imagination of weekday daytime shoppers there. He knew most would never get the opportunity to regularly ride one. Those same shoppers probably hated the bendy buses too despite rarely getting close to one.

  27. Taz says:

    Surely double-deck makes best use of limited and expensive road space in London. Perhaps all vehicles should be double-deck! If ‘bendy buses’ are practical on some routes, they should still be double-deck. Longer distance travellers can climb the stairs to sit in comfort whilst short distance travellers stand below near the doorways, with some seats for the less able.

  28. Anonymous says:

    A double deck bendy bus, now there IS an idea.

  29. bobanobjob says:

    As Fandroid states, they were ‘quasi-trams’. I get the impression that Taz never regularly used a bendy-bus. Quick loading/unloading, quick acceleration they were (still should be) the future of bus travel – especially in South London with its straight wide radial roads. Getting home on a late Saturday night was a breeze on a bendy bus.

    Sorry Taz but do you frequently travel by bus? Once upon a time folk did go upstairs as a matter-of-course (in the old days to have a ciggy), but nowadays everyone, young or old, hogs downstairs. I’m often finding myself barging past people only to climb the stairs to an almost deserted upper deck. The best is when you get arguments between lazy parents with an uncollapsed baby buggy the size of a Hummer moaning how inconvenienced they are when a wheelchair user wishes to board and use the same space – one benefit of the bendy-bus with its oodles of open space.

    Intelligent usage of buses has long disappeared, along with queuing at bus stops and only having to ring the bell for request stops – why does TfL still persist with differentiating between request stops and mandatory stops when not one of its bus drivers understands what the difference is? – Although I well remember, in my youthful past, having to dive in front of a Dulwich/Anerley 12, to get it to stop, as it overtook a Peckham 12 at a bus stop. Another retrograde step is the abolishing of – in central London – having to purchase a single ticket before you got on board. The amount of times, recently since the change, I’ve seen arguments with travellers with a note and drivers saying they don’t have the change, is crazy – and time sapping.

    Btw can the ‘dummy’/off-duty driver on the rear platform of a NBFL sell tickets or are they totally useless/a waste of space/a waste of money?

  30. Anonymous says:

    @ Jungle – you are being too cynical. I suggested something similar to you on a discussion group and promptly had my statements completely rejected by a very senior person in TfL. The points made (“for the history books”) were that the 24 was chosen because Metroline had given TfL a good deal for running the 24 with NB4Ls. The 24 was also chosen because there are air pollution benefits to be gained along its corridor and the recently delivered route 24 buses will be cascaded to other Metroline routes where their better environmental performance will also bring benefits. Finally Metroline are performing very well and were very positive about being the first operator of a fully converted NB4L service. In short they’re a good partner for TfL for a high profile initiative.

    @ bobanobjob – there is now no difference between red and white bus stop flags. Bus drivers are supposed to stop at any stop where people are waiting regardless of whether it has a red or white flag. This instruction is in the “Big Red Book” given to all drivers. Passengers should always ring the bell to alight from a bus. Red stop flags will be replaced with white flags but only when a red flag requires replacement. There is no “conversion programme” for red stop flags.

    On the NB4L the “conductor” simply manages the rear platform to ensure safety. There are no revenue responsibilities. Drivers on the NB4L are able to sell tickets at all “non cashless zone” stops. In the near future it is expected that TfL will remove the cashless zone in Central London meaning drivers can sell cash fares at all stops in that area. The roadside machines will be removed. There was a consultation on this last year.

  31. Greg Tingey says:

    bob&ajob @ 22.56
    “…South London with its straight wide radial roads. ”
    Presumably this is in some alternate Universe to this one?
    I still remember trying (repeatedly) to get to/from Banstead from Walthamstow, by car, 1962-3 …….
    [ No Victoria Line, remember & the hospital @ Banstead is inconvenient, to say the least from the Epsom Downs service…..]
    “….but nowadays everyone, young or old, hogs downstairs”
    Not, if you use a bus anywhere between Liverpool Street & Borough, as I do fairly often ….(or anwhere in Zone 1 for that matter)

    Anon @ 00.23″…In short they’re a good partner for TfL for a high profile initiative”
    Translation: The quiet backhanders were easier to manipulate …
    I also note that Boris took the NB4L to where … BROMLEY! … and elsewhere we are discussing that borough’s total failure where real public transport is concerned, were we not?
    No, I’m afraid Jungle isn’t cynocal enough, yet.

  32. bobanobjob says:

    @Anonymous 12:23.

    “On the NB4L the “conductor” simply manages the rear platform to ensure safety. There are no revenue responsibilities”.

    I think ‘off-duty driver’ is a better term. When the Johnson Jalopies were first imposed on the 38 I chatted with the ‘extra passenger’ who informed me that he too was a driver and that they changed places at the terminus etc – the only beneficial reason for having a crew of two. Maybe, having seen the cost reality, TfL now allow cheaper unskilled people to ‘ride’ on the rear platform.

    Regarding ‘no revenue responsibilities’. You are quite simply wrong. One can only enter via the front or rear doors, NOT via the centre door. The flunky on the rear platform will demand to see your ticket: I first discovered this when I jumped aboard one and headed upstairs (said flunky was standing on the platform chatting with someone from within the lower deck). Once seated I had the useless individual shouting at me from below demanding that I come downstairs and show him my ticket – I was completely unaware that unlike the Routemasters where the conductor did patrol the lower and upper decks, on the Johnson Jalopies the extra passenger was super-glued to the platform.

    This begs the question of why, if on the NBFL there has to be someone permanently stuck onto the platform for H&S reasons this doesn’t apply to the still running Routemasters on the ‘heritage’ routes 9 and 15 where the conductor walks around the bus checking tickets? Also, if you are correct that the rear platform operative will not take on ticket selling duties I can’t wait for next summer when innocent foreign tourists with little English reasonably attempt to buy a ticket from him/her (in a tourist’s eyes: ‘what else can he/she be there for?’) and then have to be told that they have to go to the front – heaven help them if they walk through the bus follow his pointed finger and just sit down. Thanks TfL. It might take longer to get to my destination but at least I might have a chuckle.

    Regarding signage: If there is no longer any differentiation between what was a mandatory stop and a request stop, why doesn’t TfL simply go around and cover up the redundant signs with sticky plastic film printed with the official signage? TfL can afford to hire BJ’s mate, and political comrade, Andrew Gilligan as cycling czar at the cost of £90k pro rata. According to Wikipedia it cost an additional £12.6M to replace the Citaros. Ripping out all the ticket machines at bus stops is going to cost a sum. How much can it cost to send a team around town, late at night putting stickers over some signage?

    Regarding the removal of ticket machines from bus stops: Just because there was a ‘consultation’ doesn’t mean that this isn’t a retrograde step.

  33. Bobanobjob says:

    Greg Tingey @ 08:04

    ‘Presumably this is in some alternate Universe to this one?’

    Dunno, but compared to the meandering gullies that constitute most of the road network of North London – the Edgware and Kingsland roads being notable exceptions – the roads of South East London (my neck of the woods) seem like veritable Parisian boulevards! 🙂

  34. Fandroid says:

    I think the answer concerning use of limited road-space is that the rapid loading/unloading of bendy-buses means that they clogged the road a lot less than double-deckers because they spent less time stationary at stops (for the same number of passengers). I think the idea of eliminating the cashless zone is just plain crazy, together with the NBfL platform rider not selling tickets. Obviously red buses are just regarded as a London icon not a serious transport system, and their sponsors/political masters never intend to travel on them.

    What does candidate Wolmar say on this subject?

  35. Fandroid says:

    By the way, the relatively modest-sized German university town of Tubingen has ticket machines on the buses as well as at major stops. Is London too proud to take on this idea?

  36. Anonymous says:

    @ bobanojob – we have clearly had different experiences of the NB4L. The bus is open boarding for Oyster users so I am not “clearly wrong”. Please see this official TfL info –

    I have not used the NB4L very much but have never seen the “conductor” enforce revenue issues or shout at anyone in terms of ticketing. I have seen them stop people standing on the rear platform or even waiting to come down the rear staircase. My most recent trip was on a wintry Sunday and there was no one on the rear platform as the bus was working in OPO mode. People boarded and alighting via all doors at stops. Arriva have used spare drivers on the 38 but I do not see that as being a tenable way forward once more vehicles are on the road. We shall see what happens and whether the bus companies advertise for extra crew.

    I think Mr Gilligan is a direct City Hall employee and not a TfL one AFAIK. The Mayor is answerable as to whether this turns out to be a “value for money” appointment.

    I offered no comment about the value or otherwise of roadside ticket machines. It is my understanding that the necessary software change to drivers ticket machines (to allow them to issue tickets in the cashless area) was made months ago and some roadside machines have already been removed.

  37. Bobanobjob says:

    @Anonymous 10:21

    Sorry, I should have pointed out, in my experience of being told to come back down to show the flunky my pass, that I always buy a paper ticket travelcard – too many bad experiences of the vagaries in using Oyster (yes it’s quaint but there aren’t any arguments with a permit to travel with a clear expire date on it). Therefore, I jumped aboard and went upstairs. Not hearing the required beep of an Oystercard, I got shouted at (he was downstairs and wasn’t moving from his sentry post and I upstairs) to return to the platform – but I cite this merely as proof that the bus employee riding on the back platform does have ‘revenue responsibilities’, contrary to your post at 12:23.

  38. Stationless says:

    There has been much comment on the “cashless zone” on buses, but what about this idea for a truly cashless zone across London (it’d certainly solves the fare-dodging problem).

  39. Stationless says:

    I should just admit that I got a bit too excited by this idea and didn’t consider the potential confusion for tourists. 🙂

  40. Anonymous says:

    @ bobanobjob – we clearly have different views and experiences of the NB4L. My comments are based on what TfL themselves say. Anyone with an Oyster can board via any door. Paper ticket holders that require a visual check or a chit handed over (yes the old Saver tickets can still be used) must use the front door with the driver doing the check. The conductor you experienced was perhaps being a bit more zealous than normal. I’ve certainly never seen a NB4L conductor go yelling after people boarding via the middle door.

    Having used the NB4L on the 38 in the PM peak it is impossible for the conductor to see what is going on at the centre door or even to move down the bus to see. TfL have not designed the bus or its capacity to allow for a roaming conductor to do ticketing duties. The NB4L prototypes currently only have a capacity of 77, 10 less than the TfL standard for double decks. If the NB4L was to work in crew mode as Routemasters did they would need a lower standing capacity to give the conductor a chance to move around the bus. The last thing TfL are going to do is worsen the carrying capacity by restricting standees to something like 8 or 10 people. The production NB4Ls are supposed to be lighter to allow the TfL standard to be achieved. They aren’t going to restrict capacity on those either!

  41. Mikey C says:

    From personal experience, the upstairs seats on double deckers are well used, especially during the rush hour, where funnily enough people actually prefer to sit down for 30 minutes rather than stand downstairs. Indeed, there are often disappointed passengers who climb the stairs, and then have to go down again because there are no seats available. Even on the back seat.

    Bendies are in no way compatible to trams. Trams are smooth, especially modern ones, and standing on them is fairly pleasant, whereas standing on a bendy my memory is of being flung around, the lack of seats and the poor view out. A lot of the seats were nausea inducing backwards ones too…

  42. bobanobjob says:

    @Anonymous. Thanks for the link to TfL’s NBFL page. You say we have different views…. (perhaps so), what’s worrying is that what TfL states on its NBFL page differs from that of the actions of its functionaries, e.g., ‘Conductors will not collect fares but will supervise the rear platform when they are on board, ensuring passenger safety when hopping on OR OFF….’ even you have admitted, ‘I have seen them stop people standing on the rear platform or even waiting to come down the rear staircase’, which compounds my experiences of going onto the platform before jumping off only to be lectured about how I shouldn’t be standing on the platform – it’s nice to take a few moments to check that the coast is clear before hopping off rather than blindly diving out into the traffic.

    Re: the checking of tickets. Yep, you’re correct the webpage apparently instructs that those with non-Oyster seasons, be it weekly, monthly or even Gold Card, should only enter via the front/driver door: ‘Passengers with a pre-paid ticket or Travelcard must use the front door and show these to the driver.’

    Ha ha ha! ‘Sorry sir, you might be a holder of a pass, costing over one thousand pounds, that allows you to enter any TfL vehicle for a whole year in zones 1,2 and 3 but because it is printed on card and isn’t made of plastic and a makes an annoying beep you cannot hop on this stationary bus at these traffic lights. Please make your way to the nearest bus stop!’. Which idiot of a pen pusher at a desk in Blackfriars Road made up this stupid rule? I certainly won’t be abiding by it. I don’t pay TfL over a thousand pounds a year to be discriminated against.

    Maybe it’s my fault but you’ve misunderstood my experience: I jumped on the back platform and sped upstairs to take my seat – unaware that the guy standing on the platform did nothing else but stand on the platform – this was my first occasion of ‘hopping on’ the back platform. He didn’t come ‘yelling’ after me because he would’t leave his spot. He had to shout otherwise I wouldn’t have heard him – I was upstairs and he was stuck to his spot downstairs. The irony is that he told me to come downstairs onto the platform to show him my ticket (the bus was moving and the back door open) – this contrasts with my other experiences of being told to get off the platform and get back inside the bus whilst the bus has been moving – something you’ve witnessed yourself. This is simply kafkaesque.

    My initial point was that the Citaros were made redundant (at considerable cost) partly owing to the campaign against them because of fare dodging, yet had they had a costly two-man crew as the NBFL does – one of whom seems virtually redundant this wouldn’t have been an argument. (re: ‘redundant’, see my comparison with the still running RMs on routes 9 and 15 – if the conductor can walk around the bus checking tickets on a route 9 or 15 Routemaster and leave the platform unsupervised why is it deemed necessary that the NBFL have, what is nothing more than, a Health and Safety officer permanently and immovably stationed on its rear platform?

    Boris Johnson is currently proposing cuts to the London fire service, his political allies in national government are enforcing swinging cuts to services (rightfully or wrongfully is immaterial) across the nation, fares are raised yet again when many people have foregone a rise in salary for several years yet aforementioned mayor is able to find the necessary money to staff his vanity project. It is simply immoral. (Apologies to the blogmeisters for the political rant – I tried to keep it non-partisan).

    Thanks for the chat anyway.

  43. Sunny Jim says:

    I agree that the NBfL is an expensive vanity project, but I have to admit that it is a prestige vehicle and on my travels on route 38 I’ve heard a lot of spontaneous positive feedback from passengers. Also, I think the concept of a three-door, two-staircase double decker was worth trying out to speed dwell times.
    Has TfL done any scientific measurement or modelling of the NBfL’s dwell time at stops compared with standard buses? (I’ve read how Blackpool Transport carried out timed experiments with dozens of students boarding/alighting trams and buses with different door layouts under test conditions around 1980.) Perhaps the cynic would say there’s no need for such a test with the NBfL as it’s a politically driven project rather than a serious solution to speeding up services.
    I would also add that achieving a three-door, two-staircase, hybrid, low-floor double decker with roughly the same seating capacity as a standard vehicle is quite a technical achievement, even allowing for the increased length and weight. Low-floor double-deck design has come a long way since the first DLAs that had only four seats in the low-floor section and steps halfway along the gangway.

    Re bus stops: I am astonished to hear that the distinction between compulsory and request stops has been abolished. How can such a major change be brought in without telling the public? Learning that you need to signal a bus to stop at a request stop but not a compulsory one was one of the most basic rules I picked up when I started using buses as a child, and is deeply ingrained in me.
    In recent months I have several times nearly missed a bus because the driver was not planning to stop at a compulsory stop, and had to flag it down at the last minute. About a week ago, I actually missed a bus at Tooting Station because the driver sailed past when I’d expected it to stop. I can understand the desire to simplify stopping procedures, but surely somebody should have told the millions of people brought up with the old rules.

  44. bobanobjob says:

    @Sunny Jim. Hi Sunny Jim. You said you wanted a low-deck, three-doored, two-staircase, double decked hybrid? – Watch these beauties from Berlin:

    The Neoman A39/Man’s Lion City DD makes the NBFL look like a horse and cart (except the NBFL little cart needs two horses to make it go!)

    – seats: 83 + 1 (upper deck 55, lower deck 28 + 1)
    – standees: 45
    – length: 13700mm
    – height: 4060mm
    – wide: 2550mm

    – gross vehicle weight: 26000 kg (to 28000 kg possible)
    – PS / KW : 310 / 228
    – cylinder capacity: 11967 ccm
    – maximum speed: 80 km/h

  45. Sunny Jim says:

    Yes, they are quite impressive!

  46. Greg Tingey says:

    I welcome your rant (I would, wouldn’t I?)
    Agreed, but Boris was voted in, because he wasn’t Ken, because Ken had lost the plot badly.
    He was also blackmailing his “own” party, who were none too enthusiastic.
    I for one, hope Wolmayor gets nominated – that’s the diffcult bit – getting the nomination….
    If he does, then I think the actual election is a dead cert .

    Back to the plot.
    Yes the NB4L is a vanity project & it has many faults, but … we NEED a New Bus for London, just not this one!
    Previous discussions & many book etc references show that a more (first-cost) expensive “proper” London bus is actually worth it in the long run …
    As shown by the RT & RM models

    Sunny Jim
    Yes – I didn’t know about the change in stop-rules, either.

    bobanajob again …
    Trouble with those Berlin beuties is the weight, surely?
    Otherwise, can we just have some, converted to RHD off-the shelf?
    Save a lot of effort, wouldn’t it?

  47. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the MAN Lion City double decks is that they have had endemic faults causing BVG a huge amount of problems. BVG has faced chronic funding problems in recent years and has problems in its bus maintenance capability. In complete contrast to London, Berlin has now decided to go only for standard buses and has even rationalised its livery to reduce costs. I am not sure if their decision means the end of double deckers for Berlin service but given the lack of alternative models I would not be surprised to see a switch to single deck and articulated vehicles. While I would not be averse to Lion Citys running in London I believe they are now out of production so there is no prospect of them ever running here.

    I am slightly loathe to revisit the bendy bus debate because it generates severe reactions from people. I am broadly supportive of them because of the level access, huge capacity and enhanced buggy carrying ability. I can understand why people get wound up by them. What we had in London is an irrational campaign with odious political connotations to discredit a perfectly decent bus design in order to thereby discredit a Mayor. We got the change in Mayor and now we have another bus design which I rather suspect will, alongside the Dangleway and Cycle Hire, be the only vaguely memorable aspects of Mr Johnson’s time as London Mayor.

    It is just another variant of strange decisions that have afflicted London’s transport for many decades where we go from one “fad” to another. The NB4L is the latest episode in that long story. Whether London really needs a custom designed bus is open to debate. Most manufacturers already design their vehicles to a London spec because the tendering system & TfL’s standards are the things that drive new bus purchases. The main issue, though, is that London’s spec is “over the top” for all of the big groups and cascaded vehicles have to have doors and equipment ripped out before they can be used! I don’t disagree with the comments about the operating concept for the NB4L or the lack of logic therein. I think we need to remember that TfL had to have the rear platform and then work on from there. This, of course, is the wrong way to design a bus for gruelling London service in the 21st Century but that’s politicians for you.

  48. Jim says:

    Only having anon’s advice to go on that the request/compulsory distinction has now disappeared, I did a quick Google to check. Here’s the proof.

  49. Mikey C says:

    As a Londoner why should I care that our buses aren’t ideal for the big groups? They get good money to run buses in London, what they do elsewhere is their problem! It’s not as if London will exclusively buy NBfLs, so there will be other vehicles to cascade.

    Surely, having our own transport authority, under the leadership of the Mayor, speccing our vehicles is a good thing, after all isn’t the complaint about the 2009 Victoria Line trains that they are too off the shelf, due to the PPP scheme, with little TfL input. Would we want decisions on buses and trains in London left to the likes of the First Group?

    Public transport in London is too important to be left to unelected officials, deciding what’s best for us. Whether right or wrong, the NBfL and removal of the bendies had a democratic mandate, as a key part of the Boris manisfesto (unlike say the cable car).

    As for Berlin, I’m sure ADL or Wright will happily sell them some of our double decker buses – ADL sell LHD E500s to the US and Canada after all. Or how about a LHD version of the Borismaster 🙂

  50. Anonymous says:

    @ Mikey C – the big groups already decide what buses to buy as they take the risk, under the contract with TfL, for performance, fuel economy etc. These factors, including purchase price / lease cost and residual value, all factor into the contract price that TfL pays out. TfL just says what capacity it wants and what broad bus type – midibus, double deck etc.

    TfL deciding to buy a custom bus for London turns the economics of all of this on its head. As things stand we have no idea whatsoever what risks exist with the NB4L design – it may be fantastic value for money and hugely reliable over its life or it may turn out to be hugely expensive, unreliable and plagued with unique faults. We do not know where the financial upside or downside sits – with TfL, with Wrightbus or with the operators?

    The problem with TfL buying unique products is that it locks in cost over the typically long life of transport assets and can make upgrades hugely expensive if you are locked into a sole manufacturer. Unique designs may leave transport enthusiasts with a warm glow but they can leave fare and taxpayers with a large bill.

    And as for LHD Borismasters for Berlin – been done already 🙂

    And a special version for Megabus 🙂

  51. Greg Tingey says:

    Anon @ 19.37
    I’m not sure if you posting is some sort of joke, a deliberate deception or out-&-out fraud.
    Not amusing, actually.
    BOTH of those “pictures” carry the small warning label …
    This image is computer generated

    & are you Keith McGillivray? If so I claim my £5 …..

  52. Fandroid says:

    The true Berlin buses look significantly lower than the fake Borismeister. Would it clip a few cables and lamp standards?

  53. Anonymous says:

    @ Greg – oh do lighten up. Of course they are fake. I put the smileys at the end of each link for a reason. And I am not the producer of those images so no £5 notes heading your way. I thought people might enjoy seeing them as a bit of amusement. I must remind myself that no humour is allowed.

  54. Slugabed says:

    Just out of interest:
    Looks more “provincial” than a proper Routemaster,though….

  55. Greg Tingey says:

    Sorry – the “smileys” passed me by – or rather I misinterpreted them …
    I thought someone was showing that it was perfectly pssible to use a Borismaster, & what was the fuss about – so hence the smileys.
    These things are definitely open to mis-interpretation!

  56. Mikey C says:

    Anon 7.37pm
    Surely the same could be said about the London bendies? The rest of the country isn’t exactly crying out for Citaro artics, as shown by the lack of takers for them. For interest why were all the bendies Citaros, was it TfL that wanted them, rather than Volvos or Scanias, or the big groups?

    The NBfL may or not be the right bus for London, but if it successful and a quality product, it should be able to stay in London all its life. yes there’s a risk, but then there’s a risk in buying off the shelf, e.g. the various problem Optare buses, the Volvo B7s with their roaring engines/fans…

    I suggested above that Berlin should buy some British buses, and look likes they’ve already gone for the ADL E500…

    🙂 (smiley for Greg)

  57. Leon Daniels says:

    TfL did not specify Citaro, it specified artics. The operators made their choices. Separately.

    In my days at First we came close to ordering Scania artics for 18 and 207. Indeed I visited the production facility.


  58. Barry Arnold says:

    As MD for Stagecoach in London at the time I can confirm that we ordered Citaros for three main reasons . One they were good value for money, two the quality of the build and three (perhaps most importantly for us) they could be delivered on time. Without wishing to open the articulated bus debate I think London lost the best passenger mover it ever had in recent times.

  59. John Chilvers says:

    This is in response to Littlejohn at 10.01 28th January 2013 and your off topic comment about seating capacities of trolleybuses.

    The D class were numbered from 384 to 553 and were delivered from April 1936 to November 1937. The class was sub divided into D1 384 Leyland body, D2 385 to 483 MCCW body, D3 494 to 553 BRCW body. Trolleybuses 484 to 493 were B1 and B3 classes.

    In the late 1930s most D2s and all the D3s were altered from half cab to full cab design: however, weight constraints meant that the D2s had to be down-seated from 70 to 69. These were the only trolleybuses dealt with in this way with the revision being achieved by replacing the rear offside upper deck rear seat by a single one. Two trolleybuses did not need to be rebuilt and seated 70 throughout their lives; 445 had been constructed to a more satisfactory and sturdier design in the first place (and kept its half cab layout until withdrawal) while 483 was delivered with a full-cab layout.

    The above paragraph is taken from The Capital Transport book ‘London Trolleybuses a class album’.

    I grew up on the 630 trolleybus route (a Hammersmith Depot route which had Ds) and remember travelling on 445 sitting on the seat facing the driver with two of my brothers. It was in the front left hand corner of the vehicle. The vehicle was withdrawn in April 1959 and as I was born less than 3 1/2 years earlier, it is one of my earliest memories. The aforementioned book has a picture of this seat on page 26.


  60. JM says:

    I think the NB4L is great although I thought they might put a grille at the front as a nod to an RM. Given some of the argument about specifying your own buses, what are the costs between N4BL and the FTR?

    If the capacity on 3 door buses is a constraint relative to other models, is there no reason why you could not have a tri axle version? Or any other standard DD as used in HK/Singapore?

  61. Anonymous says:

    Route 24 will be fully served with NB4L from June 2013 at 30 vehicles and i know this because i looked at the website and im quite clever with buses and i heard there will actually make a total of 93 from 2013, 200 from 2014 and 250 from 2015 and another route will be converted by august 2013, i hope route 73 will be fully served with NB4L by august but im not sure but they will get rid of bendy buses to NB4L i guess.

  62. timbeau says:

    Anon 0800 – Where have you been? The last London bendybus ran, on route 207, at the end of 2011.

    I’ve been on an NB4L – I’m in no hurry to repeat the experience

  63. stimarco says:

    @Barry Arnold: I’d doff my hat to you, sir, if I wore one. The Citaros were a good choice.

    As a frequent user of the 436 (RIP) bendy service (Lewisham-Paddington / Queen’s Park), I would like to thank you personally for the best bus London has ever seen. I shall miss them.

    The old Routemasters, on the other hand, I’d happily set fire to. Godawful things that seemed to go out of their way to provide a truly miserable experience. I’d rather ride one of the Leyland models that replaced many of the RMs in the 1970s, despite their ear-splittingly resonant seating.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Why didn’t they choose the the Number 1 bus route from Centre Point to canada water. Then it would have been said that the New Route Master bus was then the One and Only bus needed for London.

  65. Littlejohn says:

    TfL has now released the costs of the NB4L – see Some of the text is distinctly Orwellian. The headline is ‘New buses deliver multi-million pound saving’ but the average price of a new bus over the life of the contract will be £354,500, or £326,000 at today’s prices. In 2009, Boris said ‘If you look at the current cost of a bus, £250,000, roughly speaking, buys you a new bendy bus. We think that we can get a wonderful new bus for London which will be considerably cleaner, greener, lighter and exactly what this city needs for much less than that’. In October 2012, standard hybrids cost around £300,000 each, so are almost certainly cheaper today than the NB4L. On top of that these figures don’t include the salaries of the second crew member needed when the back door is open, estimated to be around £62,000 per bus per year.

    Hands up all those who agree it is good value for money.

  66. Anonymous says:

    One week to go today and the 24 gets a good service for the 1st time since 1986.

  67. peezedtee says:

    Presumably you are referring to the fact that from 22 June, Route 24 will be fully converted to the NB4L.
    Why exactly do you think this will be the first time the route has had a good service since 1986? Is the frequency being increased? What happened in 1986? Or are you being satirical?

  68. Anonymous says:

    In 1986 route 24 lost its conductor,its rear platform and vastly more important its character!!!!

  69. timbeau says:

    Anon 0811

    Not for the first time – it switched from RM class to XA (Atlanteans, the first front entrance double deckers in London) in 1965, back to RML in 1966, to DM (Fleetlines) in 1975, back again to RM in 1979, and finally to OPO Titans in 1986.

  70. Graham Feakins says:

    timbeau – and in the 1979- RM era, one of the drivers on the 24 from Chalk Farm Garage always proudly wore his full LT uniform including his badge (of course), and white summer cap during ‘the statutory summer period’ (whatever happened to the uniform requirements – it just seems to be a form of smart casual these days with a company logo?).

    Yes, once is quite enough on those NB4L’s.

  71. Anonymous says:

    Following the conversion of routes 24 and 11,if it were down to me the next routes to be converted in order would be

    8 rerouted back to Victoria,6,7 extended to westfield shepherds bush,14,30,12 extended to westfield shepherds Bush…..31,74,390 extended to Acton green[94 withdrawn]
    36 original route[436 withdrawn]

    when new 600 buses are all used…another 600 buses ordered and replace on these routes…then existing 600 transferred to


  72. Greg Tingey says:

    I want to see how people manage, on a hot sultry thundery July day, with the outside temp @ 27 deg & a humidity of 85%+ and no openable windows ……
    Bring back “Beclawat” – having just ridden on one of the EORly’s green RT’s!
    No upstairs back-window to see out of is also a serious mistake, actually.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Your only going on the proto types on route 38..some differences may appear on what is on 24 & 11..also with air conditioning I bet its a damn sight better to be on that than the other vehicles..those windows only opened slightly anyway!!!!

  74. Greg Tingey says:

    On all models up to & including the RM, LT used a beautiful chromed, geared window-winder, which dropped the opening section quite a lot.
    Trouble is, even in bulk, those things must have been expensive.

  75. Malcolm says:

    Graham Feakins asks what happened to the uniform requirements. I don’t know the finer details, but personally I would prefer that bus companies concentrated on features of their staff that really matter – like safety, politeness, and professional behaviour. Leave compulsory dressing up to “look the part” to the theatrical profession, bless them.

    I’d have no problem with a voluntary uniform, which (if sensible) would quite probably be worn by many drivers. But if I were boss, I’d not use up my limited disciplinary credit on an enforced uniform. Other things matter more.

  76. observers says:

    Used the no. 24 service today approx 15.20hrs, sat on top deck, front of bus that was blocked by one window support strut and a black protection rod fitted to the exterior of the bus. How can this be an improvement for a passenger to sit in front of two vertical struts that spoil the view? The older buses do not have this problem in design.

    To note the seat behind the stairwell on the top deck has no leg room and I had to sit sideways over two seats, very uncomfortable.

    On return along Tottenham ct road after waiting 15 mins, a 24 went past on the other side of the road, without stopping, presumably to avoid traffic congestion, there were only a few passengers on it so it looks like they had not been stopping to pick up at other stops. (Reg no. LTZ 1036) Not impressed!

    At the same time as the above another 24 was noted in the bus lane hidden behind other buses down the road, we waited patiently for it to come to the bus stop. Some few minutes later it pulled off and started to move out of the bus lane even though the other buses had now moved on. The driver clearly was going to drive off without stopping. I had to step into its path in the center of the road and gestured as to why he was not picking up. He only then indicated to pull back into the bus lane and he was informed in no uncertain terms that he should pick up at stops and not have way down the road especially as we had been waiting.

  77. Anon5 says:

    I just saw a Go Ahead London General NBL on the Strand. It looked like it was undergoing driver training.

  78. timbeau says:

    Not sure if this is the best chain to add to, but according to “Metro”‘s TfL sponsored-page route 390 is the fourth one to have the “new Routemasters” (note the official use of the “R” word), but the list includes route 38 and not No 9 it appears that TfL’s press office haven’t done their homework. More interstingly, they say that route 148 will be the next to”Go Green”. Although, as they say, “other hybrids are available”, I take this to mean that the Borismonster will finally appear in service south of the river.

  79. peezedtee says:

    I wonder why they have chosen the 148, not particularly a high-density route and never a Bendy route, unlike e.g. the 12. When the NBFL was first mooted, I seem to recall that the Boris propaganda machine put it about that it would be a essentially a replacement for Bendy buses but it doesn’t seem to be working out like that.

  80. Milton Clevedon says:

    Has anyone plotted the NB4L routes against the constituencies of GLA members? Not that there might be anything to impute from that…

  81. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PZT – beware the dreaded “NB4L replaces bendy bus” false argument. Boris was quite happy to allow that myth to persist as it burnished his “bendy bus vanquisher” credentials. There was never any link given all the bendy routes were expensively and hurriedly equipped with conventional diesel double deckers (some routes had a small hybrid allocation e.g. the 12). Subsequently two (29 and 73) have been lavishly re-equipped with Volvo hybrid deckers with their diesel buses cascaded to other routes retained on retender by Arriva. If there was a genuine policy link then I’d have expected Boris to have commenced the bendy bus replacement programme but then stretched it out a bit so NB4Ls could come on stream and replace them straight away. I accept manifestos and elections got in the way of that so bendys all went by late 2011 and NB4Ls only arrived in 2013 once the Mayor’s second term got under way.

    Based on comments on other forums it is clear that TfL are taking a very flexible approach as to where the NB4L is deployed. At the moment it looks like routes are being selected where there is a heavy Central London element to the route but where the route peak vehicle requirement (PVR) is around 30. I assume this is to ensure Wrightbus can manage the production schedule and build up their support network to maintain the buses during their warranty period. You’ll note that conversions are seemingly being “clumped” by operator and geography (2 routes with Metroline at Holloway garage, 2 London United routes close together in West London). TfL have said that relieving air pollution is a key aspect hence the central London emphasis and they’re also being flexible about the extent of crew operation.

    They recently trialled part route crew operation on the 38 with conductors between Victoria and Balls Pond Rd only (arriva have a crew office there). I think this has covered all the possible crewing variants on the NB4L. The crew operation on the 24 was recently removed at weekends so it’s M-F only along with the 9 and 390. The 11 retains crew operation during weekend daytimes. TfL have said that the business case is what drives the extent of crew operation with daily patronage numbers being quoted as justifying or not the provision of the second person. As people no longer seem to be as “hysterical” as they were when the 24 converted then I expect TfL will probably minimise the extent of crew coverage simply because they can’t afford it on a large scale. Once the 148’s conversion has happened and the inevitable criticism has passed then expect more conversions to full OPO. I’d also expect more phased conversions to reduce the need for vast quantities of buses to be stored once TfL start converting those routes with large PVRs. One thing we know they’re monitoring is the extent of any revenue fraud on NB4Ls given the open boarding style of operation – this was in a recent Surface Transport Panel paper. If I was asked to wildly speculate on the next conversions then I’d nominate route 8 (awaiting a tender announcement) and route 159 (proposed to be scaled back to Marble Arch from Paddington). TfL have said that routes would be restructured if it facilitated conversion to NB4L operation.

  82. peezedtee says:

    @WW Thanks for the clarifications. So I infer there is no rhyme or reason to it other than superficial tactical considerations. Does this not lend credence to the suggestion that the whole NB4L project makes no sense in transport policy terms, and, if so, is it not scandalous that one harebrained politician can manage to pull off such an expensive stunt without wiser counsels prevailing?

  83. John Bull says:

    I think that’s a question we won’t be able to answer for a long time.

    On a personal level I have a huge distaste for the whole NBfL project when considered entirely in isolation. It does massively set my political-spidey-senses tingling though, in the sense that I have an increasingly strong feeling that both the NBfL and the Cable Car will turn out, historically, to be a classic case of political triage.

    i.e. that someone (or some people) within TfL realised that both projects were the political price to be paid in order to cement Boris Johnson’s support for everything else that needed doing which wasn’t quite so glamorous or demagogic.

    So the long term benefit of both schemes may turn out to be not the physical legacy they directly leave behind, but the political cover they gave to projects like Oyster extension, Overground & Franchise reform and most importantly the Tube upgrades and Crossrail.

    Only time – and autobiographies – will tell on that one though. That is if the likes of Mike Brown, Sir Peter Hendy and the rest of that senior management generation ever decide to write them.

  84. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PZT – I have never been convinced about the NB4L but it is one of those issues that deeply divides opinion. There’s no point in me repeating my views just to create more heat than light. I am reminded of a comment, I think by Sir Peter Hendy, that TfL is there to do the Mayor’s bidding. Different Mayors take different approaches about what they specify and what they leave to the professionals. I’m pretty convinced Ken L never told TfL to specifically introduce bendy buses. He did set a policy direction of providing more capacity and it was no surprise to me that bendy buses duly entered service nor that we ended up with a cashless zone in the central area to speed boarding times. Some people go bright red and have steam pouring out of their ears about such concepts but they’re hardly revolutionary if you look at worldwide bus operating practice.

    I had not thought about things as JB has set out in a reply to you but I can understand the logic even if the waste of public money on the fripperies sits very badly with me. JB might be correct that “spending” over £300m on the cable car and NB4L was worth paying because we got Crossrail, Overground etc etc as well. It is, though, way too early to reach any sort of objective judgement about that. London is not exactly blameless when it comes to having expensive experiments with bus designs and then writing them off – Bus Reshaping in the 60, DMSs in the 70s, minibuses in the 80s. We can all pick our favourite examples if we want to.

  85. John Bull says:

    Yes, definitely too early to judge as to whether they were a political cost (and, if they were, whether they were a cost worth paying).

    I do think the possibility that there was at least an element of that thinking in the decision making process though is worth bearing in mind whenever you consider the NBfL. We like to think of all transport decisions as being made for transport reasons – or when that doesn’t seem to have been the case to automatically assume that this was due to faulty reasoning or some other negative reason. Politics and transport are, however, inseparable and TfL is not an organisation short of people who know the importance of picking which hill you stand and die on, and which ones you don’t.

  86. Pedantic of Purley says:

    So what is the objection to NB4L? It has or had a few engineering or Quality Control issues. But they will be sorted out. It has air conditioning or air cooling which people think is daft if you have an open platform. But actually on the few days that is hot it doesn’t matter too much. In any case you need a through draft to really make the air circulate so it is probably still quite effective providing the air cooling works in the first place.

    The only major long term objections of any substance seem to be the “conductor” that can’t collect the fares, the safety risk of the open platform and the opportunities for fare evasion.

    So imagine you are a TfL chief. The new mayor wants you to have these new buses. He is almost begging you to have them. They are hybrid, have pretty decent capacity and have three doors for speedy boarding and alighting. The downside is you have to factor in the cost of the conductor. But hey, they work OK without a conductor. And in central London fare evasion is low anyway as most people have travelcards, season tickets, capped fares or are entitled to travel for free anyway.

    So would you really refuse such an offer? Or accept it and think “well if the mayor wants a conductor and factors that in when doing the budget that is down to him”. Or think a bit daft really but a least we get some new buses that comply with the emissions regulations. The mayor is in his second and final term. Maybe the next mayor will see sense and phase out the conductors. Then we end up with more or less with something we wanted in the first place.

  87. Greg Tingey says:

    A lot of people “hate” NB4L simply because it is associated with Boris.
    But Boris has changed – he’s gone native wrt public transport – unfortunately, after cancelling even planning for tram-schemes….
    As for the bus, I haven’t used one yet … but.
    TWO staircases? What a waste of space, literally. OTOH, three doors – good idea – err, didn’t the fiery-bendys have 3 doors? Can’t see out of the back, upstairs? Basic design fault. If it’s going to have an open platform, then let’s have one …. Non-openable windows? Ok provided the air-con actually works – next summer will tell. [ Though IMHO, there’s no substitute for an open window & some actual breeze on a hot, muggy day. ]

  88. Littlejohn says:

    The dual stairway idea is not new – here are some photos of V3 (scroll down):

  89. ngh says:

    Re Greg 08:38, 11 December 2013

    The most noticeable effect of climate change so far in the UK is a reduction in Relative Humidity and hence the effectively the heat carrying capacity of air. Defra analysis has this decrease from 1961-2006 in RH in LONDON as being 4.3% RH. [from 80.5%RH annual average to 76.2]

    This means forced air ventilation becoming less effective in comparison to air con (one becoming less efficient as the other becomes more efficient).
    It is more fuel efficient with the modern cars to run the aircon than have the windows open while moving so I would be very surprised if this wasn’t similar for buses and trains (especially at speed).

    Do the buses still have white roofs to help reduce heat gain in summer? (There was trial at one point but not sure if they went for full roll out or not)

  90. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – of course the TfL person is going to say “yes Mr Mayor I will do as you say”. He is the boss after all. I’m not going to litter the comments section with my views on the NB4L as I do not wish to trigger the inevitable flame war that ensues even when the issues are set out as rationally and clearly as possible. Perhaps I’ll send you an E Mail instead?

    @ Greg – the Mayor has gone “native” about public transport? Err really? I think he has been persuaded that he really needs to have some clear deliverables on “boring” things like new trains or line upgrades rather than “trinkets” like the cable car and cycle hire scheme which cost vast sums in subsidy. It is just a crying shame he did not realise this in 2006 or 2007 – that extra planning time might have got Boris some “spade in the ground” photo opps in his second term for genuine long lasting infrastructure improvements. He might just get to the point in his second term of some new complete trains being ordered for an initiative he can just about claim as his own – West Anglia rail devolution. The Overground capacity expansion is just for extra carriages as far as I know. I am excluding Crossrail as the origin of that goes back so far you might as well allow John Major or Tony Blair to lay claim to it! The new Picc Line trains will be a next Mayoral term item and it’s borderline (relative to May 2016) as to when the new GOBLIN stock will be ordered. It is a sad indictment (IMO, of course) that the enthusiasm the Mayor has had for expensive, subsidised marginal forms of transport was not fully directed at the bus, tube, tram, DLR and Overground networks. We’d be in a better place overall than we currently are (again IMO) but I will acknowledge that we did get ELLX Phase 2, 5 cars on the Overground plus measured improvements on Tramlink and bus Countdown improvements.

  91. Steve L says:

    Some people disagree with the removal of bendy buses. Some people disagree with the NB4L. Some people disagree with the abolition of the western extension to the congestion charging zone. However, these are all issues where Boris made pledges in his manifesto, he was successfully elected on the basis of that manifesto, and he has followed-through and implemented his manifesto. Can you imagine the fuss if he had made these promises and then reneged on them?

  92. Pedantic of Purley says:


    of course the TfL person is going to say “yes Mr Mayor I will do as you say

    Well there is the alternative option for a TfL commissioner of resigning. I am sure Sir Peter made enough money in the private sector during bus privatisation not to need the job. Mike Brown has shown that he can make the transistion from TfL to BAA. I am sure other critical managers at TfL have other options.

    I suspect if their hearts weren’t in it then Sir Peter and the others could retire or find a well-paid job elsewhere else. So it is not one-sided. Does the mayor, if he wanted to, push ahead with his own agenda regardless? If so, is he confident that the top management of TfL that he has left would be capable of delivering it? So the mayor too is not as free as some would suggest. You can have all the fantastic policies in the world but if the minions who have to deliver decide that the policies as a whole have gone beyond the point where they want to be part of the delivery term then you may find you actually deliver nothing.

    I am sure many people have their doubts about the NBfL. I do not feel qualified to comment on some of the details. Whether the NBfL is worse or better than other new buses available is not the issue if the choice becomes NBfL or soldiering on with what we have got. Is it near to what is wanted? And could some of the perceived problems be subsequent rectified with money or an appropriate attitude? Some of these issues are bound to be subjective. For Greg the failure to incorporate a rear window upstairs seems to be enough to condemn the thing; for others this is may be one of the least important issues.

    Back to John Bull’s point. When you get to the top politics and transport are inseparable and it is not enough just to be a transport expert. One has to do the best one can in the situation given. Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen as Bismarck would say.

  93. timbeau says:

    “It is more fuel efficient with the modern cars to run the aircon than have the windows open while moving so I would be very surprised if this wasn’t similar for buses and trains (especially at speed).”

    The reak even speed for aircon v open windows is about 30mph for a car, and probably rather less for something designed to maximise interior space rather than cD. Even for a train aircon is seen as of marginal use for a stopping service where the doors open and let all the cool air out every few minutes.

    “Do the buses still have white roofs to help reduce heat gain in summer?” From my fifth floor vantage point I can confirm that all the buses I can see have white roofs. (But I can’t say whether NB4L’s do)

    The questions of nb4l is
    – is it cheaper to build han a conventoinal hybrid? – difficult to say, as the costs quoted are often loaded against it by including the development costs
    – is it cheaper to opreate than a conventional hybrid?- fuel consumption claims for it have varied by a factor of 2
    – can it shift more people than other buses of similar size? (No – on the contrary, because of the extra weigh its max capacity is less: but the second staircase and third platform may allow it to make more trips in the same time
    -is it more manouvrable than other buses ? It is in fact longer tan any other London bus in history except the bendies. It is rumoured that impending changes to the 159 are becuse the NB4L cannot negotiate the existing terminus. (simliar changes were made to terminal arrangments of some routes before bendies were introduced

  94. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – I take the point but I think it’s pretty clear the current Commissioner is more than adept at the political angle and able to “comply” with the wishes of different political masters. He also clearly loves the job he’s doing so I don’t see him going anytime soon unless he was forced out through a radical disagreement with Boris or through unexpected circumstances. You could argue he survived the latter a couple of months ago.

    I think it extremely unlikely that the “minions” would ever coalesce to the extent that a policy was not implemented. Yes we might get tube strikes and the odd bus strike but I can’t think of a Mayoral policy that has been stopped by the TfL workforce in whole or in part. It is far more likely that commercial issues would derail a project or policy by making it unviable. The stark reality is that you do what your boss tells you. It’s a rare person who resigns on principle these days. Clearly the top job is the most political but you have to wade through the “political treacle” as you climb the management tree as I’m sure you know. I could “do” the (organisational) politics but disliked it as I thought much of it was a needless distraction. Unfortunately it infects all organisations when you get people wielding or wanting “power”. Only on a couple of occasions did I get close to real politics with ministers / the Mayor or their aides wanting answers from me.

  95. RichardB says:

    @ timbeau – on the issue of air conditioning an argument often used in the past to deny its implementation on suburban trains and buses is that frequently opening doors mean cool air is lost and therefore there is little point. I have to say having endured trains and buses without air conditioning in the height of summer I would disagree as open windows rarely bring much relief. The interesting point about this issue is that if you accept it then logically there is also no point to the provision of heating in cold weather as heat is also due to doors opening. I doubt however if anyone would now suggest that heating be done away with so I think air conditioning as opposed to forced air ventilation should be installed on buses but I agree having a door permanently open seems absurd and frankly whilst I liked the old route masters precisely because the open platform allowed freedom of boarding and alighting I don’t really miss it and I have to say I part company with Boris on the advantages it bestows having witnessed accidents where people misjudged the speed of the bus

  96. Fandroid says:

    Having been on one ‘new Routemaster’ (route 24 from Hampstead Heath to Camden Town), my impressions were that in the interior it was a triumph of the designer’s art, being a very wierd pastiche of the interior of the old Routemaster. It may set a trend, but I very much doubt it, as the rest of the UK and the world will carry on specifying buses in more practical ways. The thing that did impress me on my shortish journey was that the upper deck ride quality seemed better than in the usual ‘throw you all around’ conventional buses. The lurchiness was reduced, or perhaps the driver was just more considerate.

    Opening windows are really only any use in really warm weather. In all other conditions they can be a total nuisance. If you open (or close) the window next to yourself, it’s never you who gets the full benefit. It’s someone sitting three rows behind. Conversely, someone opens their window on a cold day. They feel a gentle cooling, you get blasted by freezing air. Give me aircon anyday. If you want a comparison of trains with aircon and varied door patterns, get an SWT day return to Woking. Go one way in a class 444 (end doors with separate ones into the passenger saloon) and back in a class 450 (1/3 and 2/3 doors directly into the passenger saloon). The latter seem just as comfortable, but I bet the energy use is a lot greater (judging by the roar of the vent system).

  97. Greg Tingey says:

    You misread (completely) my drift & intention.
    I happen to think 2 staircases are a waste of space & no rear-window is another error.
    But I have specifically NOT “condemned the thing” – I think it could be improved, but I’ve seen much worse on London’s streets ….

  98. Anonymous says:

    Boris Buses also have white roofs, unlike the old Routemasters (my office overlooks Aldwych).

  99. Greg Tingey says:

    Just used a No11 ….
    Very much a triumph of style over substance, in spite of the obviously excellent engineering.
    Reminds me of the new “S” stock – not enough seats!
    Very easy on the eye.
    Seats not too hard – but too upright (even for me) & not enough of them.
    Quiet, smooth.
    I wonder – I noted that, certainly the rear stairway is wider than we have been used to.
    Get rid of the front staircase & the middle door & put more seats in – after all what is a bus for – transporting people!
    THEN you would have a really good bus.
    Will try to use “upstairs” next time.

  100. AlisonW says:

    I am one of the people who disagreed with the removal of bendy buses. They were easy to get on and off and plenty of seating. The whole issue of fare avoidance wasn’t caused by multiple entrances (as indeed also apply to the NB4L). On the NB4L front, during the summer they were unacceptable due to a total lack of air throughput, so much so that I was taking alternative routes to avoid using them. They’ve also got a problem with storage. The routemaster had a very useful place to put baggage under the stairs, behind the person-shaped cubby for the conductor. The NB4L has nothing, (sfaict, there is the engine there?) and yesterday the rear end of the bus I was on was blocked up by a bloke with multiple large bags who refused to move them (the ‘conductor’ averted his eyes and tried hard to fade away). They are really just Boris-demanded politicking.

    (um … )

  101. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – you’re right that the engine and other gubbins are at the back under the NB4L’s stairs. This prevents there being an understair storage area. This is one reason why the rear of the bus can get extremely hot in the Summer. To maintain some balance in the discussion try sitting on the rear lower deck bench seat on a standard double decker – like a sauna in the summer and negligible scope for ventilation.

    On the wider point of storage space this cropped up in the committee discussions. Modern low floor bus design has resulted in the loss of side seats over wheel arches. The push by some manufacturers to add more lower deck seats (right at the front downstairs) has also reduced or removed the traditional luggage rack but people are reluctant to leave their items unattended on these racks. This means people clutter the floor area near their seats with bags and trolleys. The general increase in people solely using public transport means that more luggage and suitcases are also brought on to buses. The other variant is the “sole trader” builder / sparks / carpenter dragging their tool boxes and rucksacks to and from work. You then chuck in buggies, wheelchair users, people who need seats downstairs and short hop passengers and you have a recipe for chaos. I don’t think there is a bus invented that cope with all of that. The UK is also relatively unusual in still providing a high percentage of seats relative to floor area in buses and urban rail vehicles. Those continental Europeans are far happier to make people stand so they can crush people inside. I think London will have to head in that general direction – as we’ve seen with the Overground and S Stock designs despite steam pouring from the ears of some commuters. It won’t be popular but we won’t be able to afford the cost of running more and more vehicles. The compromise is to get more and more people inside the vehicles you already have.

  102. Greg Tingey says:

    Disagree profondly
    Why SHOULD we be forced to satnd, crammed together?
    Incidentally, re. the NB4L I was wrong, it needs the middle door – or there would be no wheelchair access – but I still think there would be a lot more room & seating with only one staircase.
    That a bus of it’s size should have so few seats is disgraceful.

  103. Disagree profondly
    Why SHOULD we be forced to satnd, crammed together?

    Simply because one has to accept reality. We can disagree all we like but Crossrail I isn’t arriving tomorrow let alone Crossrail II. On the main railways all the easy tricks (more frequent service, longer trains) are being used up. On the roads you have to do some pretty major reassignment of road space (spacially or mandated by category of use) in places to get more than the odd one or two buses extra – and that against a charged political background about making cycling safer. And on the Underground we seem to be moving to more and more desperate measures such as ridiculous proposed frequencies that make the network very vulnerable to incidents, even minor ones.

    Given that this is against a backdrop of near-certain rising travel use one has to ask what you propose as a realistic alternative. There is a wonderful episode of Frasier where he campaigns on having more space for each of the residents parking bays in the tower block he lives in. He gets the support of the residents and emerges the hero – until his plan is implemented and the number of parking spaces is inevitably reduced leading to a mass revolt amongst his former supporters. So Greg, stop moaning and suggest in a positive way how we cope with the extra people.

  104. @Greg,

    I think by your own admission recently you weren’t much of a bus user. The stairs are often the congested part of the bus and sometimes do much to reduce the benefit we have seen in previous years of faster boarding due to Oystercard etc. There may also be an evacuation issue with large numbers on the top deck. I suspect there is certainly a feeling of extra security as pretty well all the seats have alternative exit in the event of the nearest one being blocked due whatever reason even if only having to pass someone one would rather avoid.

    If you only had one staircase on NBfL it would ideally be fairly central replacing the existing front one. I suspect eliminating the back one (the “traditional” one) wouldn’t actually generate many more seats. That is why it was like it was in the first place. Nowadays because of wheelchair space and other reasons (not least the smoking ban) many people go upstairs who would have remained downstairs and just having the rear entrance wouldn’t work. In the days of crew-operated real Routemasters (and, before that, RTs) it used to definitely be the case that long distance passengers tended to go upstairs and shorter distances passengers stayed on the lower deck. Its not like that now.

  105. ngh says:

    Re Greg and WW

    The TfL business plan (circa 10 days ago?) showed TFL rail (tube/ overground /crossrail) profitability starting to increase nicely at the end of the decade a combination of fare increases and higher passenger numbers (after huge capex spend on projects on Victoria, Jubilee, Northern, Met/Dist/Circle/H&C, Overground and Crossrail). Admittedly work needed on Picc, Bakerloo and Central in the future is yet to be funded. I.e. more capacity starts to pay off.

    In contrast the bus system profitability gets progressively more negative over time and more subsidy is needed as passenger numbers are increase. Therefore there has to be a change in the bus business model if it is desired that the bus subsidy levels don’t keep rising ad infinitum.
    The are many choices on the revenue side (fares, freedom passes etc) but there is potential on the operational side but this may not be popular either.

    WW’s comment about less seating in continental buses is noticeable in many European cities it also solves the additional disabled / buggy space issue but inflames the freedom pass holders. It has happened on Overground and bendy buses (2/3rds of theoretical capacity was standing! before they realised you could get 30-50 people less standing in reality than the modelling suggested) so it can happen elsewhere in TfL world…

    Bendy buses add capacity but not popular with other road users and I frequently found the drivers happy to leave the rear section on yellow box junctions completely fowling up the traffic…
    (The passengers density per road space)

    NB4L longer that a normal double decker but no real capacity benefit from that, at some point looking nice just won’t cut it.

    (At least) 2 of the tourist bus companies are using the longer 3 axle “Hong Kong” double deckers in London (circa 2.4m longer than a normal London double decker, 1.75m longer the NB4L or 80cm longer than the single deck Citaros on the 507/521) and they are also used on certain routes by Dublin Bus (typically longer more express type routes) so may be it is time we though about trying them on some routes in London? – it may mean that routes need to be altered slightly to avoid certain road layouts or maybe certain councils could be leaned upon to “unsharpen” certain corners than have become sharper to reduce car etc speeds at junctions?

    The Dublin bus 3 axle buses have a capacity of 115 + wheelchair (of which 27 standing) with single door configuration so 105 in a more TfL like double door set up? [NBL capacity 80 of which 18 standing].

    May be also a concerted effort with National Rail and LU to sort as many low bridges where possible as that would then allow a few more double deck routes and capacity.

  106. AlisonW says:

    ngh: if we return to 3-axle transport maybe we should also consider removing local pollution and go the whole hog – trolleybuses!

  107. JimJordan says:

    10:09, 11 December 2013
    Midland Red’s 4944 (Reg. no. 1944HA) — second prototype D10 built in 1961 had two staircases and a rear door. BMMO (Midland Red) were very forward thinking but did not pursue this design.

  108. JM says:

    Is there any stats (even anecdotal) as to how much quicker end to end journeys are on those routes using the NB4L. As I recall, the 38 examples have doors closed all day as it was causing gaps in service due to shorter dwell times. If it is fairly significant then this is an obvious advantage of 2 person operation and begs the question why they would not be prioritised for high volume trunk routes at over 70/80/90 minutes running time?

    I’m also interested how the research and development of these differ from something like the Enviro 500. Given the number built isnt significantly larger (about 7/800 compared to the 600 NB4Ls), how much did the operators weigh in relative to a public funded bus like the NB4L, if at all?

  109. Graham H says:

    @JM – for the 38, I have found the following timetables to give some feel for the changes in run time, based on a typical shoulder peak journey from Clapton Pond to Victoria (starting at around 1858):

    2006 – 65 minutes run time
    2008 – 72 m
    2012 – 75 m
    2013 – 75 m

    from which I deduce that the NBfL (or indeed any other vehicle type) doesn’t seem to have made much difference either way; extraneous effects such as growing congestion seem to have taken a bigger toll.

  110. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista) says:

    Graham H’s comment regarding specific journey times is very interesting

    I have in my possession a 1952 LT “Uxbridge area local road and rail timetable”. Therein, amongst other tables is Green line route 710 Crawley – Oxford Circus – Amersham. Every single journey was scheduled to take 3 hours and 19 minutes, irrespective of whether it left as first journey on a Sunday morning (07:19 from Crawley) or during the weekdays at peak hours.

    Another interesting timetable inside it is the Ealing Bdy – Greenford Western Region branch on which the last Sunday night departures left Greenford at 11:42 and 11:55 p.m., but the latter departure only ran to West Ealing, arriving at 00:04 (Monday morning)

  111. peezedtee says:

    @ngh “Therefore there has to be a change in the bus business model if it is desired that the bus subsidy levels don’t keep rising ad infinitum”

    But the bus subsidy levels SHOULD rise if that’s what it takes to provide a decent public service. Put the taxes up if necessary. Bus services are essential to modern civilisation.

  112. peezedtee says:

    @Alison W “– trolleybuses!”

    Hear hear. How stupid it is that they were ever got rid of, on routes where the traffic volume does not justify a fully-fledged tram system.

    Two staircases – Didn’t trolleybuses have that? I remember that the ones in Hull did, anyway. But one was designated for up and the other for down – is that the case with NB4L?

  113. timbeau says:

    A quick Google indicates that Hull did indeed run a fleet of twin staircase trolleybuses in the fifties – the “Uniflow” or Coronation type intended, but never used, for OMO. Bournemouth also appears to have operated twin-staircases trolleybuses.

    London’s trolleys were, with odd exceptions, conventional rear loaders, and all had a single staircase. Apart from the “V3” prototype of the early eighties, the NB4L is the first twin staircase design in London.

  114. ngh says:

    re peezedtee
    22:16, 13 December 2013

    @ngh “Therefore there has to be a change in the bus business model if it is desired that the bus subsidy levels don’t keep rising ad infinitum”

    But the bus subsidy levels SHOULD rise if that’s what it takes to provide a decent public service. Put the taxes up if necessary. Bus services are essential to modern civilisation.

    Indeed but the point I was thinking but did not make explicitly (but several readers probably guessed) was that that level of Bus subsidy (fuel, labour and bus depreciation i.e. once it is spent it is gone) at that point could be better spent on investment in other transport provision, note the emphasis on Value from Boris’s big changes day.

    On heavily utilised bus corridors where it becomes increasingly difficult to add capacity would spending the subsidy on other modes to shift passengers away from buses be more sensible? i.e. dust off Cross river tram proposals (or any number of other schemes?).

  115. peezedtee says:

    @ngh “dust off Cross river tram proposals”

    Amen to that. Boris’s cancelling of that project when so much preparatory work had already been done remains the second biggest letdown of his mayoralty as far as I am concerned and many others here in SE1.

    If tram is too expensive and difficult, maybe it could be a trolleybus, although the “tram on rubber tyres” idea doesn’t seem to have worked out very well in France I gather. (And isn’t something similar supposed to be happening in Leeds?)

    If even that won’t do, has a BRT system ever been considered in London?

  116. Greg Tingey says:

    So Greg, stop moaning and suggest in a positive way how we cope with the extra people.
    I’ve been doping this for some time, but it’s a “political” suggestion.
    Bring back trolleybuses (possibly) Trams – the Boris-inspired cancellation of all tram projects, even on paper was a terrible mistake.
    Re-itroduce bendys on suitable routes – they could certainly carry large numbers ….
    So PoP, stop picking & join in the discussion!

    Very well put – yes, I’d forgotten the 3-axle buses – mainly because I loathe “tourist” buses, anywhere – they add enormously to congestion. Nothing new here of course, it’s back to the future, isn’t it? Oops.
    As Alison W has pointed out.

  117. timbeau says:

    “has a BRT system ever been considered in London?”

    Only on a very small scale: The East London Transit project has some segregated running on routes EL1 and EL2 in the Dagenham area, and when the Millennium Dome was open, segregated bus services ran to it from Greenwich and Charlton stations (routes M1 and M2).

  118. Graham H says:

    @PZT – the trouble with BRT is that it’s (a) even more intrusive than rail in terms of visuals and noise, and (b) saves little, if any money in construction. To note – for the same money or less as the St Ives busway has cost, the complete branch line could have been reinstated.

    You are right about the TVR system, which, for example, is being completely replaced in Caen by a conventional tramway system, having failed to operate in guided mode very often. (The manufacturers had also withdrawn their technical support – they can spot a dead albatross at 50 paces – a vital point when considering “closed” proprietary systems instead of “open” technologies such as rail.)

  119. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – well I’m afraid there is a limit to the amount of money that can be spent to keep on providing capacity – especially at peak times. It is inevitable that a growing population and economy will lead to growing demand and with it crowding and congestion. TfL have already said Crossrail will be full within months and I believe them. TfL have already said that every extra peak bus is the thing that causes the bus budget to squeak. As ngh has said the TfL business plan shows a continuing push to drive up revenue and to contain costs. I’ve compared the numbers over the last couple of plans and the latest one shows some heroic assumptions about what can be achieved. I have to say I’m a tad sceptical about the scale of revenue growth and whether the assumed LU cost savings will be delivered but we shall see. I’m also dubious about what a “profitable” tube and TfL Rail network really means for service levels and service quality.

    I was not saying we MUST go to the continental model of more standee space, I was merely suggesting this is an option that I expect will be exploited. It is an obvious thing to do which is why we got bendy buses with three doors. Those pesky foreigners have bendy buses that have 4 doors in 18m length and, horror of horrors, some cities have 24m long double bendy buses and some even power them with electricity. It is absolutely clear from the Overground experience that people do NOT object to standee format trains *if* it means they can get on the first train that arrives. What people hate is waiting on crowded platforms while several trains arrive and depart AND then they get on to a mobile sardine can. This is because their journey time is no longer under their control. I am sure that if you said to people, who can’t get on 343 buses at North Peckham every AM peak, if they’d object to buses with more standee space and fewer seats if this meant they’d always get on the first bus they’d not object at all. I doubt they’d be bothered if 24m bendy buses turned up provided they could get round the roads safely and they could get on the first bus. Having a policy that traps us with a “retro bus” mated with a hybrid bus is daft when all the demand pressures point to us needing to adopt a much more radical solution. I’m a big supporter of TfL adopting policies to electrify road transport through a long term programme of tram and trolleybus conversions. I know it would be expensive and disruptive in the construction phase but these are long established technologies that continue to benefit from innovation and development to improve their efficiency and cost base while the benefits are well understood from worldwide evidence. Why London is somehow “immune” to these solutions I do not understand.

    I tend to agree with ngh and with pzt about bus subsidy. I believe we should certainly subsidise the network to ensure good service levels but it is inevitable that someone will emerge to demand that the subsidy be slashed. Spending £500m a year when the tube and tfl rail will be “profitable” is bound to cause questions to be asked. I do think TfL need to look harder at ways to bring in some additional innovation from the bus companies. It’s perfectly clear that many of them can run profitable attractive services elsewhere in the UK and some of that skill needs to be brought to bear in London’s market. A simple example – TfL do not market or promote any bus services not even when extensions or new routes start. The private sector would be shouting from the rooftops if they were running new routes to the Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City. Any advertising, “tweet” or even a press release about the 388 offering a new link to Stratford City from the City, Bethnal Green and Victoria Park as of today?? Nope. What about better quality vehicles or express services where there is the demand? Even if there was a small fare premium I doubt people would hugely object in order to get a better service quality or faster journeys. It’s a well understood concept in transport services.

  120. peezedtee says:

    @WW “Why London is somehow “immune” to these solutions I do not understand.”

    Could it be because they involve taking road space away from private motorcars, and “petrolheads”, who won’t stand for that, have generally reigned supreme in London. We had a brief respite from that under Ken Livingstone but have reverted to type under Boris Johnson, with his abolition of the “hierarchy of modes” concept whereby pedestrians and public transport take priority over private motorists, and his talk instead of “smoothing the traffic flow”, supposedly irrespective of mode, which in practice amounts to making life easier for the minority (private motorists) at the expense of the majority.

  121. peezedtee says:

    @Graham H “BRT saves little, if any money in construction”

    Thanks for the clarifications, but if that is so, why are cities in South America so fond of it?

    I do agree with you about the lunacy of the Cambridge busway, when there was a perfectly good railway there in the first place. On the other hand, the busway in Dartford seemed quite effective when I used it a couple of times.

  122. timbeau says:

    In a city like Cambridge the railway station is a long way from the centre, so using a train service requires mucking about with taxis or buses to get anywhere useful. Buses and trams can penetrate deeper into the city centre, hence the various proposals for busways, tram-trains etc. The Croydon tramlink took over a lot of former railway lines too.
    Interesting though that Oxford has gone the other way: it is to get a new railway station near the park and ride facility at Water Eaton – no-one has suggested Evergreen 2 should be a busway.

  123. Mark Townend says:

    @peezedtee , 12:49, 14 December 2013

    Graham H “BRT saves little, if any money in construction”
    Thanks for the clarifications, but if that is so, why are cities in South America so fond of it?

    In expensive old western cities, digging up existing roads to move utilities and create reliable segregated lanes, guideways or tram tracks and high quality stations is comparable in cost terms regardless of the vehicle and guidance technology employed. By contrast when laying out new South American cities and their expanding suburbs, dedicated median strip lanes can be designed into the fabric from the outset and fairly standard off the shelf buses purchased economically with the added bonus of needing little expensive western consultancy expertise to specify and procure typically highly bespoke rail equipment. The dedicated lanes if planned properly can be converted to rail selectively in the future of course if demand justifies it.

  124. stimarco says:

    BRT can work – the Dartford-Gravesend system is a particularly good example. However, these systems work best when they’re not running through narrow, medieval streets. Hence the problems in Cambridge.

    Dartford and Gravesend were once connected by an extensive tram network and some of the existing roads – particularly between Gravesend and Northfleet – are still pretty wide. Furthermore, as with Croydon’s Tramlink, the BRT system at Gravesend (along with “Thames Way”) recycles a chunk of the old Gravesend West branch, so finding the necessary land was no great hardship. (Rosherville Way / Crete Hall Road were also once criss-crossed by rails. Rosherville Way itself follows part of a goods branch that once diverged from the Gravesend West route and you could still see bits of disused railway in that area as recently as 2009.)

    There’s a lot of brownfield land around that neck of the woods even now and the BRT network has been included in a number of redevelopments. (You can see the most recent stretch running east from Greehithe station to the new Ingress Park development, but another section will be added during the Crete Hall Road redevelopments too.)

    Even the ASDA supermarket (on the north side of Overcliffe) and the light commercial estate surrounding it is built in disused railway / goods lands. Look at the point where Clifton Marine Road meets The Shore in Google Maps and, right next to it, just to the south-east, you’ll see the last remnants of the narrow-gauge rail network that served this area. And this is just a hundred or so metres from Gravesend’s High Street.

    Cambridge has none of that. BRT can only do so much; short of banning private vehicles outright from Cambridge’s town centre, there’s really nothing you can do about it. Trams won’t help as they’ll the exact same problem. Buses have the advantage that, should one break down, it’s a lot easier to tow away or overtake.

    Unfortunately, Cambridge also sits on boggy fenland, so it’s not an easy problem to solve: tunnelling would be very expensive. I’d suggest an overhead system instead, but that would be more visually intrusive. So banning cars and non-essential commercial vehicles from the centre of the city might well be the only viable solution, short of knocking some of it down.

  125. Greg Tingey says:

    Make that: “Crossrail will be full within weeks” actually….
    Yes, I really think the loadings are going to be silly, especially from the West, with so much suppressed demand.

    Cambridge ugh-way …
    Not only as expensive (at least) as restoring the railway, with 2 bus companies who won’t accept each others tickets … but SLOWER than the train service in 1922.
    You really could not make this sort of thing up – no-one would believe you!

  126. peezedtee says:

    @stimarco “banning cars and non-essential commercial vehicles from the centre of the city might well be the only viable solution”

    Banning cars in the centre of Cambridge would be a very good idea – as also in the centre of every other city.

  127. AnonymousPhilip Wylie says:

    This is a little off topic but can anyone tell me why London Buses allowed the Volvo B7Ls with such noisy engines /turbos/whatever into service when buses up to that point were much less noisy. Do they have a policy on maximum db output? Could the vehicles be re-engined?

  128. Graham H says:

    @Mark Townend – you beat me to the draw; I’d add only that cultural differences may also make some people more tolerant of noise and visual intrusion than we tend to be in Europe

    BTW, one key feature of busways that is often overlooked in urban areas is the fact that they add significantly to the speed of water run off during heavy rain, having waterproof surfaces unlike railways where the earth formation slows down the dispersal of the water. This was one of the important technical reasons for dropping the rail-road conversion projects of the early eighties and has also been one of the causes for the high capital costs of the St Ives route, where a complete drainage system including balancing ponds, was required . (There were also of course many other reasons for kicking the idea into touch, but the technical one was a useful one insofar as the politicians didn’t know how to refute it).

  129. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Phil Wylie – All I can reliably say is that my local route is run with Volvo B7TL dds. They used to roar but don’t any more. They were modified when they were refurbished. AIUI the engines do not need to be replaced. This vehicle type caused the notorious “Boris, please ban these buses” complaints in West London. If you have complaints about the buses then raise them with TfL (first) and the operator, ideally with a vehicle ID and time / location details.

  130. Andrew says:

    @stimarco “banning cars and non-essential commercial vehicles from the centre of the city [of Cambridge] might well be the only viable solution”

    Depending on what you mean by the centre, they already have. It wouldn’t be a matter of banning cars from the centre; it would be a matter of banning cars from most of the city.

    The problem isn’t cars going through medieval streets (it’s been virtually impossible to get a car through those bits for a long time); the problem is that pretty much all of the arterial roads are out of capacity. All opportunities for bus lanes have already been used. The was talk a few years back (now dropped) of a congestion charge zone, but this was to cover pretty much the whole city, not just those areas which are easily reachable by public transport!

    It’s not unsolvable, but it all takes time, and the city is a victim of rapid growth.

  131. Fandroid says:

    BRT has its place. I regularly use the Cambridge version, but on the southern leg to Addenbrookes hospital not the northern St Ives leg. It is superb. The only mildly bonkers bit is that the busway bus avoids Addenbrookes’ own bus station, and the Babraham Road P&R buses still graunch their way to the railway station on the congested road system despite having only one intermediate stop. I suspect that Stagecoach didn’t want the new system to subtract passengers from its traditional routes (despite them providing the busway service in that direction). The Fareham-Gosport busway is also good, and it doesn’t involve the expensive bespoke engineering that the Cambridge ones did. Some commonsensical designer obviously said “why don’t we just build it to normal road standards?” It’s currently only half complete and its bus services suffer a bit from the ’round the houses’ tendency at the Gosport end. But it’ll be complete fairly soon and should be a big success. Note that it’s all on an old railway trackbed (the potential route of the abandoned South Hampshire Tram).

  132. Steve L says:

    I do get fed up with people continuing to spread this misleading story that “Boris cancelled the Cross River Tram. Cross River Tram was only ever an aspirational project, it never had any funding. What Boris did was to stop spending money on further iterations of the planning process for a project that appeared to have no prospect of getting funding. As Cross River Tram never had the go-ahead, he couldn’t “cancel” it. Look at how is now pushing for Crossrail 2 for a demonstration of his willingness to back a project when it does look likely to get funding.

  133. Anonymous says:


    The Bournemouth trolleybuses looked surprisingly like the NBfL.

  134. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Anonymous 22.30 – Quite. Just for info., that type of Bournemouth trolleybus had twin staircases with 37 seats on top and 28 seats on the lower deck, with 8 (official) standing capacity.

  135. Malcolm says:


    I am not quite sure what you think “cancelling” a project means. If Boris did not “cancel” CRT (i.e. stop paying for people to work on planning and seeking funding for it), then what did he do? A project can surely be cancelled at any stage, whether or not an implementation-funder has been found.

  136. Graham Feakins says:

    @Steve L – Contrary to your suggestion, Cross River Tram (CRT) did have original considerable public funding expended on it – some £11m+.

    TfL produced several reports, such as the one here:

    Moreover the members of the Transport Committee of the GLA remain under, according to you, the misguided impression that it was indeed Boris cancelled the project. See also here for further evidence of others similarly misguided (but I believe not):

    Even former Mayor Ken Livingstone contradicts your thoughts:

    There was indeed further budget available and if Boris had continued to press Government for their contribution, then we might have seen progress on the ground by now. Perhaps the most informative document for background knowledge is here:

    From where I am, to all intents and purposes, Boris scuppered the scheme, thus wasting millions of public money.

  137. GRaham Feakins says:

    A P.S. to Anonymous (and all): Scroll back from that Bournemouth view to see the internal layout and see how neatly the staircase layouts were. Alternatively, if you go to this one, you will see the upper deck arrangement:

    and the lower deck arrangement:

    And then compare with the ridiculous bulk of today’s typical London bus staircase! The stairs are just as steep today but more unnerving when on them as the driver pumps his brake and accelerator pedals. Of course, a trolleybus normally had its electric motor underneath the chassis and thus did not require room for fuel tanks and the hideously bulky, noisy, oil-combusting engine (and that’s outside the engine, going on the fumes which sometimes penetrate the rear of the lower deck and smother those near the back of ‘queues’ at bus stops!).

    Of course, the NBfL is longer than the Bournemouth version but the principle remains the same, but more neatly solved, then.

  138. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    I’d add only that cultural differences may also make some people more tolerant of noise and visual intrusion than we tend to be in Europe Like on the UndergrounD, you mean, ahem ….

    But this is competition with no co-operation at all. IT MUST BE GOOD, THE TORY PARTY HAS TOLD US SO! Er, oops, what happened there, where did those voices come from?

    Steve L
    What Boris did was to stop spending money on further iterations of the planning process for a project that appeared to have no prospect of getting funding. Just like the Croydon extension(s) then?
    Sorry, it was still a very short-sighted move – the plans could have been scaled back, but kept up-to-date.
    See also Graham F’s trenchant comments.
    { I was effectively, forced to vote for Boris, when Ken crawled into bed with religious nutters. Doesn’t mean I like Boris ….}

  139. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Steve L – it is perfectly clear that Boris stopped planning work on a whole pile of projects. He stopped DLR from progressing to the TWA stage for the Dagenham Dock extension. He could quite easily have carried on that work and have been in a position to take advantage of the government’s awakening about the value of infrastructure spending. It would almost certainly have helped give housing development at Barking Riverside a huge boost thus helping him on the huge housing problem he has. The same applies to Cross River tram, other DLR extensions and Tramlink development. There is massive complaint in south London, from Tory GLA members, councillors and MPs (never mind opposition ones) over the failure to get Tramlink extended to Sutton and Crystal Palace. They recognise a good thing when they see it. I suspect that the developer contributions from Westfield and Hammerson for the Croydon town centre redevelopment may partly fund the Tramlink extension to C Palace with a top up from the Chinese who want to recreate the old Palace (if it ever gets past local opposition). Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said on Sunday Politics London a few weeks ago that about £60m was due in developer contributions.

    The failure to keep transport planning work funded in his first term is one of Boris’s biggest errors IMO. I think he thought it just “happened” in an instant when or if he got money to implement stuff rather than understanding it takes nearly a decade to get anything of substance done and that’s when there is strong support and not loads of opposition. We will end up with almost a lost decade of substantial progress due to his decisions.

  140. Malcolm says:

    IN spite of the apparent consensus here that Boris did cancel CRT (with which I agree), it is not neccesarily the case that he thereby wasted millions of public money. If the project was going to eventually fail (which nobody knows, of course, but a plausible case can be made) then Boris saved public money. And if the money already spent was wasted, then arguably it was wasted not by Boris but by those who caused it to be spent in the first place.

    I’m with Greg that Londoners had a hard choice last time choosing from among two self-publicists (each with conspicuous faults to offset their undoubted brains) and several unheardofs. But transport-wise, rather than allocate blame it may be best to look forwards, not back.

  141. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Malcolm

    Agree with this ‘line of thinking’. What would be an effective basis (there might be more than one way of define that) to define the next round of successful projects on the surface rather than underground?

    Would it be:-

    The most densely trafficked radial bus corridors which don’t have a main railway service? We’ve been there before with the LT Light Rail studies which led to Shepherds Bush-Uxbridge and the Cross River Tram.

    Would it be just the most densely trafficked bus corridors anywhere in London? Edgware Road, Kingsland Road, Waterloo Bridge, Brixton Hill come to mind.

    Or where road congestion is at its worst along much of a corridor and something is needed to put in lots of extra capacity before more population and jobs come along? Eg Uxbridge-Southall (Crossrail Interchange)-Heathrow.

    Or where the overload in existing public transport systems cries out for permanent help? Pretty well anywhere that Crossrails 1, 2 or Thameslink aren’t going, nor limited to central and inner London.

    Or where political and developer priorities lead the optioneering? The Croydon-Crystal Palace option might be relevant, maybe taken further (eg Peckham or Lewisham for Docklands connections).
    Just a few choices then!

    And it might be wise to consider not always doing what you always did, in terms of routeings.

  142. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – I understand the point you make but you can turn the argument on its head and argue about the wasted opportunity to take advantage of a lull in construction activity and lower building costs and also cite the travel delays, congestion and pollution that persisting with buses is causing on the CRT route corridors. People cannot get on buses for their commute on routes running into the Elephant from the south – every day they’re fed up and wasting their time and cursing the transport network. That’s a ridiculous situation to inflict on people and there is no obvious solution in sight. Ditto about providing better access to Camden and Kings Cross given planned developments in those areas.

    @ Milton – the thing I will be looking for is “coherence” from the Mayoral candidates come 2016. Does their transport manifesto make sense in and of itself and does it work across to other aspects of their plans and proposals? Obviously we are a while away but there are murmurings from some of the potential Labour candidates. Those murmurings worryingly show a fixation with one or two transport matters and no policy or understanding about the rest. Lord Adonis wants CR2, Sadiq Kahn moans about fares but can’t say how to pay for a cut or freeze, Wolmar wants extra tube lines and cycling infrastructure, David Lammy wants double deck trains “like they have in Paris”. Well duh! 1/10 and you’re all in detention until you understand the topic properly. The only potential candidate who might have the right transport knowledge is Val Shawcross and she’s open enough to call herself a “train geek”. I doubt she will end up as Labour’s mayoral candidate though. There was a launch of something from Labour / the Fabians late last week but I’ve not found it yet. None of the other parties have said anything of any relevance yet.

  143. Greg Tingey says:

    That leaves you ( & me & us) with just ONE candidate then.
    The trouble is, that the party he is affiliated to almost certainly won’t pick him – they will pick some same-old-same-old politico.
    I’m referring to Christian Wolmayor, of course.

  144. peezedtee says:

    I think you are being unduly hard on Christian Wolmar, who understands more about transport than any politician, except possibly Andrew Adonis. Wolmar has given already some clear pointers to his thinking, see for instance and

    Since transport policy is by some distance the single most significant power the Mayor has, it makes sense to go for somebody who knows about it, and I have a hunch that either Wolmar or Adonis would be greatly preferable to any of the mainstream ambitious political hacks like Lammy or Kahn or, god forbid, Ms Jowell.

    It may also be to Wolmar’s advantage that he has not until now been seen as a politician.

    I agree with you about Val Shawcross. She is my MLA as well as being chair of the Transport Committee, and I have exchanged a number of e-mails with her on local issues (mostly transport-related) and always got a sensible and informed reply. But I haven’t yet seen any hint that she might be in the running.

  145. Milton Clevedon says:

    @WW, @PZT
    The Mayor has to deal with much more than transport, there’s the requirement to promote London as a world city, oversee the umpteen mayoral strategies and priorities, no doubt lobby for more devolution of central government powers, more tax-raising and financing capability and so on. Press the London quality of living factors. And be seen to stand up to Whitehall and Westminster, manage the media etc. So it’s not just a tick-the-transport-box exercise. On that basis the all-round politicians may command more respect than some others.

    Finally, it is relevant to bear in mind that any Mayor is as good as their advisors and (in present parlance) Deputy Mayors – and the Transport Commissioner. Boris has had a wobble in one or two departments, but the Transport portfolio has been astutely handled by TfL, given the cards which have been dealt out in that arena.

  146. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ MC – I was very careful to mention coherence in the context of other policies too. I am more than clear about the Mayor’s responsibilities and what people expect of him / her. I usually sit and read the monthly Mayor’s Questions and never cease to be amazed as to the extent of expectation about what the Mayor can do or influence. I don’t decide my voting intentions on just one area of policy.

    @ PZT – I am afraid I do not worship at the throne of Wolmar. I’m not convinced about the real extent of his knowledge and genuine understanding of transport issues. Much of his commentary comes across as a series of “cheap shots” which is somewhat unbecoming of someone who wants to be Mayor. I also have doubts about his ability to work across all the briefs that the Mayor has to manage. I also don’t think he has sufficient “appeal” to ordinary voters or to the various factions in the Labour Party. I know that sounds trite and superficial but that’s where politics is at these days.

    For all their flaws both Ken and Boris have the ability to stand out, to laugh at themselves, to be engaging and to be ruthless when it’s needed. You need that mix (and more) to be Mayor and I get little or no sense that Mr Wolmar has the necessary character and gravitas. Could I see Mr Wolmar on the world stage of the Olympics or responding appropriately after a tragic incident affecting Londoners – nope. Sorry.

  147. stimarco says:


    I agree with you. Wolmar’s only real experience is in writing about transport issues. Yes, he’s probably been on a few tours of rail depots and the like, but that’s not the same as actually working on these systems.

    Also, his “Britain’s leading travel commentator” claim is meaningless: I could be Britain’s leading YouTube commenter and it’d be just as pointless. He’s made himself the go-to man for trite transport-related soundbites*. This isn’t helpful as it makes him look like a cheap opportunist.

    As any old journo will tell you, making yourself available to any hack who needs a soundbite at bloody dark o’clock for a filler transport safety item that’s due on the editor’s desk in an hour will get you much more exposure than someone who won’t even answer the phone at that time of night. He’s a media whore, plain and simple. Same as Boris Johnson, and Ken Livingston.

    * (And very shallow and poorly reasoned bandwagon-jumping. His stance on HS2 is particularly idiotic: it ultimately boils down to “It’s too expensive!” Building any infrastructure in the UK is shockingly expensive, but this is a political problem: costs could be slashed massively by simply fixing the political and legal hurdles every construction project in the country has to cope with. What does Mr. Wolmar plan to do about that? Or is he just going to blame symptoms instead of causes, like every other politician?)

  148. peezedtee says:

    @stimarco “Wolmar’s only real experience is in writing about transport issues.”

    Not true. He has also written a lot about housing and local government, and obviously knows his way around national and London politics so he knows how things work. He also knows a lot about economics (in which he has a degree), and it’s clear from his columns that he understands budgets, investment criteria and financing issues a lot better than most hacks — just the kind of thing of which any Mayor needs to get a grip.

    Also I hardly think he can be accused of “bandwagon-jumping” when on HS2 he has been just the opposite of that, sticking his neck out for a non-mainstream view that challenges the conventional wisdom. I personally don’t agree with his line on HS2 but he has certainly teased out many of the detailed issues that need addressing, while not hesitating to criticise nonsense propaganda put out by both sides, the antis as well as the pros.

    It is ridiculous to assert that his stance on HS2 amounts to nothing more than “it’s too expensive”. He has been much more subtle than that, questioning how far the scheme is likely to meet its claimed objectives and querying in knowledgeable detail the methodology used for calculating the return on investment, among other things.

    He and his friend Roger Ford are both disliked in the corridors of power, especially at the DfT, because they are too well-informed — they both repeatedly point out inconvenient truths which the politicians and civil servants would rather obfuscate.

  149. Kit Green says:

    People cannot get on buses for their commute…….

    From a political standpoint this is only partially transport related. It seems ridiculous that most of us still start and end work at more or less the same time. More effort needs to be put into smoothing out all day flows.

  150. Graham H says:

    @Kit Green – and what measures do you suggest to persuade employers to allow the right degree of flexible working? If you have to man an office or a shop between 0800 and 1800, there’s precious little room for manoeuvre. Simply pricing up the peak has been shown to have only a very limited effect (around 5% reduction for a 20% price increase).

  151. straphan says:

    @Graham H: The only solution that works is the one that employees hate the most.

    My friend used to work for one of the big banks in Canary Wharf. Most employees there are subjected to ‘hotdesking’ (i.e. nobody has ‘their own’ desk), with the number of desks equaling only 80% of the total workforce. As a result, everyone came to work early – just to be sure they would actually HAVE a desk (and preferably one that’s not too close to the toilets/kitchen/lifts/delete as appropriate). Let’s just say that policy was not exactly popular there…

    With regard to Christian Wolmar and Roger Ford, I have the utmost respect for Mr Ford, less so for Mr Wolmar. Both of them drive me up the wall with rants about building British trains, though. The Germans can afford to buy German-built trains and trams – pretty much everyone has a factory there (Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, Stadler). France also can choose between Bombardier and Alstom – and indeed a good portion of SNCF trains are built by Bombardier, even though it is a Canadian company. In the UK there is only Bombardier – take away the possibility of buying trains abroad and they get a monopoly. Would that be good for the public purse and for R&D on the railway?

    Also, those two need to sit up and take notice. Trenitalia has just bought high-speed trains from Bombardier who don’t even have a factory in Italy (unlike Alstom/FIAT Ferroviaria or Ansaldobreda who are actually state-owned). Deutsche Bahn has also signed a framework for a few hundred DMUs from PESA of Poland (who tried to flog a few trams to Croydon a couple of years ago…). So the times are indeed changing.

  152. Graham H says:

    @straphan – that may work in certain offices but clearly it won’t do for those shops and offices where there are fixed opening hours and where there is a particular level of customer service to be provided. And even where only 80% of the required accommodation is provided, employers have to be able to say (if they are not to be taken to a tribunal ) just where the “surplus” employees are supposed to work. The sort of bank your friend describes may have been able to get away with it because of fear of losing one’s job, but not every employer is able to run on that basis. Besides – in a world in which everyone tries to get to the office at 0800 (or 0600, or whatever) just to get a desk, then all you have done is create a spike in travel at that point. So, no, I doubt if it is the answer to anyone’s prayer really.

    Per contra, I agree with you about the rolling stock market being in a state of flux, with three new(ish) European entrants* eating away at the three dominant manufacturers, not to mention Hitachi and Rotem making a major play for European markets.

    *I’m expecting Ansaldo to “leave” the market any time soon – before the market leaves them…

  153. Fandroid says:

    On new manufacturing entrants: I have been on PESA trams in Warsaw and was very impressed. Mind you, even the old Tatra trams there have been lovingly restored, and it’s worth a visit to the city just to ride on them (almost as much fun as a Routemaster).

  154. straphan says:

    @Graham H: I fully agree with you – I only gave this example to show how radical you would have to get just to half-solve the problem (or indeed just shift it by an hour and deprive people of sleep).

    What regards rolling stock, Hitachi is taking a big gamble in assuming that the UK is going to stay in the EU by locating its only factory “on this side of the world” in England. Other than that Pesa is maturing as a fairly decent rolling stock manufacturer and – as you say – Rotem/Hyundai have made inroads into non-EU Europe (Ukraine, Turkey). Ansaldobreda – as you rightly say – is unlikely to make any more trains – they should indeed stick to trams which they aren’t actually halfway bad at making.

  155. JM says:

    Re the comments on CRT – if the Bakerloo extension gets some legs in the next 10 years (depending on where it goes), would this be an ultimately better solution than CRT anyway?

  156. peezedtee says:

    That would help Peckham (if it goes there) but still wouldn’t do anything for the Waterloo-Kingsway-Southampton Row-Euston corridor.

  157. ngh says:

    Re JM 18:29, 16 December 2013

    It depends which Bakerloo scheme. CRT had 3 seperate routes south of the river
    The Hakerloo one you only really effect the eastern most branch/loop of CRT i.e. round Burgess Park area and it does nothing for the Brixton/Stockwell bus corridor routes which CRT does.
    The Streatham Bakerloo proposal provides plenty of relief on the Brixton bus corridor and maybe stops people heading for the Northern line along the Stockwell corridor?
    Since heading off towards Lewisham seemed more popular with TfL last time the both proposal saw daylight they may be some what independant.

  158. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ JM – this will sound like an echo of other posts. It depends entirely on what route option is chosen for any Bakerloo extension. I don’t see that an extension kills off the Cross River Tram. There is huge demand along the route corridors and while a tube extension might affect some of the traffic it doesn’t kill it IMO. I’d still be keen to run a tram service into Peckham as it would offer additional capacity and would allow several bus routes to be thinned out considerably.

    I’d be tempted to restructure part of the CRT to run a branch on from Stockwell to the Patmore estate and into the expanded Battersea PS development to link to the future Northern Line / Battersea Park NR there. This would give a huge traffic objective plus better access to local housing in this area as well as better local connectivity. I’d also argue that you could run differently at Kings Cross given the huge scale of development there and the lack of obvious public transport service into the railway lands themselves. A tram link is easier on the environment and street scape and offers good capacity. To me this is all pretty much a no brainer but I’m no transport planner or modeller. I have locked the crayons away after this brief aberration. 🙂

  159. Milton Clevedon says:

    What’s really amazing is that there should already be an, er, CRL3 notional sketch up there on the official TfL crayon board, beyond CR2, because the way the numbers are going, either the interchanges fall all over or we might need some strategic thinking early on. Failing which, wait for CRL2 and then panic? (Which Mayoral term would that be?) 8.2m 2011 London pop, 9.7m 2031 pop, poss 10½-11m 2051 pop. Logarithm to base 10: 8.2 x 8.2 = 67.2, an example of possible change in demand with interaction, 9.7 x 9.7 = 84.1, 10.5 x 10.5 = 110.3. Totally imprecise but gives the flavour – nominal 28% growth in population if fully interacted (all meet all) gives 64% increase in contacts. What pops first?

  160. stimarco says:

    HS2’s critics are almost entirely focused on its value for money. But this is calculated according to models based on existing rules, regulations, constraints, and variables. Change any of those and the resulting value for money figure will change too. Often quite wildly.

    It would help if politicians and economists stopped believing computer models were anything more than interactive illustrations, rather than – as they often claim – actual proof, or evidence, supporting a hypothesis. A computer model of a system is not proof of how that system works in reality. “Ceci n’est pas un pipe!”

    A major headache for HS2 Ltd. is that there’s really very little in the way of existing data they can use. Germany is perhaps the closest to the proposed HS2 model – think “ICE”, not “TGV” – but not even Germany has such a cock-eyed imbalance in its regional economies. The UK has a vast megacity tucked tight into its south-eastern corner, while the rest of the country mostly gets to be London’s call centre*.

    HS2 is therefore supposed to help ‘rebalance’ the UK’s economies, but does that mean deliberately reducing London’s prestige in favour of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, or should we see this as a levelling of the scales by adding new weights, rather than redistributing them?

    No other country has such an imbalance of economic power that makes comparisons particularly useful. Even Germany has major cities and industrial centres like Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart outside its capital. Italy has Turin, Milan and Genova, as well as Rome (and, to a lesser extent, Naples), so might work as a comparison, but it’s still building its own TGV-type network, so there isn’t enough data from there.

    Japan also has multiple economic centres, although Tokyo is by far the largest, but, like Italy, it also sits in a seismically active area, so construction methods have to be adapted to suit, making direct cost comparisons difficult.

    France has the polar opposite of the UK’s economic spread: it’s basically a large, square-ish country with a plentiful supply of major cities and industries spread all over it. The UK is nothing like that, so as potential benchmarks, France, Germany, Italy and Japan offer little help.

    HS2 Ltd. are therefore limited to relying on heavily theoretical models to build their case. And, of course, being heavily theoretical, they’re very easy to massage. By both sides.

    The eye-wateringly high construction costs are, however, not HS2’s fault at all. They’re due to political interference and intervention in both the project and the wider construction industry over the years. Why is HS2 shouldering the entire burden for rebuilding Euston, when it was already going to be rebuilt by Network Rail anyway?

    You can rebuild a station like Clapham Junction, in service, for well under €400 million in Italy. (In fact, they just did: Roma Tiburtina. And, yes, it was kept open throughout.)

    Yet knocking down and rebuilding Euston – a crap 1960s eyesore – while adding a handful of new tracks is going to cost nearly four times more? That’s a bloody front-page scandal. Are they planning to rebuild the old Doric Arch and clad it in platinum?

    The reason for the terrifying price tag is that the UK’s construction industry is fundamentally broken and needs to be repaired. There is too much sub-contracting and sub-sub-contracting, with all the armies of lawyers and legal arse-covering that involves inflating the cost of doing even the most basic of business.

    * (I may be exaggerating slightly for effect.)

  161. Ian J says:

    @straphan: Ansaldobreda – as you rightly say – is unlikely to make any more trains – they should indeed stick to trams which they aren’t actually halfway bad at making.”

    The people of Boston (“worst purchase ever”), Oslo (years late, major mechanical problems, 30 out of 32 trams taken out of service due to rust), Gothenborg (38 out of 40 trams taken out of service due to rust), Birmingham (“rubbish” trams put up for sale), and Manchester (entire fleet replaced decades early) might disagree with you.

  162. Fandroid says:

    @stimarco. I fear you may be marginally off topic.

  163. Greg Tingey says:

    Railway/Tram manufacturing
    NOT helped, in this country, by politicians, quite deliberately crapping on Brit manufacturing capacity – imagining that a factory can be shut down, then re-opened a couple of years later, like some corner shop.
    The disasters of privatisation (Also deliberately designed to try to finish the railways off) didn’t help, either.
    The closures of Vulcan foundry & Metro-Cammel & BRCW (Their original names) are down to this, coupled with the Treasury’s apparent fixed belief that “the foreigners won’t cheat us, but our own manufacturers’ will” have certainly shafted us.

    Our presence inside or outside the EU is irrelevant to manufacturing, actually – ask Norway or Switzerland – provided, of course, that like those countries we have a true free-trade agreement.

    France is one-city-centred even more than the UK
    London is now France’s 4th city, in terms of French-speaking population (?)
    In the UK the Manchester conurbation is pretty big & important, too!
    Agree re. “ICE” should be the model.
    The opposition to HS” consists of several groups – the remnants of those who hate railways at any cost – the Serpells of the world, the road-loving inhabitants of Bucks (etc) those who oppose any expansion anywhere, & worst of all, those with no vision at all – who overlap the previous set to a large degree. How to drive a wedge between them is probalematic.
    Incidentally, the proposals for Heathrow Expansion London Airport Development should prove equally interesting.
    [ I’m of the opinion that some form of “Thames Estuary” new development is the answer, but there are huge vested interests in favour of more Heathrow ]
    Which raise the question – what are the vested interests contra HS2?
    The road lobby, the air lobby, and, as you say “THE LAWYERS” (Inflating all costs to a ridiculous level) of course – who else?

    [ P.S. Ansaldo-Breda = “Fyra” V25, yes? Falls about laughing – oh & MORE money for the lawyers …

  164. Greg Tingey says:

    Diamond Geezer has a piece on Heathrow today – well worth a read.

  165. Mark Townend says:

    I think best practice large scale construction has changed significantly in recent years and contract terms and conditions are much more realistic, designed to incentivise success no matter how many layers of subcontracting are involved. The London Olympics is a good example of this. It is therefore absurd for the treasury to insist on the huge ‘optimism bias’ uplift to the overall cost of HS2 when much carefully calculated contingency will have already been included by the project planners.

  166. ngh says:

    Finemeccanica (parent company) allegedly planning to launch a new firm with the productive assets of A-B (finally getting to grips with acquisition and merger issues not tackled a decade ago).
    Unions on strike, 2 of the 4 factories potentially closing, government mediated talks deadline tomorrow, in one of the towns A-B is the only major employer.
    Signalling may be the only safe area in A-B.

  167. straphan says:

    @Ian J: Whilst Ansaldo have indeed had some major problems, the Sirio tram seems to be operating halfway-decently in some Italian cities (Milan, Bergamo, Florence) and in Samsun, Turkey…

    @Greg Tingey: Switzerland is not a member of the EEA (European Economic Area), and its main rolling stock manufacturer (Stadler) already has a number of plants inside the EU proper (Germany, Hungary, Poland) which is the basis for it being able to compete for intra-EU contracts.

    The EEA is based on the same ‘four freedoms’ principle of the EU – i.e. freedom of movement of goods, PERSONS, services and capital. Thus, staying in the EEA will not allow the UK to resolve what it perceives to be the single largest issue it has with being in the EU – lack of immigration controls.

    Not having the UK within the EEA will no doubt pose a serious problem for Hitachi, who no doubt would like to have a go at winning some contracts on the European mainland.

  168. JM says:

    Right mixed bag in here now.

    To those who replied to me on CRT thanks. Agree with most they could coexist, mainly because a Bakerloo extension can’t link the west end and go through Brixton, Camberwell, Peckham and New Cross. Interestingly the Victoria Line could. I was laughed at when I suggested it before but if south London tubes become a reality rather than asperations it gives you links to Oxford Circus and Euston in under half an hour from most inner London se postcodes. Could go to Docklands and those areas around Greenwich (the borough) where better links to the south are needed and a big wodge of Londons future housing capacity is going to go. Just putting it out there 🙂

    @Milton Clevedon

    Agree. The City Northern Line is being primed to take a lot of extra weight from Crossrail 2 at Islington and Tooting. And this is without a fix for Camden or taking into account the Old Street Tech City/Shoreditch leisure bubble bringing more and more people onto it. Over the much longer term cant see how you wouldn’t need a parallel N/S Crossrail via the City.

    HS2 is probably over the worst. It’s not perfect* (Hs1 link, no Stoke station, no Sheffield spur, no spur to the east at Ardwick to facilitate a future network across the Peak District) but still better than any alternatives.

    Osborne’s political career is finished if the Hybrid Bill doesn’t pass and Ed Balls has no frontbench Labour or potential coalition ally – just yesterdays men like Darling and Mandelson. The kind of majorities the Tories have in Bucks, the Flat Ear….UKIP party or other oppotunists will not be able to overturn at a General Election. Established parties can get the vote when they need to and at least Tory sceptics have access to Osborne or his aides the Flat Ear…UKIP or other independents wouldn’t.

    * in my eyes only of course

  169. ngh says:

    Re JM
    You need CR2 in operation to relieve the Victoria line before you think about extending it south. There is no point in extending a line that is already full, hence TfL’s thinking on the bakerloo ideas from 5-10 years ago.
    I think many would be surprised by what really happens with the Northern / CR2 interchange at Tooting. There is that assumption everyone wants the Northern line and everyone will pile on from CR2 there where as the reality may be very different, many use the Northern line because there is no other choice apart from using several buses.

  170. straphan says:

    @JM: The key issue with HS2 to my mind is a lack of stations along the route. Having looked carefully at the eastern leg of Phase 2, there are a number of places where stations could be built (e.g. M1/J29, Wakefield, Leicester, etc.). Both Phase 2 legs will have about 10tph at present – there is a lot of scope to run more trains of the regional variety on them (akin to Southeastern High Speed). They will, however, need to stop somewhere.

  171. Long Branch Mike says:

    Methinks HS2 is keeping their proposed line as simple as possible, ie to build only absolutely necessary stations, to keep costs down (the main point of the critics), as well as to keep capacity available for its eventual Phase 3+ extension to Scotland.

    At the present rates of passenger rail traffic growth and rising costs of petrol, that spare capacity will be needed in the next decade or so.

    Also, with London area airports at capacity, freeing up domestic flight slots and gates in favour of high speed rail travel will be a cost-effective way of increasing international flight capacity.

  172. straphan says:

    @Long Branch Mike: and what will that capacity be needed for? Phase 1 (Birmingham to London) will already be effectively full from day one (18tph) – the stations proposed on both branches of Phase 2 simply will not generate enough demand for many more additional services than those already proposed. Stations are not really the most expensive element – I would wager a figure of about £20-£25m for a simple ‘two-loops-a-shed-and-a-car-park’ affair much like the French do with their parkways (Calais-Frethun, TGV Haute-Picardie, TGV Champagne-Ardenne, etc.).

  173. Milton Clevedon says:

    We need a separate HS2 / HS2-HS1 etc topic zone, not least as the Hybrid Bill has now been deposited in Parliament. There are lots of LRC threads everywhere on this scheme!

  174. Long Branch Mike says:

    at MC

    What does LRC mean

  175. Milton Clevedon says:

    London Re-Connections

  176. JM says:


    Will try to be brief, Of course you’re right about Brixton. These were long term thoughts. It’s more challenging the perceived consensus which seems to be that if you do extend it, it must go south. With the majority of Londoners now or soon to be living on the eastern side of the city, connectivity south to east will need more than it currently has.

    Re the Tooting problem. I think the upgraded NL will get you to Moorgate in about 20ish minutes from Tooting. With peak dwell times, I think changing at TottenhamCt Rd or Tooting will be negligible. If there is CR1 capacity going east at TCR, it will be swallowed up as the spare West London paths get used as Old Oak develops. Whereas Angel would be significantly quicker for the City from the notrth than using Hackney, Kings Cross or TCR. I think it’s trying to do too much. If you plan for 2 N/S routes (which I can forsee happening eventually anyway) then you can deliver what you need to plus add solutions for other issues that would remin outstanding, particularly in south London.


    Actually think HS2 presents an opportunity for Wakefield. The current set up there seems strange with Intercity station on the west side and local train station with lots of surrounding space on the southern side. You could effectively run the ECML on the permanent way east of Agbrigg and stop trains at a rebuilt Kirkgate. Keep 2 services an hour on the ECML to London and 1 can run north to Leeds and the other to Bradford/Huddersfield. Add a bus station and you can create an integrated transport hub. Given I understand there has been lots of anti social problems there in the past it could help regenerate that side of Wakefield.

    Sorry to have taken this further off the original thread topic.

  177. peezedtee says:

    @LBM “with London area airports at capacity,”

    Actually not. Stansted in particular is nowhere near at capacity.

    @straphan “like the French do with their parkways (Calais-Frethun, TGV Haute-Picardie, TGV Champagne-Ardenne, etc.).”

    All of which have been spectacularly unsuccessful, I understand.

  178. AlisonW says:

    (reads last dozen or so posts and wonders whatever happened to the 24 bus route / NB4L discussion)

    anyway, re funding of projects like HS2 and airport capacity improvements, I recall noting that the Treasury sets a limit on how many years can be taken into account, and with the very long build time envisaged for HS2 it actually means only THREE years of actual, full use are involved, so no surprise whatsoever that the business case is difficult to prove.

    One aspect of my ‘real life’ is as a specialist on i18n (internationalisation) issues. London is (the last time I checked, but I will do again in the coming week) the _sixth_ largest French-speaking city sfaiaa.

  179. Ian J says:

    @AlisonW: “France’s 4th city” and “sixth largest French-speaking city” need not be mutually exclusive, since not everyone who speaks French is French. But the question of how many French speakers there are in places like Montreal and Brussels is fraught with politics.

    @ngh: Unfortunately Finmeccanica’s strategy seems to be to bundle its successful rail signalling business (Ansaldo STS) with the dead duck of a train- and tram-making business (Ansaldo Breda) then dispose of them. Probably makes political sense in Italy to keep factories open in the short term, but in the long term Ansaldo Breda could easily just drag Ansaldo STS under.

    Relevance of this to the New Bus for London: well, light rail vehicles, unlike buses, are pretty much a standard product world-wide which means that so long as you buy from a competent manufacturer, they retain good residual value and you can trade them with other places (for example surplus European trams have been sold to Australia; and the first generation of DLR rolling stock now run as trams in Essen). Buses can only go to left-hand-drive places at the best of times, and in practice it is hard to see the NBfL being used outside London. So there is a kind of hidden cost to putting a lot of money into a bespoke London-only bus that won’t be apparent for some time to come.

  180. Fandroid says:

    The ‘normal’ London buses have two lots of doors, so are not really what the provincial operators want. Anyway, the big boys buy new, so the UK used bus market isn’t going to be wonderful.

  181. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – to be fair TfL are working on a 14 year life for the NB4Ls in London with no assumed use elsewhere (as second hand vehicles). That’s little different to diesel double deckers although some groups like Arriva do move clapped out London stock to marginal routes elsewhere in the UK. The unknown factor with NB4Ls (and hybrids) is battery life and cost of replacement. This is partly a factor in the decision in New York to replace hybrids with diesel vehicles.

    @ Fandroid – Correct about the dual door design but most lease cos and dealers will convert vehicles to single door for re-use / resale. The second hand market isn’t too dire in the UK – many ex London vehicles do see re-use elsewhere. Some of the big groups do buy second hand stock – First have made some judicious second hand purchases in recent months. However the main trick is to cascade vehicles from London – Go Ahead have sent a load of deckers to East Anglia recently for Hedingham and Chambers buses. The one group that has decided to treat London differently is Stagecoach where they’ve said new buses will be leased only and existing vehicles, once no longer needed, will be sold rather than cascaded. That’s a change from their previous policy of cascading.

  182. Kit Green says:

    the big boys buy new

    They have ample scope to cascade vehicles within the organisation. Most of the First Group buses in Southampton look decrepitly uncared for, although there are a few new ones. Bluestar and UniLink buses seem immaculate in comparison.

    Ten years ago First buses around Truro were the worst I have ever experienced.

  183. straphan says:

    Old Stagecoach buses (from London and elsewhere) used to end up on Megabus routes – mostly on the Oxford Road corridor in Manchester, which also used to host Stagecoach vehicles from places like Nairobi or HongKong.

    From my own observations of buses running in Leeds, which I visit frequently, I can see that the second-hand market is very much alive and well. I spotted a number of buses in the Keighley & District (Transdev) and Arriva fleets sporting a straight staircase (I doubt buses with straight staircases were ordered for any other place than London).

  184. Fandroid says:

    @Straphan. I suspect that you really mean Magic Bus on the Oxford Road routes in Manchester. I don’t know the history, but I assumed that Magic Bus were one of the independents that arose from deregulation, and sold out to Stagecoach at some stage. They were unique in using 3-axle buses which Stagecoach continue to use as they have kept the ‘brand’ in among their own Stagecoach services. Oxford Road is a seriously obvious place for a Tramlink route, as buses cause traffic congestion there, rather than suffer from it. Problem is, TfGM don’t seem interested.

  185. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – AFAIK the “Magic Bus” brand is entirely a Stagecoach invention & not the result of a buyout. It is a classic approach to segmenting the market place by using depreciated vehicles and bargain basement fares. Stagecoach have used Magic Bus in Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester (possibly elsewhere) as a competitive tool against new entrants and to grow the market even when it means running against themselves. The Oxford Road is price sensitive because of the vast student flows which is why I think Stagecoach have kept Magic Bus in place. Much of the competition on that road has gone now as Finglands sold out recently to First but I don’t know what services First have kept in place.

  186. straphan says:

    @Fandroid: shows how long it’s been since I went to Manchester – of course I meant Magic Bus!

    As WW rightly pointed out, the Oxford Road corridor is price-sensitive, with students being the largest market segment. Hence light rail, which would be more expensive, may not necessarily be the right answer here. And yes, I appreciate this is a situation anyone from Continental Europe would find totally barmy.

    What I wonder is whether Stagecoach will see the need to maintain the Magic Bus brand for very much longer. The Oxford Road corridor is the best example that – in the long run – deregulation does not work. This is one of the most lucrative bus corridors in the UK outside London. There used to be a mix of five or six companies – both big and small – competing on that route (UK North, Finglands, Stagecoach, Bullocks plus a few smaller outfits) at one point and now there are only Stagecoach and First, of which the former has a majority share in the market. What is the point of competition then if it ultimately results in a monopoly?

    The Oxford Road corridor also exposes another fatal flaw with UK bus policy. This is a route which carries students from the city centre and university campuses to their homes. One would imagine there would be a good business case for commercial evening and night services of some sort, given that students are known to go out at night rather more often than the average population. Now, TfGM don’t do this anymore, but a few years ago their bus timetable leaflets showed which services were contracted by GMPTE (as they used to be known) and which were run commercially. Essentially, commercial services along the Oxford Road stopped at around 9pm, and anything between then and 6am was contracted and subsidised by GMPTE! As I imagine, the operators were allowed to keep the entire revenue from this operation on top of the subsidy.

  187. Greg Tingey says:

    Not sure if this is the right place to mention this (if at all) but Diamond Geeezer has a piece on closing bus-stops in Stratford & the inconvenience to everyone – because of the repeatedly-botched Cycle superhighway 2.
    However, in the comments, one Andrea Casaloti is making some very inflammatory ( & probably libellous ) remarks about TfL’s buses & the supposed deaths & injuries caused by them.
    I wonder if anyone here has an opinion on the subject, once they have read the offending remarks … ?

  188. Fandroid says:

    Thanks WW for clearing that up. I confess to being fooled by Stagecoach. I fairly regularly use buses from the Christie Hospital along the Wilmslow Road/Oxford road routes to Piccadilly Gardens. From Withington centre onwards they then always seem to spend 50% of their time loading and unloading (via one door!). Although there’s a bus every few minutes, it feels like the lowest common denominator in terms of a public transport service. I’ve seen crammed bendy buses carrying equivalent student crowds in Germany with a much higher average speed. As it’s mostly a straight route, suitable for articulated buses, perhaps there’s a niche for a continental rival, who is willing to rely on passenger honesty (and inspectors!).

  189. timbeau says:

    Getting back on topic, according to the LOTS website it was announced on December 19th that route 8 will get Borismonsters in late June, but that seems an awfully long gap from their planned introduction on the 148 in February – notwithstanding the need to build enough to meet the large PVR of 30 required for route 8. (Have I missed something?

  190. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – err I think you can take it as read that Stagecoach have got the market sown up in much of South Manchester. As already mentioned competition has dwindled in the last few years – I suspect this is because Stagecoach can marshall massive resources to run very frequently and could, if it wished, sustain price competition for much longer than any new operator. Citaro bendy buses are very nice but they are heavy and drink fuel so are not a brilliant competitive tool against depreciated double deckers that can carry big loads and are more fuel efficient. Also I believe the “normal” Stagecoach Manchester services are now largely hybrids so are nice and “green” to keep the PTE happy and are more fuel efficient to boot. Stagecoach Manchester recently won “Bus Operator of the Year” at the National Bus Awards so they must be doing something right.

    On the single door, slow boarding point I think we need to accept that commercial operators put much more weight on people paying the correct fare and / or being able to buy a day or season ticket on the bus (retaining market share / customer loyalty) than on dwell times and route vehicle requirements. Yes buses can stand at stops for inordinate times in towns and cities outside London but that’s commercial reality for you. They can’t fund flat fares a la TfL nor can they buy into Oyster. The national transport smartcard (ITSO) is slowly rolling out with commercial operators but it is slow and still relies on passenger / driver interraction to deduct the right fare (if used in a PAYG form). Only Trent Barton have entry and exit validation for their smartcard system.

    @ Straphan – I think the bus industry has tended towards consolidation and monopoly for the best part of a century. I don’t think this is unique to the UK either. I think I have said before, but possibly not here, that I have mixed views about deregulation. I can see the appeal of contracted networks that exist in Europe but there is vastly different practice and performance between countries. We also don’t really know if a market driven solution would give some areas MUCH better, more customer focused services than the contracted market does now. In the UK we have some very good deregulated bus services, some average ones and some places have rubbish or no services. The decline in some areas has been endemic for years and is much more linked to social and economic factors than the structure of the bus industry if we were to be rational. If I look at the better companies who do buy new vehicles, who do grow their markets and who do have good marketing for good services at reasonable fares I have to ask whether anyone would be better off by abolishing them and reducing them to a “one size fits all” solution. I doubt the passengers who like their bus services would agree with them being worsened. All the arguments about regulation come back to one issue – funding. London’s approach works because it is very well funded in terms of £1bn annual revenue and £ms of subsidy and concessions on the top.

    There is no money or political will to find it to do the same elsewhere in the country. I can see both sides of the Tyne and Wear debate but it will end in one of two scenarios – a voluntary partnership *or* in the courts as operators use the law to prevent confiscation of their businesses. What I think I would like to see is commercial operators being able to keep investing and delivering good quality bus services but with nationally mandated standards for smart ticketing, common integrated tickets and information provision. I’d also like there to be a hypothecated national fund to support socially necessary services in every county in the UK with its use decided locally. This would top up commercial networks to allow for early morning, evening and Sunday services plus links the market can’t provide. I’d also want to see some “pump priming” funding to support commercial operators build new services and ridership. I would also want the national concessionary pass system reformed and given a more stable and sustainable funding basis. I think this would mean that recipients would have to pay a small annual fee for the pass but would otherwise travel free off peak. I’d also means test the entitlement to the pass (not popular but it’s better than having a pass but no buses on which to use it). I can but dream!

    @ Greg – I have seen the “driving standards” comment on the DG blog. I found them pretty outrageous but I was not surprised. I fear that 2014 will end up as the year not of the bus (as TfL have decreed) but of “bus safety”. There is a growing political undercurrent which is beginning to lump together cycle and pedestrian safety with the safety of using buses or being in their vicinity. TfL’s recent agreement to release fairly detailed statistics on bus accidents to the London Assembly will inevitably bring greater scrutiny but whether it brings the “truth” to the fore rather than pure prejudice remains to be seen. There are certain campaigners out there who have a very odd (IMO, of course) view of the safety of the bus network and of driving standards. I consider bus travel to be very safe but the way some people comment on it you’d think buses were *deliberately* part of some sort of death squad operation sweeping the streets of London.

    I would like to imagine we will get a reasoned debate about the actions (good and bad) of *all* road users including pedestrians plus the “competence” and “awareness” of all of those groups as part of reaching a consensus view about who is *actually* responsible for road deaths and injuries and how to improve matters. Oh look, it’s the squadron of flying oinks going past my window again!!!

    I suspect, though, that the various loud mouthed lobbies would not like reality to emerge as I believe we (whichever road user groups we are in) would all end up having to mend our ways to varying extents. No one likes being told they are somehow “wrong” and need to change their ways. The current position is that each user group is “blameless” and everybody else is to “blame” – a frankly ludicrous state of affairs.

  191. AlisonW says:

    As nobody has pointed this out (though, to be fair, anyone reading here should know this anyway) but the response to “a kind of hidden cost to putting a lot of money into a bespoke London-only bus” is to point out just how far around the world Routemasters can be found.

    And a far better job of being bespoke it did compared to ‘NB4L’.

  192. timbeau says:

    That may be true now, but the number of operators who bought AEC Routemasters new can be counted on the fingers of one hand – with three to spare!

  193. Greg Tingey says:

    Did you also see my later comments on the DG blog, about no one size fits all, and using appropriate transport in different circumstances?
    However, there seems to be a “holy cycling” lobby emerging (Though it always existed) who are very loud.
    They also pointedly ignore the greatest area of injury ( & death) which is to pedestrians ….

  194. Littlejohn says:


    Not quite – unless you are Anne Boleyn. I think you are forgetting BEA. Did they not buy the ‘RMAs’, with LT just operating them?

  195. Graham H says:

    @AlisonW – Routemasters versus Borismeisters? – one of the key differences between then and now is the change to vehicle maintenance policy. During the Routemaster era, LT completely dismantled every vehicle as it passed through Aldenham bus works so that the emerging vehicles were, effectively, a completely different rig. The objective here was to maximise the commercial life of the vehicle, which is why the RM fleet (and the RT fleet before it) lasted as long as it did. The point is that LT’s maintenance policy was unusual at the time and most provincial operators preferred the throwaway method; this meant that vehicle design in London had to be somewhat different to that used elsewhere (I suspect there is also quite a lot of history, stemming from the relationship between LGOC and AEC as well).

    These days, the universal commercial judgement is to throw away after 10-15 years (unless, that is, you are Stagecoach), and the Borismeisters will follow that pattern; so, no rebuilding every few years, and no technical need for an unusual design.

  196. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – the unknown factor with current bus purchases, particularly of hybrids, is whether there is a “ticking time bomb” in terms of maintenance, battery life / replacement or some other electronic obsolescence. This is not to say we should not develop bus design – we clearly should – but we need to be aware of the risks too. People may be planning on 14-15 year life spans but the reality may be something different.

  197. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Graham H

    Everything you say is absolutely true but surely once one got into the cycle of maximising the life of the routemasters (RM) and there is no suitable equivalent replacement available then the incentive to keep what you have got in good order rather than buy new is a big one. Remember that in the mid-1970s when one could expect to see the start of RM withdrawal the alternatives were absolutely dire for London operation being XMS and Leyland Nationals.

    Given that conductors would be employed for some time yet and the RMs were both reliable and what was wanted it made sense to continue to maintain them for a long life. Every garage would have its graveyard of cannibalised or otherwise unserviceable buses. At Elmers End garage the majority of buses were routemasters with one at most unsuitable for service yet we had around a half a dozen unservicable nearly-new Leyland Nationals.

    So I would suggest the questions in 15 years time will be:
    i) Is NBfL the sort of bus we want in London?
    ii) Is there a more modern equivalent that is suitable?

    If the answers are Yes and No respectively then the issue will be whether to invest in preparing the NBfL for a long life or just to accept what is available to purchase – or maybe just possibly to commission another generation of NBfL.

    Sometimes it is a case of needs must. Remember the 5x 1938 stock trains that came out of retirement to cater short-term for an increase in demand on the Northern Line.

  198. timbeau says:


    after submitting that I realised I might expect to be challenged on the grounds that a thumb is not a finger, but I admit I had overlooked BEA – I could be pedantic and say that BEA were not a bus operator – they owned the buses but LT operated them: (for those who don’t know, the other operator was Northern General).

    Is LT62 going to be put back into service, or will it be raided to provide bits for new vehicles? If the latter, that will surely be one of the shortest periods between introduction of a type and the first withdrawal.

  199. Graham H says:

    @PoP – the ’70s were dire for UK bus design not just in London but pretty universally. The problem was that BL and NBC had been set up as a”production/consumption” duo by Barbara Castle – whose constituency included the Leyland National plant… BL grew fat and lazy on this cozy relationship and had little incentive to do better. In the mid-70s, I cut my teeth on the NBC desk at the Department, and BL turned up one day to press me to force NBC to purchase their latest product, the B4 double decker (my predecessor in post having given them a clear “come hither” signal). I’m afraid I took the view that NBC (and LT) were big enough and ugly enough to choose what to buy and I told a very disappointed BL so very bluntly. No one ever heard of the B4 again and BL had too many other problems even to attempt to update the National design which continued to blight the market for some years afterwards. By then the damage had been done and no manufacturer had come close to trying to develop new designs to meet market needs. No wonder LT carried on with the RM for so long.

  200. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I am not 100% certain whether LT62 will be or has been scrapped but London General have recently received LT118 and 119. One is to replace LT62 and the other is for a PVR increase due to a forthcoming diversion on route 11 due to Crossrail works.

  201. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    Neither Leyland’s original factory in – erm, Leyland, nor the new factories built in Chorley and Workington, the latter specifically for the Leyland National, were in Barbara Castle’s Blackburn constituency – which, I was surprised to realise, has had only two different MPs since 1945, the other being Jack Straw (both for 34 years)..

    Perhaps politically more relevant is that in the 1970s Leyland was in the constituency of Preston South which, like Chorley, was highly marginal – changing hands in both 1970 and 1974, (and also, in Chorley’s case, 1979). Workington has been solid Labour since 1918, except for a 1976 byelection upset.

    Now, was it Boris or Mr Heatherwick who had one of these when they were younger? Or is it just me who thinks there’s a resemblance?

  202. Greg Tingey says:

    Which reminds me.
    Has anyone actually managed to find out what really happened, when that Borismaster appeared to “run amok” off-route near Victoria, a few weeks ago?
    It’s gorn ‘orrible quiet on that subject.

  203. JimJordan says:

    The Routemaster was the last of the true LT vehicles. It was developed as a successor to the RT series and, for its day was technically very advanced. I joined LT’s development office (Bus & Coach) in 1962 about ten years after the RM was first seen. Work was still going on to improve the RM and a sizable group of us were so employed. As a result of this effort the RM became probably one of the most reliable buses ever – at a price.

    It soon proved that the fixed term overhaul at Aldenham was no longer necessary and bodywork could be handled at the garages. Routine unit replacement at fixed terms (engines etc.) was already being phased out. However the historical development of the system meant that it was excessively expensive and I was probably part of that. The cost of developing the RM was very high compared with other buses and thus the cost was high. If I remember correctly an RM was about £10,000 relative to an off the peg Atlantean at about £7,500. this alone was incentive enough to buy what was an inferior product from an engineering standpoint.

    Operational needs (OPO for instance) meant the day of the RM open platform layout was over. Northern General bought the forward entrance model. I can’t remember whether this was a result of the BEA vehicle or vice versa. Even that layout was past it by then.

    The FRM (rear engine RM or Fruitmaster) was a lovely bus and, given the old LT development approach could have been a winner but the upheaval of the bus manufacturing industry put a stop to this.

  204. @JimJordan,

    If I remember correctly an RM was about £10,000 relative to an off the peg Atlantean at about £7,500. This alone was incentive enough to buy what was an inferior product from an engineering standpoint.

    On initial inspection possibly. But bus garages can only accommodate so many buses and in London they tended to be full. So an inferior bus that cannot go into service potentially means NBA (no bus available) and means expensive crews getting paid for doing nothing, extra fitters need employing and no service to the public is provided. Therefore wiser counsel may realise that in the long term the more expensive bus may actually be better value for money.

  205. Littlejohn says:


    As I recall it, the order of progression for front entrance RMs was:

    1. RMF 1254. Built for LT but never ran in service due to union opposition. Worked instead on trial for BEA and became the basis of the 65 RMAs. Later sold to Northern General to supplement their own fleet.
    2. Northern General. Total of 50 in 2 batches plus (later) RMF 1254.
    3. BEA. These were shorter than the previous versions (if you like they were the RM rather than the RML equivalent) because of overall length restrictions when pulling luggage trailers.

  206. Graham H says:

    ‘@timbeau – thank you for the correction on Barbara Castle ( suspect I was confusing two separate events here). The 1976 by-election upset was precisely the time that I was referring to – hence a lot of political panic about keeping Workington afloat. BTW it wan’t just the Labour Party which got spooked on BL – later, under a Tory administration, Cabinet rejected the scrapping of VED and its replacement with higher taxes on fuel, on the grounds that that put BL products at a disadvantage because they were gas-guzzlers by comparison with the competition… And later, a Tory administration was keen on Pacers because they kept the bus plant going.’

    @JimJordan – most interesting – you know, I suspect that these days, with the emphasis on whole life costing, the difference in initial capital cost might not have been so telling.

  207. Slugabed says:

    JimJordan 14:32 23/12
    Just out of curiosity (and to help with the sums) what was the RM’s life-expectancy when built?

  208. timbeau says:

    Leyland National production was well under way by 1976, but of course you are talking about the propsoed double decker – is this what eventually evolved into the Titan? (Initially built at Park Royal and later at Workington)

    Barbara Castle of course had form in the use of electoral sweeteners – (1966 Hull North byelection – at a time when the Government had a majority of just 3, not counting the vacant seat).

  209. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – Quite possibly, although, not being an engineer, I wouldn’t care to comment on the differences. There was a prototype built, as I recall, but if and where it saw any revenue service, I’m not sure. I don’t think, but others may know better, that it was the same as the B2 that LT operated for a bit. Certainly Workington was short of work at the time (when wasn’t it?) , LCBS having been already stuffed with Nationals. I got the impression that the Titan wasn’t a patch on the Atlantean – LT seemed to get rid of theirs in fairly short order (perhaps not quite as sharpish as their Daimler fleet, tho’).

    The Hull North by-election (not of voting age at the time but greatly entertained by the government antics) – wasn’t that the one that produced the Humber Bridge?

  210. timbeau says:

    Humber Bridge it was

    The Titan was actually quite succesful in London, although it found less favour outside (the simpler Olympian being the provincial favourite).
    This was the era of dual sourcing, and over 1000 Titans and a slightly larger number of Metrobuses were built between 1979 and 1984. Most were still in service in London when the bus units were privatised in thye 1990s, and the last on a London route was withdrawn by London Central in 2003 – their demise partly forced by TfL’s rush into low-floored buses. Not a bad innings.

  211. Littlejohn says:

    @timbeau. Didn’t the Titan evolve from the B15? Graham H mentioned a B4. Graham – can you give us any more info on this?

  212. Graham H says:

    @littlejohn – alas not, I was merely shown the photographs – this was well before CGI. Perhaps I was wrong, but I declined an invitation to explore it in the metal, as it were, as I felt that I had had quite enough of BL’s (arrogant) sales pitch and didn’t wish to encourage them.* At this distance in time, I recall the bodywork as being quite similar to the Olympian. Staircase behind the front wheelarch. Single door. But then this was only a prototype.

    * My predecessor, RB, who had better remain no more closely identified, had been seduced by the BL sales pitch to the point where he was offered and accepted a secondment to BL (with the inducement of a free sports car) on the tacit understanding that he would ensure that NBC bought this in quantity. You can see why BL were narked when I showed them the door. For my part, I hesitated about discussing RB’s behaviour with the Perm Sec, but concluded that life was too short.

  213. JimJordan says:

    17:19, 23 December 2013
    ” Just out of curiosity (and to help with the sums) what was the RM’s life-expectancy when built?”

    I have no idea and, being a little cynical, I wonder if anyone at LGOC – sorry LT Bus and Coach – bothered. At the time of conception the regular strip and rebuild approach was entrenched thus the bus lasted about 4 years and you got a “new” one for much less than the cost of a genuinely new bus. The realisation that the RM could keep on going was, I am sure, a surprise to the management. I believe Colin Curtis, who was Mr RM, was not so surprised but he was an incomer who unusually did make it within the organisation. We are now heading for a dodgy area of weak management, union pressure and entrenched LGOC attitudes that I do not wish to comment on – perhaps someone else out there can oblige?

    If I remember correctly (not always guaranteed at my age!) Colin Curtis was closely involved in the Titan design as it was seen as a new bus for London. The use of power hydraulic brakes is a pointer here. In later years certain Managers wanted to get rid of these, I have had discussions on this with one such. Their advantage was lighter weight and better efficiency than air brakes but they needed more looking after.

  214. Julia says:

    @timbeau: “Is LT62 going to be put back into service, or will it be raided to provide bits for new vehicles? If the latter, that will surely be one of the shortest periods between introduction of a type and the first withdrawal.”

    LT35 has also been off the road since July following which I think was reported as a minor prang. I’m sure the self-immolating bendies managed longer from first introduction to first withdrawl, but one of East London’s early Tridents (TA74) burnt out before even getting to London, just three months after the first introduction of TA1. Does that count?

  215. timbeau says:

    The spate of Citaro* fires was about 18 months after their first introduction, and one of the casualties was on a delivery run. It would appear that some modification to the design was the cause, as the oldest Citaros, on the 507/521, never caught fire.

    *the design fault was nothing to do with the articulation, so the few Citaro rigids (working the 293) were “grounded” as well

    I would guess that LT35 and LT62 are at the back of the queue for attention, as it’s quicker to finish the new ones than to repair them – look at the time it took to get SWT unit 59(lucky)13 back into service after the Oxshott incident (when it had a load of wet concrete fall on it – together with the mixer lorry)

  216. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Julia / Timbeau – a recent Volvo hybrid for Arriva (HV106) never made it past a factory test run when it burst into flames and damaged the vehicle beyond repair so a completely new chassis has been bodied by Wrights.

    I believe the Citaro issue relates to maintenance of a key part of the engine – something to do with oil pressure and making sure the pipes are properly secured and checked. If not extremely hot oil can escape and cause the engines to catch fire. London spec vehicles were subsequently equipped with fire suppression kit and I expect the maintenance regimes were tightened up. The Citaro has been notorious for engine fires with buses being destroyed in various European fleets. Quite why ex London bendies have convulsed into flames in Malta recently is something of a mystery to me. Perhaps Arriva in Malta changed the maintenance approach for some reason or possibly the operating environment is even more arduous than London?

  217. Greg Tingey says:

    Or perhaps the maintenace regime in Malta isn’t as strict a London’s usually is?

    Generally, although bus fires are rare, they do seem commoner than train-fires in/on diesel-powered units [ Always excepting class 70 – which some wit has re-branded: “Firelighter” … ]
    Something to do with vibration(s) in road-service, compared to the suposedly smoother ride on steel?

  218. Littlejohn says:

    There are a fair few individual vehicles that have had short lives with LT/LRT/TfL but surely the prize must go to the entire MD (Metropolitan) class – 8 years from introduction to withdrawal of all of them.

  219. Littlejohn says:

    Having now checked my memory with Ian’s Bus Stop it looks as though the MDs had even shorter lives than I remembered. Introduced between December 1975 and February 1977, all were gone by April 1983; so really only 7 years, with some being withdrawn by June 1979.

  220. Littlejohn says:

    Sorry to be hogging this. I have escaped from the television been driven up to my office by the dire programmes on offer.

    @ Graham H, timbeau. It occurs to me that the first B15 prototype that LT tried was serial ‘004’. Could this be the origin of Graham’s memory of a ‘B4’?

  221. Graham H says:

    @Littlejohn – – and for this, we pay our licence fee? A propos B4 -I too was wondering how BL numbered their prototypes (ie what preceded B15?). Your explanation is entirely plausible.

  222. timbeau says:


    Seven years was not that atypical – look at the histories of the or BS, LA, MR, MV and XF types – or indeed the bendies (9 years).

  223. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Littlejohn – although I never travelled on a London MD there were oodles of Scania Metropolitans in Tyne and Wear and they had a fair innings. Of course they fell prey to the rust plague eventually but certainly made it to double digit life spans. I used to love riding on them. I just think LT in the 70s and 80s was incapable of coping with anything “unusual” in its bus fleet. Still I know that one London exile (MD60) is nearing the end of its rebuild and restoration courtesy of Ensignbus so we will hear that Scania humm and experience the plush ride and wild lean angles on corners again. 🙂

  224. Graham Feakins says:

    @WW – “I just think LT in the 70s and 80s was incapable of coping with anything “unusual” in its bus fleet.”

    From what I was told at the time, the garage maintenance staff, well-used to topping up oil sumps of RT’s and so on to the brim (and over), continued to do the same (unnecessarily) with their newer buses, concerned that they were running short of oil, with ‘heated’ consequences as the surplus was ejected.

  225. Long Branch Mike says:

    Electric buses hit London roads – First 100% electric buses go on trial on central routes with more expected in 2016, posted Dec 19 on the Grauniad

    “Two electric buses have hit the streets of London as part of a trial to see if the technology is suitable for shorter routes around the capital.

    “The 12-metre single deck buses will service Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge stations running on routes 507 and 521 from today.

    “According to Chinese manufacturer BYD Auto, the zero-emission buses should reduce running costs by about three quarters compared to a diesel bus and can travel up to 250km (155 miles) on a single four or five hour charge – sufficient to operate for a full day without the need to recharge.”

    “Six further electric buses are set to be introduced into the TfL fleet in early 2014, four of which were secured with funding from the Department of Transport’s Green Bus Fund with a further two funded from Transport for London’s technology demonstration budget.

    there is more text in the article…

  226. Mike says:

    The first 100% electric buses since 1962…

  227. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    WOT licence fee are you referring to – I don’t pay one….

    Yes, well, would that sanity had prevailed.

  228. Littlejohn says:

    @WW. Yes indeed, I too am waiting for MD 60. Mind you according to the Busworks site it has needed an almost complete rebuild.

    @timbeau. To some extent you are right, although the XFs lasted 16 or more years with London Country (they were essentially Country Area buses despite the XA exchange). However, the BSs were replaced by larger capacity BLs, which also had the advantage of having automatic rather than manual gearboxes and the 2 separate MV groups were inherited with businesses taken over (R&I and Westlink). It is not that surprising that the various minibus/midibus types had shortish lives, they were never designed or intended to have long lives and they probably lasted longer than expected. Often they also generated ridership which led to replacement by larger buses.

    I think the difference with the MDs is that they were intended as permanent members of the fleet and they failed not through bad maintenance but through an inherent weakness. I do wonder though if they were more susceptible to rust than Metropolitans elsewhere because in winter they operated intensively on heavily-salted urban roads whilst those outside London were less exposed.

  229. Mark Townend says:

    @Walthamstow Writer 11:06, 23 December 2013

    “. . . whether there is a “ticking time bomb” in terms of maintenance, battery life / replacement or some other electronic obsolescence”

    Traction batteries and ultra-capacitors will continue to get better, with more capacity available at lower weight and cost. It’s one of the hottest research areas at the moment with new chemical technologies being announced regularly and techniques such as nano-scale engineering being implemented to increase effective electrode areas within a given package. How long each generation of technology will last could become less important as that process continues; it may become cost effective to replace or upgrade batteries several times during a vehicle’s life.

  230. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mark T – You may well be correct about the advance of technology. I confess I know next to nothing about it. The issue will be the extent to which new technology can be retrofitted to existing vehicle designs or whether we will reach one of those “step changes” where it is better to buy new and not expose yourself to risks with retrofitting technology that may not improve reliability / cost effectiveness. That is an “unknown” at the present time and I assume someone, somewhere has that risk on their risk register. I’d be most concerned about the NB4L simply because it is a custom design rather than a mass market product designed with meeting the needs of commercial bus operators.

    I appreciate the US energy market is very different to ours but some operations are moving out of hybrids to “clean diesel” vehicles on cost and emissions grounds. I’ve seen people predicting that London has bought its last diesel powered double deckers but I’m not yet convinced that we’re quite at that point. Stagecoach London have opted to go “hybrid” on several contract wins for suburban services that start next year but there is a corporate policy that favours “green buses” anyway – hence the big investment in them for Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. I might begin to believe the switch has happened when groups like Arriva, Abellio and Metroline start buying hybrids for their suburban contracts and especially for single deck routes.

  231. Graham H says:

    @WW – it’s noticeable that for non-contract operations (ie the bulk outside London), commercial operators are not showing significant interest in clean technology of any kind – here in darkest Surrey (that’s a topical reference BTW), Stagecoach and Arriva have a uniformly trad diesel fleet, mostly 20 or more years old in the case of Souter’s buses.

  232. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Mark Townend,

    I think that the effect on public (and private) transport of the advances in battery technology is going to be very interesting indeed. Advanced tube train design is assuming that the technology will get much better and the signs, at last, are promising. I think transport will have to adapt in a big way but a lot of it should be positive. If the knitting on the railways comes down then just clear it off the track until it can be strung up again. Tube trains getting “gapped” should be a thing of the past. Maybe they will even replace that diesel engine in the dual mode IEP by some decent batteries and by amazing serendipity the train becomes good.

    A further area of speculation is what happens to buses and other vehicles in central London. Will the congestion charge zone be an electric vehicles only mode one day? Or at least one where hybrid are admitted but only if they run on electric power. It also makes you wonder if there is any future for trolleybuses. Alternatively, maybe their future potential is enhanced as you would only have to string up the wire in some non-sensitive places and on uphill gradients to both power them and recharge their batteries.

    OMG, I think I am starting to sound like Stimarco. What is the name for a technology fantasist – the techo analogue of a crayonista?

  233. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – it’s a minor miracle there are any bus services in Surrey given the high levels of car ownership and decades of attrition. Given the unfavourable operating environment and regular cuts to county council budgets it is no wonder that many of the buses are old. Stagecoach seem to do a bit better with their operations on the Surrey / Hampshire borders where buses are newer and Stagecoach have some of their “Gold” routes. Safeguard do seem able to invest in some new buses for their long established Guildford routes but that’s an exception.

  234. stimarco says:


    “Technology fantasist” is an oxymoron. Technology is an ever-moving set of goalposts. Even the diesel engines in a modern bus have changed quite a bit since the 1970s. Petrol engines even more so. (And, of course, compare the original Paxman Valenta engines in an HST with the ones they use now.)

    Given that the French are already using induction technology to power some trams, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine similar technology being used for buses too. It’s pretty much the only viable option for charging cars in residential streets where there is no off-street parking available. The alternative is tripping over lots of extension cords…

    As for batteries: even if the technology improves radically, it’s unlikely to affect existing models to a great extent as batteries tend to come in standard sizes. Given that we’re talking about entire fleets of buses, there should be sufficient economy of scale to avoid any major problems. (You might need to add ballast weights if the new battery design is lighter than the old one, but that’s hardly a showstopper.)

    The Toyota Prius isn’t the first battery-powered vehicle built in large numbers; remember the electric milk float? Any competent vehicle designer has plenty of research material to look at.

  235. Graham H says:

    @WW – we took most of the hit in the early years of deregulation (loss of evening and Sunday services, some minor routes lost) but generally the trunk routes survived well and with a half hourly/hourly headway. The biggest losses were the ex-LT routes north of Guildford – the 408 to Croydon the most spectacular, with virtually no replacement over long stretches. Most of the routes are now commercial, with just a few evening and less than daily services provided by the county.

    However,t he 2013 Surrey bus review was most interesting and confirmed that the NBC’s MAP project was headed the right way commercially. What it has revealed is that actually, far from being a network of trunk routes and feeders, the whole system is pretty well a series of feeders to large centres (eg Guildford) which just happen to form trunk routes where they touch the feeders to the next centre, with very little through traffic. Thus, the trunk route to Haslemere from Guildford would have been severed at my own village, saving a bus from the cycle, but leaving no through service at all.. “Fortunately”, Stagecoach concluded that they could save a vehicle by clever scheduling, linking three routes covering termini 20 miles apart… the inevitable has happened.

    Do older buses make operations cheaper? Not so sure; assuming that operators stick to MEA and inflation accounting standards, the cash difference ought to boil down to whether it’s cheaper to maintain older rolling stock (either that, or Souter likes to sit on an ever growing cash mountain nominally earmarked for the eventula replacement of his tatty fleet.

  236. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – I’m clearly not going to change your view of Stagecoach. Sure there are big mountains of profit made every year but Stagecoach have had a long term sustained level of fleet replacement for many years. They typically spend something like £60m-£70m per annum on new vehicles although the deployment tends to focus on routes subject to development / growth or network refresh. If you’re on a more marginal bit of the operation then it’ll have older buses or those cascaded from elsewhere when new arrivals arrive there. I don’t think Abellio have spend anything much on their Surrey operation although buses are getting repainted now. Arriva also keep their vehicles for very long lives and tend to have a conservative fleet replacement policy. They also have different approaches in their regional businesses as to where the money gets spent – Midlands seems to do fairly well and Merseyside has had a lot spent on it (under pressure from politicians). North East and the South East don’t do so well. First Group is a story all on its own but they are beginning to refresh their fleet.

  237. Graham H says:

    @WW – maybe the story is different elsewhere. Stagecoach’s Aldershot shed seems to run about 80% P and N registered stock, with the odd R and S thrown in to encourage us. I agree, tho’ that many of the operations round here are pretty marginal. On the assumption that it costs around £120k pa to provide a bus for, say, three shifts + cover + engineering overheads, our 5 bus trunk route would needed earn around £600k even before making any contributions to group financing costs and profit.. The total revenue, to judge from observed loadings, is unlikely to exceed £750k and a 25% margin for financing and profit is pretty tight. So – perhaps you’re right: newer stock where the margins/earning power is better. (Round here, more than 90% of all passengers are pensioners, which, I guess, is why the service levels haven’t declined further – they are already down to the core market.)

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