London Bus Wars
As you probably know, there is a lot of controversy over bus types here in London. The traditional Routemasters (those of the open rear deck and two-person operation), a perennial crowd pleaser, were fully withdrawn from regular service by December 2005. They still operate, however, over portions of routes 9 and 15 through Central London in “heritage” service, primarily (but not exclusively) for tourists. While most were replaced over time by conventional double-deckers, which make up nearly 2/3 of London’s vast (~8600) fleet, some of the busiest routes were converted to articulated (bendy) buses starting in 2002 – in total about 400 buses on 9 routes today (two of which, incidentally, operate every 12 min all night long!).
The bendy buses are somewhat universally hated, due to concerns about fare evasion (they use all-door boarding with Oyster readers near each door) and some safety incidents owing to the vehicle length – but the primary reason is that they are NOT double-decker and they don’t have that romantic open rear platform! My quick take – I think the artics are great – fast boarding, more even loading, those with passes (i.e. me) don’t have to touch or validate. It is quite apparent observing for just a couple of minutes at a very busy stop like Victoria Station how much better the artics are at big loads and fast dwells. I will admit, of course, that they don’t have nearly as good of a view.
That all being said, I thought you would be interested to know where this battle stands. The current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, campaigned in 2008 on designing a “new bus for London” to bring back the Routemaster concept. Just recently they unveiled the new bus design and more details…see:
It is hard to understand exactly what is happening, but it appears that TfL will pay £7.8 million for the first five buses, which includes design costs (which Boris previously promised would be covered by the manufacturers), and then £300k per bus (compared to < £200k for conventional double-deckers and £250k for artics, although hybrid versions of those are probably more). The real kicker, though, is the return of two-person operation. Are they nuts? The reports are mixed on that, but one thing I read indicated that during “busy” times the rear platform would be open to “hop-on, hop-off” operation with a uniformed staff member there, indicating that perhaps it would be a normal door at other times with driver-only operation.
Needless to say, I’ll be following what happens with this!