What costs £1.3 million a pop and Boris hopes will get him reelected?

Val Shawcross argues that Boris is wasting millions of public money on an unnecessary and expensive fleet of prestige buses.

Boris Bikes, Boris Buses... This mayor only spends money on things that he can alliteratively name after himself.


Val Shawcross AM is the Labour assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark

Is there a policy that sums up the priorities of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty better than the new ‘Routemaster’?

We’re on the verge of another recession. The cost of living is becoming unbearable for many in London – passenger watchdogs have warned that public transport is becoming “unaffordable” for those on lower incomes because of Boris Johnson’s fare rises. And the Tory mayor is spending millions unnecessarily redesigning our city’s buses.

The so-called new generation Routemasters, costing over £1.3 million each – five times the cost of a green, hybrid double decker – will run on just one of London’s 700 routes. So when, from January, Londoners from Barnet to Bexley and Hillingdon to Haringey will be paying a massive 50 per cent extra for their bus tickets, they should remember where a large chunk of their fares are going.

If it’s a choice between improving their bus service, keeping their fares down or spending millions to alter the design of the double-decker they ride to and from work, what would the cleaner, school teacher, office or shop worker choose?

We don’t oppose the new bus for opposition’s sake. The bus is green and well-designed. But it’s costing millions when budgets are tight and looks strangely like the other green, hybrid double-deckers on London’s roads, which were only rolled out a few years ago.

The notable new addition is the open platform, which requires extra staff to supervise. But according to the mayor’s own figures it would cost an extra £54 million a year to employ conductors on just ten per cent of London’s bus network. To put this in context – the mayor’s latest bus fare hike will bring in £57 million.

He refused to say what this ridiculous policy would cost before the 2008 election, later admitting it would cost £100 million. This has to be the most expensive photo opportunity in history. Millions spent for pictures of the Tory mayor on an open-backed bus in the run up to the May election – paid for by squeezed fare payers.

Londoners have a choice in May: above inflation fare rises year after year under Boris Johnson to pay for vanity schemes like needlessly redesigned buses, or lower fares and a fairer deal under Ken.

See also:

Livingstone pledges London Living Rent, saying Boris has “completely failed” on housingShamik Das, December 13th 2011

Expensive and ineffective: Boris Johnson’s island airport (even Tories think so)John Stewart, November 21st 2011

Boris is turning back the clock for women in LondonShelly Asquith, November 14th 2011

Ken v Boris: Six months out, Livingstone steps up the pressure on transport and crimeShelly Asquith, November 8th 2011

Boris fiddles as London prepares for transport chaosAlex Hern, October 19th 2011

  • Selohesra

    What will get Boris elected is that he is running against Ken and Ed is still party leader

  • Mark Stevo

    The £1.3m/bus number only makes sense if you believe they’ll only make 8 of them. Methinks Val is being just a touch misleading.

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  • Belgravedave

    We should be backing buses which have conductors on them! There are so many issues to attack Boris on but this is not one of them, maybe redirect your efforts?

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  • Mr. Sensible


  • Charles

    So let me get this straight: The two Ed’s want to spend billions to stimulate the economy, but Boris paying a few million for a new bus to be designed and built in Britain is a waste of money?

  • Black

    ‘If it’s a choice between improving their bus service, keeping their fares down or spending millions to alter the design of the double-decker they ride to and from work, what would the cleaner, school teacher, office or shop worker choose?’

    – They would choose the Routemaster, where you on holiday during the last mayoral elections? Attacking Boris on one of his most popular policies is an act of electoral suicide.

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  • Red

    How ridiculous. Boris may have many faults but this is certainly not one of them. And basing the argument of cost on the prototype buses is very misleading, with many parts still being effectively bespoke. Campaigning like this will only ever return Boris for another term, then again if the alternative is Ken, I am not sure that is a bad thing

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  • Helen

    It’s not green, though – it has an expensive air heating/cooling system, which is why none of the windows open, yet TfL plan to run it with the back door wide open most of the time.

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  • Helen

    Why should we be “backing buses which have conductors on them”? They aren’t conductors – they won’t collect fares or check passes, they are merely there to prevent passengers from falling out of the open back door.

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