The New Bus for London will push up fares


By the end of next year, the New Bus for London (NBfL) will account for around 2 per cent of bus fares. By the time we get all 600, BorisWatch has calculated that it will be soak up over a tenth of London’s fast declining, central government bus subsidy.

New Bus for LondonThe only way for a new Mayor, elected in 2016, to keep the fares down would be to cancel any further orders for the NBfL and ensure that the driver-operated rear doors were always shut between stops.

The Mayor made a very personalised attack on me last week when I suggested that cancelling the whole project was the only logical response to the news that a woman had tragically fallen off the back of one of these New Buses.

It was nothing I hadn’t said several times before, but Boris is clearly sensitive to the criticism because accidents like that seem inevitable, even with us paying for a health and safety officer on the back of every bus.

I agree that the old Routmaster was an iconic bus, but bus design, across the world, has dumped the open rear platform because it is inherently dangerous.

I am aware that the Mayor relishes such dangers. He lauded the return of ‘hop on, hop off’ experience:

“It is, as far as I know, one of the few recent examples of a public policy that actually gives back, to sentient and responsible adults, the chance to take an extra risk in return for a specific reward.”

This is the same ‘keep your wits about you’ attitude with which the Mayor has approached cycling and road design. The result on our roads has been a rapid escalation in the number of cyclist casualties. The result on the buses has been disastrous throwback to a time when Routemaster buses led to twice as many fatalities as modern buses.

The bus operators may have been lumbered with a dangerous vehicle, but have been unwilling to pay for the mistake. They demanded the additional safety staff be paid for by the Mayor (i.e. through higher fares).

Transport for London officers know this is a short lived vanity project, which will be closed down as soon as Boris Johnson leaves City Hall. As the head of Transport for London’s Surface Transport, David Brown, pointed out in 2007, if we had to have these extra staff on all routes it would cost around £600m a year.

If the Mayor achieves his aim of delivering nearly three hundred NBfL vehicles by end of next year, then extra staff costs could be just over £18m. To this you can add the extra cost of the vehicles, which is around £67,000 per vehicle, if the cost of the prototypes are added to the production of the 600.

TfL are trying to argue that this is paid for by cheaper contracts, but the Assembly will remain sceptical until TfL open the books on the before and after comparison. TfL also argue that the total investment of £223m in these new buses won’t require them paying any interest, which is not a logic they would apply to other forms of capital investment.

The Mayor has recently said that the lower fuel consumption of the New Bus for London means that the operators are getting a better deal. However, his figure of 12.7mpg on the test track is twice as much as TfL say the prototype buses are achieving on the road.

The prototype NBfL is almost as efficient as other hybrids, but far from being the best. The problem is not the efficiency of engine design, but the sheer weight of glass and the extra staircase, that it has to haul around. The modern technology just can’t compensate for the fact that the bus is obese.

The consequences of higher fares are a drop in bus ridership and an increase in car travel. It is a reversal of the twelve years of success in reducing traffic in London and this Mayor’s policies are firmly to blame.

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  • Boris Watch

    Thanks for the link. Darren.

    “bus design, across the world, has dumped the open rear platform because it is inherently dangerous.”

    Also because of the expense, which was realised by London Transport as unsustainable long before the last RM was delivered in 1968. They spent the best part of 40 years trying to get rid of them before Boris came along and started trying to be clever.

    “As the head of Transport for London’s Surface Transport, Darren Brown”

    David Brown, shurely? It’s his successor, Leon Daniels, who’s got to shoulder much of the blame for pretending black is white here and there are no problems with the design. The original target weight was 11.8t, the prototypes were 12.65, the production ones are 12.46. The extra weight means fewer passengers can be legally carried and the bus uses more fuel. Other manufacturers (including Wrightbus themselves when they’re not hamstrung by Heatherwick’s absurd design, for which we paid the thick end of half a million quid without a public tender being issued) are managing to knock a tonne off the weight of the previous generation, so why is it so heavy? Someone’s cocked up somewhere.

    Essentially it comes down to priority – for the rest of the world the priority is using less fuel and cutting operating costs – for Boris it’s increasing risk to users of the bus network and hang the expense. That’s just insane.

  • Ian Rashbrook

    Time for a prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act or is Boris exempt from the ALARP principle?

  • James Charles

    So Darren, you support more unemployment then?

    As a union member, I am utterly ashamed to see an article from a left wing politician that supports abolishing conductors from a bus. I spoken to Transport for London regarding about the issue and it mentions the operators employ the conductors. So how the hell can TFL employ their own conductors for a specific bus type that requires to guard the open platform. Its not one specific duty for the conductor to do. It also requires to assist wheelchair users to get on the bus and help tourists to know where to go. It really puts the stress out of drivers as he is the only person having to deal with everything.

    Here is the document of the job role for the conductor I have found,
    http://www.pdf-archive.com/2013/10/08/nbfl-20conductor-20jd-pdf/

    Having a second crew member on a bus in the busiest sections of London should be a requirement because it makes journeys for the passengers safe as well they are welcomed on to the bus.

    I understand that a women fell off the rear platform of the bus, its not the bus, TFLs or the operators fault. I can guarantee its her own fault because when people use the open platform at the rear of the bus, its their own risk to do so. No one is forced to use the open platform, people can use the doors at the front and the middle of the bus.

    This is why the young people should have an opportunity to be a conductor on the New Routemaster because there are not many jobs available to the young. It will increase more jobs for them to work as a conductor on the bus, There are still conductors on buses in Britain as well as London because it speeds up the service for passengers to travel.

    Well, as a Socialist, if any future Mayor decide to withdraw the conductors from the New Routemaster, I can guarantee there will be a mass strike around London Buses which will cause a disruption to your plans! I want to know if there is an actual budget for the conductors of the New Routemaster? A decade ago with the original Routemasters, it is usually down to the operators to employ the conductors. I am currently seeing it today as there are young people being employed.

    The question is, if you do not like our national traditions, why are you elected to the GLA to spew criticism over the bus? My father worked for London Transport and he never heard any criticism over the original Routemaster project at that time. The people of London liked the New Routemaster and there is overwhelming positive comments towards the bus. I once remembered someone told me they want every double decker bus to be a New Routemaster. To be a true Socialist, you must provide jobs and opportunity to people, not to um-employ and lay off people. At least the New Routemaster is Hybrid which at least solves the problem to our environmental issue of London. So please be open minded and look at both sides of the coin.

    Yours sincerly
    James Charles

  • Grioetc

    It´s disgraceful to see that a politician is supporting more unemployment and less opportunities for the young! I understand there is fare rises going on and it should be down to the government responsible for VAT and Inflation because that´s how it causes all the fare rises!

    If any future politician in London dare to remove the conductors from the New Routemaster, we will launch a campaign group to keep the conductors because it´s one of London´s traditions to have them on public transport! So stop being outrageously hostile to the New Routemaster and start providing jobs and opportunities to the young!

  • Diane

    I disagree with this blog post completely, it shows that politicians hate opportunities for people to work as bus conductors! I believe it´s TREASON for a politician to introducing unemployment by getting rid of conductors like what happened in 2004 when the Marxist Ken Livingstone got rid of them in favor of bendies that go on fire! Plus those bendies have no conductor which increases fare evasion!

    All what you vile politicians do is work against the interest of people on a daily basis! So do us a favor and stop moaning about the New Bus project and start providing employment for people! No wonder why politicians commit crimes on a daily basis because they don´t realize there are laws mentioning about treason which is working against the interests of people!

    Whenever a Liberal loses an argument he calls the opponent a racist! The word racist was invented by mass murdering Communist named Leon Trotsky to silent his political opponents! That´s how politicians today use it!

  • Workers of Britain unite!

    I think it’s an insult to see an elected Assembly Member calling for a removal of Conductors s which deliberately increase the unemployment rate!

    I find your opinions offensive and insulting to our workers because each worker deserves a job and a right against unemployment.

    You got to understand it’s not the TFL’s money paying for the conductors, its strictly down to the private operators to hire and pay the conductors for the rear of the bus. This is why there is absolutely no point of mentioning the fare rises because there is no money or budget from TFL that goes to conductors. The same applies in early 2000’s when TFL brought over London Transport, they deliberately removed the Routemaster’s and kept them to 2 small routes.

    I think the GLA, Houses of Parliament…etc are full of criminals that deliberately like to ruin the interests for British people! No wonder why politicians are causing damage on a daily basis and they should be trialed for treason over their criminal moves they have done against the British people! I think Darren is deliberately insulting Londoners by removing jobs for them!

    Its nothing to do with open platforms or fare rises, its about providing opportunities!

    Do us a favor and listen to the real people before you take any actions. This is why we need direct democracy in Britain like what Switzerland have got.

    I think the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats are operating as criminal groups! They are brainwashed and paid by Common Purpose liberal scum! And yes, i am also aware of the banking problems!

  • Ken, Stratford

    I don’t agree with Darren about these buses being bad: it’s justifiable for a more convenient bus to cost more. & esp. with another member of staff, inevitable. Open platform buses give fairly mobile people extra options. Darren may have all day to get places, but some of us are in a hurry. I’m often frustrated by not being able to get onto a bus when it stops eg at lights just after leaving a bus stop i was too late at. Lots of time is wasted by this kind of thing. The point is, diability/ability is a continuum, not an either/or thing. Why should fit & active people, who often run for a bus, be denied the opportunity to get somewhere faster, just as people do anyway by their ability to walk at different speeds. It’s reducing everyone down to the same level, on account of some people being less mobile.
    As for the thrust of the comments so far, they’re all obsessed with the employment angle – maybe they’d prefer buses manned by 10 people!

  • T101

    RE: “It is a reversal of the twelve years of success in reducing traffic in London and this Mayor’s policies are firmly to blame.”

    Boris should not be the only one to blame for the poor spending it is also the fault of the people who voted the buffoon into office that must share the blame to. They must also ask themselves what good infrastructure has Boris provided for London over the past 5 years?
    Baring in mind that; the Orbital railway was planned for and construction had already begun before the he was in power, the DLR extension was planned, paided for and near completion by the time Boris had entered office, even Crossrail was not secured by Boris. The mayor has haunted and shelved a lot of helpful new projects in his first term alone but yet he was awarded a second term.

    The much hated Bendy Bus was excellent step forward in Bus infrastructure in London seeing large amounts of passengers being scoped up from the bus stop and swiftly whisked away to their desires destination. Instead removing Bendy bus routes we should been looking at introducing more. On the contrary Londoners thought making the bendy bus have an upper deck was a more sensible idea, because that essentially is what the New Bus for London, this vanity project has promptly lost its novelty and sense of practical purpose.

    The most sensible thing to do is return the bendy bus to routes 25, 149, 453 & 521. It should also be newly introduced on routes 10 & 148. Sensible and practical solutions like this one would be of better value to the Londoners than buying more NB4Ls.