The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project

The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project which the next Mayor will abandon as an outdated and polluting waste of money.

By Darren Johnson AM, Green Party member of the London Assembly

The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project which the next Mayor will abandon as an outdated and polluting waste of money. Nor will you see it carrying paying passengers anywhere else in the world. No one wants it and when the full cost of the bus becomes apparent, Londoners won’t want it either.

The order for 600 of these new buses will add up to £80m onto the fares bill between now and 2016. That is a huge sum of extra cash to find during years of austerity driven cuts in the government’s grant to Transport for London.

The extra ‘health and safety’ staff members on each of these 600 new buses will cost around £37m extra a year. We can now add to that figure the £32m difference between the ‘average’ cost of 600 ordinary hybrid buses and the Mayor’s estimate of what his new buses will cost.

The TfL press release states that “The price difference is accounted for by the much higher specification of the new bus compared to a standard hybrid bus.” The emission results seem impressive and the Mayor makes bold claims about this being the greenest of buses.

However, there is growing evidence that the lab results for emissions are very different from the pollution found at the roadside. Real world results from the prototype buses show that they are consuming twice as much fuel as on the Mayoral press releases and that probably means that the emissions are twice what is claimed. The production line vehicles may be a bit better, but none of the hype about them being the greenest vehicles in Europe should be taken at face value.

The Mayor has boasted about the green credentials of these new buses, but they will all have to be retrofitted at the end of next year with additional anti-pollution devices in order to keep up with the higher standards for all new buses being produced throughout Europe. It will be outdated before the bulk of them are on the road and not the kind of vehicles you would expect to see chugging around the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2020.

I accept that it is a very nice bus to look at, but the third entrance and second staircase makes it unsellable outside of London. Nor can people in other parts of the country afford the higher fares that stem from the luxury of employing a bus assistant whose only real job is to stop people falling off the rear platform when it is open.

Normally bus operators in London buy all the red buses and then recoup some of the capital outlay when they renew their fleet and sell their old buses to some provincial bus company. As the operators can’t sell them on, they don’t want to buy them, which is why the Mayor required TfL to buy the buses themselves, at a premium rate and take on all the upfront costs and risks.

The NBfL will remain in London for all its working life of 14 years. By the time of the next Mayoral elections there will be a new generation of hybrid buses outperforming these buses and costing a lot less. The next Mayor will be making the switch to electric buses, rather than hybrids.

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14 Responses to “The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project”

  1. OldLb


    Look at the 38,000 million and rising bill for HS2.

    Nothing like screwing the poor so MPs can get back home 10 minutes quicker.

  2. Cole

    No doubt you think it’s ok for Tories to waste money. And all these Conservative ministers and council leaders driving around in enormous cars at our expense.

  3. Bus Enthusiast

    What an outrageous biased article that Darren Johnson have written. There are people that liked the New Bus for London because of the design and the restoration of the Open Platform which the original Routemasters had. Go ride the 38 on the NBFL and talk to people if they liked the bus?

    Ken Livingstone is a Marxist dictator, (equivalent to Stalin and Mao) he hates London culture and the way of life, that’s why he viciously removed the Routemasters from full service between 2003 to 2005. He denies the rights of Londoners to leave the bus whatever they want because he is in full support of a OPO bus.So if i am stuck on a traffic jam and the driver wont let me off, it makes me late for work because the bus have no open platform which lets me out of the bus whatever i want.

    Another thing, since you oppose the NBFL, it means you want jobs to be cut and rise of unemployment. The open platform guards are empolyed by the operators so it saves the tax payer money for giving them money via dole money which makes them stay home and become depressed!!! If you want Unemployment to reduce, London needs to carry on investing more of jobs regardless what kind of specification. The more you criticize the NBFL, the less faith you have with the industry of Britain.

    How would you feel if your running late for a GLA meeting and then you missed the bus because the door have no open platform. And what about if your stuck on a traffic jam and the bus stop is at the other side of the street but the driver wont let you out because of the Marxist Health and Safety measure? The open platform should be a mandatory requirement for all buses in Central London.

    Londoners like the NBFL, it does not hurt to accept and get over it because it exists.

  4. Neil Mclean

    I personally am overjoyed with the NB4L so straight away your assumption nobody wants it looks silly …The best bus since last hop on vehicle..Thankyou Boris!!!!!

  5. Christine Clarke

    what are these cretinous idiots think they are doing, Johnson is such a buffoon, only wants to spend money on toys for himself, no humanitarism at all, please, please do not let him in as pm, we will be worse off than we are now, ” if that was humanly possible ” leave our n h s alone and stop this absurd idea of 600 buses, they are all pals together god help us, this gov are supposed to keep us safe, how ???? they have sacked our wonderful forces sacked the police and more to go, selling off ouir justice system, privatising our n h s so keep your hands off, they belong to the people not you, start with the bankers, get into the real world. and for the bus buff’s you must have money to burn, and be in work, have a thought for those who lost there jobs thanks to this cretinous lot, and that includes that buffoon clown Johnson spending millions on buses , that money could be used to boost the econemy, put people in work, but like the rest of the idiots they just smirk and carry on, i could give them a good slapping and anyone else who think they are the in thing.

  6. Christine Clarke

    why are you thanking him, he is spending millions on something that we do not need, when there are more important things to spend the money on, ie : putting people in work, after these idiots thought it was a good idea to sack half the country, the money should be used for the economy,
    why do we have to keep up with the other countries, ???you are in work i presume
    what is wrong with what we have, if the econemy was up and running and thriving maybe, but use your common sense.

  7. Neil Mclean

    ken livingstone took jobs away…boris has returned 26 new jobs on route 11 boosting those out of work like myself

  8. OldLb

    That’s because you’re lacking the ability to think.

    You think that because I’m telling people that Labour have pissed trillions away and that I think its wrong, that for some mad reason that must mean that I’m in favour of the the Tories pissing trillions up the wall.

    Shows why you should never be allowed near other people’s money, and probably you should be kept away from sharp objects too.

    Has it not occurred to you that I might think that the Tories are profligate piss artists with other people’s money too?

    If you want a reference go and ask Lord Taylor of Warwick what he thinks of Blagger. He’s a tory, and he got done for fraud.

  9. Paul

    I live on the first route going over to the NBfL (24). I have some mobility problems and find this bus much easier to use and more comfortable. I also like the helping hand the new conductors can give (a reassuring presence when the bus full and noisy too). The design is beautiful and I think it will attract people to London.

  10. John Griffin

    They should really spend less on buses and spend money on the transport London really needs very badly – TRAMS! The decision to do away with them has proved to be a disastrous mistake. Trams get preferential treatment at traffic lights, etc. and would get commuters to there places of work much more quickly than buses or, indeed, private cars ever could.
    I have seen trams working in several European and some British cities and they are much more efficient than the buses. They also encourage drivers to leave their gas guzzling cars at home.

  11. IJCIW

    NBfL is boosting the economy – who do you think builds them ? It is also creating jobs – the employees who assemble them, and in teh supply chain. And those conductors that you seem to want to see on the unemployed list… It is cretinous of you to think the money could be better spent in other ways ? How ? On benefits ? The way to recover the ecomony is to spend money on things the country needs – buses being one of them… You’re just too blinded by moronic thinking to see it.

  12. Boris Watch

    “What an outrageous biased article”

    Well, Darren is an opposition politician. What do you want him to do, clap like a performing seal?

    “Ken Livingstone is a Marxist dictator”

    But you’re not biased, are you? OK, whatever. Can we stick to buses, rather than politics, but if you want to do politics please take a moment to consider the state of the London bus network in 2008 and 2000 and who might have been in charge during that period of massive improvement and ridership increases. That’s if you really are a ‘bus enthusiast’.

    As for Boris’s bus, the problems are currently:

    1) Weight, the prototypes were more than half a tonne overweight, reducing passenger capacity to below the specification. The production vehicles are still overweight by about 400kg and similarly don’t meet the specification but we’re still buying 600. Why? For comparison the original long Routemaster weight about 5 tonnes less for a capacity only 8 short of the production NB4L

    2) Length – they’re 11.3m, more than a metre longer than alternatives which have no problem carrying more people for less weight, thus taking up more road space.

    3) Purchase cost – the cost of £367k each once you factor in the development bung we paid for is much higher than Boris was pretending and much higher than competing hybrids developed without us paying a development bung. We therefore get less capacity for our money even before factoring in the capacity penalty for the weight problem.

    4) Operating cost – the crew member, who is purely there to stop people falling off the back (they can’t check or sell tickets), costs about £35-40m a year for the fleet, which given that the bus subsidy grant is due to fall to around £350-390m means 11% of London’s central government grant for citywide bus services is going to be spent purely on pointless healthnsafety on a few buses on a few routes so Boris can pretend it’s 1956. This is insane and the next Mayor will have to get rid of them or cut services. The ‘creates employment’ argument is idiotic, why not employ more bus drivers instead? No one benefits if you price Londoners off the network and have to cut services and sack drivers.

    5) Competition – there are two perfectly good UK based bus builders serving the UK double decker market, and we’ve basically told the other one (ADL) we’re not interested in their product. There wasn’t even a proper competition, the one Boris held was unconnected to what TfL have actually done, given that the winners of it have had nothing to do with the final product.

    In what way does this rigged market remotely help British industry in the way NB4L supporters claim? What incentive do ADL have to invest in improving their product if London is locked into spending hundreds of millions with their competitors? Has Boris suddenly decided free markets don’t work? Odd kind of Tory.

    6) Green – the bus is 2010 technology, and given the rate of progress in electric vehicles from 2008 to now it’ll be obsolete within months – we’re already buying pure electric buses as a trial from China and the forthcoming generation of hybrids will have to meet the next stage Euro 6 emissions standards which the current NB4L doesn’t. To make it compliant it needs a new engine, which is to be built in China – part of the excessive cost is apparently to pay for the redesign. Again, competing manufacturers have to fund this themselves rather than get the London public to fork out. The worst part environmentally, however, is that in order to fund this excess the previous target of all new London buses being hybrids from the beginning of 2012 has been abandoned, which means CO2 emissions will be higher taken across the whole fleet – we’re still putting hundreds of normal diesels into service.

    7) Britishness – it’s not actually built in Britain and the vaunted British components TfL have been extolling are mostly small stuff and curiously exclude some of the more important bits – as said above the Euro 6 engine is to be built in China while the entire hybrid system is German. Ironically Britain does have its own hybrid drivetrain built by BAE which ADL use, but Wrights have a long history of using Siemens kit, and why not? Not sure why it needs to be spun as some kind of nationalist triumph.

    So, it’s expensive, unnecessary, market distorting, damages British industry and London’s environment and is likely to lead to serious budgetary problems but at least it’s not Marxist and doesn’t have a bend in the middle. It would be nice if the debate about the transport needs of a city of 8m people was a bit more grown up, wouldn’t it.

  13. Matthew Hardy

    To all those who argue that the NB4L allows rear platform hop-on hop-off: It does so only when the health and safety person is there. So that means, never after hours, and on the 38 route, never at all, as the extra people have been withdrawn.

    But the most heinous failure in terms of useability is the lack of opening windows. It’s hot and humid in summer in London and what you need – and get from every other bus in London – is a breeze coming in the windows. The aircon isn’t up to it, and they are up to 7 degrees hotter inside than outside as a result. That is a travesty of the original Routemaster, which had opening windows all round including at the front, making it breezy and pleasant.

  14. Anonymous

    The Labour party and the Greens have always been an anti British hate groups. Unlike Ken Livingstone’s Marxist dictatorship when he dictated Transport for London to remove all the Routemasters and only introduced the 2 small short working routes. Plus he introduced the most hateful bendy buses where people never even bothered to pay their fare, its hateful that the German made bendy buses always catches on fire!

    The Communist Labour and Green party have always been anti freedom and anti British that they have phobia of open platform buses which allows people freedom whenever to jump on and off the bus between stops. They anti 2nd crew member which makes the bus journeys more safer. But the vile satanic Marxists prefer people to suffer with the misery of 1 person operation where passengers get mugged and beaten up by other passengers on the unsafe bus. So the 2nd crew member is mandatory for all transport services!

    The real criminals have always been the Labour and the Green party where they like to deny peoples freedom and their expression. They always abide by the hate books which are the Communist Manifesto and the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals. The members deserve to be arrested and the vile hate groups banned! They promote nothing but treason and anti British hatred!

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