A superficial, headline-grabbing election promise of a return to the good old days with little thought put into the actual practicalities of such a scheme, before scarpering pronto, leaving someone else to clean up the mess. Well this is all very out of character for Boris Johnson.
It has finally been confirmed that his much-trumpeted, and ultimately highly-criticised, flagship Routemaster buses are to be ‘discontinued’, with no plans to add to the existing fleet.
The move have been widely expected ever since Labour’s Sadiq Khan was voted in as London mayor last year following a host of problems. The buses, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, cost £350,000 each – around £50,000 more than a standard bus – and were a key part of Boris’ campaign to become mayor in 2008, promising an end to Ken Livingston’s ‘bendy buses’ and a return to the classic ‘hop on, hop off’ style of public transport.
However, when they finally entered London’s bus fleet in 2012, they were beset with problems, with huge criticisms over the lack of opening windows on the upper deck, leading to sauna-like conditions in the summer (the buses were supposed to have air cooling system, but it didn’t work properly). Opening windows were finally introduced last year at a cost of £2m.
The hop on, hop off plan was abandoned due to a lack of a second crew member to check tickets – as the staff had been laid off and the rear door design had been changed - while there was a high level of battery failure on the hybrid vehicles, leading to an increased reliance on the diesel part of the engine, which in turn led to much higher than expected harmful emissions.
Khan had promised to halt any further purchases of the vehicles in order to make savings to enable a TfL price freeze, and now a plan published just before Christmas states, "New capital investment will be reduced significantly as we discontinue purchases of New Routemaster buses. We will carry on investing in the fleet however, by retro-fitting 3,000 vehicles with Euro VI standard emission technology by 2020."
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London added: “Sadiq will not be making any further purchases of the New Routemasters. Londoners deserve a bus fleet that is greener, more affordable and more functional than these vanity buses. That is why he is investing in the next generation of ultra-low and zero-emission buses as part of his hard-hitting measures to clean-up London’s toxic air.”
The 1,000 buses that have already been either purchased or ordered will remain in service, but there’ll be no further additions.
[via Evening Standard]