Boris launches world’s most expensive bus


10:10 am - December 9th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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So much for being interested in saving money for London taxpayers.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is accused of building and launching the “world’s most expensive bus” today – on the eve of the last bendy bus journey in London.

Boris launches the new Routemaster bus next week, at the a cost of nearly £1.6 million per bus – eight times the cost of a conventional £190,000 double-decker.

Worse still, after all the time and effort put into introducing the new buses – they will cover just 12 out of 700 bus routes across London.

Meanwhile, Boris has hiked fares by 50% in four years.

Labour candidate Ken Livingstone has latched onto the issue and is asking what justified the massive cost of replacing one kind of bus for another.

In an interview with the website Mayor Watch a few weeks ago, Libdem candidate Brian Paddick also questioned the value of spending so much money on a new bus type.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Boris launches the new Routemaster bus next week

It can’t be true Sunny, you’re dreaming. Impossible. Can’t be happening.
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/02/why-boris-has-lost-the-mayoral-election/

What, in one year’s time? You’re dreaming mate. Not going to happen.

And as for this:

Labour candidate Ken Livingstone has latched onto the issue and is asking what justified the massive cost of replacing one kind of bus for another.

I know he’s getting on, but doesn’t he remember doing exactly the same thing?

This was a manifesto commitment. And he’s kept it! Well done, Boris.

The new Routemaster is the kind of bus Londoners have always said they wanted. A decent, democratic, human-scaled bus.

By contrast, the Leviathan-like, bullying, bendy bus – always shoving its way in, intimidating motorists and cyclists alike, casually blocking lanes of traffic and seemingly heedless of the fear and chaos it leaves in its wake, is an apt metaphor Livingstone’s left wing statism….. now headed for the scrapheap.

3. Chaise Guevara

I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that the £1.6 million per bus figure includes product development costs or similar, that it’s calculated by dividing the total costs by the number of buses included in the first batch, and that the per-unit cost will come down considerably once more buses are built. Or something like that.

Because otherwise I don’t see how you could spend £1.6m on a bus, even if every passenger gets their own TV screen and ejector seat.

The numbers are worse than that – the cost of the first five vehicles will be over £11 million, so that’s more than £2.2 million each. Off-the-shelf hybrids come in at around £350k a go.

I’ve revisited the numbers here:

http://zelo.tv/uQLfPn

While considering that some in the blogosphere are clearly churning over Boris’ PR guff. Can’t want to see the spin for the cable car.

But “Transport for London said the scrapping of bendy buses in the capital is expected to save more than £7.4 million annually as fare evasion becomes more difficult”. From UKPA.

Loving the Tory apologists this blog seems to be full of now.

@2, “This was a manifesto commitment. And he’s kept it! Well done, Boris.”
It doesn’t seem to matter to you that the manifesto commitment was an awful idea in the first place. You don’t seem to have a way to justify the £1.6m per bus figure.

@2

Leaving aside yet another Boris PPB, you could engage brain first.

Many people use the bus because the Tube is, generally, less than totally accessible and for older people can be intimidating, especially at busy periods, which is most of the time.

Those people need to be able to access a seat without having to climb to the top deck, and preferably without having to climb up into it.

The BozzaMaster has only 22 seats downstairs, and more than half are not at deck level.

This contrasts with most of the seats on a Bendy Bus.

@5

The figure on fare evasion may prove to be optimistic: the BozzaMaster will have a second crew member on board when the rear platform is open – at significant additional cost – but they will not be doing revenue protection (not issuing, nor checking, tickets).

The idea that the BozzaMaster is “democratic and human scaled” is a magnificent slice of baloney, but alas does not address the shortcomings of this vehicle. If, as Sunny asserts, it will only appear on 12 routes, the production run will be perhaps 500-600. It’s extremely doubtful that any other operator will order it – other European capitals run their own double deckers (Berlin) or manage with Bendy Buses quite happily.

It should be borne in mind that the original RM’s production run of around 2,800 was cut short by the move to Driver Only Operation in the late 1960s. Given that the RM’s predecessor, the RT, ran to around 4,500 vehicles (with Leyland building another 1,500 RTL and RTW), the RM was probably originally intended to be a total build of as many as 6,000 – remember, the RM did not only replace the older RTs, but its first deployment was to replace London’s trolleybuses.

Alongside those numbers, 500-600 is no big deal, and ultimately Londoners will be saddled with a vehicle that doesn’t meet the needs of many users, with a high cost and low residual value.

Well done Boris, indeed.

8. Chaise Guevara

I hope I’m not being included among these “Tory apologists”. The price per bus just seems unbelievably high, both as an absolute and relative figure. This suggests to me that we’re not getting the full story. I’d be happy (and rather horrified) to be corrected on this. If the figure’s real, it’s a ridiculous use of funds.

@ 5 If the meat of the article is correct, saving £7.4 million isn’t really a defense. Presumably preventing fare-dodging doesn’t require buses that are eight times more expensive than usual; in fact, it probably doesn’t cost anything as well as it’s considered in the design of buses that are being built anyway.

@2 – Yea, can’t have the Bendy Busses, which are used all over Europe, and are well tested and reliable. After all, they’re a foreign concept, we need our own-designed gold-plated bus which will break down constantly!

The price per bus just seems unbelievably high, both as an absolute and relative figure. This suggests to me that we’re not getting the full story. I’d be happy (and rather horrified) to be corrected on this. If the figure’s real, it’s a ridiculous use of funds.

It’s reached by taking all the money spent on designing and developing the bus, and dividing by the number of buses in the first order. It’s not a marginal cost per bus.

11. Robin Levett

@Tim J #10:

It’s reached by taking all the money spent on designing and developing the bus, and dividing by the number of buses in the first order. It’s not a marginal cost per bus.

What then is the marginal cost per bus; and what is the share of design/development etc cost assuming a reasonable estimate of overall production?

12. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@2 Flower power.
We all know you’re not much of a democrat but profligacy as well – what kind of tory are you? Obviously not a sensible one.

What then is the marginal cost per bus; and what is the share of design/development etc cost assuming a reasonable estimate of overall production?

I don’t know! What do I look like, an expert on buses?

What then is the marginal cost per bus

£330k, apparently.

15. Flowerpower

The marginal cost per bus is £330,000, as against £300,000 for the existing hybrid bus introduced under Ken Livingstone’s administration.

Given that the new bus is better – no story here really (again).

@7. Tim Fenton: “The BozzaMaster has only 22 seats downstairs, and more than half are not at deck level.”

A typical double decker has 26 seats downstairs, one third (next to the stinky rumbling engine) are elevated at the back. It is a change, but is it a significant change?

“…with Leyland building another 1,500 RTL and RTW… ”

I’m a casual observer of Englishness. Should I assume that Leyland made some of the London buses used in the Fens? Leyland did not make carriagework, to my knowledge, and I presume that others put the body on. Was there a design code for the body? Were all RMs (and variants) full hight?

Compliments, also, for the comments about contemporary buses. Given that most of the world drives on the wrong side of the road, would those people buy it? Flipping the design in AutoCad is trivial but flipping minds is more difficult.

@16

I wasn’t comparing with a conventional double decker – although access to lower deck seats is better than the BozzaMaster – but with the bendy buses that are being phased out.

Looking again at the numbers, there were over 4,600 RT and over 2,000 Leyland built RTL and RTW (the latter 8′ wide as opposed to the usual, for the time, 7′ 6″).

Leyland did build their own bodies well into the 1950s, and they bodied most of the RTL and RTW. However, some were bodied by MCW (as it became). Most RT were bodied by Park Royal Vehicles who bodied all the production RM.

The RM were all full height vehicles, and either 27′ 6″ long (original) or 30′ long (RML), the latter having eight more seats. The RM was a mixture of old and new technology: parts like the engine and gearbox were tried and tested, as was most of the bodywork. But things like integral construction, power steering and power brakes were new.

As I suggested, the RM production run of just over 2,800 may have been well short of what was intended at the start. LT made the mistake of not building on the RM service experience, although a rear engine prototype using many of the same components was built. It has fortunately been preserved.

18. Leon Wolfson

@15 – By “better”, you mean it’s replacing perfectly functional buses, seats less downstairs and has steps up to more seats, and lower fuel efficiency. But hey, it’s ideologically pure and hence better in your view.

Thank you, Mr Fenton.

Whilst the bendybus wasn’t perfect, it was a vast improvement in terms of disability access on both double deckers and standard single decker buses as it had three wide access doors, many level access seats, and plenty of standing room inside meaning people could negotiate their way to accessible seating / wheelchair users spaces fairly easily.

Unfortunately the new Routemaster is less accessible than even current double deckers as it has fewer level access seats, and the wheelchair user area is too small for some people’s wheelchairs to negotiate into.

Boris Johnson seems to do nothing other than pay lipservice to disabled people that want to travel around London, and this bus’ poor accessibility is another example of that.

@20. Robin: “Unfortunately the new Routemaster is less accessible than even current double deckers as it has fewer level access seats, and the wheelchair user area is too small for some people’s wheelchairs to negotiate into.”

I think that the design criterium to look like a Routemaster was overly interpreted. If you put the rear entrance behind the driven wheels, you create a bus that is inaccessible to wheelchair users owing to width constraints. The basic design requires that exceptions (wheelchair users) use the bus differently.

When designing a bus, the primary considerations are where the driver sits and where the wheels are located. Thanks to hybrids and electric motors, we can design buses with the awkward stuff (engines, stairways) wherever we wish.

23. Leon Wolfson

@22 – Yes, and that means that I can’t see it as anything but deliberate. They cannot have simply not considered it.

24. Robin Levett

@Flowerpower #15:

The marginal cost per bus is £330,000

And what is “the share of design/development etc cost assuming a reasonable estimate of overall production”?

Bearing in mind that the £300,000 for the existing hybrid bus introduced under Ken Livingstone’s administration includes those costs…

@22 @23

Precisely.

Disabled people are, again, being sidelined.

The Borisbikes? Not exactly accessible to people with mobility impairments, fatigue conditions, pain condition, cognitive impairments, sensory impairments.

Bike superhighways? As above.

The Overground – a fantastic transport route, but stations on the route aren’t level access. Most are, but not all.

The tube network – vastly inaccessible.

London Bridge station has a level access route that takes you on a 15 minute diversion along Borough High Street to get back into the station!

We have it now enshrined in law that equal access is a legal requirement, but it’s not actually happening. This bus is yet another example of that.

@22
@23

Absolutely – a decision has been made to build something that is a step backwards for disabled people’s access needs.

Boris bikes? Of course there are disabled people that can cycle, but there are a huge number that can’t. No attempt has been made to offer a viable alternative to people that can’t use a heavy bike because of pain conditions, cognitive impairments that limit hazard perception, mobility impairments, fatigue conditions, sensory impairments.

Cycle superhighways? See above.

The Overground network? This is a fantastic route, but it was opened with some stations on the network inaccessible to people that can’t use stairs. Whitechapel, Brockley, Crystal Palace, Shadwell all have steps at one or both platforms, and no lift.

The tube network – vastly inaccessible to people with mobility impairments. Very little support for blind and visually impaired passengers.

Disabled people’s needs are repeatedly sidelined, despite our rights being enshrined in law.

@25. Robin: “Disabled people are, again, being sidelined.”

I don’t live in London so I can not comment as a non-Londoner. I am not a wheelchair user. But I am sidelined.

Correctly, we are all “sidelined”. By pedestrian crossings designed for motorists, cyclepaths that randomly intermingle walkers and cyclists or by plain daft road signs.

This is not a Boris problem or one that should be owned by council chief execs. It starts off as a council officer problem and if councillors vote for it, the problem is theirs.

Which is where we are “sidelined”. Any fool with half a brain would not do that, but they do it year after year

Sorry for double post – thought first had disappeared, rewrote, then both popped up.

@28. Robin: “Sorry for double post – thought first had disappeared, rewrote, then both popped up.”

If you are making a juvenile quip about the reliability of buses, please desist. It is not funny, Robin. Desist 😉

@29

Ha! If only I’d thought of that! No, sadly it was technological ineptitude.

I was always under the impression that London buses were a lot more costly and over-engineered than other buses in the UK. This was, of course, when London Transport designed and effectively manufactured them themselves. The London buses I knew as a youngster were built like brick privies and lasted a good deal longer than the off-the-peg Spam-cans of the last three or so decades, and were a lot better to ride in to boot.

Let’s see what these new buses are like in operation before passing judgement.

32. Robin Levett

@Flowerpower #15:

Using the various figures in the thread above:

If the marginal cost per bus is £350k, then producing another 595 (to make a production run of 600) will cost £208,250,000; making a total cost including development of pennies short of £220m. That’s £367k per bus; 22% more than buying a better off the shelf design which costs £300k per bus, or £180m for 600.

So Boris is throwing away £40m. Why is that a good thing?

33. Leon Wolfson

@33 – Because they’re ideologically pure. Gee, do you always ask easy questions?

(Yea, sigh)

34. Anon E Mouse

Nice looking vehicle just a shame they couldn’t have just shoved a diesel engine in the thing to keep the costs down….


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Daniel Hatch

    Fond farewell to bendy bus, as we get new bus for London which costs eight times normal double decker http://t.co/AFRFpejR

  2. St.

    @DarrenJohnsonAM "Fond farewell
    bendy bus, as we get new bus for London which costs eight times normal double decker http://t.co/mxDeoJhJ”

  3. Anna Beech

    "@DarrenJohnsonAM: Fond farewell to bendy bus, we get new bus for London which costs eight times normal double decker http://t.co/HFyomdPS"

  4. Alex Braithwaite

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/gaxcbCXd via @libcon

  5. Andrew Connelly

    Boris launches world's most expensive bus http://t.co/5wGkVbTG

  6. Joseph Williams

    Fond farewell to bendy bus, as we get new bus for London which costs eight times normal double decker http://t.co/AFRFpejR

  7. Dan Hurlbut

    RT @benfolley: Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/t2wGy9Ue via @libcon

  8. Rachel Stevenson

    I'd rather bus fares still be 80p and not have a new bus, but it does look damn sexy http://t.co/bytkBTWu

  9. Good bye Bendy

    […] at Liberal Conspiracy Sunny sees today as the day Boris launches new Routemasters. Other new developments include the […]

  10. David Caldwell

    This wasn’t Boris’s only achievement, oh no! He has also hiked bus fares 55%, delivered 52 affordable homes in London …http://t.co/y9dxNZdW

  11. David Caldwell

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus http://t.co/y9dxNZdW

  12. David Davies

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus ~ http://t.co/76CHevks

  13. Denis Fernando

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BEr6qNje via @libcon

  14. Tom Burke

    RT "@libcon Boris launches world's most expensive bus http://t.co/4nDxJCJs" Will someone, please, ##SackBoris

  15. Mark Carrigan

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kExsqupG via @libcon

  16. Steve Chambers

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kExsqupG via @libcon

  17. Pablo K

    £1.6 million per bus, but no one will even hold it against him, cause it's just BoJo LOL! Fuckwit. http://t.co/PoNoy9Rg

  18. Stephe Meloy

    £1.6 million per bus, but no one will even hold it against him, cause it's just BoJo LOL! Fuckwit. http://t.co/PoNoy9Rg

  19. Stephe Meloy

    Boris launches world’s most expensive bus | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/fXeH7Csk via @libcon

  20. Claire

    'King hell. Boris' new routemasters cost £1.6m each http://t.co/1YfOpFO3





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