Zelo Street regulars will need no introduction to the New Bus For London (NB4L), aka the Boris Bus or BozzaMaster, which is definitely not a Routemaster, despite the PR flannel and the adulation of those in the press who believed that London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was anything more than a clown whose primary objective was More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now.
A complete Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
The Boris Bus was announced with a suitably loud fanfare, including a grovelling article by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, who later became the beneficiary of Bozza’s patronage by being given a taxpayer-funded part time post at City Hall. But it was in trouble from the start: there were reliability issues, and the vehicles were so heavy, they were unable to carry their maximum design load.
No matter, Brave Bozza carried on: hundreds of the buses were ordered, and much store was placed by their supposed export potential. To this end, one was shipped to Hong Kong, and on arrival promptly broke down before it had even rolled off the boat. The authorities there smiled for the camera, and then made sure it was put back on the boat before announcing they had no intention of buying it.
As most potential export markets would have needed a left-hand drive vehicle, and no-one would stump up the cost, there were no orders elsewhere, either. No other operator in the UK wanted to buy one. The operators in London didn’t want them, and so TfL had to buy them. Then the air-cooling system was found to be not up to the job in Summer. At first TfL denied there was a problem. Now they are all having opening windows fitted.
Appearing soon at a scrapyard near you
After the grim economics of the Boris Bus, with its Not-Really-A-Conductor guarding the open rear platform that was not really “hop on, hop off”, were studied more closely, and the potential huge financial black hole realised, the conductors were gradually phased out. New and rather more hands-on Mayor Sadiq Khan has taken the decision to remove the last ones and end the “hop on, hop off” fiasco.
And, after a thousand of the things had been ordered - the minimum number required to enable TfL to gain control of the intellectual property in the design - the new Mayor has now put the lid on the Boris Bus charade. As the Observer has reported today, no more of these pointless vehicles will be ordered. The prospect of their being withdrawn from service early is now a real possibility - as I surmised recently.
London will instead major in electric buses for central area operations, a technology that TfL could, and should, have embraced more keenly far earlier. The Boris Bus will then stand testament to the ability of an egocentric and unprincipled politician to drive through a money-wasting project, and the abject failure of the media to hold him to account.
Whenever you hear the press boasting about their ability to hold politicians to account, ask them why they were absent and elsewhere when Bozza was allowed to spray so much public money up the wall on this vanity project. They may be some time responding.