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Monday, 14 September 2009

Crikey Readers, It’s Jolly Pricy!

London’s politicians are inquisitive folk: they just keep on asking their mayor, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, to explain his ideas to them. They have latched on to the jolly fine wheeze to build a new bus for London (the so-called New Routemaster) and the costs associated with it, as Dave Hill’s London Blog has noted today.

Bozza has been saying that whoever is chosen to build the new bus will be absorbing the development costs, but in reality that development is already estimated to cost three million quid. And on top of that, the various operators in the capital will have to have their contracts written in a way that instructs them to use it, rather than just buy off the shelf double deckers.

Those operators like “ordinary” buses, as they can be useful assets for a few years after life in London: there are hundreds of former London buses out there, perhaps even thousands. If they didn’t think the new bus would be any use after its time in London, they may want more to run services, and I doubt that has been factored into the mayor’s sums.

And it may make any new bus a less expensive prospect if it could be sold to other operators: the original Routemaster, or RM, only had one customer outside London, and they took just fifty. Why so? Well, AEC, who developed the RM, could offer “ordinary” Regent double deck chassis, for which the customer could specify their own bodywork. The RM came with a London spec Park Royal body, take it or leave it – one drawback of its integral construction.

Moreover, no safety authority in the Western world will sign off on a design that allows passengers to hop on or off via the kind of open platform that the RM had – after all, the number of accidents that could be attributed to that feature was the main reason (well, apart from age) that the RM was phased out of front line service. So why bother with what looks increasingly like a vanity project?

If Bozza wants something different in the double deck arena, he could look at the vehicles used by the BVG in Berlin, which are accessible and satisfy all safety requirements – including a second set of stairs (both front and rear). Visitors to the city find these buses a real bonus for sightseeing and getting around – just like the RM used to be. All the mayor needs is to persuade the builders to shuffle the layout around for the requirements of the UK.

And to specify red rather than yellow.

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