One way that London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson counters accusations that his Very Wonderful New Vanity Buses do not really cost well over a million notes each is to assert that the development cost will be spread over hundreds, if not thousands, of the vehicles, as more and more are ordered over the coming years.
It still isn't going to be one of these
So it might be thought that when Transport for London (TfL) announced last week that it had secured a central Government grant of £5 million to help it order another seventy hybrid buses, this would be the ideal opportunity to get a return on those development costs and usher in not merely eight BozzaMasters (tm), but enough to run whole routes.
But that thought would have been misplaced: there has been no fanfare announcement heralding the ordering of more BozzaMasters, because these 70 buses aren’t going to be them. There are still no orders planned for the Mayor’s flagship wonder vehicle beyond the eight that have either been delivered or are on their way from Ballymena.
Indeed, operator Arriva, which has agreed to operate the BozzaMaster, but isn’t actually buying the vehicles, put twenty hybrid double deckers into service on route 73 – no longer served by bendy buses – recently, but these were all to existing designs. But Bozza has put on the record at Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) that running the new buses will be a contract requirement, not an option.
And that will mean higher costs, as no operator has identified a use for the vehicles outside London, which is where buses go after life in the capital, as they still have some years of useful life left in them. No significant residual value at the end of seven years means a combination of keeping them in service longer and paying the operators more.
That is why there has been no decision on buying any more BozzaMasters. These vanity buses have been pushed into service in time for a Mayoral election (the real Routemaster, much of which was based on existing technology, had a development period of nine years) and will need some time sorting out before TfL even know that they are worth re-ordering.
For some time yet, all that the punters will see of Bozza’s new wonder bus is an occasional appearance on the 38, and still only between Monday and Friday. And that is not an April Fool. Would that it were.