You’ve seen the photos, and read all about it. But what about the travel experience provided by the New Bus For London (NB4L), aka the BozzaMaster, proud legacy of occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson? Is the hype justified? More importantly, was it worth expending all that time and, more importantly, money just for something a little bit different?
Attempting to answer all of these questions, and no doubt many more, I flagged down a Number 38 in Grosvenor Place, which for the uninitiated means a couple of stops after starting its journey from outside Victoria Station. I could have boarded at the much-trailed rear platform, but out of instinct used the front doors, as that has for many years been the new “normal” for bus travel.
Most other passengers did the same thing: only at one stop did a group board at the back and use the rear stairs to gain the upper deck. As most of the 62 seats in the BozzaMaster are upstairs (40 out of 62), I too used that upper deck. There is sufficient headroom to walk up and down the aisle without having to stoop, but less over the window seats, which makes for a slightly cramped feeling.
Why that should be, given the roof profile, may be down to there being electrical and heating equipment there. There is discreet lighting above all seats, and yet the impression is given of less than ideal brightness. I couldn’t make my mind up what contributed to this – maybe the lower roof level above the seats, together with the red decor and strange gold effect finish for grab handles.
Most other buses use a bright yellow for the latter. Anyway, what about the ride quality? Firm is the word that comes to mind most readily. And whenever the vehicle encounters an imperfection in the road surface, you realise it’s a big and heavy lump as the suspension sits down into every grating and break in the surface. It’s quieter than a conventional diesel bus, but then again, so are all hybrids.
Ditto on the passenger information system, although this has been integrated into the trim rather more than on the average London bus – remember, many of these vehicles will be going off for a few years’ service outside the capital before being retired. The BozzaMaster infamously will not, as no operator wants it, and it’s been imposed on Arriva, who run the 38.
I alighted via that rear staircase, the presence of which doesn’t brighten the rear area of the upstairs as one might expect, and at the foot of which stood the “conductor”, who, well, just stood there – making the economics of the BozzaMaster that much worse. Also making the numbers potentially worse are all those custom glass panels, like the upper and lower deck front screens, and the glazing by both stairs.
It’s different, and it looks unusual. But was it worth it? No, it wasn’t.