At long last, after more than a year of being told that the much-vaunted New Bus For London (NB4L), aka the Borismaster, Bozzamaster or even New Routemaster, was unable to keep its occupants warm in winter or cool in summer, the press has woken up to the fact that this obscenely expensive vanity project has not even produced a usable end product for its additional full life cost of well over half a billion pounds.
And the problem the NB4L has is as obvious as it is insoluble: you cannot reliably heat (in winter) or air condition (in summer) a vehicle that has a thwacking great hole in the back of its bodywork. Last winter, there were complaints about how cold the buses were, especially downstairs. There will be more next winter, for the problem remains unsolved, because there is no solution to be had.
Some pundits, like self-appointed engineer Harry Mount (who read Ancient and Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford), have convinced themselves that this is all about “The terrible design fault with modern windows – they don't open”, which is total crap. It is because the bodywork is all too open. “When the air con breaks down, as it has this week, there's no refuge from the heat”. It is working, Harry.
Had the BozzaMaster, or any other bus for that matter, been designed only with conventional automatic doors which only open when required for passengers to board or alight – like the twin-staircase three-doorway double deckers operated by the BVG in Berlin – all would be well. The wilful insistence on both air-conditioning and an open platform at the rear was a guarantee of failure.
So now the Standard has picked up on the sauna that is the upper deck of the NB4L, and moreover its editorial had demanded that something be done. The story has been deemed sufficiently important for the Mail to lift it, suggesting that other papers will pile in later. But nothing can be done while that rear platform is open. Were it to be closed all day, the travelling environment might improve.
But that would merely underscore what a colossal waste of money the NB4L has already become. And, as Boris Watch has noted, there are questions to be answered as to how Heatherwick got the contract to design this vehicle. They had no previous experience in the field, had not gone through any process of competitive tender, and have produced a bus that is too heavy, as well as too hot.
And it’s hot around that cramped area into which the engine, electric traction pack and exhaust system have been shoehorned in order to accommodate an open rear platform and all that oh-so-stylish sweeping glass exterior. How long will it be before a journey on the 24 up to Hampstead Heath is cut short by overheating, or, worse, fire? What was that about bendy buses being hot and hazardous?
The BozzaMaster game is up. The fun part is watching those in denial about it.