The Evening Standard, aka London Daily Bozza, was in typical cheerleading form last month as it proclaimed “Hong Kong and other major Chinese cities could buy hundreds of new Routemaster buses, Boris Johnson said today”. London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was in Hong Kong promoting the New Bus for London (NB4L).
“The Chinese desperately need low-emission buses. We should be out here. One of the advantages of the new bus is that it is the cleanest, greenest bus in the world. It would be the absolute perfect thing not just for Hong Kong but also for Beijing” he enthused, as his hosts smiled for the photo opportunities, while having no intention of going anywhere near Bozza’s ridiculous vanity project.
Almost immediately after Bozza flew out, and the BozzaMaster was loaded back onto the boat, Hong Kong’s largest operator Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) gave out the hard word. “KMB has no intention of introducing the NBfL to Hong Kong in view of the lack of an air-conditioning, necessary given Hong Kong’s climate, and the open design of the rear door, which does not meet the operating situation in Hong Kong”.
Why so? Late last month came the answer: KMB “has been working with British bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) to co-develop the new generation E500 Euro V air-conditioned double-deck bus. 370 brand new E500 double-deckers ordered by KMB will arrive in Hong Kong in early 2013 for deployment on routes connecting the urban area with new towns in the New Territories”.
ADL also has orders from other Hong Kong operators which makes a total on order of well over 500 vehicles. The Enviro 500 does all the things the BozzaMaster does not: working air conditioning, keenly priced, reliable, capable of driver only operation at all times, capable of carrying its design load, and it’s what the operator wants. So how about mainland China?
Proper LHD conversion: Carris 255
No chance. Although Hong Kong, as befits a former outpost of the British Empire, drives on the left, the rest of China does not. And you don’t just produce a left hand drive (LHD) version of a vehicle at zero additional cost. There would need to be a complete reconfiguration of both chassis and bodywork to produce an LHD version of the NB4L, as well as manufacturing properly handed components.
This is necessary to ensure the vehicle is as accessible as the UK version. Manufacturers have been doing this for decades: ADL export to Canada, for instance. Way back in the day, firms like AEC, who developed the real Routemaster, produced proper LHD conversions with left handed components, like the Regent Mark III in the photo, which ran in Lisbon for almost three decades.
There won’t be an LHD NB4L. There won’t be any export sales. End of story.