Hold very tight, please. Ding, ding: All aboard the Boris bus

So, after ordering the new trams that are too long for the Tramlink platforms, now we come to the “new Routemaster” bus with faulty doors…

The New Bus for London made a faltering debut on the streets of London last week

Peter Watts, who writes the excellent London history and culture site The Great Wen, got a ticket to ride on the maiden journey of the Boris Bus last week on behalf of Time Out.

The resulting report will make spinmeister Guto Hari and other City Hall insiders cringe, as another of the Mayor of London’s populist schemes is exposed, again, to be little more than a vanity project, with taxpayers left to pick up the expensive bills.

Here’s an abbreviated version of Watts’ report:

The doors slam shut in our faces and the bus pulls off, empty, parking 100 metres round the corner for an hour while men with screwdrivers scratch their heads and try to fix a broken rear door. People queue up to take photographs of the static bus. While at the bus station, the transport nerds are reduced to discussing the new rail stock recently introduced on the Metropolitan Line…

The bus finally leaves Victoria two hours behind schedule. The nerds pile on board excitedly.

It is, in many ways, classic Boris. A bus has been delivered at great expense (£11.3 million), broken down twice, is two hours late, doesn’t do what it says it does, but people still love it. It’s almost impossible to find anybody – outside of those with vested political interests – with a bad word to say about the Boris Bus…

The key element of the new bus – the one that has people calling it a Routemaster – is the rear platform, open for ease of access. This will close in the evening, but during the day is manned by a conductor, who cannot take fares or check Oyster cards and is basically there to enforce health and safety regulations – precisely the sort of non-job Boris groupies usually rage against but now find themselves awkwardly condoning. The new bus is supposed to replace the bendy bus, partly because Boris insisted the middle doors made fare evasion so easy: the new bus also has a set of inviting middle doors. Boris supporters have decided to blame these inconveniences on TfL rather than the Mayor’s office.

Rarely has a bus been so politically divisive. Left-wingers say that during a time of recession and rising fares it is sheer vanity to spend a fortune on a bus that has a lower capacity than the ones it is replacing, that it isn’t really a Routemaster and Routemasters were rubbish anyway. Right-wingers argue this is a terrific use of public money, defend the conductor (whose combined costs will total £500,000 a year) and insist good design trumps expense.

Oh, and will all that investment of Londoners’ money be recouped by selling the New Bus for London to overseas cities? Apparently not: a recent question to Boris Johnson at Mayor’s Question Time revealed that it is uncertain whether the bus can be re-fitted for left-hand drive.

Oh, bother, Boris!

 

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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