With bendy buses now expunged from the capital by its Conservative mayor, it seems that a Labour-controlled city a little further north is now seeking to do the same with its bendy buses – only this time, its operator may be fighting back.
York City Council voted last May not to renew its five-year contract with First for the Number 4 service, which operates between the University and Acomb using the articulated and slightly space-age Wright StreetBus vehicles – and referred to in York as ftr's. Instead, the Labour administration - who only came to power last May – stated that they will seek alternatives for the cross-city service, the implication being that the ftr's will suffer the same fate as London's unloved Citaro artics.
Not necessarily, says First. Their regional managing director Dave Alexander insists that First and the council have been privately discussing a range of possible alternative uses for ftr in York, and that nothing has been agreed yet. The company is aware of the Council's lack of enthusiasm for the bulky vehicles, but points out that First does not require permission to operate them in the city and any decision to do so (or not) will be there's and there's alone. So there.
The company also warns that removing the ftr from York could only be done at the cost of 60 local jobs – all of them voters, presumably - before finally taking a bit of a swipe at the council for blabbing about discussions that First considered to be private.
Now, few people would argue that the undeniably-glamorous ftr is not exactly purpose-made for medieval York. The ftr is meant to be a sleek high-volume rapid transit vehicle but the city's tight and twisty streets put a serious crimp in that. In fact, evening and Sunday services are generally operated by conventional buses with better fuel economy than the heavier ftr's.
But is the end in sight for York's bendies? Well, probably not. First's other fleet of bendies – including Citaros - continue to give good service on the city's park and ride services and its possible that if nothing else then the ftr's might in time find work there.
Whatever happens, though, it seems First certainly won't be giving in without a fight.