Sunday, 19 February 2012

Boris' New Bus for London Delayed

Looks like we'll all have to wait a bit longer for the much-vaunted 'Borismaster' to hit the streets of London – it's introduction, I discover, has been delayed.

After announcing with much excitement two months ago that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s “Routemasters for the 21st Century” would enter service on Monday 20 February, Transport for London has announced that is has had to delay their introduction by a week.

Apparently, certification of the new vehicles has taken a bit longer than expected.

The first Borismasters, as they are widely referred to, are now due to enter service on 27 February at the hands of Arriva London on their route 38.

Dismissed as an irrelevant vanity project by the Mayor's political opponents, it is understood that the cost of the project so far - design and development, and the building of eight prototype vehicles by Wrightbus of Northern Ireland – stands at more than £11.3m even before a wheel has turned.

What distinguishes the Borismaster from other hybrid buses is that it has no less than three doors, which is a first for a British double-deck bus. It sounds complicated but its intended to allow people to board and dismount relatively quickly. However, the downside – and in cost terms, it's a serious one - is that the bus will generally need a two-person crew.

Of course, we don't yet know whether the Borismaster concept will actually work, but the first few months of trials should quickly establish that. Even if it does work, there's been no indication yet of the likely on-the-road cost of these elegant though slightly bizarre vehicles. My bet is that they will prove so expensive and uniquely-engineered that no other operator will touch them.

If that is the case, then this will be history repeating itself. The original Routemaster, remember, was only ever bought by London Transport (who also designed it) except for a small number of forward entrance vehicles sold to Northern General Transport. In later years, cast-off's found work throughout the country but the forecourt and running costs of the originals were just too high, I'm told, and they were never widely adopted.

And then, of course, there's the cost of that extra crew member to factor in...

I doubt whether we'll see huge numbers of Borismasters on Britain's streets in the years to come.

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