11 Feb 2016


Boris Johnson is to increase the number of his signature “New Routemaster” buses on the British capital’s streets to 1000 with what could be the final bulk delivery of the bespoke vehicle, which none of his potential successors as London mayor have pledged to continue buying after the election on 5 May, says a recent article in The Guardian.
The board of Transport for London (TfL), which Johnson chairs, approved the purchase of a further 195 vehicles from manufacturer Wrightbus of Ballymena at what is understood to be a significantly lower price than was paid for the first 805, of which 600 are already in service.

The price drop is described as largely a reflection of the hybrid bus market becoming more competitive, although it has also been indicated that uncertainty about the New Routemaster’s future was a contributory factor. Despite Johnson and TfL previously insisting that the “Boris Bus” would attract customers from other cities in the UK and elsewhere, none have come forward.

Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, wrote last month that he would “freeze purchases” of the New Routemaster as a way of making budget savings to help pay for his promised four-year public transport fares freeze. Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon too has cast doubt on the New Routemaster’s future, describing Johnson as “obsessed with getting as many of them as possible on to London’s roads before he leaves City Hall” and arguing that, whilst the lower price is welcome, “they remain considerably more expensive than comparable hybrid double deckers” when “a better policy would ensure that London has hundreds of single and double decker fully electric buses on its roads as quickly as possible.

Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, Khan’s closest rival in the mayoral race, has repeatedly praised Johnson, describing him as “a fantastic mayor”, but has yet to say what he would do about the New Routemaster. The New Routemaster was a flagship Johnson policy when he became mayor in 2008 and was intended to combine the best of new, green technology with a revival of hallmark features of the original London Routemaster, including a second crew member (or conductor) and an open rear platform, which passengers could use to board or leave the bus between stops at will.

However, both conductors and the open platform are being phased out and TfL has acknowledged that the latest technology is set to improve on the higher emission standards initially achieved by the New Routemaster’s groundbreaking “series hybrid” engineering, which involves a small diesel engine charging batteries which power an electric engine, rather than the bus switching between parallel diesel and electric modes, as with other hybrids.

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