The new Routemaster London Bus – procurement triumph or overpriced monstrosity??

The new London Routemaster bus made its first actual live appearance last week. Your chances of catching it by luck are pretty slim, as there is only one in service at the moment! But the early reviews suggest it will be popular with the public, and I must say it is certainly aesthetically pleasing.

New Routemaster Bus

One of its major benefits is the open platform at the rear, which the old London double deckers had, enabling you to jump on and off at junctions, or in traffic jams, rather than having to wait for a bus stop. The new model replicates that, but comes with new features as well, such as air-con, and two staircases instead of the traditional single stairway. It is twice as fuel efficient as a traditional  diesel bus and the most environmentally friendly of its kind.

Unfortunately, the discussion about cost has got silly and political, as these matters often do. The Mayor of London’s political opponents have complained that each of the first 8 buses “have cost over £1.4 Million” each. As the BBC explains,  here,

In total, eight buses with an open "hop-on, hop-off" platform at the rear, costing £11.37m, will run on route 38. They will be staffed with conductors and will not run at night or during the weekends.

That sounds a lot of money for 8 buses, but when you look into it, this is pure political posturing. What Transport for London have done is an initial contract for the design, development and prototyping work, plus the first 8 buses, which in total has cost £11 Million. You can decide whether you think that is reasonable but it certainly isn’t as simple as paying £1M plus per bus.

Indeed, if this means that TfL own the design and can then bid competitively without being locked into a single supplier, that seems like a pretty smart procurement strategy to me. Now the ongoing cost once hundreds of buses are ordered isn’t clear yet, but it seems likely to be in the £300,000 range - much more acceptable.

There have been some teething troubles, which is slightly  worrying, around a “software glitch” (well, who would have guessed it would be the software?!) But the value to tourism in London of having the iconic London bus back, in a 21st century form, must be enormous. And personally, as a regular customer of London buses, I'm looking forward to my first journey on the new model.

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First Voice

  1. Dr donealot:

    Before Helen sticks her oar in, I’d just like to say we’ll done to Boris. It was giving the public something they actually wanted rather than Ken forcing bendy buses out but it has paid off

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