11 March 2009

£3mil a year to get rid of Bendies

Transport for London (TfL) last week finally revealed the annual cost to Londoners for the replacement of the capital's articulated bus fleet with that of the new generation Routemaster and standard low-floor deckers - a cool £3 million.

And remember, this is £3 million a year, every year - a sum in excess of many local authorities' annual transport budgets! The figure has been based on the costings for replacing the first three bendy-bus routes with conventional low-floor double-deck operation and the increase in buses and drivers needed to plug the capacity shortfall that a like-for-like swap of vehicles would create.

Taking one of London's most frequent bus services, and also one of the initial trio for conversion, Service 38 (Victoria-Clapton Pond) as an example, the current peak vehicle requirement (PVR) for the service is 47 artics, while from the first day of 'normal' bus operation, it will increase by a whopping 25 deckers to 72. Had the bendies been retained on that route, Arriva - the route's operator - would have been paid around £13 million per year, but with the new requirement, TfL is to pay £15.8 million to Arriva - an increase of £2.8 million for that route alone.

Two other routes are to be converted from articulated to rigid operation: Go-Ahead's London General-operated Red Arrow Services 507 & 521 within central London Zone 1. Taking each route separately, Service 507 is to be awarded £3.2 million p/a for its new deckers - a £1.2 million increased had the route continued to be operated using the existing bendies; Service 521 is to be awarded £3.2 million or £2.9 million with existing vehicles. Both Red Arrow routes' PVR is combined, rising by 19 from 28 to 47 vehicles.

The other concern is the negative impact on the environment these additional vehicles will have - 44 additional buses on London's streets for three routes alone as a result of Mayor Boris Johnson's controversial manifesto pledge. TfL has admitted that it doesn't know precisely how detrimental the increase of vehicles will be to the environment, though claim that with the modern Euro 4-rated engine fitted to a rigid decker the impact would be 'small' compared to that of a Euro 3-rated engine fitted to a bendy-bus. That would also assume a like-for-life replication, which quite clearly isn't the case at all. (GL)