Saturday, 19 September 2015

New Routemaster project now costs over £300 million, time for electric buses?

According to TFL’s board paper to be presented at the 24th September 2015 meeting and titled “Operational and Financial Performance and Investment Programme Reports,” the Estimated Final Costs have now increased to a whopping £302.5 million!

Also, the target date for 600 New Routemasters has moved to the 31st October 2015. And their final target to have all 800 NRM buses is by the 30th April 2016 which means the New Routemaster deliveries are finished.

Taking a look at one of the TFL board papers from 24th September 2015, it says:

The number of New Routemasters in London has risen to 500 following the phased conversion of route 73, including the N73 night service from Victoria to Stoke Newington in early August. This is the fourteenth route to be selected in the roll-out of 800 vehicles by 2016. We have awarded further contracts for the conversion of routes 91, 149 and 159 with exact dates for conversion to be set later this year.”

So I believe the plan for route 168 conversion has been dropped in favour of route 16 having New Routemasters which are expected to be in service on 26th September 2015, according to ‘London Bus Routes’ website. I've also found out the dates for other routes that are mentioned in the board paper which are 6th February 2016 for route 91, 17th October 2015 for route 149 and 12th December 2015 for route 159.

Currently, New Routemasters are in operation on routes 8*, 9, 10*, 11, 12*, 15, 24*, 38*, 55*, 73*, 88*, 137, 148*, 390* & 453*. *New Routemasters operate on 24 hour routes and on night routes.

Recently, news has surfaced that TFL are spending £2 million in order to retrofit the existing New Routemaster buses with window openings after TFL recieved a massive amount of complaints from passengers about the air cooling system and sweltering temperatures during the summer.

Alexander Dennis Enviro400H CityPersonally, I think that the successor to the Wrightbus New Routemaster will be the Alexander Dennis Enviro400H City as it has features based on the New Routemaster design. Also, TFL should start investing more in electric buses which are an alternative to the diesel-electric hybrid bus in order to combat climate change and diesel emissions. Technology has now advanced to the point where investing in electric buses should be a given. And from an enthusiasts point of view, I prefer seeing different bus types on different routes as it adds 'variety' to our streets instead the uniform boredom you would have if the same bus type was used on every route.

The Wrightbus New Routemaster is part of London Transport’s history, just as with previous bus types such as the Leyland Titan, MCW Metrobus, Daimler Fleetlines, AEC Routemasters and AEC Regent Three (RT). Ever since the New Routemasters arrived they have been heavily scrutinised which has lead to new routes converting to New Routemaster without a 2nd crew member; it also lead to the modification of the rear door that opens outwards in tandem with the middle door.  And also problems such as battery failures of the hybrid system, the air cooling system which lead to modifications and most recently, window openings to increase ventilation in the bus.

Anyway, here is some news about Electric buses from the board papers:

From September, the Capital’s first entirely electric route will be operating on the 312 when the two existing Optare Metro City vehicles will be joined by seven other battery-powered buses. In October we plan to launch the Capital’s first all-electric double-decker vehicles.

The number of pure-electric buses in London will rise to 70 by autumn 2016, following the award of new operating contracts for routes 507 and 521 through central London. There are currently 10 battery-powered buses in the fleet on routes 507, 521, H98 and the 312.”

October 2015 is going to be an interesting month because of the Alexander Dennis Enviro400H City which commences for route 78, the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 Virtual Electric for route 69 and the BYD double deck electric bus. And according to my previous article, Go Ahead London paid £19 million for 51 single deck Electric buses manufactured jointly by Alexander Dennis and BYD for routes 507 & 521.

With the fate of the New Routemaster project now known, I think the fleet of 800 is enough, and bear in mind that the popularity of the New Routemaster is high because of the design. I personally think that the new administration will move on from the New Routemaster project and start investing in more electric buses to help combat climate change. The jaw dropping price seems to be a lot for a 3 door and 2 staircase diesel-electric hybrid bus. But even if TFL set the tender requirements for the private bus operating companies to purchase New Routemasters for their route contracts, millions of pounds are still given to those companies in order to purchase New Routemasters. But after the contract ends, the private operating companies would have problems selling the buses on because of the 3 door and 2 staircase spec. However, with the standard 2 door and single staircase bus, they can easily be sold on because the middle door can be modified to a window to make it a single door bus.

I do think it's time that new contract requirements should require that buses to be used be either electric or hydrogen, the main thing being that they do not emit diesel emissions. I keep seeing the new route tenders and its always “existing/new diesel double/single deck bus” for the private bus companies to operate. Realistically though, anything can happen as times have changed a lot, along with technology. With over £300 million spent on 800 New Routemaster buses, that amount can be used to extend or form a new light railway service which could take more capacity than a bus.

Time flies quickly but history is being made from the present.

I'll finish this article with this video.
Link to video

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