Saturday, 2 December 2017

The New Routemaster opens the door for more stylish conventional buses

The New Routemaster (NRM) rollout has ended with route 267 being the last route to convert to these buses. We now move on to the next chapter where we are seeing more stylish and conventional buses holding NRM design cues being rolled out not just for London, but for Britain as well!

The original plan of the New Routemaster (formerly known as New Bus for London) project was to bring back the rear platform, but instead, since the conductors were withdrawn back in September 2016 it has evolved to a three-door, two-staircase hybrid bus. The rear platform and design was inspired by the original AEC Routemaster. There are now 1,000 New Routemaster buses built for London bus services.

The New Routemaster bus was designed by Heatherwick Studios and TfL. The London Mayor, Boris Johnson, unveiled the design back in May 2010. The New Routemaster was manufactured by Wrightbus in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

The founder of Heatherwick Studios, Thomas Heatherwick, talks about the New Routemaster bus design.

In 2014, TfL referred to the then Mayor, Boris Johnson’s 2020 vision which was to have 2,000 New Routemaster buses by 2020. TfL wrote about manufacturers developing their own double deck buses with NRM features such as the glazed staircase.

From the TfL board back in November 2014 (Link to document)

Members were advised that the TfL remained on target to achieve the Mayors 2020 vision of 2,000 vehicles. TfL was able to purchase up to 1,000 buses from Wrightbus under the current contract. No decision was proposed on the order of the next 1,000 vehicles as other bus manufacturers were looking to develop their own double-decker buses with NRM features, which would give TfL options when considering future vehicle choices.

Following this the previous Mayor, Boris Johnson, answers a question from a Greater London Assembly member about the proposed 2,000 New Routemasters by 2020.

Main question by Valerie Shawcross

Can you show how 2,000 NRMs will be on London's streets by 2020. Please break down the purchases by financial year.

Answer from the Mayor Boris Johnson

I expect to see the DNA of the NRM adopted on many of the new double deck buses introduced, as older vehicles are renewed and contracts re-let, through the normal tendering programme. TfL is therefore well positioned to meet my aspiration by 2020.

In March 2016, I said in my article that the Mayoral candidates were vowing to discontinue purchases of New Routemaster buses.

New capital investment will be reduced significantly as we discontinue purchases of New Routemaster buses. We will carry on investing in the fleet however, by retro-fitting 3,000 vehicles with Euro VI standard emission technology by 2020.

And in July 2017, TfL talks about the popularity of the New Routemaster bus:

The vehicle does have a vintage-look livery to help maintain the link with its classic predecessor. However, the pallet of colours chosen on all vehicles in the fleet provides a contrast to help visually-impaired passengers.

We do survey customers on how satisfied they are with the journeys and research indicates NRMs remain more popular than conventional diesel double deck buses. So, while we note your objections and preference to choose other buses operating in London, many people do like the look and feel of these modern hybrid diesel electric vehicles and the connection they provide to the iconic Routemaster.

We expect to complete the roll out of new Routemaster buses this summer so there will not be further buses with this design and livery. Some aspects of its external shape and lines are now feeding through into variants produced by Wrightbus and other manufacturers.

Back in late 2015, I wrote about Alexander Dennis unveiling the Enviro400H City, a two-door, one-staircase bus which features design cues based from the New Routemaster bus - such as glazed staircase and curved window at the rear. The lower front design is also based on their Enviro200 MMC single deck product. Thomas Heatherwick praised the Enviro400H City as ‘back to front’ compliment back in 2015.
The fleet numbers of the Enviro400H City buses are:

· HA1 - HA53 owned by Arriva
· 2501 - 2538 owned by CT Plus

This makes a total of 91 Enviro400H City buses for the London Bus network.

Then in March 2016, TfL and Wrightbus unveiled the two-door, one-staircase New Routemaster variant called Wright SRM. It uses the Volvo B5LH hybrid system and there are only 6 of them operating in London; they are owned by RATP-Dev from Edgware Garage (BT)
Also, there are two SRM’s with Volvo B5LHC ‘OppCharge electric system’ which are still not in service in London.

According to Route-One: TfL is also careful to avoid mentioning that the (previous) Mayor’s challenge includes an element of reducing buses’ acquisition cost while retaining the NRM’s pluses, but there is heavy suggestion that NRM ‘lites’ such as the SRM and Enviro400 City may supersede the original in buying policy once all NRMs are delivered.

At the moment, no Bus operator in Britain has garnered interest in the SRM, so there have been no orders made of late.

Alexander Dennis has gained ground selling their Enviro400H City product to various bus operators all over Britain using a diesel engine, diesel-electric hybrid system and compressed natural gas (CNG) engine.

The CEO of Alexander Dennis Colin Robertson said to Route-One: “the company hopes to regain ground lost in London in the coming year with Mayor Sadiq Khan having said he will stop buying the New Routemaster, produced by Wrightbus.”

Here’s a list of bus operators in Britain that have purchased the Enviro400 City buses:

· Plymouth Citybus (alternative livery for luxury service)
· And recently Reading Buses with bio gas

The Wrightbus Gemini 3 also features a New Routemaster design cue which is the glazed staircase - an option for bus operating companies to feature in their fleet.

· Arriva Derby Sapphire service
· Lothian Buses (also alternative livery for Airlink and Skylink and open top Edinburgh Sightseeing)
· RATP-Dev London United for Kingston University service
· Stagecoach Cumbria for Lakesider open-top service

This shows that the DNA of the New Routemaster, notably the glazed staircase, is used for the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 City and Wrightbus Gemini 3. That’s why the glazed staircase design is seen on buses throughout Britain.

The computer-generated images (CGI) of the Enviro400H City are featured on the cover of the July 2017 Commissioner’s report and the Old Oak Common consultation. So in the near future, we could see more double deck buses with glazed staircase designs, though it will be down to the discretion of private bus operating companies to purchase them. Even if London bus operators don’t purchase any more SRM’s or Enviro400H City buses, the main thing is, the New Routemaster DNA is spreading to buses across Britain.

My challenge to bus manufacturers is to have a stylish double decker bus design with a zero-emission battery electric drive system to succeed the diesel-electric hybrid New Routemaster bus.

The most stylish electric bus so far is the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMC which uses the BYD eBus electric bus system. They are currently on routes 360, 507 and 521. You can read more about that bus type here.

In my opinion, Alexander Dennis has the most stylish range such as the Enviro400 MMC, Enviro200 MMC and Enviro400 City. Vehicle designs (including rolling stock trains) are becoming much more aerodynamic to reduce drag and deliver fuel savings.

My conclusion

The New Routemaster has so many criticisms due to high pricing, design and mechanical faults which include air cooling and hybrid battery problems. But the main thing is this; it has enabled manufacturers to develop double deck buses with New Routemaster DNA. Over the years, bus designs are becoming more and more stylish.

The NRM is also seen on several movies and television series and a small number of video games.

The rollout of New Routemasters has been completed, but this is the beginning of a mass rollout of zero emission electric buses for London. In 2018, TfL will require private bus operators to purchase zero emission or ultra low emission hybrid buses with their new route contracts.

Technology and design has moved forward so quickly so keep an eye on the London Bus Routes Service Changes page to see the upcoming routes to be served with new hybrid and zero emission electric buses.

The New Routemasters are on (daytime) routes 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 21, 24, 38, 48, 55, 59, 68, 73, 76, 88, 91, 137, 148, 149, 159, 168, 189, 211, 253, 254, 267, 390 and 453, East London Transit routes EL1, EL2, EL3 and night routes N3, N8, 10, N11, 12, N16, 24, N38, N55, 76, 88, 148, 149, 159, 189, 390, 453 and EL1.

The Enviro400H City operates on London Bus routes 26, 78, 133, 333 and 388 and night routes N26 and N133 - on 1st September 2018, they will be on night routes N550 and N551.

Zero emission electric buses are on routes 98, 108, 312, 507, 521 and H98 -soon they are expected to be on routes 46, 70, 153, 214 and C1. Hydrogen buses are currently in operation on route RV1.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Google Plus by searching for @CLondoner92

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