One of major pledges of the Boris campaign was the return of the Routemaster. Yesterday, Boris and the powers that be at TfL revealed the winners of the six month design competition. The aim is to replace the much hated bendy bus.
I am in two minds about this. Yes, there are some great merits about this. Conductors means that drivers can actually drive. There are also more jobs to go around as there is a need for more buses (to replace capacity) and conductors (reducing crews have been part of London Transport philosophy since the 1950's, so this is a big turn around). The fact that a new bus specifically designed for London's streets will mean a far more fuel efficient fleet, that will be around for decades rather than the wasteful seven-fifteen year lifespan for current vehicles. Plus, they do look nice.
But this is also a huge waste. The design and development costs involved will only result in a few hundred buses being built, mostly for daytime routes in Central London. Night Routes and suburban services, even the busy ones, will still use the normal peasant wagons that are currently on the road. Add to that the extra resources needed for these new vehicles (land for depots, specialist engineers, more staff) and you can see why the mayor cut funding to so many projects. I wonder if the money would have been better spent on a new tram line or two.
I can see this project getting very far. It is amazing what can happen when there is political will. Never underestimate the power of voters outside London.