No reply yet to my request for information about the new bus from Boris, but in meantime he has published his manifesto. Need time to absorb and extract any firm material in it, but it does mention the new bus.
In essence Boris promises (see page 27 of manifesto):
(1) that if re-elected he will introduce 600 during the next term;
(2) he will do so by replacing each old type bus that is ‘decommissioned’ by the new bus; and
(3) will ensure that ‘each new bus that is put onto the streets’ does not cost more than an ‘existing’ hybrid.
So now we know. Or do we?
The following observations seem to be called for. First, it might be thought that existing hybrid buses are still not fully developed and might be thought quite expensive until such time as they become the norm. Comparing a production New Bus for London with existing hybrid vehicles might be thought to be a relatively easy target to meet if we are just talking about the capital costs (and what about the development cost, which surely adds another £18,000 or so per vehicle?). The manifesto wording appears to obfuscate the little matter of how the second person is paid for. If we assume of 600 vehicles 575 are on the road and that a second person implies two shifts for say 6 days a week then that sounds like additional employment costs of £25-£30 million a year to be covered. I have previously mentioned revenue protection issues (any door can be used for entry, previously regarded as a source of revenue leakage on the bendy-buses). Will that too need more staff, or acceptance of loss?
Finally it is still not explained how operators will be made to take on the new vehicles at no additional cost to TfL. Boris uses expression ‘decommissioned’ in respect of old vehicles but surely most London buses are not decommissioned but find further service elsewhere. If operators feel they cannot do this with a bespoke vehicle then there may be a cost associated with this. If London (rather than passing mayors) wants the new buses then maybe the solution is to require that part of the fleet to be handed over at its written down value to an incoming operator whenever a bus contract is lost. This could only be mandated in new contracts.
I hope that all mayoral candidates will be pressed for detailed answers on these points.
More on other transport manifesto promises in due course!