Much thanks to Mark Lee in the comments earlier for drawing attention to this – I was going to reply there but it’s too big a story.

Basically the lovely Labour hit squad masquerading as London Travelwatch (you just *know* some Tory is going to accuse them of being political at some point in the next, ooh, week) have published some documentation [PDF] on their consultations on bendy buses.  It’s fascinating reading, since it puts meat on the skeleton we’ve divined from the various snippets at MQTs etc. including actual numbers around replacement bus fleets and costs.  It’s also pretty much the best refutation I’ve seen for all the bendy myths assiduously propagated by Gilligan, Boris, Hilton Holloway, Policy Exchange and the rest of the crew.

TfL’s proposals for the 38 are to increase its frequency *massively*, to 2-3 minute intervals, with 40% more buses on the streets – 66 instead of 47.  This means a 7-for-5 replacement ratio.  Putting this in terms of roadspace at peak times and assuming a 12m double decker we have 66*12 against 47*18, which is a reduction in the total *length* of vehicles on the road by only about 50m.  This will doubtless please someone, who will hopefully then get stuck behind a queue of double deckers trying to overtake each other at bus stops due to the extended boarding times.

For the single deck routes, the 507 would nearly have a 2 for 1 replacement ratio with 12m single deckers, going from 9 to 17 buses.  the 521 would go from 19 to 34 vehicles.  Adding up our roadspace usage gives us:

  • 507 – 42m more
  • 521 – 66m more

Oh dear.  More of London will be covered in more buses, I reckon, taken across the three routes.  That’s hardly going to help Kulveer Ranger rebalance things in favour of the motorist.

In total Boris is proposing replacing 75 bendy buses (21% of the peak requirement of 353) with 66 double deckers and 51 single deck buses.  The result is that London will have 54 metres more bus in peak times.  London’s bus operators will have to service 42 more buses (plus spares), employ 42 more drivers at peak times (and allowing for leave, shifts etc. this translates to rather more than 42 wage packets).  On the 521 in particular the intention is to run this vast fleet at 120 second intervals, which is a whole lotta bus, leading to questions of capacity at termini that TfL don’t yet have an answer for – remember that these three buses happen to share termini at Waterloo (507/521) and Victoria (38/507) so the effect is doubled.

One question we have the answer to is on capacity; they’re definitely trying to keep this up, as TfL’s table shows (which also gives us the official capacities for bendy/double-decker/single-decker as 120/85/70):

  • Route Current Future (capacity/hour)
  • 38 2400 2380
  • 507 1200 1260
  • 521 2040 2100

This is obviously now starting to reek of bad value for money, so is there any estimate of this?  Yes:

London Travelwatch: Will it increase the cost of operation and does it represent value for money?

TfL’s response :  We are seeking costs for operating the 507 and 521 with 12-metre single deck buses and the 38 with double deck buses.  We have also requested that operators provide costs for operating each route with articulated buses.  Once these costs are received we will make a decision on vehicle type, with due attention to what value for money each proposal represents.

Right, now we see TfL’s strategy and the explanation for Stephen Norris’s discomfiting question to Boris earlier.  TfL, I suspect, know it’s a bad idea and are priming Boris to try and change his mind by making him an offer he can’t accept.  Hence their keenness on being seen to give value for money, a line often found on the Mayor’s lips these days, so if you can persuade him that persisting with bendy replacement is a financial disaster you may get a reconsideration.  Fortunately LT have provided some cost estimates to help:

The principal costs arising from bus operation are staff, fuel, vehicle purchase and maintenance.  Increasing the requirement for all of these – particularly staff at peak times – must increase the cost of operating the services.  These additional costs (typically £300,000 per annum per vehicle – an estimate by London TravelWatch’s  officers, which TfL has not disputed) will have to be recouped either from increased revenue or increased subsidy.

That looks ominous for starters.

The costs of up to an additional 42 vehicles (an estimate by London TravelWatch officers based on published sources) added to the peak vehicle requirement is likely to be in the region of £12.6 million per annum for these services alone.

But, ullulate the faithful, they’re full of fare evaders!  Alas:

The use of double deck and 12 metre single deck vehicles could potentially reduce the evasion rate.  But routes 507 and 521 routes carry large numbers of Travelcard holders, and it is probable that the public perception of greater fare evasion is due in part to the fact that Travelcard holders are not required to ‘touch in’ on these services.  Even with reduced levels of fare evasion, it is unlikely that the additional revenue captured would cover the costs of increasing the frequency of the service on the scale proposed.

Therefore, the burden of any increased costs is likely to be borne by extra public subsidy

The sound you hear is Hilton Holloway and the rest suffering a terminal brain meltdown – ‘BORIS IS A LEGERND – he’ll scrap bendies! – oh no, increased subsidy! – must keep bendies! – what no Routemaster! – aargh! – does not compute! – IT’S OBVIOUSLY LIVINGSTONE’S FAULT!!!1!11!’ (repeat ad nauseam).

All this is summed up in a fine set of Recommendations:

9 Recommendations

9.1      (a)   That whilst supporting increased service frequencies, London TravelWatch is concerned that the costs incurred by using non-articulated buses on services 38, 507 and 521 may be significantly higher.  This would deplete the funds available to TfL for other purposes, and would not represent good value for money.

(b)      That London TravelWatch believes that, when considering tenders for routes currently operated by articulated vehicles, TfL should choose the option offering best value for money that is consistent with providing full accessibility and fitness for purpose.

(c)  That London TravelWatch would welcome the introduction of weekend journeys on route 507 as this serves residential areas of Westminster otherwise not served by bus on these days.

(d)  That TfL should undertake (and publish) attitudinal research into the preferences of users of routes 38, 507 and 521 regarding vehicle type and design before committing itself to any change in the type of vehicles used.

Point (d) is extremely interesting – because the bendy myths are really the spoutings of right wing propagandists there isn’t actually any evidence that bendies squish cyclists or catch fire all the time or get stuck on corners or cause congestion or must suffer from outrageous fare evasion because you never see anyone touching in.

London Travelwatch is actually calling Boris out on this – now TfL is Boris’s baby they either have to do the public, accountable thing and get us the true figures (which, given that London Travelwatch say they have no caseload from people complaining about bendy buses are not likely to back the jihadists) or not give any figures at all to save Boris from embarrassment.  If they do fail to tell us, there’s always the Freedom of Information Act.

There’s Catch 22, as well.  If, of course, TfL say they’ve done no research into bendy safety and perception, we can ask Boris why he hasn’t ordered this, since his manifesto was based on them being dangerous and unpopular.  Surely he’s not willing to take Ken Livingstone’s TfL at their word without at least *checking*?  Minefield, minefield.

Oh, and Stephen Norris apparently thinks we can replace them all in one go:

“I can’t see how it is going to take until 2015 to phase out all of the artics,” put in Steve Norris. Boris looked on dumbfounded.

“That seems like an extraordinary length of time to me. I understand, in fact I know, that they could do it from tomorrow.”

OK, Steve, we can do the sums for this (very roughly, but its indicative, OK?)

  • £12.6m replaces 75 buses PVR
  • That’s 21% of the bendy fleet PVR
  • Pro-rata and ignoring the extra costs of such a massive reorganisation, replacing all 353 would cost about £60m per annum.
  • Boris therefore needs to find £60m in savings or subsidy or fare rises to fund his bendy replacement scheme.  That’s *before* the Routemaster procurement and manning costs, since bendy replacement is officially now separate.
  • That’s a nice round number.  Rather a big one, isn’t it?

Seriously, this is now a test for Boris, who has to decide between his manifesto, London bus users and value for money.  I want him to listen to the professionals and do the sensible thing.  That this involves pissing off the Bendy Jihadists just reinforces the fact that this is good policy – as Alex Harrowell says, the overlap between supporting neo-conservatism and the bendy jihad is interestingly close.

 

30 Responses to London Travelwatch Beats Up Boris – Is This The End Of The Road For The Bendy Jihad?

  1. AdamB says:

    From the Commissioner’s Report released today:

    “the Mayor is preparing a ‘Direction of Travel’ document to be launched in October. It is anticipated that this document and the stakeholder responses to it will help guide the development of the new Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS). Consultation on MTS is currently scheduled for mid January 2009 with the London Assembly and GLA Functional Bodies, followed by a public consultation in late spring, with final publication planned for autumn 2009.’

    Do you think they could put it off any longer?

    Oh yes and they received ‘around 470 entries’ for the Routemaster competition.

    Kulveer Ranger is judging.

  2. Tom says:

    Deep joy. I wonder if he’ll be on the phone to Hilton at Autocar for some engineering advice? Seriously, could they have found anyone *less* qualified to judge such an ill-defined and pointless competition?

  3. Ewan says:

    There are 6 judges on the panel.

    Surprisingly Boris isn’t one of them!

    How do you know there were 470 entries?

  4. Tom says:

    Presumably from the TfL Board meeting he went to earlier? They’re not online yet, so I’ve not seen them.

  5. Tom, this is the most interesting and optimism-inducing blog post I’ve read in ages (and I don’t in any way mean that to understate the high quality of all the other blog posts I’ve read in that period). It certainly sounds like TfL and LT are building up to a remarkable (and completely evidentially justified) coup here. Here’s hoping they can pull it off.

  6. AdamB says:

    Boris only mentioned Kulveer’s judgement today.

    The 470 figure is from the commissioner’s report which was available at the meeting but is still unavailable online.

    Boris also said that they will ‘quickly’ judge the entries. I guess it won’t take them that long once they’ve thrown out the 450 sketches of bendy buses.

  7. AdamB says:

    There is also a rather revealing typo from Hendy.

    “Scrap Bendy Buses: All artic routes coming up for re-tender will be specified for operation using artics with current contract end dates.”

    So everything’s hunky dory then. Just scrap the bendies and replace them with er… more bendies!

  8. Tom says:

    Isn’t that just confirming what we’ve thought since the initial roll-back early on – rather than scrapping bendies Boris is changing vehicle types only at the end of the contracts (last one 2015). This fits with what Norris was complaining about.

    Also, from what LT say, TfL are inviting bids for both artic and rigid operation, which incidentally is what they did when the routes originally went articulated.

  9. AdamB says:

    No – it’s a poorly constructed sentence but it should have referred to the interim replacement with non-bendies.

    Norris picked him up on it and he apologised for the error.

  10. Mark Lee says:

    £60m is quite a shocker, isn’t it? I’m hoping that we can get this raised in MQTs…

    I am SURE that I’ve seen a TfL analysis of a bendy route comparing passenger perceptions to those before the route was converted. However I can’t for the life of me find it on the TfL site any more.

    NB: Interestingly, when you search the TfL site, it tries to hide all the juicy stuff (consultation papers, board minutes, etc) from you first with a less than accurate message stating

    “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 8 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included. ”

    You have to select the link in the message before the more interesting stuff is displayed.

  11. Hughes Views says:

    I have long been mystified by Boris’s antipathy towards bendy-buses. Almost every other major city I’ve visited seems to use them without old-fogies getting their blood pressure raised.

    His enthusiasm for Routemasters is also baffling unless it’s all part of the same amiable buffoon act he works so hard at in an attempt, presumably, to disguise his nastiness. I can recall a shimmer of excitement when RMLs replaced RTs on the 409 and 411 routes which I occasionally used to get to school (if a 166, 190, 405 or 414 didn’t pitch up first (why can I remember all that but not where my camera is?)) but that was over forty years ago. The old ways are not often the best.

    Keep up the good work…

  12. Tom says:

    The latest theory of bendies and Routemasters is that they were part of a deliberate propaganda campaign to deflect attention from Livingstone’s transport achievements. Since those achievements didn’t particularly affect the suburbs (well, not to the same extent) a classic conservative campaign of portraying change as a threat to the status quo (‘he scraps Routemasters!’, ‘he’ll stop you driving and force you to get on a bendy full of hoodies!’) and promising to restore and reassure obviously went down well. Of course, those voters don’t give a toss about the reality, but Boris is finding that the Mayor’s hands on job at TfL is all reality, hence the open mouth yesterday when his carefully spun delaying tactic was exposed by Norris. I welcome this, the more reality the better – he’s smart enough to recognise that in this situation it’s impossible to please everyone – you can literally only pick two out of three of manifesto pledge, bus user and value for money:

    Pledge plus user = £60m annual black hole to fill for the same service level
    Pledge plus money = overcrowded, slow buses
    User plus money = forget bendy scrapping.

    Why they did it is interesting. My theory is that after Livingstone spotted the US was on the way down and thought London should court the next economic superpowers, people wedded to the US way of politics and money who think we should ride the USA into the ground like Major Kong got worried. This explains why Dean Godson got involved and why the Venezuela deal scrapping happened pretty much instantly – they don’t want London going off into the future and away from Anglo-Saxon economic orthodoxy into a world where they have less money and power.

  13. Helen says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7644630.stm

    A business background and no experience in the rail industry. Sound familiar?

  14. Tom Griffin says:

    “the overlap between supporting neo-conservatism and the bendy jihad is interestingly close.”

    It really is amazing to see the whole psyops playbook applied to something so apparently mundane. This story is my personal favourite:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jul/19/july7.uksecurity2

  15. AdamB says:

    That’s incredible. I’d missed that one.

  16. Ewan says:

    Found this entry!

    Helllllllllppppppp.

  17. Tom says:

    Oh well. Still another 469 to go.

  18. Alex says:

    Perhaps the whole thing was an experiment?

  19. Tom says:

    There is always that possibility Alex – there’s an element of the baby ducks taking their first tentative steps on the water, guided by the firm but gentle hand of Mother. By the way, have you all got your onions ready to mourn the passing of Killer of the Yard?

  20. Alex says:

    Mate, if you’ve got baby ducks walking on water you need more than onions..

  21. Tom says:

    Bah. Humbug. Mixed metaphors as usual. I meant water boatmen, in accordance with a key plank of Boris’s transport policy.

  22. Newsed1 says:

    Well, I take my hat off to the attention to detail here…but I’m not sure why the Lennites have strapped themselves to the Bendy. It’s not well-liked at all. And hated by cyclists.

    Did Kenneth not spend much time and effort trying to run a satisfaction survey that came out for Bendies, and fail?

    And what would be wrong with trying to build a better central London bus? Something that will not contribute to the ‘way over the EU pollution limit’ atmosphere we all have to breath?

    A good bus is the future. After all, even I know that car commuting inside the North and South circular has long been a minority pursuit and the tube will never get any bigger.

    (Though I hope the new Battersea American embassy will allow the northern line extension from Kennigton to be built…)

    Of course, the only hurdle for us with realising a new bus is money (though I’d expect bus revenues to stay strong over the 18 month unwind of the crunch).

    We could, though, use the old Rover Group technique and get the people involved in fabrication and tooling to co-invest in the development, so they also benefit when the final product is sold. (This technique was used to the MG F roadster into production on a miniscule budget).

    Incidentally, my Grandfather was an aircraft engineer. my bother has an engineering PhD and an environmental engineering business and I have a couple of product design degrees, so I’m not a complete novice in the area of product development.

    Anyway, I look forward to the huffing and puffing when the final design is revealed for release to engineering consultants.

    Finally, remember that Hendy is right behind the new Routemaster. He sees it as chance to leave his mark on his beloved bus industry.

    PS – where’s the coverage on Lord Foster’s future Routemaster design?

  23. Ewan says:

    Newsed1, what are your opinions of the other designs, especially the Foster Design?

  24. [...] reaching the shores of the BBC thanks to the tireless Valerie Shawcross, who must still be reading Boris Watch.  Val’s press release today says it all: “Boris revealed today that he is ignoring [...]

  25. [...] neocon/bendy jihad parallel isn’t my idea, it’s an excellent spot by the Yorkshire Ranter about a month back.  Credit where credit’s [...]

  26. [...] seen from the London Travelwatch document that in order to maintain passenger capacity on [...]

  27. [...] said before that the rules of debendification are simple – Boris has to ditch one of his frequently stated [...]

  28. [...] frantic tenor of Hilton’s anti-EU conspiracy is pretty much what I was on about here and here, which led to Gilligan’s attack on me in the Standard, which led to Alex’s take-down, [...]

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