Prompted by @tomburke999 on Twitter, I’ve worked out the cost per passenger of the New Bus compared to a notional* 87-passenger £300k hybrid:

  • 8 pre-production buses of 77 capacity – £11m
  • 600 production buses of 80 capacity (so far) – £212m
  • Total 608 buses at £223m including development costs (which we’re assuming won’t ever be defrayed by sales outside London because, well, they won’t)
  • That’s actually £367k per bus, not the £354k calculated purely for the production vehicles

It’s also 8*77 + 600*80 = 48616 passengers, at a cost of £4587 per passenger.  Our notional hybrid is 300000/87 = £3448.  So that’s a nice round 33% more expensive per passenger, then.

This isn’t just a numbers exercise, though – London’s transport grant is being slashed by George Osborne and the DfT just as Boris is putting TfL’s cash into a bus that costs substantially more to carry people around. That’s going to hurt someone at some point, either through being unable to meet demand for travel as London expands or by continuing massive fare hikes.  The Greens have started pointing this out:

The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project which the next Mayor will abandon as an outdated and polluting waste of money. Londoners’ simply can’t afford the higher fares that will come from paying £37m a year to bus assistants whose only real job is to stop people falling off the rear platform when it is open.

Indeed, what the next Mayor does with them is difficult, there’s no doubt they’re conceptually popular with the public, because the relentless presentation is entirely on the upside and they falsely think they’re getting conductors and an open platform and they’ll operate widely across London.  It’s got friends in very high places in TfL (Hendy and Daniels) who are presumably not challenged from below, and certainly not from above.  I’ve long thought that when Boris goes TfL will quietly abandon the standing around doing nothing person and use them purely as three door open boarding vehicles (a bit like, er, bendy buses), which will at least offset some of the cost.  We sure as hell aren’t going to see our £223m back, and at this rate fares are going to continue rising into 2018/19 as the subsidy reduces year on year.  By which time Boris will have sodded off, with any luck, and be busy lying to everyone about his great bus project.  That’s partly why it’s important to point all this out now.

* Yes, I know, but if TfL can invent a wholly spurious ‘average’ hybrid to make the NB4L look better on emissions (rather than, say, comparing it to the current evolution of its rivals) I don’t see this as particularly outragous

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