Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far in central London.
Twitter user @bitoclass was out yesterday on the New Bus For London on route 24 with a thermometer – it’s all the rage now, dahlings!
Dark, dingy and cramped on the top deck of the #SweatMaster, even as the sun streams in, cooking us.
— Paul (@bitoclass) July 7, 2013
ITV’s Simon Harris was out on a 38 again today with his thermometer:
— Simon Harris (@simonharrisitv) July 8, 2013
— Simon Harris (@simonharrisitv) July 8, 2013
This morning, I was out on the New Bus For London prototype on route 38, the 09:37 from Victoria. The prototypes are now running permanently as driver-only, so no “conductor” and no running with the back door open in-between stops.
I sat upstairs at the back, there was a trickle of cool air from the air vents in the ceiling. Temperature as we left Victoria, 26.1°C. The temperature continued to rise as the bus crawled along (these buses “run faster” according to TfL’s Leon Daniels) and by the time it reached Shaftesbury Avenue the thermometer showed 33.7°C:
I left the bus at Shaftesbury Avenue; there was very hot, stale air hanging in the rear staircase and when I got off the bus I could smell the exhaust, which reeked of burning plastic. The engine had been running since we left Victoria – the battery obviously hadn’t received enough charge for it to take over. The rearmost part of the back door didn’t open, as was the case when I travelled on one of the prototypes on route 38 last week, so this must be a permanent feature when the buses operate in driver-only mode:
This creates conflict between passengers coming down the rear stairs who want to alight, passengers who want to alight from the lower deck and passengers who want to board the bus – half of the doorway is blocked. The production models on route 24 also run as driver-only after 7pm so they will suffer the same problem.
10:40am, I boarded LT9 on route 24 towards Hampstead. Upstairs, cool air was trickling from the vents, the bus felt significantly cooler and the lights were off, the first time I’d seen that – is there a connection between having the lights on and an increase in temperature inside the bus?
25.9°C at Cambridge Circus. 26.1°C at Tottenham Court Road. The iBus “next stop” display had been stuck at Warren Street Station since I boarded at Trafalgar Square and there had been no audio announcements – it suddenly started working at this point. 26.9°C was the maximum temperature I recorded on that journey from Trafalgar Square to the Hampstead Terminus – considerably cooler than the prototype on route 38, yet the day was getting hotter.
12:05pm, I boarded LT28 at the Hampstead terminus, bound for Pimlico. Upstairs, the lights were off – again. Temperature 25.2°C. As we reached Grafton Terrace, the audio announcement informed us that the bus was terminating early, at Warren Street. Cold comfort for anybody waiting for a 24 at the Pimlico terminus as I’d watched two previous 24s leave Hampstead bound for Warren Street, another for Parliament Square and another for Tottenham Court Road. The conductor also came upstairs to tell us that that bus was terminating early, which was nice, but really not worth an extra £60,000-odd each year on the operating costs of each bus.
One of the recorded announcements I hadn’t heard before on the New Bus For London was:
You can board and alight at any door.
It might be an idea to actually indicate this on the outside of the bus as it’s apparent that many passengers think they can only board by the front door. The middle door has neither “conductor” nor driver to supervise it, so could well be dubbed the Fare Dodgers’ Door.
The highest temperature recorded on LT28 before we were turfed off at Warren Street was 28.8 °C
The next bus I boarded was a southbound 168 at Euston at 1:08pm. A bog-standard double-decker diesel, not a hybrid like the New Bus For London. Upstairs, all the windows were open and there was a nice breeze. The highest temperature I recorded by the time I alighted at Aldwych was 27.9°C, cooler than both the New Bus For London prototype and LT28 I’d travelled on earlier.
1:34pm, I boarded a double-decker hybrid, HV5, running on route 76 towards Tottenham. Upstairs, the windows were open and the air conditioning unit was blasting out lovely, cool air. The temperature outside was rising and the temperature upstairs on the 76 was 28°C – going down to 27.9°C as the air conditioning did its job. By far the most pleasant journey so far – the air conditioning unit upstairs was wonderful.
At Fleet Street, I got off the 76 and onto a double-decker diesel on route 172 towards Waterloo. Upstairs, it was horrendous – the bus had its heating on and hot air was blasting out around my feet. Even so, the maximum temperature I recorded was 29.9°C, several degrees cooler than the New Bus For London prototype on route 38 that I’d travelled on over four hours earlier, when the temperature outside was lower.
If a decade-old diesel with its heating on full-blast on a hot summer’s day is cooler than a brand new, bespoke bus which is claimed to have amazing new air conditioning then there is something very, very wrong with the new bus.
Between the prototypes and the production models, it would appear the high temperature problem has really not been solved. Due to its excessive weight, the New Bus For London still cannot carry the number of passengers it was claimed to, despite the use of lightweight materials. Some of them are very lightweight indeed, as I discovered when I touched the moulding around one of the windows on the upper deck of a 24.
The plastic used is very thin and flimsy, can be easily pushed, has not been cut carefully so it has rough edges and there is a gap large enough for me to insert my fingers. Had I been so inclined, I’m pretty sure I would have been able to remove the panel with a brisk tug:
You can push it:
You can pull it:
You can move it:
Really cheap, nasty and badly finished. These buses will supposedly have a working life of 14 years on the streets of London.
One of the screws above the window not sunk properly, either, I could’ve undone it with my fingers:
Boris Johnson’s New Bus For London may appear shiny and exciting on the outside but look at it closely and you’ll see what a botched job it is.
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