Last week, a passenger on a New Bus For London vehicle on route 24 sustained a life-threatening head injury after falling out of the open rear door.

Until the exact circumstances are known, it is pointless to surmise how and why this incident occurred. Another passenger on the New Bus For London on the same route suffered broken bones in her hand after falling on the stairs.

The first incident was widely reported by online media and the story has prompted a wave of vitriolic and unpleasant comments on some newspapers’ websites, accusing the woman of being clumsy and careless or claiming that the commenters themselves had travelled on “these buses” for decades and never injured themselves or even heard of any other passenger having an accident whilst using them.

Firstly, “these buses” are not Routemasters, or RTs, or any form of pre-1960s vehicle. The New Bus For London cannot be compared with a Routemaster. Secondly, what short and inaccurate memories some of these people have. I would refer readers to my previous Boriswatch posts which quote then-Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin (currently Secretary of State for Transport):

I am aware that some people still prefer to use the old Routemaster buses with their open platform entry, but buses with doors are much safer. The chances of a passenger having a serious accident getting on or off a bus are roughly 11 times greater on an open-platform bus.

and then-Managing Director, Surface Transport at Transport for London, David Brown:

Open platform buses mean more passenger deaths. The passenger fatality rate on Routemasters is more than double that of other London buses.

The layout and dimensions of the rear platform of the Routemaster and the area which is also referred to as the rear platform on the New Bus For London are very different.

The rear staircase of the New Bus For London, unlike that of the Routemaster, has pointless decorative extensions of its treads which both take up precious floor space and also serve as trip hazards.

New Bus For London:

Width of the conductor’s “cubby hole” on the Routemaster is 70cm. Width of the passenger assistant’s “cubby hole” on the New Bus For London is 59cm, measured from the outer corner of the step up to the adjacent seat:
Width of the aisle at this point on the New Bus For London is only 51cm. The width of the aisle on the lower deck of the Routemaster is 62.5cm.

The most worrying difference between the Routemaster and the New Bus For London is the proximity of the bottom step of the rear staircase to the open back door:

The distance from the middle of the bottom stair at floor level to the edge of the platform on the Routemaster is 98cm:

The distance from the middle of the bottom stair at platform level to the edge of the platform on the New Bus For London is only 77cm:

Modern double-decker buses do not feature staircases directly opposite exit doors. An obvious reason for this is that if you trip on the stairs you could fall out of the vehicle through the door. The New Bus For London not only has a staircase directly opposite an open door, the bottom step of the stairs is 20cm closer to the edge of the open platform than that of a Routemaster.

The “open platform” of the New Bus For London, unlike that of the Routemaster, is cramped and cluttered. The adjacent aisle is much narrower on the new bus and passengers have to squeeze past the passenger assistant, who takes up valuable space.

Boarding and alighting from a Routemaster is not a comparable experience to using the New Bus For London and it is my opinion that the new vehicle is less user-friendly and potentially more hazardous for passengers.


14 Responses to Routemaster’s Open Platform vs New Bus For London’s Cramped And Cluttered Rear Exit

  1. FreeBBC says:

    Good article Helen, it does look small enough because it makes it more of a door at the back. But during the day on open platform mode, its just simply a door open at the back. But the open platform won’t be used on all routes, but the 38 is running without conductor but with the rear door closed. The engine is under the staircase so thats why it needs to take up more room.

    A Walsall 56 bus which was in service in West Midlands the size of the bus is 36 foot (10.9 metres) and they have the engine at the rear under the staircase. Instead of having an open platform, they have a door at a rear. Here is few pictures of it. More information of the bus on this link. < picture of the interior facing to the rear.

    The Volvo Ailsa V3 have a staircase and door at the rear. There is couple of steps at the door. On the door and under the step there is a sign saying "NO ENTRY". Since the bus have to carry a conductor because the driver could not see the rear door. If the bus still had been in service, there would be no conductor because of the CCTV. But at least the bus is preserved. The engine of the bus is at the front instead of the rear. More information on the bus is at that link.

    Couple of pictures of the rear of the V3

    Lastly, I know there is a "Routemaster" like bus in Skopje, Macedonia, but it have 2 doors and 2 staircase, but the front is half cab but strangely enough the front wheels is behind the cab. The bus is built by a manufacturer called Yutong and there is around 200 of them in Skopje.

    If TFL decide to have a successor to the NBFL, they should trial out MAN Lion City DD because it have dual staircase and 3 doors. There is high capacity and the length of the bus is 13.7m. I would like to see them tested on route 25 because its the most heavily crowded routes in the network.

  2. Ronnie Routemaster says:

    Trouble is that the Borismasters on the 9 conversion will only use CA’s Monday to Friday – so what really is the point? Well apart from a vanity project for Boris, and the toadies from TfL, no-one else can really understand this enormous waste of public money.

  3. Tulyar says:

    The NB4L platform is also curving round from the point you land at the bottom of the stairs (RM comes straight out to maximise platform area and allows those dropping off back to line up ‘square’ with road passing underneath) the and NB4L doesn’t have the substantial grab rail arrangements for grab and swing – a practised move, similar to that initiation on the ‘caurs in Glasgow

  4. Richard says:

    There are a number of other double deckers in London where the staircase entry is directly opposite the central set of doors. This is where the staircase has been positioned pretty much in the middle of the but rather than over the cab. Actually found this a good layout as it allowed far quicker exit times and shorter dwell times.

  5. Minstral says:

    Big Difference is that Routemasters only have one place of entry whereas the NBFL has three.

    Also the pole is directly opposite the staircase so people would have something to hold onto.

    Hopefully no-one will fall off them but there usefulness outways the very slight additional risk and everyone has a choice of door on the NBFL so hopefully those less confident can use the other doors to reduce risk even more.

  6. Andrew w1 says:

    I travel on the Borismasters on a fairly regular basis and avoid using the rear staircase for the reasons stated in the article. The staircase is very narrow and quite steep and is difficult to use when carrying bags especially when the driver is braking or accelerating hard.
    I have seen several near misses when people have been knocked out of their stride by sharp braking and landing in a heap on the rear landing. On one occasion the “man who gets in the way at the back” proved very useful as he inadvertently stopped the passenger falling off.
    Sometimes I wonder if people commenting about how good these buses are actually use them on a regular basis.

  7. Joe says:

    Two points – “The distance from the middle of the bottom stair at floor level to the edge of the platform on the Routemaster is 98cm:” you’re conveniently measuring the distance to the pavement-side opening the platform. The distance to the rear-facing opening is much less.

    And “pointless decorative extensions of its treads which both take up precious floor space and also serve as trip hazards.” The point of these is too make it easier to make it easier to go from the upper deck to the lower deck via the rear platform, rather than just to & from the door. While they might take up some space, as they are some 20cm (? – I’ve not actually measured them) high I don’t think they can be described as trip hazards.

    And in response to Andrew W1 – I used the 24 daily, and apart from mechanical failures, and the summer air-con*, I have seen no problems with it, especially with staircase falls.

    * – the 168 with all its windows open was just as stuffy and unpleasant in the summer while stuck in traffic, which was often!

  8. Andre says:

    I had my first “Borismaster” ride a couple of days ago, on route 24. On the same day I rode on an Enviro hybrid on the 27 and and RM on the heritage 9.

    I’d have to say I found the ride quality on the new bus very good (I’d read reports of poor suspension), and I liked the interior lighting as well. I take the point about the restricted open platform (which I think is a bit of a gimmick), although I used the centre doors to get off. The CSA did his best to warn punters when the bus was stopped in traffic or about to move off.

    What surprised me a little on the heritage ride was the number of intending passengers looking for a door at the front, which reminded me of when I was working as a conductor for a small operator in the Midlands over 20 years ago when all of the larger operators had phased out back loading buses up to 10 years earlier. It was nice to be on an RM again although clearly it would be impractical to operate them on all day service now. The conductors are trained to point out tourist attractions and announce stops and connections with other routes, which our conductor did ably.

    Overall, though, I think the Enviro seemed the most practical bus for general use in the capital

    Incidentally I just read a report of heritage bus event in Salisbury which a Borismaster attended, and really struggled with the hills due to the small 4 cylinder engine.

  9. jim tuite says:

    Whoever wrote this should truly feel ashamed of themselves. The new bus for london is the best vehicle to take to the capitals streets in 50 years yet all I see is a page of feeble nitpicking.
    Is the author seriously saying they can find nothing positive to say about this bus?
    What should london bus passengers have instead I wonder? More of the cheap off-the-peg designs that have slowed journey times and quickly find there way to the scrapyard?
    Or the much-missed bendy bus …by fare dodgers that is!
    I’m not a Johnson fan but he’s spot on bringing in this bus …so credit where its due eh?

  10. Steve Rochford says:

    Jim Tuite – you’re obviously entitled to your views about the bus but when you criticise the bendy bus for being liked by fare dodgers I think you’re missing the point that this new bus will be liked in the same way. It also has 3 doors so passengers can easily get on without paying. Yes, there is a CSA at the back door but they don’t check tickets or fares (they don’t even comment if you walk past them without touching your Oyster card – presumably that’s not part of what they’re expected to do).
    There’s little positive to say about the bus because it’s actually quite horrible.
    It has tiny windows upstairs compared to a standard bus so it’s very gloomy during the daytime.
    It has a lower ceiling which again adds to the oppressiveness.
    At night, it has only small LED lamps; these look very pretty but they add to the miserable feel.
    The dark red interior (compared to light blue/grey in a normal bus) also adds to the gloomy feel.
    It weighs a tonne more than a normal bus, adding to wear and tear on the roads.
    Buses with 3 doors/2 staircases are in use elsewhere in Europe (I’ve seen them in Berlin, for example) If it’s felt that such a design is a good idea then why not just buy an off the shelf design? It would have saved a fortune for TfL which could perhaps have been used to provide more buses on busier routes (or just to add new routes – we could certainly do with them in some parts of London).

  11. […] the rear door almost closing on me as there is very little room on the rear “platform” (much less than on a Routemaster). I note that many of the TfL buses I use in outer London have exit doors which part and slide open […]

  12. busfan1 says:

    What a bunch of whingers and gripers these london folk are! Here we have a superb new design, aesthetically pleasing, up to the minute and yet they have still managed to retain the very feature (open back) that people bemoaned when the rm’S were taken off. I personally think it is a great triumpgh for Boris and for London, and I applaud the designers and manufacturers. Give the new bus a chance, and take it to your hearts, I thought that was the kind of thing that Londoners were famous for, but maybe not…..

  13. Andrew Bowden says:

    I spy someone who clearly hasn’t traveled on these buses…

    And were that many people really moaning and clamoring about the platform? I doubt it.

  14. RTC says:

    I agree Busfan1 clearly hasnt travelled on the ‘BM’. That user name looks familiar to someone who posts on ‘TheBusforum’ where they discuss everything it seems and there is a real love-in by some users for the BM! Thankfully there seems to be others that have a more balanced view.
    From reading some of the postings it would surprise me if 75% are 15 or under.

    He obviously isnt a Londoner,what is a Londoner these days as he thinks Londoners are loving Bus mad people and appaulding Boris while thats it…’Im out’

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