The hottest day of the year so far in London today – 30°C.
Boris Johnson has described his “New Routemaster” as having amazing new air conditioning .
TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy has claimed that the new bus, when the cooling is working properly, is cooler than the equivalent latest ordinary bus .
Can we, then, assume that the temperatures for passengers onboard the vehicles today were perfectly acceptable and exactly what could reasonably be expected from a bus touted as being designed for Londoners and the bus to the future?
Why not compare the tweets that follow with those from a year ago:
So hot on this bus. I really don't understand why this stupid new 148 doesn't have windows.
— ❁ (@Akiema_MsYellow) July 18, 2014
@TfLTrafficNews hi I just to complain about the new route master bus like 148 and 390 super hot no window no air con, very suffocating…
— lyn.b .nacorda (@lynxinlondon) July 18, 2014
@TFLBUSES why oh why did Boris Johnson authorise tfl buses with no air conditioning AND no windows? the 148 bus is like an oven
— Jos Gooding (@josdabos) July 18, 2014
148 bus is not for the summer.
— Timbo (@AlhajiTimbo13) July 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial Been on 148 bus (from Walworth Rd to NH Gate) The Air Con is rubbish & ineffective,get your engineers to sort it out,please !
— The Dreaded Fox (@Mdreadedtwit) July 18, 2014
148 is not the bus to be on in this weather
— Banks (@eniola_burna) July 18, 2014
the 148 bus is a DEVIL, there are NO windows uno, man is just frying like egg
— Panda (@KeiSoul_) July 18, 2014
— Akber Mehmood (@mazzreporter) July 18, 2014
— Hollie Tu (@HollieTu) July 18, 2014
— Beatrice Rogers (@rogers_beatrice) July 18, 2014
— Mark Porter (@MarkyPLAD) July 18, 2014
It's like the Olympic cauldron on this new routemaster
— Chris Waywell (@ChrisWaywell1) July 18, 2014
Ahh, that cool refreshing feeling of alighting from a New Routemaster and stepping out into a 30 degree heatwave.
— diamond geezer (@diamondgeezer) July 18, 2014
@MayorofLondon That Thomas Hetherington may be a clever chap but there is a serious flaw in the design of the new Routemaster in heat:…
— Caroline Loncq (@caroloncq) July 18, 2014
New Routemaster has no opening windows & the a/c NEVER works; retrofit all of them w windows you can open PLEASE before someone dies… @TFL
— Caroline Loncq (@caroloncq) July 18, 2014
Holy moly, do not get on a new Routemaster today. So hot, no air 😓
— Chris Heathcote (@antimega) July 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial I'm wondering why the new routemaster buses have no windows to be able to circulate some air in these greenhouses?!?
— Kerry (@KKezzabelle) July 18, 2014
Every "new Routemaster" I've seen today has had a conductor hanging out the back in a bid to cool down. Not an option for passengers.
— Primly Stable (@PrimlyStable) July 18, 2014
Dear @TfLOfficial The Routemaster's aircon, while incredibly noisy, is shockingly bad at actually cooling anything Signed, sweaty Londoners
— KaiJew (@Squizbot) July 18, 2014
— MrsB66 (@msmoray66) July 18, 2014
— Amanda Palmer (@BobsFanClub) July 18, 2014
Design flaw in the new Routemaster: upstairs windows don’t fucking open. *facepalms so hard it wakes the dead*
— Earl Tosh (@Garbage_Hustler) July 18, 2014
The new routemaster buses are like a sauna feel like I'll drop 5lbs just sitting here!
— Kerry O'Brien (@savemylifekerry) July 18, 2014
— Joolie Ferret (@joolieferret) July 18, 2014
If you want know what the heat of hell is like just travel on a Boris Bus
— JaneL (@nkokonjeru) July 18, 2014
Just boarded a 148 #BorisBus at E&C. Sealed windows, no ac. F'ing thing is a high tech sweat box on wheels! It's cooler outside than in it!
— Andre´ (@skibum999) July 18, 2014
— Mark Porter (@MarkyPLAD) July 18, 2014
Is the air con not working? I ask the conductor on the 390 Boris Bus tonight – hot enough to roast a chicken. 'Nah, mate none of them work!'
— michael williams (@mikewwilliams) July 18, 2014
— Richard Bransby (@richardb_hfm) July 18, 2014
@TfLBusAlerts why does the boris bus not have AC or openable windows?!
— Arj (@Homeboy_Hotel) July 18, 2014
— Anthony Davis (@theanthonydavis) July 18, 2014
@TfLBusAlerts The new Route bus hotter than Boris cheap talk of buses being ok
— Julian Carty (@halfapplepie) July 18, 2014
Interior of this Boris Bus slowly liquefying. Not sure if designer Thomas Heatherwick's decision to install non-opening windows was 'cool.'
— Leo Chadburn (@LeoChadburn) July 18, 2014
On a number 38 boris bus and the heat is just ridiculous – there's no openable windows
— Melanie (@melaniebell) July 18, 2014
Air circulation on upper deck of a Boris bus is appalling. Suspect what there is is from open doors downstairs, not air con
— ianpatterson99 (@ianpatterson99) July 18, 2014
The Boris Bus http://t.co/F5LFLtcJX5
— Tim Garratt (@TGnot) July 18, 2014
— Emmanuelle Galdin (@emma_galdin) July 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial new Routemasters aircon is non-existent. on the 38 with some of the most ill looking, smelliest people I've experienced
— PMK (@PMK86) July 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial assuming the fairly new-ish double deckers that come sans windows upstairs should have some sort of ventilation system right?
— Amanda (@amandaliu_) July 18, 2014
To get to the nub of the problem:
— Ara (@AraTheCoach) July 18, 2014
It’s summer – this is what the weather is like in summer. To explain in terms that even Boris Johnson could understand: In the autumn, it gets a bit chilly. After that comes winter, when it’s pretty nippy and you’ll want to wrap up warm. Then comes spring, when it gets warmer. Spring becomes summer, when temperatures increase even further until it’s really quite hot, like it is today.
Boris Johnson, however, like many of his fellow Conservatives, is a climate change-denier – his favourite meteorologist is one Piers Corbyn.
When Boris Johnson was first elected Mayor of London in 2008, one of his manifesto pledges [PDF] was:
commissioning a 21st century Routemaster with conductors
We’re now into the second decade of the 21st century and it’s been apparent for quite some time that summers are getting hotter. 600 of Boris Johnson’s “New Routemaster” buses will be on London’s streets until at least 2026 – they have a projected working life in London of 14 years. This, remember, is a bespoke bus which was supposedly designed specifically for London – a city whose summer temperatures make a vehicle with sealed windows and inadequate air cooling utterly unsuitable.
In the 2007 BBC TV programme Climate Change – Britain Under Threat, presenter Kate Humble examined the effects of increasing temperature on transport:
We’re already seeing the first signs of a warmer climate. Last July was the hottest since records began. But, with prolonged high temperatures, comes danger, especially for the very young and the elderly. In August 2003, during a ten-day heatwave, 35,000 people across Europe died from the heat. It’s predicted that by 2020, heatwaves like this will be 25 times more likely.
The impact will be felt most in our cities – that’s because of a phenomenon called the Urban Heat Island. What happens is that buildings and man-made surfaces absorb much more heat than green spaces do. That heat is then slowly released, increasing city air temperatures well into the night. On 9 August 2003, central London recorded night-time temperatures 9 degrees hotter than the surrounding countryside. So, is there anything we can do to cope with the anticipated increase in heat?
In London, one of the hottest places is the Underground. If a train breaks down in a tunnel, then the situation can, quite quickly, become really dangerous. In July 2001, 4,000 people were trapped for 90 minutes. Temperatures soared to 40 degrees. 17 people were taken to hospital and nearly 600 were treated for heat problems. But trying to cool down the Tube is a major challenge. You’d think the obvious answer would be air conditioning, but the problem is that most of the tunnels on the Underground network are simply too narrow to fit air conditioning on the outside of the trains. And even if you could, the air conditioning systems would simply throw the heat back out onto the platforms.
But now, London Underground believes it may have found an answer. Parts of the Victoria Line are so deep underground that they’re actually below the water table. Pumping stations work around the clock to prevent the tunnels from flooding. David Waboso, London Underground’s Head Engineer, hopes that this water will help cool down the Tube.
Waboso: “The Victoria’s got a particular abundance of ground-water, we pump out enough to fill two Olympic-size pools every hour”
Humble: “That’s extraordinary, and it feels quite cool down here compared to upstairs”
Waboso: “It’s quite cold, it’s about 11-12 degrees centigrade”
This cold ground-water is pumped up to the station where it cools the air.
Humble [on platform, holds hand up to vent]: “Yeah, I can definitely feel that the air is definitely cooler coming out of there”
It’s early days, but they are already seeing a drop of 2 degrees Celcius.
Humble: “But the real problem is on the trains themselves. How’s that going to help the people on the trains?”
Waboso: “If we did this all over the station, eventually the whole station would cool down, the cold air gets into the tunnels and the trains get cooler”
A 2 degree fall in temperature so far is, no doubt, a help, but is it enough? Cooling the Tube in the years ahead is going to be an increasing challenge but the impact of heat doesn’t just stop with London Underground. By 2020, thanks to our hotter summers, we could face major problems across the country on all our transport networks. The first effects of climate change we will face are likely to be nuisance and cost. Rail lines can buckle in the heat, causing delays and chaos to commuters. Our roads can soften, like these did last year in Norfolk. One answer would be to resurface using better, heat-resistant materials, but with nearly 250,000 miles of road it could take decades.
Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, delivered what he promised - air-conditioned trains on several of the London Underground lines. Sadly for Ken, the first air-conditioned trains were delivered just a few months after Boris Johnson had been elected Mayor of London, so Johnson took all the credit for them. And yes, they work, unlike Boris Johnson’s promised amazing new air conditioning on his “New Routemaster”:
Praise be @TfLOfficial for the air-con Met line trains. Only thing that made today bearable.
— Ben Pennington (@westcliffben) July 18, 2014
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