Yes, summer is definitely here and so are the very real problems with the temperature and humidity on Boris Johnson’s vanity bus.

Just a few weeks ago, TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy was dismissing the unacceptably hot and humid conditions on these brand new vehicles as “a folk myth” – so how are passengers really finding the buses in these normal early-summer temperatures?

Note that a number of the sweltering passengers specifically refer to the 148 – the route which runs without a platform attendant and therefore has its rear door closed between bus stops.

According to Peter Hendy, not having opening windows makes the air “conditioning” work more effectively so it should follow that keeping the doors closed as much as possible also increases its efficacy. Nah, mate.

As for the routes which do have platform attendants for some of the day, here’s another example of the futility of their non-jobs:

There was a very old-school platform attendant on the 390 that I took from Bloomsbury Street towards Notting Hill last Friday lunch time – he warned me that the bus was hardly moving before I touched in with my Oyster. He was right – it took half an hour to get to Cambridge Circus, a distance that can be walked in a mere 11 minutes. Glad to see the Mayor of London’s “smoothing traffic flow” agenda is working so well.

I did take some photos inside the bus so let’s see how the interior of LT13, one of the very first batch of New Bus For London vehicles, is coping with wear and tear afer just a year on the streets of London – these vehicles are supposed to have a working life of 14 years in the city.

Upstairs, the moulding around the top of the window above the rearmost seat – I always inspect this area as it never seems to be put together in the same way on any two buses. On LT13, the moulding is visibly cracked and out of alignment with filthy black soot all around it and a drip of black paint behind it:
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I only had to look down towards the middle of the top deck to find another example of WrightBus’s great workmanship:
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Come to London this summer and travel on our brand new, bespoke buses – ideal if you fancy a mobile sauna and like inspecting bare wires and broken panelling!

 

After last year’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office world tour by two (later three, presumably to cope with the breakdowns) of WrightBus’s Boris Johnson-commissioned New Bus For London vehicles, orders for this “pinnacle of British automotive engineering design” must surely be rolling in in an uncontrollable tsunami of enthusiasm from those countries who endured it breaking down enjoyed the experience of travelling on a mobile sauna.

Hong Kong, as Tom reported last October, were so impressed by the new bus that they ordered over 530 of Alexander Dennis’s new generation Enviro500 instead.

Now, Singapore has followed suit, rejected the WrightBus New Bus For London and placed an order for 201 Alexander Dennis Enviro500s :

Singapore transport operator, SMRT Corporation, has signed a contract with Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) for the supply of 201 Enviro500 double deckers. The deal is understood to be worth £50m. The contract is part of a major initiative by SMRT to upgrade its fleet and will result in the introduction of new generation ADL deckers, all of which will be built and delivered during 2014 and 2015. The Enviro500s will be two-door, 12m vehicles with Cummins Euro5 nine-litre, 340hp engines, capable of carrying 84 seated passengers and 40 standees.

SMRT’s Senior Vice President, Roads Business Group, Benny Lim, said, ‘After going out to international tender and evaluating product offerings from around the world we have agreed on a supply contract with ADL. We have been impressed by their new Enviro500 high capacity double deck and by their aim to build a long term relationship with us. The Enviro500 is a modern, low emissions vehicle that carries large numbers of people but still has the same footprint as a conventional single deck. This means we can reduce traffic congestion but still maintain our high standards of service. In addition, the safety, reliability, passenger comfort and fuel performance of the Enviro500 is impressive. We now look forward to working with ADL and building a strong business partnership that will take us into the future.’

ADL’s Commercial and International Business Development Director, Robert Davey, said, ‘We are delighted to be part of a new future in Singapore and to be involved in such a prestigious project with SMRT. Our new-generation, three-axle double deck – the Enviro500 – is proving to be a real winner. This latest order means that we have now sold over 1,000 Enviro500s since we introduced the new bus to the market in late 2012. It is testimony to our engineers, vehicle builders and aftermarket teams that we are taking competitors on head-to-head in numerous global markets and coming out in front. In this case there was fierce international competition, including well-established suppliers in the local market, so I am particularly pleased that we have prized open this gateway to Singapore and, in doing so, sent a signal to many other territories in the region.’


Maybe Singapore would rather not buy a vehicle which is unbearable to use in its climate without an enormous, portable air-conditioning unit onboard?

 

Now TfL Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, is claiming that the unacceptably high temperatures and sauna-like conditions experienced over the past week on the New Bus For London are “a folk myth” – despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Hendy was a guest on the BBC Radio London 94.9 Drivetime With Eddie Nestor this afternoon:


Nestor: So, I’ve fallen asleep Thursday, Friday, to yesterday and today, ‘cos the Tubes are hot.

Hendy: Yup.

Nestor: But you’re getting loads of complaints – well, I am, anyway – about the people on the buses. On your brand new, state-of-the-art buses. Why are they so hot?

Hendy: They’re no hotter than any other bus.

Nestor: What does that mean?!

Hendy: It means they’re all fitted with air cooling and the moment you blew [sic] air cooling which blows cooler air through the upper saloon, if you open the window – the buses aren’t fitted with windows – this is becoming a folk myth.

The buses aren’t fitted with windows because, actually, air cooling is better if you don’t have opening windows. The moment you open the windows, the air you’re blowing through blows out the windows.

Just tell me, do you open the car windows with air conditioning?

Nestor: Well, no, you keep it closed so it works.

Hendy: Absolutely.


Let’s examine Hendy’s claims: “They’re no hotter than any other bus” – yes, they are. They’re hotter than a 50-year-old Routemaster which has no air-cooling but does have opening windows.

“Air cooling is better if you don’t have opening windows. The moment you open the windows, the air you’re blowing through blows out the windows” – the air cooling on the New Bus For London is totally inadequate in normal London summer temperatures and the lack of opening windows means there is no respite for the passengers who are suffering unnaceptably hot and humid conditions.

“Just tell me, do you open the car windows with air conditioning?” - of course not, because cars have proper air conditioning, not utterly ineffectual air cooling like the New Bus For London.

Just tell me, Commissioner Hendy, do you remove the back door from your car whilst running the air conditioning at full blast? No? Then why claim that the air cooling on the New Bus For London “is better if you don’t have opening windows” when all of the routes (minus the 148) operating the New Bus For London run during the day time with their back doors wide open. In any case, it’s been proven that the air cooling still doesn’t work when the back door is kept closed between stops on the 148.

As predicted, the denials have started.

 


Yes, it’s Monday and a high of 26°C in London. How did other Londoners enjoy their journeys on Boris Johnson’s New Bus For London today?


Not so much enjoying as enduring, then.

At 10:10am this morning, I boarded LT157 on route 10 at Hammersmith Bus Station. None of the Oyster readers were working so I got a free ride. 22°C outside. Both the ceiling vents and the skirting-level vents on the upper deck of the bus were blowing their weedy streams of air. Very few passengers, air inside the bus stuffy and with the usual horrible smell. By the time I alighted at the Royal Albert Hall, the temperature upstairs on the back seat was 25.4°C:
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At 10:38am I boarded a Routemaster, RM1913. The conductor’s hand-held Oyster validator wasn’t working so I got another free ride. Upstairs, there were only three other passengers and it felt like a greenhouse – all the windows were shut. I walked the length of the bus and opened all the windows – the difference was palpable almost instantly with a cooling breeze blowing through the bus.

I got off the bus at Trafalgar Square. Even having started with all its upstairs windows closed, the temperature on the upper deck didn’t exceed 25.3°C – .1 of a degree centigrade cooler than the New Bus For London with its air cooling going full blast:
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Note that the relative humidity was also much less on the Routemaster.

11:06am, I boarded LT112 on route 24 at the top of Whitehall – as I reached the upper deck it was like walking into a sauna. There was no air coming out of either the ceiling vents or the skirting vents – it was hot, stuffy and humid. I got off at Westminster Cathedral on Victoria Street as I couldn’t stand the oppressive heat any longer. The temperature had reached 29.1°C:
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As I descended the stairs, I had the following exchange with the Customer Assistant:


Me: It’s sweltering up there – why isn’t the air conditioning on?

Customer Assistant: It’s automatically controlled – the driver can’t control it.


I’m confident that the temperature would have continued to climb, had I stayed on the bus.

What is the truth about the air cooling system on these new buses?

Is its regulation beyond the control of the bus crews?

Do any of the new vehicles have cooling systems which do actually regulate the internal temperature and humidity adequately on a reasonably hot day in London?

Why were Londoners promised expensive new buses with “amazing air conditioning” by Boris Johnson when they clearly have nothing of the sort and are hotter than a vehicle type which is now 60 years old?

Will Londoners have to suffer another summer of sauna-like conditions with some poor passengers requiring medical attention after travelling on the new bus?

We’d like some answers, Boris Johnson.

Maybe you’d like a reminder of your predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who kept his promise about air-conditioned trains for the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith & City Lines:


Of course, Boris, you then came along and took all the glory for the new air-conditioned trains which were delivered after you had been elected Mayor of London.

What will your legacy to London’s transport be? Oh, yes, 600 bespoke buses which have been touted all over the world yet no other country wants to buy and which cannot even cope with normal summer temperatures in London.

 

Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London, speaking about the New Bus For London in June 2013:

It’s fabulous. It’s a lovely vehicle, very comfortable, popular, well-designed – everyone likes it. They love it.

According to the Met Office, a high of 24°C in central London today.

What are Londoners saying about the new bus that they love so much?


Can we expect the same performance this summer, Boris Johnson and TfL? Ignore the complaints of passengers until this makes the news and then claim the unspecified problem has been fixed – again? The wrong sort of heat, maybe?

 

Yes, ha ha, very English, muddle through, make a joke, pretend everything’s fine. Well, everything is not fine with the WrightBus New Bus For London.

You can use the word “iconic” as often as you like – it doesn’t change the fact that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has inflicted upon London a new bus which is utterly unable to cope with temperatures above, say, 18°C.

16 March 2012: Boris Johnson lavishes fulsome praise on his vanity project, declaring it to have, amongst other fantastic attributes:

amazing new air conditioning

June 2013: The first production models of the bus enter service on route 24. Reports of vehicles frequently breaking down and passengers complain about the high temperatures on the buses and lack of ventilation.

3 July 2013: TfL claim to BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards that:


heat problems on top deck of New Bus on route 24 are fixed

8 July 2013: Boris Johnson declares that the unacceptable temperatures on the bus were merely a teething problem which has been rectified.


This is simply a teething problem and I’ve spoken to several people who said they had a fine, a fantastic experience on, er, I know there’ve been some people who’ve had Bikram Yoga-type experiences, you know, obviously we’re sorry for that.

There was a technical problem which has been rectified.


10 July 2013: Transport for London Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, takes Thomas Heatherwick, the designer of the New Bus For London, for a spin on an empty bus, armed with a thermometer. Hendy declares that the temperature issue was nothing to do with the lack of opening windows and was merely a manufacturing and operating failure which has now been fixed by the manufacturers:


We found that the new bus, when the cooling is working properly, is cooler than the equivalent latest ordinary bus.

Wright’s [the Northern Ireland bus manufacturer] have fixed all the buses on the 24 and are now checking the ones on the 38 and fixing those too.

It’s not a political issue, nor is it a fundamental design failure, and it’s nothing to do with a lack of opening windows; it’s a manufacturing and operating failure which has been fixed by Wrights.


19 July 2013: Passengers on the New Bus For London still complain that it is like travelling on a sauna. Grayson Thermal Systems announce that they have been commissioned by WrightBus to fix the problems with the air conditioning system on the New Bus For London. Those problems which Boris Johnson had claimed had been rectified nearly a fortnight earlier. Those same problems which Sir Peter Hendy subsequently claimed had been fixed by manufacturer WrightBus:


Grayson Thermal Systems is proud to have been commissioned by Wrightbus to fix the problems that Transport for London (TfL) is having with the air conditioning systems on some of its new Routemaster buses.

Grayson service director Ian Hateley said: “Grayson did not supply the air conditioning systems that were installed on the “Boris Buses”, but nonetheless we are able to offer a full diagnostic and repair service. We have a large number of service vans and trained technicians based in the London area, and we are geared up to offer a fast and responsive emergency service.

“It’s a real shame that the current hot weather has led to problems with these great new buses, but we are confident that Grayson will be able to take the heat out of the situation quickly and efficiently.”

5 September 2013: Buses still breaking down. Passengers still complain of unbearably hot temperatures inside the buses. I record a temperature of 32.5°C on both the lower and upper decks of a number 24 bus.

And today, almost a year on from the first production models going into service on route 24?

The new buses are now running on routes 9, 10, 11, 24, 38, 148 and 390. The weather in London over the past few days has been around 20°C and passengers have, again, been complaining that the New Bus For London is like a sauna. Two days ago, I recorded temperatures of 29.4°C on one of the latest batch of new buses on route 148.

Summer is coming. The weather will get hotter. The inability of the New Bus For London to cope with normal spring/summer temperatures must surely be an inherent design flaw, not some “teething problem” that Boris Johnson and various employees of Transport for London repeatedly claimed to have been “fixed” – Londoners deserve better than this.

A brand new bespoke bus, designed and manufactured at great expense, just for Boris Johnson. Claimed to have “amazing new air conditioning” yet temperatures inside the bus have exceeded those at which it is legal to transport animals.

When is Boris Johnson going to admit to us that his new bus is not as described and cancel the remainder of his order of 600 vehicles with WrightBus?

 

It’s definitely back to normal warm-weather operations for Boris Johnson’s Heatherwick-designed sauna-on-wheels:


The bus has also acquired a new talent – car crushing:


I travelled on one of the buses from Zone 1 to Hammersmith this afternoon but I was thermometer-free today so can only report that the upstairs was stuffy and airless and the constant smell of plasticky fumes nausea-inducing.

However, I did have a chat with a TfL Revenue Protection Inspector who informed me that inspections haven’t been carried out after 10pm on TfL bus services for around the past four years. That’s one way to make the fare evasion figures look good. This has resulted in a loss of income for the Inspectors as the night shift meant enhanced payments. I remarked that this was unfair, as the “conductors” on the three-doored buses were being paid for standing around and not doing very much.

“Health and safety. Health and safety – that’s all they’re there for” responded the Revenue Protection Inspector. Odd, as only yesterday TfL refuted the assertion that the back doors of these particular vehicles are closed between stops when a “conductor” is not present to prevent passengers boarding and alighting between stops.

Boris Johnson has previously claimed that the vehicle’s “dwell time” is reduced as three doors instead of two mean that it is quicker to load and unload at bus stops. Not true, as I observed yesterday on route 148. When the bus runs with just a driver, the back door does not fully open at bus stops – the rearmost part of it, opposite the stairs, remains shut at all times. This means that passengers descending the rear stairs to alight have to fight with any passengers leaving the lower saloon of the bus for “half” an exit – passengers from upstairs and downstairs cannot get off the bus simultaneously.

So, passengers from upstairs have to wait for the passengers from downstairs to get off first and people who want to get on the bus through the back door have to wait until both lots of passengers have alighted before they can get on. I fail to see how this decreases the time the vehicle spends at stops – in fact, quite the opposite.

As I was last in the queue to board through the rear door yesterday afternoon, I also experienced 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 on the outside of the bus – they do not fold back awkwardly into the exit as on the Heatherwick-designed bus.

 

As reported by passengers yesterday, the latest batch of New Bus For London (or New Routemaster, as TfL now insist on calling the things) is unpleasantly hot and stuffy.

I boarded LT143 on route 148 at White City Bus Station at 1:26pm today. As the bus only had a couple of passengers onboard and hadn’t really got going yet, the temperature upstairs was “only” 23.2°C:
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By the time I alighted at Westminster Cathedral, the temperature had reached 25.3°C:
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Hot and stuffy, yes, and the horrible, stifling, plasticky smell present, but just about bearable.

LT126 on route 148 that I then boarded in the opposite direction, however, was another matter.

Fairly full upstairs, it *was* like a sauna – people were fanning themselves and a dog appeared to have died from heat exhaustion. 26°C:
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By the penultimate stop before White City Bus Station it was 28.6°C upstairs:
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Bad enough, but I decided to go downstairs and test the temperature on the back seat where the “conductor” would stand on a crewed bus – the 148 is driver only.

It was 29.4°C:
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I’ve no doubt that if I’d been downstairs in that seat for more than one stop that the thermometer would have climbed to 30°C or more. To those who have theorised that the “air cooling” works better on these vehicles when all the doors are shut between stops – evidently not.

Boris Johnson has committed to purchasing a total of 600 of these vehicles for use on bus routes in London so more and more Londoners will be subjected to these horrible travelling conditions. I feel very sorry for those whose local bus routes will be using these vehicles – temperatures in London are bound to rise further in the summer, so how will they cope and, more importantly, what are TfL and its Chair, Boris Johnson, going to do about it?

 

A high of only 18°C in London today, yet we have reports that the New Bus For London, supposedly cured of its heat-exhaustion-inducing, sauna-like internal temperatures, is back to its old tricks:

The brand new buses on route 148 are part of the latest batch of vehicles so there’s no excuse whatsoever for the air cooling system not working. London’s temperature is forecast to soar to 23°C by the weekend so, fret ye not, Commissioner Hendy, I’ve got my thermometer ready.

As more and more routes are converted to running this overweight, under-capacity, badly-designed vehicle, Londoners are beginning to realise that the whole project has been a big con.

As I witnessed first-hand almost a year ago, the main purpose of the passenger assistant/customer assistant is to stop passengers falling out of the open back door.

Perhaps we all need a reminder of the sage words of the then-Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, who has since returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Transport:


London Buses
HC Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc755-62 755

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

…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.

As evidenced by an exchange on Twitter today:


Expect more of this sort of thing, too:

 

Yet another cyclist lost their life in London today, at the notorious Elephant and Castle roundabout, described as welcoming and safe by TfL in 2010 and by Boris Johnson in 2011 as fine. If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable“. Just hours after this fatality, another cyclist was taken to hospital after being hit by a tipper truck in the City of London.

No word from London’s part-time Mayor on today’s cyclist death and injury, as, not content with electioneering in London boroughs, he spent today in Gloucestershire, where he sheared a sheep, “side-stepped questions about him possibly running in the Cotswolds” informed the people of Cirencester how he encourages cycling in London, discussed the local South West issues:

and also visited Cheltenham, where he got the name of the Conservative candidate wrong in his TV interview. Working hard for London, then, by spending the whole day in Gloucestershire, campaigning for Gloucestershire Conservatives. Oh, and emailing members of the electorate to tell them to vote Conservative in the forthcoming European elections:

 

 

Also working hard for London, on the payroll of the GLA, was Will Walden, the Mayor of London’s Director of Communications and External Affairs. Here he is in Gloucestershire today, behind the Mayor of London:
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Can we take it that Walden was on holiday today, accompanying Boris Johnson out of the kindness of his heart, or was he electioneering for the Conservative Party, his day’s wages and travel being paid for by Londoners?