It’s the middle of summer and, guess what, reports of sauna-like conditions on the “New Routemaster” vehicles continue.
Transport for London has issued the following statement in response to an enquiry about the manufacture, operation and efficacy of the cooling system on these vehicles:
The manufacturer of the air cooling system is Heavac of The Netherlands.
Transport for London (TfL) became aware of a configuration issue affecting
the way the air cooling system had been set up on some New Routemasters
(NRM) on route 24 for which we apologised to customers at the time.
Wrightbus worked throughout the weekend immediately after the roll out to
configure the systems in the way expected. Immediately after work was
conducted, passengers experienced more comfortable temperature levels that
were comparable or slightly cooler than other double deck buses fitted
with a similar air-chill system.
We are not aware of correspondence conducted by email or letter between
TfL, WrightBus and Grayson Thermal Systems or other third parties as the
issue was connected to how the systems were set up, not a functional
defect, and was dealt with verbally with our main supplier WrightBus and
operator Metroline to expedite the matter.
The air cooling system on NRMs is now working effectively on virtually all
vehicles in the fleet as verified by assurance checks carried out in early
summer. As with buses of all types in the fleet, there can be a small
number of systems not functioning at full effectiveness and these are
referred to the companies concerned so checks can take place and remedial
action can be conducted to improve performance. The air cooling system on
double deck buses in the fleet is thermostatically controlled, rather than
permanently on, and works at partial, then full capacity, in response to
warmer summer temperatures, but this does not mean it isn’t currently
TfL does not advocate more powerful air cooling systems on buses as it is
striking a balance between providing reasonable comfort in normal summer
conditions, and minimising exhaust emissions from the fleet that could
arise from greater fuel consumption.
Because of the nature of bus journeys, cooled air will be lost from the vehicle during the frequent
intervals at which it stops and the doors open to allow passengers to
board and alight every few hundred metres on its route. Buses cannot
regulate temperatures in the same way as coaches or trains which stop less
often and tend to involve longer overall journey times for passengers.
TfL assures itself of the maintenance standard of the fleet by
independently inspecting the condition of vehicles in approximately a
quarter of the 8,700 fleet each year. Additional regular checks are also
conducted on vehicles in service as part of normal business.
All vehicles in the fleet are fit for purpose and any issues raised about the specific
performance of a bus are referred to bus operator concerned with the
details so checks can take place and additional maintenance can be
undertaken where necessary. If you believe a vehicle’s air cooling system
is not operating in the way expected, you can provide details to our
Customer Services team along with the vehicle’s number plate or running
number so that we can look into the matter on your behalf.
TfL claim that the excessive temperatures experienced by passengers last summer only occurred on vehicles on route 24; they made repeated claims in the summer of 2013 that the “problems” had been fixed yet the sauna-like conditions on the vehicles on all routes continued into September.
TfL claim that there is no written correspondence between TfL, WrightBus, Grayson Thermal Systems or any third parties concerning the air cooling failure – I find that astonishing.
TfL claim that “the air cooling system on NRMs is now working effectively on virtually all
vehicles in the fleet as verified by assurance checks carried out in early summer” – not the experience of passengers. TfL Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, recently dismissed claims about the unpleasantly hot and humid conditions on the vehicles as a folk myth.
When I attempted to report online the complete absence of air cooling that I had experienced on route 24 back in May, I was unable to as the TfL website just returned an error message. An easy way to pretend that no complaints have been received?
My favourite part of TfL’s response: “TfL does not advocate more powerful air cooling systems on buses as it is striking a balance between providing reasonable comfort in normal summer conditions, and minimising exhaust emissions from the fleet that could arise from greater fuel consumption”
Quite right – which is why a bus with sealed windows and a mechanical air-cooling system which requires generated energy to operate, relying on a diesel engine, is definitely not “clean” or “green” or “the bus to the future” as TfL have been claiming.
Meanwhile, TfL’s been bragging that one of their vehicles features in a new film:
— Transport for London (@TfLOfficial) July 15, 2014
Has it forgotten that the vehicles’ summer temperatures exceed the legal maximum for transporting animals?
Temperatures are predicted to hit 30C in London on Friday – expect more Twitter comments such as these, and perhaps some ambulances being called due to passengers passing out:
Hey @TfLOfficial who decided that the new routemasters shouldn't have functioning windows? Your air cons as effective as a chocolate teapot
— Rebecca Serra (@QuietMercenary) July 14, 2014
This 148 bus is 25 degrees hotter than the surface of the fucking sun. So much for Boris cunting Johnson's poxy shitcunting design
— Nimbocumulos (@nimbocumulos) July 14, 2014
— Nimbocumulos (@nimbocumulos) July 15, 2014
The 148 bus is so flipping hot I swear I'm gona collapse
— Habesha Honey (@JussThighs) July 15, 2014
Who told them to make buses with no windows in 2014 :/
— Habesha Honey (@JussThighs) July 15, 2014
— Black Geisha (@chornwolloms) July 15, 2014
— Lizetta (@lizetta) July 15, 2014
— Anna Higgs (@AnnaEHiggs) July 15, 2014
Taking my first ride on one of the new 'routemaster' buses. What's with the lack of Windows on the top deck?
— Sophie Curtis (@scurtsy) July 15, 2014
The 148 bus come like a sweat box, fuck 😷
— * (@KiersPope) July 15, 2014
@TfLOfficial Cheers for the new buses tfl! Must've lost about a stone on my way home sweating in this sauna with no windows.
— Patricia Zasadzinska (@pattsypats) July 15, 2014
#borisjohnson#routemaster heatherwick buses awful awful awful! Has he ever been on a bus? Expensive vanity project.
— Snogdog (@Snoggdog) July 15, 2014
— hackneyboy (@hackneyboy) July 15, 2014
@hackneyboy Hi, I'm not aware of any known issues with the air conditioning on the new Routemaster. However, you can report this to (1/2)
— TfL Bus Alerts (@TfLBusAlerts) July 15, 2014
— TfL Bus Alerts (@TfLBusAlerts) July 15, 2014
As might have been expected, the poisoned chalice of SSL resignalling (and, we assume, Piccadilly Line signalling as an add-on) has not attracted a great deal of interest from the signalling supply sector – out of the two possible organisations that could have bid, Siemens and Thales, only Thales have decided to submit a tender.
LU subsequently issued an OJEU notice at the beginning of the year asking for expressions of interest to supply a signalling system for the Sub-Surface Railway, one of the oldest and most complex sections of its underground network. LU says that Thales subsequently presented a solution that will meet the intricate operational requirements of the lines, which comprise 40% of the network.
From the mists of time, you might recall that, as far as the Piccadilly is concerned and assuming the logical decision is taken to roll out SELTRAC there as well, we’re back to where we were seven years ago:
LONDON Underground PPP contractor Tube Lines announced on January 29 that it had awarded Thales a ?160m contract extension covering the resignalling of the Piccadilly Line. Thales took over contracts to supply Seltrac signalling to the Jubilee and Northern lines when it acquired Alcatel-Lucent’s transport activities at the end of 2006.
That contract presumably went out of the window at some unspecified time during the wind down of PPP. It’d be interesting to know when. Anyway, keep an eye on that figure of 160m, in 2007 money.
Back to the Sub Surface Lines ATC – it’s worth refreshing our minds about the suspected timeline of the SSL this documented back in January:
- Bombardier CityFlo650 scrapped – December 2013
- ITT issued – February 2015
- Shortlist – February 2016
- Awarded to ? – December 2016
- Full in service date – July 2024
One nice thing about only having one firm responding to tender is that the entire shortlist and award process can be rather shorter – the latest Operation Performance report suggests an accelerated timescale:
Following termination in December 2013 of the contract with Bombardier for the supply of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) signalling system and after a detailed pre-qualification process, Thales have been invited to the next level of the tendering process to let the ATC signalling supply contract for SUP. It is anticipated that a new contract will be awarded later this summer and will be a significant step towards ensuring we deliver our upgrade by 2018.
That’s running about 18 months ahead of where we thought, which pulls the full in service date, if they take the same amount of time to install Bombardier thought they would, back to about, er, the end of 2022, four years late. However, Thales would be rolling on from the Northern Line project, which would have the benefit of an existing, well resourced and experienced team in place using a proven product, so you’d expect an accelerated timetable there, but can they really take four years out of it?
The downside is that you can’t get a guarantee of a competitive quote – Thales will not be going all out to put in a low cost deal, due to the reputational risk involved and the lack of any possibility of someone else getting the deal and chucking their tender investment down the drain. This puts LU in an awkward spot – there’s no realistic way they can prove to anyone that they’ve got value for money on this deal, and since it’s now clear Bombardier’s problems started with an unsuitable product at an unrealistic price, the Thales sticker price is likely to be substantially higher, on the basis that they know LU know they’re the only people with a chance of saving their skin with a proven, working product.
What this does for TfL’s finances is interesting – curiously the latest Operational Performance report (the final one for 2013-14) shows a 36m shortfall in efficiency savings due to banking savings from CityFlo650 deployment before they happened. That sort of Enron accounting is what makes TfL’s public claims about value for money somewhat dubious.
The £36m downside in secured efficiencies against the Quarter 3 forecast is partially due to the removal of efficiencies forecast to be delivered through the Sub Surface Rail ATC contract, which is now in the process of being retendered. It is expected that proposals to deliver further efficiencies will be considered in 2014/15
We’ll be watching the size of the project finance bucket with interest in forthcoming PMPA documents, along with the target dates and if the Piccadilly is included in the main works or as a follow on and whether the existing Piccadilly Line trains will be SELTRAC-fitted for the period between 2018 and the target replacement date of 2025.
One final thing on the tube – the Bakerloo Line, as expected, is to have its trains life-extended to a mammoth 58 years, with a 31m programme of welding up the cracks in the underframes caused by the punishing curves on the line. That bodes well for reliability in, oo, ten years time.
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?
— Until the Bird… (@UntiltheBird) June 9, 2014
— Steve Rochford (@SteveRochford) June 9, 2014
— Steve Rochford (@SteveRochford) June 9, 2014
Seriously what is the deal with these new routemasters? No windows upstairs on a day like this = death. Aircon please!! #routemaster
— Carol Matthews (@carol_matthews) June 9, 2014
@TfLBusAlerts why is the 148 bus so hot, people are boiling like its a sauna
— Matthew Coleman (@mattskiC) June 9, 2014
@TfLOfficial why oh why does no 11,have to wait at Sloane square because you lot cannot regulate the swevi e? Air conditioning needed
— Paul Farmer (@pimlicopaul) June 9, 2014
New London buses make more air con noise than actually doing anything. Roasting in 30 degrees heat on the bus @TfLOfficial
— Thuy Nguyen (@t11uyn) June 9, 2014
@TfLOfficial can you train your drivers to use air con not heaters second day now we are melting #148
— sacha carroll (@sacha15e) June 9, 2014
— Matt Cogger (@neuropolitique) June 9, 2014
@TfLBusAlerts What’s going on with the aircon on the new London bus?I’m on a 148 now and it about 35 degrees on here, you can open a window?
— Chad Dawson (@darloid) June 8, 2014
On the way to Hyde Park on one of the new buses. Do these things even have aircon? It’s about 40 dgrs on here and you can’t open the windows
— Chad Dawson (@darloid) June 8, 2014
In the 148 bus towards white City and the driver can't put on the AC @TfLOfficial
— kacyann (@kacyloveGod) June 8, 2014
Just realised these new 148 buses don't have windows the heat is ridiculous England should be training on this bus to adjust to the climate
— Danny Fikret (@Danny_Boy2012) June 7, 2014
— Sandi Dunn (@SandiDunnUK) June 7, 2014
— Joanna (@jmcc26) June 6, 2014
— Until the Bird… (@UntiltheBird) June 6, 2014
— Anthony Davis (@theanthonydavis) June 6, 2014
Don't ride a Routemaster 24. Unless you like a sauna on your commute.
— Phil Lurie (@LuriePhil) June 6, 2014
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:
Extremely posh lad conducting the Boris Bus, cut glass accent but too crowded to enforce his rulings. Said he'd interned for R Rogers!
— JaneL (@nkokonjeru) June 8, 2014
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:
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.
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.
“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.
@simonmayo routemaster air-conditioning terrible
— Mark Bolstridge (@mark_bolstridge) May 19, 2014
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?
Your new buses are hotter than hell @TfLOfficial
— lucyburchell (@lucyburchell) May 19, 2014
@TfLOfficial sitting in a new bus (no. 148) You forgot to put in windows!!!! We are all suffocating in here!
— ZRV (@ZRahvar) May 19, 2014
— charlie beety (@oatsnbarley) May 19, 2014
— Linda Large (@lindatheactor) May 19, 2014
Now I like the Boris Bus / New Bus for London / New Routemaster, but this heat is really something. #HotBus
— Peter Grzeszczak (@Pete_Grz) May 19, 2014
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:
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:
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:
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:
The met line air conditioned tube trains are a godsend. Thanks @TfLOfficial
— Andy Loughran (@andylockran) May 19, 2014
I forgot how good the air conditioning is on the new underground trains. Its soo cool and clean. I wanna just sit on the circle all day.
— Richie (@FindingRichie) May 16, 2014
Ah @TfLOfficial how I love your new air conditioned trains today
— Vish (@MrVeesh) May 19, 2014
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?
Melting on the London buses, have they not fixed them?! @TfLOfficial
— Rob Mence (@RobMence) May 18, 2014
Incredible heat on the Boris bus. Lack of opening windows is crazy. "Aircon" appears to do nothing. And the rear door's not open either
— Clive Bull (@clivebull) May 18, 2014
— undercover homeopath (@urban_healing) May 18, 2014
@MayorofLondon add temp to 24 bus info display_Roastmaster is dangerously hot- and open the bloody windows!
— Robin Smith (@HostRobin) May 18, 2014
meltdown on 24 bus, kids, tourists, grandmas all in disbelief- fix it @MayorofLondon heat is a killer
— Robin Smith (@HostRobin) May 18, 2014
— Andy (@Scandiandy) May 18, 2014
— Andy (@Scandiandy) May 18, 2014
— Mark Rigby (@markandrew66) May 18, 2014
— Piers Ford (@piersford) May 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial health and safety breached on 11 bus. Steaming and smelly. No air disgraceful. Boris vanity
— Jane L (@nkokonjeru) May 18, 2014
— Jane L (@nkokonjeru) May 18, 2014
@TfLOfficial two staircases three exits little space for seats and 10 facing backwards. Boris vanity. Nightmare journey.
— Jane L (@nkokonjeru) May 18, 2014
— Christina Gill (@ChristinaMGill) May 18, 2014
— Susan Weaver (@Mazeppa28) May 18, 2014
Air conditioning on the new London Routemaster buses is just what I want right now, #melting
— Brad Loomer (@braddloomer) May 18, 2014
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?
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
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?
Massive flaw of the new routemaster.. There are no windows.! So when the aircon fails, everyone's roasting inside. @TfLOfficial
— Joon Shern Soo (@soochilled) May 17, 2014
On a #borisbus & 1st nice w/e of year – top deck is boiling. Blowers noisy but no draught to be felt. Passengers will boil again this year
— Emma Beattie (@EmmaJaneBeattie) May 17, 2014
— Steve Rochford (@SteveRochford) May 17, 2014
@TfLOfficial Just got off top deck of new double decker 148. It was so hot & stuffy. Difficult to breathe. Is it safe?
— Ike Anya (@ikeanya) May 17, 2014
— Seph Brown (@SephRBrown) May 17, 2014
Would advise no one to use a #borisbus on a hot day except maybe footballers training for the heat of the Qatar World Cup.
— James Lewis (@jmtlewis) May 17, 2014
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:
Crap Boris Bus today was unbearable. The windows don't open. The air cooling system is inefficient. The design is flawed. #WorstBusForLondon
— Anthony Davis (@theanthonydavis) May 16, 2014
— Anthony Davis (@theanthonydavis) May 16, 2014
@TfLOfficial these new routemasters are torture in hot weather, & the AC is horribly loud; can you make some where the windows open please?
— Until the Bird… (@UntiltheBird) May 16, 2014
It's not even warm outside yet this New Routemaster on the 148 is roasting. Conversely one on the 11 last week tried to freeze me to death!
— Tom Payne (@zappomatic) May 16, 2014
The bus has also acquired a new talent – car crushing:
— cycleoptic (@cycleoptic) May 16, 2014
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:
By the time I alighted at Westminster Cathedral, the temperature had reached 25.3°C:
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:
By the penultimate stop before White City Bus Station it was 28.6°C upstairs:
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.
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?
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