We occasionally like to go back and revisit old posts, and there’s an opportunity here to put some facts around the bendy replacement timetable, particularly the PVR increase and the stated 2011 date for the Routemaster.  I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that 31/12/2011 counts here, as two years from OJEU notice (due next month) to rollout of a vehicle full of untried technology is ridiculous.  So what do we have?

Route    Tender    5    5+    Old PVR    New PVR
507    1-Jun-2002    1-Jun-2007    1-Jun-2009    9    15
521    1-Jun-2002    1-Jun-2007    1-Jun-2009    19    32
38    20-Jul-2002    20-Jul-2007    20-Jul-2009    47    72
18    23-Aug-2003    23-Aug-2008    23-Aug-2010    32    49
149    18-Oct-2003    18-Oct-2008    18-Oct-2010    27    41
73    1-May-2004    1-May-2009    1-May-2011    43    66
25    26-Jun-2004    26-Jun-2009    26-Jun-2011    43    66
12    31-Jul-2004    31-Jul-2009    31-Jul-2011    31    47
207    9-Apr-2005    9-Apr-2010    9-Apr-2012    27    41
29    14-Jan-2006    14-Jan-2011    14-Jan-2013    29    44
436    9-Feb-2008    9-Feb-2013    9-Feb-2015    26    40
453    16-Feb-2008    16-Feb-2013    16-Feb-2015    23    35

Old PVR Total: 356    New PVR Total: 549

So that’s nearly 200 more buses to provide no capacity increase, most of which will be bog-standard conventional double deckers, since their routes will debendify long before the Routemaster.

On the Routemaster issue, it’s obvious that no routes expire at a convenient time – the only candidate for early introduction would be the 207 in April 2012.  The previous two debendifications in June and July 2011 are way too early given the large number of buses required and that the tenders would be assessed in late 2010, long before series production would be underway.  April 2012 is still tight, though, for nearly 50 new design buses and a radical change from frequent bendies to open platform RMs on one of London’s busiest routes just before the Mayoral election and the Olympics (although these are the other side of town).  The 207 is also entirely outside central London on a route that the bendy myths have even less traction than usual on (it’s wide and mostly straight).  The temptation must be to delay until the autumn.

I’ll therefore stick my neck out and say that no bendy route will be directly replaced by Routemasters in this Mayoral term.  There may be a normal double deck route that’s suitable, but that lacks the symbolism, wasn’t in the manifesto, doesn’t allow the use of bendy myths as justification and is open to serious criticism on cost grounds.  If the double deckers are coping fine, why replace them with costlier RMs?

Oh, and the total PVR estimate looks familiar – I’m sure there were some figures on bendy replacement cost flying around at the election.  Let’s see if they stand up seven months on:

First Ken Livingstone, who claimed 620.  Slightly high, but his figures for bendies was slightly high and he assumed the 507/521 would be replaced with RMs.

Next, TfL, in the famous spat over ‘Ken-friendly’ figures which ended up with egg all over Boris.  Their figures are more nuanced and estimated 560 buses required for service out of a fleet of 620.  I’d say that was pretty good as an estimate in the heat of the moment.  Given that, it’s worth keeping an eye on the rest of their analysis, as the basic assumptions look sound:

Such an enlarged fleet would mean taking on still more conductors as well as additional drivers. TfL estimated that a total of 1,736 conductors would have to be hired at around £28,000 per year if add-ons such as national insurance and pensions were included, together with an extra 651 drivers at £35,000 per year making staffing a new Routemaster fleet cost at least £72m more than the present fleet of bendy buses.

It also theorised that the cost of new buses would be £40m a year, meaning that Johnson’s scheme would cost £112m in all.

It’s also worth recalling Boris’s answer:

It’s perfectly true there is a dispute between myself and the mayor about the cost of getting conductors once again on the 337 new Routemasters that we will be introducing to replace the bendy bus, and the mayor says that it is ten times our calculated cost of eight million pounds a year. I haven’t seen the mayor’s figures, I don’t know quite how he arrives at that statistic. I am told that it would only cost eight million pounds.

I’d say that Boris has already moved sharply away from his original policy, in the expensive direction – there will not be 337 new Routemasters (by the timetable, over 70% of the bendy replacements need to be in service before the first feasible RM-replaces-bendy day in April 2012) and the cost will not be £8m.  This is because his original policy made no sense at all, as TfL presumably told him shortly after the election.  I think that, since their analysis has now been provided to both parties and turns out to be correct, we can stop the accusations of political bias and instead start asking why Boris was so off the money originally.  If anything, TfL are rescuing Boris from the consequences of his own ignorance during the campaign.  I wonder if anyone knows any sad individuals who are still indulging in such behaviour?

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