Department of How Did I Miss That calling.  There’s a TfL document (presumably rather well hidden since I haven’t seen it before) detailing the tender costs for the 38, 507 and 521 routes.  This means we can finally put a true cost on the Boris Bendy Premium and nail Gilligan to the floor again.  Remember, the Great Journalist thinks that bendy operation costs more, as he says:

Each bendy route was competitively tendered; each operator was also asked to tender for operating it with double-deckers; and the tender results, published on the TfL website, show that the bids to run the routes with bendies were in every single case higher, sometimes by seven figures.

One bendy route alone, the 29, is costing us £1.6 million a year more than it would have done to keep double-deckers. Collectively, the double-deck routes converted to bendies are costing about five per cent more in their new guise.

Oh dear.  Let’s start with the headline figure, then go on to attempt an estimate if the same premium holds true across all routes, and get our £60m finger-in-air annual estimate onto more solid ground.  All figures are pounds per annum paid to the winning operator:

38 – bendy: 12,966,000; non-bendy: 15,750,000; premium: 2,784,000;  cost inflation: 21%

507 – bendy: 1,960,536: non-bendy: 2,175,249; premium: 214,713; cost inflation: 11%

521 – bendy: 2,856,691: non-bendy: 3,207,794; premium: 351,103; cost inflation: 12%

First thing that jumps out is that it won’t be near London Travelwatch’s £12-13m estimate based on this, but it’s six digits.  Double-deck conversion, surprisingly given the larger capacity of the buses, costs more.  The total extra annual cost works out at approximately £3.5m per annum, which is about the price of running, say, the entire recently retendered 156 bus route, 7 miles from Wimbledon to Vauxhall, 8 minute frequency in the peaks and 16 double deckers.  Not small, and one has to ask oneself if there’s somewhere in the Boris-voting suburbs that could usefully use that sort of service and might have been a better place to spend the money.  I took £4m per annum as my dividing line when considering what a ‘big’ London bus route was, by the way.

Let’s take the 38 as a basis, since it’s a DD route, and work out the bendy premium estimate per bus.  To replace the existing PVR of 47 costs a premium of £2,784,000. nearly £60k per bus per year.  Applying that as a rule of thumb to the remaining bendy routes we get:

Route    Bendy Premium (£pa)
507     £214,713.00
521     £351,103.00
38     £2,784,000.00
18     £1,895,489.36
149     £1,599,319.15
73     £2,547,063.83
25     £2,547,063.83
12     £1,836,255.32
207     £1,599,319.15
29     £1,717,787.23
436     £1,540,085.11
453     £1,362,382.98

Total:  £19,994,581.96

So we conclude the current best guess of the extra cost of total debendification on all twelve routes at current prices is near enough £20m a year (as against an approximate bus subsidy of £600m a year), before we even get onto the price of new Routemasters or the staffing costs consequent to hiring thousands of conductors.  Remember this from the campaign:

“I stick by our figure of £8 million as the cost of conductors on roughly 350 new generation Routemasters,” he said on BBC1’s London News programme yesterday evening.

But he admitted: “It is true that if you have three conductors then you have three shifts and it goes up.”

He has previously suggested Routemasters may even prove cheaper on a bus-by-bus basis than the bendy buses currently used on London’s busiest routes.

Oh, and remember this, from when this week’s fare hike was announced?

The Mayor said he was “determined to deliver value for money for London’s farepayers and taxpayers and that will mean some tough choices. But let no-one be in any doubt.  We’re investing billions to improve transport in London, prepare for 2012 and deliver Crossrail. This is a fares package that will sustain the investment needed to deliver the extra capacity and reliability that is vital for London.”

I wonder what fraction of the money raised from the fare package each year will go to pay the costs of debendification?

Now, Boris isn’t going to eliminate all bendy buses in a first term (current predictions suggest 1/3 of the routes with over 100 bendies will remain when the next Mayoral campaign starts; remember the 207 ends in April 2012 if the 2 year extension is awarded), so let’s estimate the cumulative cost of debendifications scheduled from now until the next Mayoral election.  At a rough guess of the number of years elapsed on the 8 routes retendered before April 2012 multiplied by the bendy premiums calculated above, it’s between £20m and £21m, or rather more than the £15m shortfall for the East London Line Extension Phase 2b.  To look at it another way, when London goes to the polls we’ll be paying an extra £1.7m per month for this policy, and that’s assuming no inflation.

Next, we have some mileage statistics.  Well, it’s kilometres, actually, which will hopefully annoy Victoria Borwick, but not Microsoft Excel, which can divide by 1.605 with alacrity:

Route    Bendy KM    Non-bendy KM    Bendy Miles    Non-Bendy Miles    Mileage Inflation    Bendy    Non-Bendy    Bendy £pm    Non-bendy £pm
507    366148    474846    228130    295854    30%     £1,960,536.00      £2,175,249.00      £8.59      £7.35
521    444139    590819    276722    368112    33%     £2,856,691.00      £3,207,794.00      £10.32      £8.71
38    2224939    2867713    1386255    1786737    29%     £12,966,000.00      £15,750,000.00      £9.35      £8.81

Note the price per mile on the bendy routes, which is way higher than I was expecting.  As a comparison, here’s the list of the seven previously tendered routes:

149     £6.49
73     £6.78
25     £6.01
12     £5.83
207     £6.46
29     £6.15
436     £6.08
453     £6.60

Something’s gone on here – the bids are coming in a lot higher than they were.  Fuel prices?  Inflation?  Profits not up to it?  Experience?  It affects both bus types, too – £4 to £5 per mile was about the going rate for big double deck routes.  What I think is happening is that the TfL bus tender pages are wrong in quoting prices per mile – they’re probably per kilometre, since TfL exclusively deal in km elsewhere (which is what Borwick disliked) and someone’s got them wrong.  Adjusting the table to suit we get bendy route prices in the region of £5 to £6 per km and double deck prices around £4-£5 per km, which feels much more like it.  Odd error, and one that requires us to revisit our older assumptions.  Here’s the revised table assuming kilometres.

Route    Bendy £pkm    Non-bendy £pkm
507     £5.35      £4.58
521     £6.43      £5.43
38     £5.83      £5.49

[Remember this figure takes no account of capacity, which is why it looks like double deckers are cheaper.  Gilligan either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about this distinction.  The average bendy cost on the other eight routes is £6.29, on these three tenders it was only £5.87, which suggests that experience of bendy operation is bringing costs down.]

Finally, safety – remember the Boris factor of 32% more collisions per kilometre with bendies?  Gilligan has a small cheer here – the approximately 30% increase in bus kilometrage is a smidgen smaller than the stated extra risk of bendy buses.  Go Andy!  However, is £3.5m a year really cost-effective in reducing road casualties compared to tackling, say, the much larger threat of lorry/cyclist fatal collisions, which kill 7-10 people per year?  I don’t think that’s even worth arguing about, frankly.  Also, it finally lays to rest the often-quoted figures by Andrew Gilligan and his ‘partners':

“TfL’s figures do show that bendy buses are significantly more dangerous than other forms of bus:

Pedestrian injuries: 5.6 per million miles, compared with 2.6 per million miles for all other buses.

Collisions with cyclists: 2.62 per million miles, compared with 0.97/m for all other buses.

Accidents: 153 per million miles, compared with 87/m for all other buses.

On these routes, by Boris’s figures and TfL’s official document, there’s virtually no difference in safety (my previous estimate that the new buses would be *more* safe is wrong, because the mileage inflation interestingly doesn’t scale with the number of buses, which I’d assumed.  I can only conlude that Boris likes his buses to do less work each – reductions in off-peak capacity, possibly).

‘Significantly more dangerous’ is therefore henceforth to be considered a lie, along with:

Tender results on the TfL website show that bendies are in fact more expensive than double-deckers, by around 5%.

They’re around 10-20% cheaper depending on route. And, of course, our old favourite:

They wipe out cyclists, there are many cyclists killed every year by them.

Currently *none*, of course.  Oh dear, Boris.

For completeness, London Travelwatch now need to round down their £60m estimate substantially, since it’s about three times too high, as do any opposition groups relying on this figure.  I’ll be sending out an email advising them of this shortly, so they have no excuse.

As we’ve seen above, Gilligan is therefore officially, finally, definitively busted as a peddlar of information later proved false and a blinkered believer in unreality.  But we knew that already, didn’t we?  As for Boris Johnson, we now know why he was so keen not to replace bendies straight off the bat, as urged by Steve Norris.  TfL must have told him the true picture on costs, and he’s been trying to find a position that allows him to claim manifesto commitments are being met along with value-for-money.  On the latter subject, since the combined bendy premium of just the first three routes is equivalent to the entire yearly cost of introducing a brand new and fairly intensive bus route, I award the Mayor a substantial FAIL.

Later in this series, why Hilton Holloway has some questions to answer about particulate emissions.

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