Boris has finally grasped what we’ve been saying for a while – sticking to a contract expiry timetable for bendy replacement means 100 or so bendies in service in May 2012, likely more than any species of Routemaster and thus highly politically damaging.  Naturally no stone must be left unturned and no pound unspent to stop Boris being embarrassed, so the small print at the bottom of the 507 (non)-debendification press release is interesting:

Routes 507, 521 and 38 will convert this year; 18 and 149 will convert by the end of 2010.  The remaining routes, 12, 25, 29, 73, 207, 436, 453, will convert by the end of 2011.

This therefore needs to be fed into our model:

Route    Tender    5    5+    Old PVR    New PVR    Revised End Date
507    1-Jun-2002    1-Jun-2007    1-Jun-2009    9    15    25-Jul-2009
521    1-Jun-2002    1-Jun-2007    1-Jun-2009    19    32    29-Aug-2009
38    20-Jul-2002    20-Jul-2007    20-Jul-2009    47    72    ?-Nov-2009
18    23-Aug-2003    23-Aug-2008    23-Aug-2010    32    49    23-Aug-2010
149    18-Oct-2003    18-Oct-2008    18-Oct-2010    27    41    18-Oct-2010
73    1-May-2004    1-May-2009    1-May-2011    43    66    1-May-2011
25    26-Jun-2004    26-Jun-2009    26-Jun-2011    44    67    26-Jun-2011
12    31-Jul-2004    31-Jul-2009    31-Jul-2011    31    47    31-Jul-2011
207    9-Apr-2005    9-Apr-2010    9-Apr-2012    26    40    31-Dec-2011
29    14-Jan-2006    14-Jan-2011    14-Jan-2013    29    44    31-Dec-2011
436    9-Feb-2008    9-Feb-2013    9-Feb-2015    26    40    31-Dec-2011
453    16-Feb-2008    16-Feb-2013    16-Feb-2015    23    35    31-Dec-2011

Old PVR Total: 356    New PVR Total: 549

Obviously the end-of-contract rule holds up until the 12 in July 2011, after which we have five months to replace four routes early.  Naturally the bus companies now know this, and know there’s political capital invested in it and know there’s no competition on the tender until the contract actually expires.  I wonder whether this will affect the negotiations?  One minor point, the 29 isn’t yet down on londonbusroutes as having its automatic 2 year quality extension yet.  If, for some reason this isn’t extended it will expire in January 2011.  However, the 207, 436 and 453 all expire post-2011 and would require renegotiation (which isn’t unprecedented, the 38 contract from 2002 was renegotiated in 2005 from RM to bendy, but that reduced the operating cost and the bus company knew it and knew TfL knew it and anyway it wasn’t a manifesto commitment that needed meeting).

So, the new bus commissioning numbers broken down by year look like this:

  • 2009 – 119 (six done so far)
  • 2010 – 90
  • 2011 – 340

It’s the second half of 2011 that’s the crunch point – to meet the political timetable 340 new buses need to be commissioned between May 1st and December 2011, which is 245 days.  That’s 1.4 buses a day, or 1.9 per day excluding weekends.  Am I being stupid or is that a suicidally ambitious programme?  Things are going to have to get a whole lot better than the six buses in 55 days we’ve managed since the supposedly bendy-free 507 contract started on 1st June 2009.

Of course, it may be that the last four routes are moved forward into the first half of 2011, where there’s otherwise a lull, but that requires a successful conclusion of negotiations and, again, the bus companies now know what cards the other guy is holding* and are in a position to dictate terms.  Even then, it brings us down to ‘only’ 0.9 new buses per day or 1.3 buses per weekday, every day in 2011.

I urge any Assembly Member or journalist reading this to keep a very close eye on the cost to TfL of this entirely politically driven policy.  Apart from anything else, surely to $deity TfL’s priority in late 2011 should be the bloody Olympics, for crying out loud, not introducing 340 buses to avoid Boris suffering a slipped halo?

Finally, I suspect none of these buses will be hybrids and it does seem that priority is given to new diesel buses over hybrids due to the bendy policy.  This, need I point out, is not very green however much you bleat about new buses being EEV compliant.  With a conspiracy hat on, it does appear that putting all the new buses into 2011 neatly avoids conflicting with the promised 2012 hybrid only in future deadline.

* a pair of jokers, I suspect.

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