Thanks to FOI requests by the BBC’s Tom Edwards, it has emerged that the Mayor’s flagship vanity project may not comply with EC safety regulations. Surprise level: zero.

David Brown, TfL’s managing Director, Surface Transport (soon to be leaving to become CEO of the Go-Ahead Group) once wrote to the Times, so incensed was he by the suggestions of not-yet-Mayor Boris Johnson that a replacement “Routemaster” should be introduced to London’s streets:

Sir, Your welcome for a new Routemaster bus (“Blueprint for ‘son of Routemaster’,” Dec 19) does not report the true cost to Londoners. Reintroducing open platform buses would require conductors on all routes, as they would be required to safely manage access. This would cost £600 million – raising this money would require a huge fare rise for London’s six million daily bus passengers. The single fare would have to rise from 90p to at least £1.50 and the weekly pass from £13 to at least £21.

Open platform buses mean more passenger deaths. The passenger fatality rate on Routemasters is more than double that of other London buses.

Managing Director, Surface Transport, Transport for London

Much more expensive and more dangerous? Indisputably, so why the apparent popularity of open-platform buses?

The London Transport Buses Quarterly Update, Winter 1997/1998, reports on the strategic role played by customer research to enable LT Buses to understand the view, priorities and concerns of passengers using the capital’s bus network.

The section on Vehicle Strategy reports:

LT Buses has used research to gauge attitudes to future bus designs, working with manufacturers, operators and designers.

One recent study assessed attitudes to bus vehicle design and layout. The research comprised interviews with 1,024 people at home and a further 1,498 surveyed at bus stops in Zones 1 and 2.

Double door, double deck buses were favoured by 37 per cent of interviewees because of their roomy interiors. Routemasters were favoured by nearly a quarter, mainly for nostalgic reasons by affluent and upmarket men and infrequent bus users. Single deck buses were favoured by one fifth of those questioned. ‘Hoppas’ were favoured by 14 per cent for their convenience and frequency.

Security was a key concern. Reliability was a major cause of complaint and journey time was deemed by many to be more important than bus interiors.

So, Routemasters are favoured by People Like Boris – sound familiar? People who rarely use buses like them because they, er, don’t use them.

Journey time more important to passengers than the colour and pattern of moquette used on the seating and the colour of the ceiling, surely not?

Still, David Brown, he who pays the piper, eh?

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