Check out this piece from BBC London Transport Correspondent, Tom Edwards, on the removal of “conductors” from the six New Bus For London prototypes which are currently running on route 38. Tom also mentions some of the “conductors” preventing passengers from boarding or alighting in-between stops and the unbearably hot temperatures on the upper deck.

TfL’s response to Tom Edwards concerning the high temperatures on the upper deck was:

 Those problems are fixed.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Head of Surface Transport, gave the following reasons for the removal of “conductors” [01:50 in the BBC report]:

Actually, if you have mixed single-manned and crew operation buses on the same route it gets very messy.

The passengers don’t know what they’re supposed to do, the crew buses run slightly faster than the other ones so they start to get out of step.

So now, what’s happening is the half-a-dozen prototype buses that are on route 38 of New Bus For London are operating single-manned, just like all the other buses on route 38, so that’s all consistent.

None of that makes any sense. Anyone would think Daniels had just come out with the first nonsense that popped into his head.

Let’s take it point by point. Having mixed operations on the same route gets “very messy” - so why have TfL been running route 38 like this since February 2012?

“The passengers don’t know what they’re supposed to do” – the buses have been running like this for 16 months, how stupid are you implying your passengers are?

“The crew buses run slightly faster than the other ones so they start to get out of step” – They run slightly faster? How? Their speed is determined by the density of the traffic, just like all other models of bus on the streets of London. If Daniels means that buses on a particular route start to “bunch” – the bus behind catches up with the one in front and passes it when the first bus stops at a bus stop – that happens on all routes.

“…so that’s all consistent” - except, it isn’t. The New Bus For London is now running on route 24 with “conductors” during rush hour and on route 38 with no “conductors”. That is more likely to confuse passengers, rather than having two different models of bus on one route.

Waffling non-reasons for the removal of conductors aside, let’s return to the tropical temperatures on the upper deck of the New Bus For London and TfL’s claim that “those problems are fixed”.

This morning, I set out with my Oyster card and my digital thermometer to test those claims. I boarded the 10:32 New Bus For London prototype on route 38 at Victoria Station. I climbed the back staircase to the upper deck and sat three rows from the back on the left-hand side. As it was the start of the route and the engine had not been running long it was relatively cool upstairs:

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25.9°C – bear in mind that the temperature outside was cartainly no more than 20°C. Very stuffy on the upper deck. As we reached Piccadilly Circus I came down the rear stairs (the heat in the starwell was stifling) to take the temperature by the (closed) back door:

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26.1°C. Then I went back upstairs and tested the temperature on the rear seat:

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Now 26.9°C. The whole of the rear of the upper deck seemed to be radiating heat. The moulding at the top of the stairwell was hot to the touch:

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I decided to get off the bus at Shaftesbury Avenue. As I descended the rear stairs, I burnt my leg on the red-hot metal trim of the second step down – I felt the rest of the step (clad in Treadmaster) and it was also hot to the touch. The rearmost part of the back door did not retract when it opened – I’m not sure if this is how it is meant to operate in driver-only mode or if the door was faulty.

I then decided to test the temperature on one of the New Bus For London production models on route 24. At Trafalgar Square, there were plenty of passengers getting on and off but I was the only one to use to back door. I remarked on this to the “conductor” and he replied “I know – people don’t listen!”

Upstairs on LT24, as on the prototype, the air vents in the ceiling were blowing out a weedy stream of coolish air which was having very little effect on the ambient temperature. The noise of the air conditioning switching on and off, the constant thrumming of the engine, the stuffy and airless atmosphere and the smell of the new upholstery combined to give me a headache.

 

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Temperature on the back seat upstairs: 26.9°C. The temperature continued to rise – by the time we reached Queen’s Crescent it was 28.9°C:

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We had passed another New Bus For London in Camden High Street which appeared to have broken down – there was nobody on it and all the dors were shut.

At the Hampstead terminus I walked across the road and got straight on a bus going to Pimlico – LT19. I sat downstairs by the back door – it was hot, despite being next to the open back door. A fellow passenger asked the “conductor” if she liked the new buses as she found them too hot. The “conductor” replied: :”In some of them the aircon’s not working so it’s really hot“. Tell me about it, I thought.

As the passenger got off she said to the “conductor”: “Hope it cools down for you!” to which the “conductor” replied: “It won’t do, more people get on, more body heat!”

The panel in front of the seat next to the area where the “conductor” stands was already badly scuffed:

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and the upper part of it was covered in graffiti, for that authentic Thatcher’s Britain feel (Boris should like that):

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The temperature in the seat downstairs was 28.8°C:

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Without warning, the recorded announcement suddenly stated that the bus was not going to its original destination and was terminating at the next stop, Warren Street, so I had to get off and wait for the next New Bus For London. It was LT24, the bus I had got to the Hampstead terminus. Not that the iBus display at Warren Street was any help at telling me when the next bus was due:

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Upstairs to the back seat again. Very hot and stuffy. 29.5°C:

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Nasty. How about downstairs, in the seat next to the “conductor”? 29.9°C – absolutely sweltering and thoroughly unpleasant:

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I’d had enough, I had to get off.

Brand new buses, trumpeted by Boris Johnson as having “amazing new air conditioning” but which out to be stifling, airless boxes. Then, when the heat problem is pointed out to TfL they claim “those problems are fixed”.

Spin and outright lies.

I would guess that the extreme heat in the interior rear of the bus is coming from the engine, as the heat appears to radiate from the internal surfaces around the stairwell. Non-opening windows mean that there is nowhere to vent the build-up of heat – despite running with an open back door the New Bus For London production models reach 29.9°C in the lower saloon, right next to that open back door.

Temperatures in London are set to reach 27°C by Sunday – I dread to think what the temperatures inside the New Bus For London will be like by then.

 
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