Snipe - The Scoop

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Boris's new Routemasters will not have conductors

Passengers on Boris's next generation Routemasters will not be able to buy tickets from "traditional conductors" the Mayor admitted today.

A spokesperson said this evening:

"Plans for the new bus still involve an additional crew member."

But:

"The role will not be that of a traditional conductor as almost 99 per cent of fares are now collected through pre paid ticketing. Their job will be customer focused to ensure the safe boarding and alighting of passengers using the open platform, as well as providing information and assistance."

In Boris's transport manifesto he promised to

"[renew] traditional forms by commissioning a 21st century Routemaster with conductors."

and said that we would:

"see the next generation Routemaster, with conductors, running on the streets of London by the end of my first term as Mayor."

However, in January he floated the possibility that the buses could be staffed by Police Community Support Officers instead.

Unfortunately the chairman of the Met Police Federation immediately dismissed the idea, saying that it showed a "complete lack of understanding" of the role of CSOs.

It now seems that Boris's "additional crew members" will in fact be little more than glorified health and safety officers, employed mainly to stop people falling off the back.

And that back may not even be open for half the time.

In the revised specifications issued last month TfL said that:

"Manufacturers have been asked to consider options to allow for the rear platform to be closed off at certain times, such as at night"

Now whether you were a fan of Boris's original Routemaster promises or not, I think it's hard to argue that these two changes fulfill those promises.

Boris promised open-backed buses with conductors, but the buses will be neither truly open-backed nor truly staffed with conductors.

And they're still going to cost us anything between 75 to 110 million pounds extra a year.

That's an awful lot of money for a not-quite-a-Routemaster

So what do you think? Is this a happy modern compromise, or the worst of both worlds?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

One key reason behind the return of the Routemaster harnassed by Boris and his pet Gilligan in the Evening Standard was the fact that fare evasion was higher on bendy buses due to the lack of a conductor, and the "£8 million (cough)" for the Routemaster was to be found from reduced fare evasion.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7274544.stm

He would also scrap bendy buses. "The truth is they were never suited to London's roads and the facts show they have twice as many accidents as normal buses," Mr Johnson said. "In addition, open boarding means they have become known as 'free buses', and the facts show they lose almost three times as much fare revenue as other types of bus."

And http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-23448187-details/Rivals+clash+over+cost+of+Routemasters/article.do

Mr Johnson plans to hold a competition to design a new generation of Routemasters with conductors to gradually replace bendy buses. He said conductors would crack down on antisocial behaviour and make passengers feel safer — and would be paid for by the extra fares they collected.

"I stick by our £8million figure," he said. "It will be raised simply by ending £8million of fare evasion on bendy buses now."

And some Gillgan http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23605115-details/Beginning+of+the+end+for+bendy+bus/article.do

But there will also be the conductor to provide help and security, and to make sure (a revolutionary departure, this) that people pay their fares

Where the lack of someone checking tickets leaves this justification for the policy is unclear.

Maybe the new Routemaster will have a magic power over its users forcing them to pay its fare?

AdamB said...

I've asked for clarification on whether the "additional crew members" will actively check tickets but haven't heard back yet. Will add as and when.

Chris said...

So much for "conductors not consultants"

http://www.boriswatch.co.uk/2009/07/02/routemaster-update/

Anonymous said...

Am I corret in thinking that the main job of this "additional staff member" will be to prevent people from gettng on and off when and where they like, on a bus that has been designed around the idea that passengers should be able to get on and off when and where they like?

Guano

AdamB said...

They call it libertarian authoritarianism!

Or a total fudge, as it's known to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

The wheels have well and truely come off the Boris Bus.

(Bus being a euphemism for the Mayoralty - Boris being a euphemism for a joke that you already know the punchline)

Mark Lee said...

If there really is such money to be earned by having a second person on the bus to check tickets, I strongly suspect TfL would have put a second person on every single bus in London by now, as there would be a strong business case for the cost. You don't need a new bus to have a second person to clamp down on fare evasion, and to be quite frank, if TfL haven't seen a business case in doing it on current routes, I don't know why Boris thinks the business case will be any different for his new buses.

I can't wait until the specification "Manufacturers have been asked to consider options to allow for the rear platform to be closed off at certain times, such as at night" slowly changes into "Manufacturers have been asked to consider options to allow for the rear platform to be closed off at certain times, such as when the vehicle is moving"

Helen said...

Advice from the London Transport Museum Poster Archive:

http://tinyurl.com/mfpeku

http://tinyurl.com/nutrd4

http://tinyurl.com/ndofor

http://tinyurl.com/ndq8yn

Tom said...

Latest fare evasion stats from TfL were 1.1% on non-bendies, and as we've seen, the initial RM routes won't be ex-bendy.

While bendy fare evasion is still a lot higher (8.2%) it's unlikely any reduction will pay for conversion to OPO buses (£20m/year), let alone DPO ones on a large scale. Replacing OPO buses with DPO ones is ludicrous on that basis.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

It's not a job I would want to be honest...

Appealing of Ealing said...

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

"It's not a job I would want to be honest..."

Not even if they gave you a fetching uniform?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

OK I'm sold!

Appealing of Ealing said...

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

"OK I'm sold!"

Me too.

AdamB said...

Here's the response to my follow-up questions. Nothing on uniforms I'm afraid:

A spokesperson for the Mayor said:

"The role of the second crew member will be primarily to ensure the safe boarding and alighting of passengers using the open platform, as well as providing information and assistance to passengers. Their role would not be to check fares as people board but if they believe fare evasion is taking place then they would take appropriate action."

"Our plans for staffing these services will be confirmed nearer the time, but PCSOs are one of the options we will consider for a second staff member on the new buses."

So they *won't* be checking people's tickets as they board.

So much for bringing an end to the "free bus."

prj45 said...

"The role of the second crew member will be primarily to ensure the safe boarding and alighting of passengers using the open platform"

Will it also be to stop people getting on and off between stops like the conductors on the Routemasters?

Anonymous said...

As I may have said before, writing the Rule Book for these guys is not going to be easy. When I was a conductor (many, many years ago) the Rule Book said that we were supposed to discourage people from getting on and off between stops. I guess that the instructions to these guys is going to say something similar, though it might have to be more specific if these guys are going to be on the platform all the time. It will be difficult to square that with the fact that the Borismaster has been designed around the idea of getting on and off between stops.

I hope that the manufacturer has an easy way of retro-fitting doors, for when there is a new Mayor or the aftermath of a nasty accident.

Guano

PS I've still got my badge though the uniform fell apart a long time ago.

Tom said...

"Will it also be to stop people getting on and off between stops like the conductors on the Routemasters?"

Last night, on a 237 on the way to the Blur gig, stuck in traffic outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire, two people ask the driver to open the doors in the middle of the road (two lanes from the left hand kerb in a four-lane gyratory, actually). Driver allows them off and they disappear between the slow-moving cars. Health and Safety gone non-existent, there - even I was quite shocked he let them off.

Elderly Londoner starts shouting at the driver for stopping to let people off when the rest of us have somewhere to go, resulting in driver sticking rigidly to the rules for the rest of the trip and only opening the door when we finally inch up to the stop...

It'll be interesting if the non-conductor's duties involve stopping people getting off the bus while it's moving - if so it'll probably extend journey times stopping arbitrarily.

Anonymous said...

They admit in the passage you quote that 99% of fares are prepaid so what is/was the practical evidence for fare evasion on bendies. These new buses will be fairly useless because the majority of passengers will be entering and exiting from this sometimes open back entrance, the front is for the prams and wheelchairs. It will need the "controller" to signal to the driver because otherwise the driver will not be able to pull away safely. Will there be no "conductor" at night time when the "door" will operate?

I admit to having a nostalgia for jumping on and off the rear platform, it overcame the problems of disappearing bus stops when buses were on diversion but the world has moved on and cyclists lurk round the back of buses (apologies to cyclists). Recently I got on one of the remaining Routemasters from St Pauls to the Aldwych and trying to get on and off at the same door is quite hard now, particularly as a lot of the passengers were tourists who didn't have a clue.

Re opening the doors, the young know how, as one young man operated the button and exited our bus in Camden Town to join friends in a fight. There is a panel in the roof above the door which opens and has the release mechanism, in case you need to know.

Tom said...

"They admit in the passage you quote that 99% of fares are prepaid so what is/was the practical evidence for fare evasion on bendies."

Just because you've got credit on a PAYG Oyster doesn't mean you touch in on getting on a bus. Prepaid isn't just travelcards.