Boris Johnson’s first new Routemaster bus finally hit the roads yesterday on the number 38 route between Victoria station to Clapton, Hackney.
The £1.4 double-decker, dubbed the “Boris bus”, follows a pledge by London Mayor Boris Johnson to return ‘hop-on, hop-off’ red buses to the capital.
But, following the bus on its first official route was a “protest bus” covered in slogans attacking the recent rise in public transport fares across London. According to several reports, the Boris bus briefly broke down while the protest bus sailed past.
Despite a weeks delay for the official launch due to a certification process, the update of the iconic double-decker design attracted crowds at every stop.
As successor of the popular Routemaster, which went out of service in 2005, the new double-decker has two staircases and three entrances for quick boarding. A rear platform provides hop-on, hop-off accessibility, though a conductor supervises this.
However, a software glitch meant the bus had to run with the rear platform shut on Monday, the BBC reported.
Despite the mishaps, Mayor Johnson praised the new bus, built by Northern Irish company Wrightbus, as “a stunning piece of automotive architecture”, which represented “the best in British design, engineering, and manufacture.”
According to the head of operations, David Hampson-Ghani, the “busy and challenging” route 38 was chosen for the launch to prove “how good the bus is.”
Hampson-Ghani also deflected criticism on the bus’s cost, saying that new innovation with the latest technology will “always be expensive”, but added that the price would reduce when the new model became the mainstream.
“The design and the development will pay for itself. We expect the technology which has been created for this bus to appear in other buses as well”, said Hampson-Ghani.
He also emphasised the bus to be “the most environment-friendly bus in London, if not the world”. Tests show that the emission of the hybrid vehicle, including Co2 and nitrogen oxide, was around half that of a standard diesel bus.
Theo Farmer, the first driver of the new city bus told EastLondonLines: “It’s a real pleasure to drive it. It will become a bus of London.”
But, Rob Webster, 23, a civil servant from Hertfordshire said that the new bus was a novelty: “I was at the front of the bus when it came but I thought I would get on at the back. I guess there is a lot of costing in the development but it is a novelty.”
Deborah Mcallister, 52, a civil servant from Homerton, raised concerns on the lack of space for both floors but said that she preferred any bus to the “terrible” bendy bus, which have all now been withdrawn by the Mayor.
The project has been criticised for its high cost, with Tottenham MP David Lammy writing to the Mayor to claim it would be more cost-effective to buy a new BMW car for each passenger.
But a spokesman for Transport for London said: “It is nonsense to suggest that each bus has cost £1.4m. We anticipate that the initial cost per production vehicle will be broadly comparable with a standard double deck hybrid bus. A hybrid double deck currently costs around £315,000.”
He said the £11.37m budget did not merely cover the eight prototype vehicles but also one-time costs like the “design of the buss from scratch” and construction of a life-size mock-up, as well as engineering and road tests.
Transport company Arriva operates the first bus. In total, eight of the new Routemasters will enter service over the next four months.