Hackney green light for more No 38 Boris buses

Boris bus: Thos Heatherwick-designed hop-on, hop-off eco-bus in Balls Pond Rd Islington London E8 250214 © david.altheer@gmail.com

ALL THE BUSES on the 38 route will soon be the new Routemaster RMTs that allow passengers to hop on and hop off between stops.

By June 2014 the competition-winning creation of London Olympics designer Thomas Heatherwick will have replaced the less-fuel-efficient 38s that run between Victoria and Clapton. The night version runs further, to Leyton  and Walthamstow.

The 38 route was the one on which the prototype New RMT entered service in February 2012.

The concept has been around a long time: it’s 75 years since the creation of the RT-Type, predecessor of the iconic and popular Routemaster that Ken Livingstone told voters only a moron would drop. As London Mayor, he dropped it.

Transport for London (TfL) says that during peak hours  the route will operate 59 of what it variously calls “the new RMTs”, “the state of the art buses” and “the cleanest and greenest diesel electric hybrid buses in the world”.  (Stop, please! Talk about publicists getting carried away on a transport of delight.)

TfL adds that on Mondays to Fridays from 6am to 7pm the new 38s will run with the rear door open and a conductor (sorry, uniformed passenger wearing a cap and badge) on the back platform “for the majority of the day… on the busiest section of the route between Islington and Victoria”.

Boris bus: Thos Heatherwick-designed hop-on, hop-off eco-bus , no 38, in Dalston Lane E8 250214 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Up the junction: a Boris bus in Dalston

In other words, passengers cannot be sure that the rear door will be open outside that unknown period that the uniformed passenger deems is not part of the “majority” of the day.

On the rest of the route, in the evenings and at weekends, the rear platform will be closed when the bus is moving but the driver will open and close all three sets of doors at bus stops.

So the uniformed passenger is not to be just a safety officer (he or she does not sell tickets) but also a person to discourage hopping on and off between stops, surely one of the Routemaster’s great virtues, given the huge gaps between some stops? (The first gap going north in Stroud Green Road from Finsbury Park station N4 2DH is one of the greatest.)

TfL counters that there are other advantages. It says: “When all 600 new Routemasters are in service in 2016 they will reduce carbon monoxide emissions in the capital by about 20,600 tonnes a year.”

John Thornton, of the Hackney campaign group Disability BackUp, comments: “The wheelchair user’s space has been designed with only smaller manual wheelchair users in mind; there is less room than before for wheelchair users and people with buggies to get on and off the bus.

“Many electric wheelchair users who were able to travel on the 38 route are now denied the opportunity to travel at all.”

TfL responds:“The wheelchair bay on the new Routemaster is longer than on nearly every other London double-deck bus.”

A full-size mock-up of the bus was tested by wheelchair and other users and their response led to “enhancements to the design of the bus that will improve the passenger experience”.

Transport commentator Christian Wolmar, an Islington resident and 38-user, says that the bus is “misconceived” is demonstrated by the fact that passengers are discouraged from entering or leaving between stops.

He adds that the cost has reached nearly £7 million a year and is due to rise as more new RMTs are put into use. The extra costs do not include the capital cost of the buses, believed to be about £50,000 a bus higher than for other models already available. 

Wolmar seeks the Labour nomination in the 2016 London mayoral election.

Hamish Scott 240414  

* Useful (potentially… well, possibly… maybe) pub quiz fact (or so says TfL): 42,000 people use the 38 every week day. 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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One thought on “Hackney green light for more No 38 Boris buses

  1. TfL’s response that “the wheelchair bay on the new Routemaster is longer than on nearly every other London double-deck bus” is disingenuous. The 38 route was for a while served by the bendy bus, which had a larger wheelchair bay, plus space for assistance dogs.

    Disabled passengers are worse off because of TfL’s swap to new RMTs with their smaller wheelchair spaces.

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