THE BLOG

Boris' Bus Is A Criminal Waste Of Money

15/05/2013 12:52 BST | Updated 14/07/2013 10:12 BST

Transport for London (TfL) has this week owned up and made public the actual purchase price of the New Bus For London (NBfL), aka Boris Bus or BozzaMaster. And that price, at £354,500 per vehicle, makes the NBfL around £50,000 more expensive than a comparable off-the-shelf hybrid double decker. So, despite Bozza's promises, the NBfL will not be price competitive with alternatives.

As there are to be 600 production examples of the NBfL, this gives a premium of £30 million. Added to this is the cost of the eight prototypes, which, at £11.77 million, gives a premium over eight comparable hybrids of £9.37 million. We cannot validate the claims for superior fuel consumption, as TfL have thus far declined to release the figures. So that's a running premium total of £39.37 million.

For that money, Londoners could have had another 131 hybrid double deckers. And it gets worse: far from being the "greenest ever" bus, the NBfL will have to be retro-fitted with a new engine to enable it to meet 2014 emissions standards. So that means a further extra cost. However, TfL would benefit if the design were to be sold to any other potential customers. What are the prospects of this?

Sadly, they are precisely zero. This can be gleaned from the unwillingness of operators to take the vehicles on: uniquely for London, TfL is having to purchase them outright and then impose them on operators. There will be zero residual value after their estimated 14 year service life, as no operator outside London wants them. Perhaps there is an export opportunity out there?

Regretfully not: many cities that used to operate double decker buses, such as Paris, Rome, Lisbon and Porto, no longer do so. Instead, they and their customers prefer single deck bendy buses: everyone's out of step bar our Boris. Berlin, which operates double deck vehicles, has sensibly specified its own three-axle design. Other UK export markets choose existing hybrid types.

But it is in running costs that the truly scandalous scale of waste can be seen. Each NBfL requires a second crew member when its rear platform is in operation, and this has been estimated to add a cost of £62,000 per vehicle per year. Do the math, as they say: over the 14-year lifetime of the 608-strong fleet, this will land Londoners with a whopping £527.74 million bill.

That's an awfully large premium payment for Bozza's vanity legacy. The question begs itself as to how he has been allowed to get away with it: spraying £567 million up the wall merely for something that is "different", "iconic", or which may impress a few tourists would normally cause questions to be asked, adverse conclusions to be drawn, and the plug pulled on the exercise in short order.

Perhaps TfL and the Westminster Government could explain how they missed that.