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File:Mercedes Citaro G London.jpg
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File:Citaro G Arriva London.jpg

The London articulated bus controversy was a series of events and press attention following the introduction of articulated, or bendy, buses into London, England. While articulated bus operation has been standard in many other countries, the UK had only sparingly tried their use, until the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, using the enhanced mayoral powers to improve bus transport in London through the new executive agency Transport for London, decided to introduce new articulated buses to London. This was in conjunction with final withdrawal of the Routemaster bus from London, going against an earlier mayoral election pledge not to withdraw the Routemaster. After the introduction of the first artics, several incidents caught the media's attention and public comment, continuing into the London mayoral election, 2008.

Background Edit

Articulated buses have been introduced on several major, high-capacity routes in the 2000s, coinciding with and was possibly prompted by the final withdrawal from passenger service of the iconic Routemaster bus from the streets. Routemasters were not accessible to the disabled, and hard to use by elderly; thus they fell foul of the Disability Discrimination Act. There was also the risk of litigation over accidents involving the Routemaster's rear open platform. However, Routemasters had been refurbished with new engines which could do 8mpg, where the much heavier bendy-buses can only do 5.5mpg.

The Routemaster was previously considered an ideal vehicle for high frequency operation with low dwell times at stops due to its single open rear platform, and several calls had been made for a modern Routemaster replacement, which was an initial pledge in Ken Livingstone's first-term election.

However, articulated buses with their multiple doors and simultaneous boarding arrangements are capable of loading and off-loading many more passengers in less time than conventional double decker buses and Routemasters, although comparisons with double decker buses are difficult as passengers are not allowed to board using the rear doors of a double decker bus. Articulated buses also have a much higher passenger capacity, able to carry over 140 people per vehicle (40 seated; 28%) compared to 77 (75 seated; 94%) in a Routemaster, however a large proportion of the passengers in articulated buses are forced to stand whereas the Routemaster buses were virtually all seated.

Articulated buses take up much more road space (18 metres long compared to 9 metres for a Routemaster and 10 meters for a double decker) which negates many of the other advantages of the type and makes them more likely to block junctions and cause difficulties for other road users, especially cyclists and motorcyclists.

Incidents Edit

Fires Edit

During the initial stages of deployment of artics, between December 2003 and March 2004 there were three similar fires on the new Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses, causing concern over the possibility of an in-built risk to the public. The fires caused the temporary withdrawal and modification of the entire fleet of 130 buses, and some fixed standard Citaro buses.[1]

The buses were brought back into service after engineers replaced and modified pipework in the bus engines which was identified as the problem. A later fire was ruled out as unconnected. A TfL spokesman later stated "Fires on all buses are rare, and bendy buses are no more prone to such incidents than other bus models".[2]

Increased fare evasion Edit

The introduction of these buses increased fare evasion. In the United Kingdom two-doored buses were not uncommon, usually with entry by the front door and exit through a centre door.

Using all doors for both entry and exit was rare on UK buses until London introduced three-door articulated buses on which passengers had to pay the fare before boarding, for example by buying a ticket from an agent or a roadside machine or by having a pre-paid card such as a Travel Card or 'Oyster card'. When these buses arrived many people avoided paying fares. As a result Transport for London recruited an extra 150 Revenue Protection Inspectors to police revenue collection.

Road layout Edit

A further disadvantage for London was the older road layout, which caused difficulties over the length of articulated buses, and the turning radius they require in order to negotiate corners. In London, many roads especially in central areas lacked sufficient lane width and space, and this led to difficulties in some areas with articulated buses blocking junctions when at bus stops, or having difficulty turning at tight intersections. Some London bus stops have had to be relocated and routes changed to accommodate the conversion to articulated buses. This was especially evident with 'box junction blocking' in Oxford Street where bendy buses queue nose to tail.

Safety criticisms Edit

Articulated buses in London have a poor safety record, being involved in 75% more accidents and three times as many collisions with cyclists as conventional buses. Transport for London say that articulated buses had a worse safety record because they "encountered more road users" than other buses.[3]

In September 2007, Boris Johnson, the then Conservative Party candidate for the 2008 Mayor of London elections has said that his first act as mayor of London will be to scrap bendy buses and replace them with a 'modern-day Routemaster' with an open rear platform and a conductor, describing the articulated buses as 'cyclist killing'.[4] The then incumbent, Ken Livingstone, referred intemperately to Mr Johnson's accusations as 'wicked fibs', and said that no London cyclist had ever been killed by an articulated bus.[5] During the televised mayoral debate on 8 April 2008, Jeremy Paxman asked Johnson what the cost of his proposal would be twelve times but received no answer.[6]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Bendy-buses withdrawn after fires. BBC News (24 March, 2004). Retrieved on 2007-01-07.
  2. Bendy bus fires 'not connected' BBC News 2 Oct 2007
  3. Bendy buses - the fatal facts. thisislondon (2007-06-07). Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  4. Paul Waugh (2007-09-11). Scrap the bendy bus and bring back Routemasters, says Boris. Evening Standard. Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  5. Template:Citeweb
  6. YouTube - Boris Johnson has no idea how much his proposals cost

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