Friday, 11 January 2008

More on RMXL

Other 21st Century Routemaster-related posts

Routemaster RMXL
Buses on the Agenda
Boris on Board

For those who feel we've devoted enough space to the RMXL, this is the last post on the subject.

“If you told Londoners that a new double-decker had been designed, with no heating, a big hole in the back so you could fall off, and a conductor who might grunt at you but hardly ever collect fares, then they’d hate it. But mention the ‘R’ word…” So said respected trade journal, routeONE.

It’s interesting how the transport media treated the redesigned Routemaster RMXL. For instance, routeONE wasn’t impressed at all, with hardly a serious word for it. Transit was more measured, treating RMXL less in passing, with more balance but nonetheless lining up the big guns to dismiss it. Mainstream media showed a more lively interest, including the artic-hating London Evening Standard.

And that’s the difference, perhaps, between transport professional and the public. People often think they know more about buses than professionals. If that sounds a little arrogant, it’s actually true of many occupations. Education and government spring to mind, and medicine, and tackling congestion, and policing. All these are public services. Even outside London transport is still viewed as a public asset, not the commercial operation it really is. The public feels they have a stake in their bus service.

Sometimes, the public mood is so strong that it takes politicians with it. Classic transport example—the government dropped plans for a national congestion charge. In the case of the RMXL, it’s really caught the mood. Or, rather, the designers have caught London’s mood. We’re as yet unsure the extent to which campaigning London mayoral candidates will use the RMXL as a lever for votes, but it looks highly likely.

Will they be deterred when cost are known, for development and the on-going premium to re-employ conductors? Not that it will be especially easy to recruit and retain conductors to work shifts for a seven-day week operation. Drivers are hard enough to find.

Yesterday's post on the RMXL drew a solitary comment. Busmaster pointed to some flaws in the RMXL design and how they might be rectified. One other is the vehicle’s length and wheelbase. With the upper deck apparently holding two more rows of seats, RMXL’s longer than the old RML. The wheelbase is certainly long and it’s hard to see how much more manoeuvrable the RMXL would be than a bendy bus Citaro.

If all that doesn’t persuade Londoners to leave the RMXL on the drawing board, perhaps it’s safety that will really kill off the design—unless it’s modified beyond recognition. In which case, why not call it an ADL 400 or Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini?


Martin said...

Funnily enough, here in Manchester the owner of Bluebird is calling for a return of conductors.


Martin said...

Or even just
seeing as the URL is too long for the column!

Busmaster said...

I can't believe two-person crews will ever return to urban transit operations - except possibly on a bendy when fare evaders become troublesome. Local politics aside, the operating costs are too high, but then we all knew that, right?

Agree, too, that if it were not for the new motive power question the RMXL concept would have been better as an Enviro, et al.

cogidubnus said...

In an uncharacteristically intemperate manner, I have to say: "Pah" (Polite term for bollocks).

With wages typically comprising well in excess of 40% of total costs, is it really likely that any operator, on the slim margins you've recently described, is going to go back down the conductor path?

In case you're wondering, that's what is usually called a rhetorical question...

And before any clown starts talking about savings accruing from less sophisticated ticket machines, forget it... At least as far as the big boys are concerned, the Electronic Ticket Machine/Destination Display/Scheduling Package/Real Time Info/Electronic Registration etc etc tie ins are already far too far down the line to change course now...

And isn't it wonderful how rosy can be painted the last few years of conductors in London...I travelled there on average only perhaps a dozen times a year - and yet each time I travelled on an RM the crooked, dishonest, thieving (do you detect a theme here?), conductor pocketed my money and issued no ticket (usually spending most of the journey sprawled across the rear transverse seats).

What an example for the industry! RMXL? You can stuff it...

RMs forever! said...

I might have missed something, but I thought Tfl tendered for routes, therefore if an RXML (and hence Conductors) is called for, then all operators will cost for it. The issue is not cost for operators, but the public. The statement "ongoing premium" is a point of view opinion, many travellers will appreciate the security at least, never mind speed of travel, and possibly one-to-one customer service. Old-fashioned out-moded concepts to the 'professionals' I guess.