Actually, the transformation in theory took place on Saturday, upon TfL’s introduction of a new weekend 507 service on what has to date been Mondays to Fridays only.
Bendies RIP 2002-2009. In 2002, Red Arrow routes 507 and 521 were the first to receive artics. After the 507 is converted back, the 521 which also serves Waterloo will followWhat’s happened here is that the new Mayor is committed to spend a reputed £60mil in removing bendies by 2011, though this may take till 2015. Is this a whim? No. He has a clear mandate following bendies being central to his election campaign.
To convert the 507 route, TfL has increased:
- The PVR from nine to 15 and, overall, this increases the amount of roadspace taken up by the previously articulated 507s by one whole artic.
- The frequency from every five to three to four minutes at its height.
- Bus miles by a third, though remember this includes new weekend running.
- Peak passenger capacity by three per cent.
- Its premium per annum of £215,000 p.a. to replace the existing artics with new rigids.
507 route as portrayed on Whatbus?!
One reason campaigners cite for the removal of artics is fares evasion. Well, to cope with the crush loadings seen at peak, the Red Arrow Citaro 507 rigids will unorthodoxly allow boarding as well as alighting at the centre exits. Those who travelled free on an artic on Friday can therefore easily continue to do so on a rigid today. Balanced against this, however, is the high proportion of commuters using the 507 whose season tickets already include their bus fare. The proportion of fares evasion on the 507 is lower than average, in any case.
The 507 isn’t suitable for double decks as it shares resources with the single deck only 521 though this will hardly stop traditionalists continuing to call for decker reintroduction. This is because the rigid Citaro mirrors the London Transport AEC single deck Red Arrows of the 60s and 70s in offering a good deal of reservoir standing space and few seats—now 21 to be exact. Passengers dislike standing though they’re surely used to it on the 507. But a 10m double deck seating 75+ would be a disaster on such a short distance, high footfall route. With few seats downstairs on a decker these days, you’re no better off. Because passengers continually board and alight over what is no more than a 20 minute journey, there’s no incentive to mount the stairs. Those wishing to will simply slow everyone down as they fight their way through standing passengers and try to negotiate opposing passengers on the stairs themselves.
All this leaves the knotty question of what TfL will do with its young, redundant artics. Adverts in the trade press have failed to shift them. Meanwhile, even on Friday, London Travelwatch is still questioning the value to the public purse of the withdrawal programme and there are hints emerging that TfL may yet retain some of them in service...