The gradual scrapping of London’s bendy buses is becoming less & less remarkable and newsworthy. So why is it that the media continue to bang on about it so much?
This time last week, the third route, no. 38, saw the last of its Citaro bendies, converted the day after to standard TfL double deck operation. Whether you think replacing 47 articulated Mercedes Citaros with 68 double deck VDL or ADLs makes sense depends upon your viewpoint. If that’s what Londoners really want and they can pay for it, so be it. And pay they will. Media estimates put the additional cost of replacing all three London bendy routes to date at £3.3mil p.a. That’s not counting the cost of any extra emissions.
In theory, there’s a lot going for the bendy bus:
- Most seats are accessible
- Passengers travel on the same level as the driver, reducing anti-social behaviour associated with upper decks
- Artics can soak up peak loads efficiently
- Passengers need not climb to the upper deck to find most seating. Bendies typically seat 49-56 on one level. TfL double decks seat 22-26 down stairs
- There’s more space for buggies and wheelchairs
- Passengers are not throttled between the entrance & staircase and can move around easier
- There are more opportunities to get out in an emergency
- The buses are nominally as manoeuvrable as or more so than a 12m rigid
- They are successfully in operation in congested European cities that are no less constrained when compared to England
London’s decisions to abandon (all but one of?) its artic routes leaves a surfeit of bendies that may yet prove useful elsewhere. Interest to date hasn’t been especially strong but if the rumours circulating are true as to where some might emerge, there are some more surprises ahead, at least at the demonstration stage. In spite of the benefits, we still can’t see artics taking off outside London, even if double decks remain in long-term provincial decline. Or, rather, it would take a brave person to forecast the popularity of the bendy, even at its early 21st century peak.
TfL 38 runs to a remarkable timetable. Buses operate at 2-minute intervals at peak (every minute from Hackney Central 0659-0713 except 0707); from 0848 every three minutes; then 3-4 minutes off-peak. Evening buses are 10-12 per hour.