In the light of the comments on and from Thursday, perhaps I need to revise my views as to whether London is different. It all followed the sotto voce comment on Thursday’s post that went like this:
“… operators switched back to a preferred single door layout. Except, of course, in London, where even the smallest midibus comes with a double dose of doors. This is another area where London is perceived to be different even though it really isn’t.”
Lest I be viewed as some sort of hick from the sticks, I ought to point out that, on occasion, I need to travel to and around London, for work. And, I regarded one particular operating environment where I worked to be as intense as London’s. Here, we had a dual-door policy. Interesting that the buses now deployed are all single door again—and have been successfully for at least 20 years.
I do take the point, though, that there’s a lot of middle-to-middle and short-hop movements in London that make the argument for dual doors more compelling than in some other parts of the country. London is like Trantor: it’s an amorphous mass without a single focus for passenger demand. Short distance passengers are more inclined to tolerate single deck standing (where there are fewer seats that result from dual doors—though tell that to those who complained about crush-loaded bendies. On second thoughts, the complainants weren’t necessarily passengers on them.
Is London, however, so very different to elsewhere? If you accept that it is, if you agree that passengers are continually getting on and off, then by all means punch another door in the side of your bus to help passenger flows. But why go to the lengths of providing a designer model with two staircases? Peter Hendy himself has recently suggested that a (significant?) proportion of the Wrigthtbus NBfLs will not have a rear platform. This, surely, strengthens the case for London adopting provincial (well, ordinary) designs (albeit with dual doors). After all, aside from LT1, LT2 and heritage RMs, aren’t these exactly what we see on London’s streets? Hasn’t London invariably purchased and used ordinary “off-the-shelf” buses in large number and operated them satisfactorily?
I blame the DMS for unnecessarily perpetuating the idea that London needs its own bus design. Since the DMS Daimler Fleetline debacle, no one could quieten the calls for a bespoke London design. The London DM and DMS classes, you may recall, were to be the salvation of London’s transport ills (along with standee Red Arrows). LT sourced well over 2,000 such dual door Daimler Fleetline deckers but they found two problems with them, in spite of their superior accessibility to the RM:
- The first was that they proved unreliable. Strange, this, because the provinces managed with them fine (and even bought young redundant London models).
- Secondly, they were slow to load. This was unsurprising when compared to the London-designed, open platform Routemaster. The DMS never stood a chance.
The mind-set that London needed a specific design continued till the present day. And, Londoners now have one. The bus itself might be somewhat rrelevant to the provinces but I am sure some operators will begin to take design cues from the interior.
And, on the subject, another thing that’s different in London relates to the mayor’s intervention over the “gay cure” bus adverts, all over the news at the moment. Aside from the rights & wrongs of the campaign itself, in which UK city would a mayor have the power to intervene directly over a bus advert? Not in Birmingham or Manchester might a mayor even say “No” to a billboard advert (though they may have views, of course). There, whether the campaign was acceptable or not, would be up to the ASA. What this really is demonstrating is the political dimension to the capital’s bus service, something not present elsewhere.
But it is saying something else. It does show that bus advertisements actually work. Indeed, so potent are they that some provincial operators chose a very different line to London’s. They dare to advertise their own wears on the sides and backs of buses and not someone else’s.