Monday, 8 July 2013

Crammed in, in Camden—Pt 3

Recent posts on the LT-class New Bus for London:

Crammed in, in Camden—Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Surely not another London Post (combined comments on these three = over 100)

Omnibuses’ Northern Correspondent and I have been on safari, heading for London’s Serengeti, to hunt elephant—those urban elephants with “noble and domelike brows”. In part 1, we concentrated on the customer assistants’ role, concluding the CAs were very different to their conductor predecessors. In part 2, we looked at the design. New it’s the turn of propulsion.

Hybrid drives have been with us for, what, fewer than a dozen years. Hands up who remember the early hybrid Optare Tempos, Wright Electrocities and the early promise of Transbus that was never to be. The Electrocity as used in London was believed to be the first bus of its kind—another first for Wright?—but I actually recall Optare products pre-dating them by some years, perhaps as early as 2004, perhaps even in collaboration with others, I don’t know.

Those very early hybrids, before the Electrocity, were strong on power but short on reliability. They were also very “rough” if you get my meaning, with the drive management systems asking their smaller-than-usual diesel engines to work quite hard. The result was an altogether unsatisfactory situation where engines would race—and I mean race—while the vehicle was waiting at traffic signals, as if the driver was somehow impatient to depart, flooring the throttle while out of gear. The main problem was getting them to work, though; that was a real problem.

Things have matured, for example, with today’s 400Hs and B5Ls we see hybrid technology that’s not yet commonplace but is certainly familiar enough to become credible. The industry still sweats about what will happen when the batteries need changing but, till then, today’s hybrids are just as flexible as diesels.

Yet, several trips on the New Bus for London seemed better still.

  • What was surprising was the amount of time the bus operated on battery power compared to other hybrid deckers. It seemed noticeably longer in London on service 24.

  • It has to be said that the transition from diesel to electric power was the smoothest we have seen. On “ordinary” hybrids, this can be variable and there always appears to be a “kick” as the diesel starts to top up the battery, sometimes slight and sometimes quite marked. This was less noticeable, if at all, on the LT-class. Smooth.

  • The LT-class also demonstrated a good turn of speed. Subject, of course, to London traffic conditions, acceleration was excellent, where it could be achieved.

The result was a very refined product but, on the down side, it did seem noisier than expected, most pronounced when seated downstairs (obviously). Upstairs, to the front of a crammed in bus in Camden, with the air condition (actually) working full tilt, the noise intrusion was more likely from the air-con itself.

That said, reports this weekend suggest that the windowless Borismaster is proving a little too hot to handle from a passenger perspective. A fortnight ago, one driver commented of the Borismaster air-con, “When it works”. And the bus was also brand new, back then. Passengers to date have been happy with their new icon; is the honeymoon over so soon?

But, all told, I’d say that this was the best hybrid on which either of us has ridden. Perhaps one day Leon Daniels might actually let me drive one : ) Leon?

As for their fuel saving potential, there’s a lot of scepticism out there about the Boris Bus. Given their potential and the pre-production claims, the early trials seem disappointing. But, based 600 in service, each over its estimated 14-year life, and based on the prototypes’ figures, TfL’s contractors will save over 5,000,000 gallons of fuel over an “ordinary” hybrid. Once they bed in, TfL expect economy in squadron service to increase and, if it does, the saving would run to over 6,000,000 gallons.

Upper image from a blog supporter

To be continued…

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

At the outrageous price these buses should be perfection.

PauLeven

fatbusbloke said...

fbb rode the length of route 24 and back on Saturday (of which more blogging to come in due course!). There is no doubt that the air-con (or whatever) was working on both the fbb journeys, so much so that you couldn't hear any engine noise at all on the top deck; there is also no doubt that is was hopelessly inadequate for a hot day. The buses were lightly loaded. Bring back opening windows, PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Air Con units are always vastly under specified for the harsh environment of a bus and also lack the sophisticated controls needed to keep the temperature even. The result is normally the constant breakdown or cutting out of the units because they cannot cope

A lot of problems are already being seen with the air con with only a few days of use. Give it a few months and most will have failed

Anonymous said...

Before all the negative comments start...

If this very same bus had been commissioned by Red Ken, enthusiasts would love it.

Anonymous said...

Agree, they do seem very quiet. You don't hear all the constant clicking that you get with a B5LH.

Anonymous said...

A. Red ken would not have designed that.

B. We need open windows

C. Get rid of air con, get in force air.

Anonymous said...

Here is a wild guess...the pole attendants will be told to buy bottles of water to give to gasping dehydrated passengers whenever the aircon conks out.

Many years back,when a train load of passengers suffered severe heat exhaustion,and one had a heart attack I think, on a Wessex Electric class 442 unit in the New Forest owing to power failure(sealed windows throughout),a missive was issued by SWT to fit t-key opening windows to the doors of all 442s and the saloons of 159 units if memory serves me right.

Will it take medical emergency to make the Tfl wise ones do something similar with these 'state-of-the-art' machines?

Anonymous said...

The reason the Borismasters are 'so smooth' is because the engine in it is not involved in the drive process, it is only there to provide power to the electrical systems, etc. The vehicles drive on pure electric power. This is unlike a Volvo B5LH which uses a combination of both electric and its diesel engine to drive.

Anonymous said...

Hybrid drives in London date back long before Wrights, or Optare ... Messrs. Tilling and Stevens were involved, I believe.

Neil said...

Pretty sure Wessies and 159s have had lockable windows since day 1.

Neil

Anonymous said...

.
Three points:-

I'm told that opening windows simply can NOT be fitted to 'Borismasters'

Presumably the air-con is limited by space and weight considerations ?

The CA/conductor has no space to keep bottles of water.

.

Anonymous said...

Weren't the prototypes cooking people last summer?

I know the first half of last summer was pretty poor but much of August was good.

RC169 said...

Anonymous said...

"Hybrid drives in London date back long before Wrights, or Optare ... Messrs. Tilling and Stevens were involved, I believe."

I don't think those Tilling-Stevens petrol-electrics would count as hybrids, since (as far as I know) they could not be driven without the petrol engine running.

James said...

TfL’s contractors will save over 5,000,000 gallons of fuel over an “ordinary” hybrid.

Not by the time they've fixed the air-con to work properly...

Running air-con on a vehicle that's going to struggle to do 20mph most of the time is stupidly wasteful: at that speed the only sensible answer is opening windows.

Padbus said...

Buses in Hong Kong have full aircon. The climate there is warmer than London and traffic is heavy. If it can work there, it should be possible to get it to work in London.

Of course, in Hong Kong, a bus the size of an NB4L would have three axles, presumably because of the weight of the aircon plant.

Steve said...

"Before all the negative comments start...

If this very same bus had been commissioned by Red Ken, enthusiasts would love it."

Stupid comment for a number of reasons. As already stated, he wouldn't have commissioned the bus, enthusiasts didn't exactly take to the bendies, and the only people who seem to like the Borismaster are some enthusiasts.

paul said...

Thanks for the updates. Perhaps Busing, Northern Correspondent or a commenter can advise whether the drive technology is proprietary to the NBfL, or could it be applied to other models? If the latter, then one of the bus's supposed advantages will be short-lived, as other vehicles catch up (although if it's at London prices, there may not be so many takers).

Anonymous said...

159s had lockable windows but got extras added meaning even if the air con dies you have more than 2 opening windows and they can be quite effective at speed

SEV 777 said...

It's not just buses and trains that have problems with air conditioning. A local car mechanic tells me that most cars over about three years old don't have working aircon because it's too expensive to fix it when compared with the value of the vehicle. Maybe it's something that shouldn't be fitted to vehicles until the technology can be made reliable.

Anonymous said...

"Steve said...
"Before all the negative comments start...

If this very same bus had been commissioned by Red Ken, enthusiasts would love it."

Stupid comment for a number of reasons. As already stated, he wouldn't have commissioned the bus, enthusiasts didn't exactly take to the bendies, and the only people who seem to like the Borismaster are some enthusiasts.
08 July, 2013 20:37"

Oh Stevie, not a 'stupid' comment, it was Ken that could never make his mind up about Routemasters, first he wanted them, even bought them up on mass from preservationists and refurbished them then he decided he didn't want them. I seem to recall most enthusiasts liking the 'bendies' AKA articulated buses, but with their few seats, most facing the wrong direction or over wheal arches, it was the public that didn't take to them. The same public who see NBFL as a new icon and turn their heads or take a photo when they see one...


plcd1 said...

I think it is the case that the NB4L has an air cooling system rather than air conditioning. Apparently TfL have stated that air conditioning is not a worthwhile investment on buses due to the frequent opening and closing of doors. They also cited market research which showed passengers preferred air cooling rather than air conditioning. Conventional double deckers now have air cooling units but retain opening windows.

@ Padbus - quite correct that buses in the Far East have air conditioning. Many of those vehicles are of UK manufacture so the UK has the requisite expertise to create a properly air conditioned vehicle. Whether full refrigerant based air con is *really* justified in the UK is open to question. We are lucky if we get more than 10 days of really soaring temperatures and high humidity in the UK. HK and Singapore are very different and I can certainly vouch for the lovely chill on a bus in those places. Of course HK has now allowed two axle double deckers with full air con to come into service. Citybus and KMB have reasonable numbers of such buses now - most are Alexander Dennis E40Ds. In the context of the NB4L we need to understand why buses with poorly calibrated / unmodified cooling systems were allowed into service. It's claimed it's all fixed now but I'm sure the media are out with their electronic thermometers to find out!

I do wish someone could dig out some actual evidence as to what Ken Livingstone did say about bendy buses and Routemasters (other than the infamous moron quote). It's my understanding that TfL were given a policy direction and told to get on with it. I have yet to see any evidence that Ken specifically instructed the adoption of more Routemasters or mandated the introduction of bendy buses in the same way that Boris has linked himself inextricably with the NB4L. I liked the bendy buses but recognise that people disliked standing for longish distances on them. I think the amount of money thrown at "vehicle change policies" in London is not far off being a scandal. I'd exclude legitimate changes which bring double decks in place of overcrowded single decks or larger single decks in place of overloaded "midi" vehicles.

Anonymous said...

OK...imagine you are top dog,or bitch,at TfL for the day and have total authority.What would you change,or decide to introduce? How about bringing back something really batty from days gone by,or something completely nuts.Forget the expense,this is London,so think big.

I'll kick off with a monorail route mounted down the centre of the Thames,as it is an underused clearway through the middle of the city. Over to you folks...

plcd1 said...

@ Anon 1538 - OK I'll bite but I'll try to be a bit sensible.

I would review the efficiency of TfL and aim for a headcount reduction of at least 15%. This would release cash for service improvements.

I would immediately review the entire bus network with a view to rebalancing resource (e.g. between Sats and Suns) but I would be aiming for an ongoing programme of bus service expansion - route coverage, capacity, frequencies, limited stop services.

I would try to come up with a way of sharing some TfL bus revenue with operators in return for them investing / innovating with things like vehicle quality / passenger facilites. This would be over and above normal contract payments.

I would increase the coverage and enforcement of bus priority to improve reliability still further. I would significantly expand the provision of Countdown signs at stops and other locations.

I'd probably put bus fares up a bit but would introduce an interchange bus fare which was cheaper than 2 singles to encourage interchange based journeys.

I'd build at least 2 new fully automatic tube lines. I'd put in place a long term programme of rail / tube / DLR station capacity enhancement across London.

I'd take over all London suburban train services and put in place a programme of capacity and service enhancements and use "concessions" for the contracted framework. This would probably take 20 years to complete as there are significant and costly issues to resolve. I would use the "financial risk" monies released from not using a franchise approach for service improvements.

I'd extend the DLR to Dagenham Dock. I'd build the Cross River tram line.

I'd get the brains behind Crossrail2 together and bash their heads together so we get some sort of rational route! I'm really not convinced about current proposals.

I would not buy any more NB4Ls. I would look to introduce a progressive conversion of the busiest bus corridors to tram / trolleybus / all electric service.

I would not build monorails down the Thames ;-)

Haj-Dow said...

I'll see your monorail and raise you one, Anon 15:38!

I propose scrapping the Borismasters on the 24, and replacing them with tram - trains that continue on from Hampstead Heath to terminate at St Albans....

All cross-river routes (RV1 etc) shall henceforth be operated by amphibious buses (Aquamasters, maybe?) and run via the Thames.

Anonymous said...

.
Surely the main change needed for the longer term has to be the eventual creation of a full tram (light rail) network. Everything in recent years has been very short-termism or even heading backwards. Who on earth would see any sense whatosever in moving back from artics to conductor operation ?.

Cancel the NBfL, it really isn't needed. Get those rails laid asap - perhaps the 18 would be a good start.

.

B.E.T. said...

Build the Cross River Tram (using Bombardier's induction charging technology, this avoiding all that overhead clutter and reducing infrastructure costs) with a spur at Holborn Tube station to serve New Oxford Street/Oxford Street, thus ending the wall of red buses in one fell swoop!

Now, if only I was Mayor...

British Electric Traction said...

I would also crack on with Crossrail 2 and get on with planning Crossrail 3!

RC169 said...

paul said...

"...advise whether the drive technology is proprietary to the NBfL, or could it be applied to other models? If the latter, then one of the bus's supposed advantages will be short-lived..."

That risk applies to any successful technical innovation. The Daimler Fleetline imitated the Leyland Atlantean, and, with it, Daimler gained customers such as the SBG, to some extent at the expense of Leyland and Bristol.

The price differential of the NBfL compared to other hybrid 'deckers is not that great - about 8 - 9% - and the vehicle is larger and has more doors and staircases, which would no doubt add something to the price of the competing types if a version in that configuration were available.

Malc said...

"Steve said...
"Before all the negative comments start...

If this very same bus had been commissioned by Red Ken, enthusiasts would love it."

For some reason, there are large numbers of enthusiasts who vilify Ken Livingstone. Why would that be?

Could it be because, while Ken Livingstone was Mayor, London's bus mileage grew by around 30%?

Or that passenger numbers over the same period grew by around 50%?

Or was it something to do with a few hundred old-fashioned, expensive-to-run buses being retired ?

Under Ken Livingstone's mayoralty, a new type of bus was introduced to London. Did enthusiasts love it?

Anonymous said...

Surely the eight prototypes would have showed up any defeciencies in the Air cooling system (last summer)? and if so, presumably modifications would have been put in place for the production models? in which case, why is the Air cooling failing now?

Anonymous said...

Anon 21:21 - The eight prototypes did show up the failure of the air cooling system, and had to all be taken out of service.

A year later, and the same problem happens to the production models. A year well spent...

Haj-Dow said...

On Thursday I was in London, so decided to travel on a NBfL from Victoria to Camden Town. After waiting over fifteen minutes for a bus to arrive, we boarded LT17 by the rear doors and sat upstairs at the front - only for my companion to find that he couldn't fit his legs in the space available, despite being around 5'8". We retreated to a seat behind the front staircase, and found the air conditioning to be working fairly well although it was still warm-ish on the top deck. I found the small windows made it claustrophobic, and the seats with their sculpted backs rather uncomfortable. Having said that, the bus seems to go fairly well when the traffic allowed - and it was quite a novelty simply jumping off the bus at some traffic lights (complete with warning from the conductor about cyclists), rather than waiting to arrive at a stop.

One thing that did perplex me was the iBus system repeated messages such as:
"Please board by any door if you have a oyster or contactless vard" - yes, the text readout did say "vard"......what is the thought behind telling people how to board, when they are already on the bus and have doubtless figured it out already?

Its not terrible to travel on, but I didn't feel it was as comfortable as a Volvo B5LH.