Bendies could be Boris undoing

Interesting evidence emerging about the cost of Boris Johnson’s promise to scrap bendy buses is set to put the mayor on the spot. London Travelwatch has pressed Transport for London on the effects of the transition and the results do not look good for the scheme. From a detailed analysis of three routes – the 38, 507 and 521, it is obvious that there would be no space saving on London’s streets since more buses would be required; dwell times, and therefore journey times would be longer; and there would be added costs from having to hire more drivers and run extra buses, quite apart from having to dispose of perfectly workable vehicles with a long life ahead of them.
My view is that while bendy buses are inelegant, and some are routed round inappropriate streets, they are excellent on big thoroughfares where lots of people get on and off frequently. While I have no love for them, I have to admit that the route I use the most, the 29 running up and down Camden Road, certainly now provides a better service than when it was run by routemasters. The buses are more regular, are rarely completely full and it easier to get on and off. The London Travelwatch research backs this up and suggests that much of the fuss about their introduction has been got up by the media, especially the Evening Standard. Interestingly, the organisation is calling for attitudinal research on the buses. I suspect it would reveal that some Londoners like them, rather fewer loathe them and most don’t, in the words of Rhett Butler, ‘give a damn’.
David Cameron probably does. The Boris watch website has picked up on the issue, too and it is clear that if the mayor presses ahead with scrapping the buses, whatever the expense, he will get into hot water with both the public and his leader. Watch for a measured retreat, as there will be over the western extension of the congestion charge.

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