By Jenny Jones AM, leader of the Green Party on the London Assembly and Green Party Mayoral candidate for 2012
I agree with Boris Johnson’s comments in the Telegraph that the new bus for London is symbolic of his reign as mayor. It has undoubted style, but when the full costs are revealed will London want to keep it?
Around £10 million spent so far has put two buses on the road with six more promised by the summer.
The development costs of any prototype are going to be expensive and normally don’t really matter much if you plan to build thousands of these vehicles in future years. The manufacturer was selected on the basis they’d make at least 600, bringing the cost down.
Except Boris’s new bus needs an extra member of staff at the back, setting us back £62,000 per bus. If you had 600 buses driving around, that’s £37m a year.
That member of staff can’t even collect fares, meaning it could be little different to the bendy bus when it comes to expensive fare evasion.
Boris Johnson intends to force operators to use this bus, making the contracts more expensive. They won’t be given an option to choose the best bus from the best manufacturer and the best price. So these costs will be carried by Transport for London and that means higher fares.
But is the bus any better? He has tried to persuade greens that it’s a wonderfully clean bus, emitting very few pollutants. Well it’s true that it’s better than most other buses on the market, but at 10% better than existing hybrids is it worth the money?
The real farce is that this £10m could have been used to buy lots of clean hybrid buses, helping the Mayor keep his now-broken promise to make sure all new buses were hybrids by the start of this year. Instead only 56 of the 800 new buses bought in the coming year will be hybrid.
London’s polluted air is the second biggest public health problem after smoking. We need swift action to replace or improve our entire bus and taxi fleets, not a vanity icon.
• Boris’s 9-point plan is a bridge to nowhere 5 Mar 2012
• Boris is doing Londoners out of £1.2 billion a year 3 Feb 2012
• Boris fiddles as London prepares for transport chaos 19 Oct 2011
As Mayor I would refuse to waste any more money on this bus and would withdraw the extra subsidy. If operators want it then they can buy it, but I will not impose the extra costs upon them. Instead I will focus upon delivering real improvements to air quality using the best and cleanest buses the market provides. It won’t be fancy, or eye catching - but I know it will work.