The head of City Hall’s spending watchdog has slammed Transport for London’s plans for an “unbudgeted” purchase of 165 more New Routemaster buses.
On September 2nd TfL’s head of surface transport, Leon Daniels, told London Assembly Members the organisation “do not have any plans” to purchase any more of the vehicles beyond the 805 already commissioned.“By refusing to publish a business case for the decision, passengers are again being left in the dark.”
John Biggs AM
TfL’s deal with manufacturers Wrightbus means the agency won’t own the full intellectual property rights to the bus’s design until it’s purchased 1,000 of the vehicles.
Asked at a public meeting whether there was “any likelihood” of further orders, Mr Daniels replied: “We could order another 200 New Routemasters inside the current deal that we have with Wrightbus. We do not have any plans to do so at present.
“To enlarge on that, that is partially because the opportunity for high-capacity, long, three-door double-deckers has its limitations. There is not an infinite supply of routes that these particular types of vehicles could go onto.”
Since that meeting TfL managers have sought approval to order 30 more of the £350,000 vehicles to avoid Wrightbus axing their production lines.
Papers discussed by the TfL Finance and Policy Committee earlier this month justified the request on the grounds that: “Placing an order now will enable Wrightbus to maintain the operation of one of the two current production lines, which keeps open a more cost effective option for purchasing additional vehicles, if TfL chooses to do so.
“If both production lines were to close, it would increase the cost of any subsequent order due to the need to remobilise production.”
It’s since emerged that managers have fully reversed their September 2nd position and are now seeking approval for an order of 195 vehicles, including the previously requested 30.
The full board will be asked next week “to approve additional unbudgeted Financial, Project and Procurement Authority for the purchase of up to 195 additional New Routemaster (NRM) buses.”
Papers setting out the rationale behind the proposed purchase have been exempted from publication.
Commenting on the request, John Biggs AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee, said: “It’s deeply disappointing to learn that TfL is set to grant itself permission to order up to 200 extra Routemasters, when it explicitly told the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee in September it had “no plans” to do so.
“There may or may not be good business reasons for doing this, but by refusing to publish a business case for the decision, passengers are again being left in the dark.
“Given the costs involved and the pressures on TfL’s budget, surely this decision should be decided transparently by the next Mayor, shortly to be elected by Londoners – and not behind a veil of secrecy by TfL officers.”