Conductors on Boris Johnson’s flagship New Routemaster bus are to be removed as part of Transport for London’s cost-cutting drive.
The second crew members were introduced to supervise use of the bus’s opening rear platform, one of its key features which was lauded by the former Mayor as a return to the glory days of the original hop-on, hop-off Routemaster bus.“We can no longer justify the £10m of extra costs that could otherwise be invested in modernising the transport network”
Despite their job title, the staff do not sell or check tickets.
Unlike bus drivers, the conductors are paid for by TfL and some estimates suggest the cost to taxpayers could be as high as £37m.
Cuts in government grants and the need to make savings to pay for the four-year fares freeze pledged by Johnson’s successor, Sadiq Khan, are forcing TfL to reexamine spending across all of its operations.
Earlier cost-cutting rounds already forced TfL to introduce the bus on some additional routes with only one crew member, meaning that the rear platform must remain closed when the bus is in motion and only open at bus stops.
Now the agency’s latest efficiency drive is to see the crew members removed from 6 routes, ending the use of the rear platform across the entire fleet.
The agency says the move will save £10m per year without impacting on customer satisfaction scores and has promised to work with bus operators to identify alternative jobs for the affected staff.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “The conductors on these routes have done a great job, but the New Routemaster routes that don’t have conductors also operate very effectively and we can no longer justify the £10m of extra costs that could otherwise be invested in modernising the transport network.
“We are now working with the bus companies to find conductors other opportunities within the transport industry so they can continue to play a part in keeping London moving.”
First entering service in 2012, the buses have proven an controversial addition to London’s bus fleet with critics questioning the high development costs and TfL’s decision to deviate from it’s usual business practice by buying the buses and supplying them to operators, rather than expecting operators to purchase their own vehicles, and their eco-credentials.
In addition, the lack of opening windows has led to repeated complaints about high and stifling temperatures inside the vehicles.
After defending the New Routemaster’s air-cooling system, TfL bosses and City Hall finally bowed to public pressure last year and announced that all vehicles would be retrofitted with opening windows.
Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, said: “The whole point of the new Routemaster buses was that you could jump on and off them. This was their raison d’être.
“The reality is that the new Routemaster buses were horrendously expensive to purchase and have been plagued with faults, including overheating in the Summer months and serious problems with their batteries.
“London has paid and will continue to pay an incredible price for Boris Johnson’s obsession with the new Routemaster bus.”