Transport for London is to spend £212m buying 600 of the Mayor’s New Bus for London vehicles.
Board members were advised that TfL’s mandated use of the buses and the inability to deploy them outside London meant accounting rules would require them to be considered TfL assets even if operators purchased them directly.
The average cost of each bus over the life of the contract, which runs until 2016, is £354,500.
TfL today claimed that the decision to bulk purchase the buses had allowed it “to get a lower unit price” than if operators had bought them directly.
However the announced price contradicts previous statements by Mayor Boris Johnson.
In October 2012, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon questioned the Mayor over industry speculation that the bus was “going to cost £330,000 each.”
In response Mr Johnson said: “the deal that we are able to do with Wrightbus will actually be considerably cheaper and better value for Londoners”.
In September 2009 the Mayor told Green party AM Jenny Jones: “If you look at the current cost of a bus, £250,000, roughly speaking, buys you a new bendy bus. We think that we can get a wonderful new bus for London which will be considerably cleaner, greener, lighter and exactly what this city needs for much less than that”.
TfL says the cost “includes inflation, technical upgrades and mandatory changes including the legal requirement to fit Euro 6 engines to all new vehicles from 2014.”.
However it excludes TfL’s estimated £37m bill for underwriting the cost of the second crew member needed to supervise use of the vehicle’s open rear platform.
In a statement TfL claimed the buses would produce “around four times less” PM and NOx emissions that “the fleet average hybrid bus, and 20 per cent less CO2”, but failed to provide specific emissions figures.
The first production buses will enter service later this year on route 24.
Each vehicle will remain in London for its entire working life, expected to be “at least” 14 years.
Announcing the purchase price, the Mayor said: “We will ensure these buses more than earn their keep over the next few years. By keeping them in harness in the capital for the entirety of their useful life, we will be extracting every last drop of value out of them.”
Commenting on the announcement, Assembly Member Darren Johnson said: “The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project which the next Mayor will abandon as an outdated and polluting waste of money. Londoners’ simply can’t afford the higher fares that will come from paying £37m a year to bus assistants whose only real job is to stop people falling off the rear platform when it is open.
“The reason why these buses will spend their entire life in London is because no one else wants them. That is also the reason why TfL have had to buy the buses themselves, at a premium rate, rather than let the operators have all the upfront costs and risks.
On the issue of emissions, Mr Johnson said: “The Mayor has boasted about the green credentials of these new buses, but they will all have to be retrofitted at the end of next year and made less polluting in order to keep up with the higher standards for all new buses being produced throughout Europe. The Mayor has also refused to come clean on the fuel consumption of the bus by publishing the on the road data they have.”