London’s bus chief has denied that dozens of drivers assigned to one of the routes operating Boris Johnson’s flagship New Routemaster bus have raised concerns over the vehicle’s safety.
Transport expert and potential Mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar has today written of a ‘dossier’ detailing “many faults” on the vehicles which he says has been collated by drivers operating out of Holloway Garage.
Among the concerns said to have been raised are issues with non-charging batteries requiring the buses, which are billed as “the cleanest and greenest” of their kind, to operate full-time on their diesel engines. Mr Wolmar says that this allegation, if true, would mean that claims about the New Routemaster’s environmental credentials “are a con”.
Further, this claimed reliance on the diesel engines is said to be causing the bus to respond “slowly when moving off at bus stops or traffic lights.” According to Mr Wolmar’s dossier this means “other road users start hooting and shouting, resulting in slower traffic and potential accidents.”
It’s also claimed that “if the bus is on an incline, it can roll back when the driver disengages the handbrake, even though s/he is applying the accelerator.”
Mr Wolmar says drivers have also raised concerns that some “buses disengage from gears on flat ground or even on slopes. If this happens, the dashboard lights up with lots of warning lights and the whole bus has to be restarted, a frustrating sequence that delays journeys and angers passengers.”
Wolmar has called for an “urgent” review of the procurement process used to buy the buses and for their operation to be assessed “by an independent panel of experts.”
However Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at Transport for London, says bus operator Metroline, which operates the Holloway Garage, “are not aware of any issues arising from changes between electric and hybrid modes in service and they have had no such problems reported to them by their drivers.”
He added: “However, concerns have been raised previously about the performance of the batteries on the earlier vehicles.
“An improved battery design was introduced on new deliveries and any older ones which fail are repaired or replaced. This has all been done by the manufacturers within the warranty period, at no cost to TfL, or the fare or tax payer.”