Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Strategic Thinking

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, Infrastructure, London, Metro by Chairman Pip on 27 December 2010

You may have noticed that there was a Tube strike yesterday, the day after Christmas, the day that the sales begin, the day of a full football programme. I certainly noticed this, because I was out in it, as West Ham were away to Fulham. Normally, getting from where I live to Craven Cottage would have involved a journey on the District Line to Putney Bridge, and the travel by bus would be minimal. But, given how little information there was as to the extent of the strike, and the fact that kick-off was at noon, there was no way I was going to risk the Tube and get there late. So I decided to bus it. And the one that I found myself on first was a 453, a route that currently uses the Mercedes-Benz Citaro G articulated bus. An experience I have no wish to repeat any time soon. Because it was yesterday that finally allowed me to formulate my objections about “bendy buses” into a single coherent argument – the driver has no control. In London, in the years that doored buses have been used, a protocol has developed over the use of the doors. The doors at the front are for entry, and for the paying of fares to the driver (because they are one man operation), while the doors in the middle are for exit. That has always been the rule. With the use of “bendy buses”, this rule has been thrown out. Because they are high capacity, much higher than other buses in use, you can’t have everyone using the front doors, so all three sets of doors are now considered to be for entry as well as exit. But, this seemingly gives people license to try and push their way on in exactly the same way as is done with trains, causing more and more people to end up squashed together. On any non-articulated bus, because the passengers all enter by the driver, he or she can see exactly how many people have got on and are getting on, and judge when the bus is at capacity and act accordingly (i.e. by shutting the doors). And so, this is why the “bendy buses” introduced and beloved by Chairman Ken are not right for what they are being used for, and why Boris Johnson is right to have them withdrawn.

However, that is not to say that they do not have a purpose, and I’ve been giving thought to exactly what that purpose could be. We’re all aware of the idea of Bus Rapid Transit. While this might not seem to be especially important in London, given that the city has both a large metro system and an extensive heavy rail network, as well as a huge bus network, BRT could well prove to be of use even here. While it would be difficult to implement the traditional idea of BRT, with long segregated routes, it could certainly be possible to introduce (or re-introduce) the idea of express bus routes, that only stop at key points, such as transport hubs (railway, tube or bus stations) along key strategic corridors. This may then have the effect of creating what are almost “pseudo-metro” routes at a fraction of  the cost and inconvenience of building brand new light rail lines, which would improve connectivity of areas that may be poorly served by the Tube, or the rail network in gaining fast connections into the centre of the city. What it would also do is ensure that the investment in the procurement of the articulated buses for London is not wasted, as they would be ideal for these kind of strategic corridor routes.

Articulated buses aren't suitable for London's stop/start bus network. But they may be suitable to act on strategic express corridor routes linking transport hubs together


2 Responses

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  1. […] in London, as there are simply too many narrow, twisty streets for them to navigate with ease. I wrote of an experience on one last Christmas, during a tube strike, which focused everything into one […]

  2. […] London on that day, one of which is Arsenal v West Ham, which I plan to go to. You may remember the difficulty I had getting to a Boxing Day fixture away to Fulham a couple of years ago, which will likely be similar […]

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