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Monday, 21 April 2014

Year of the Bus underway

The modern cars and cabs give away that this is not the 1950s!
Our 2014 Year of the Bus is well underway and we have enjoyed several special bus events so far including the old and the new. Last Saturday, Londoners and visitors alike were treated to a feast of 1950s nostalgia. Celebrating 75 years since the RT-type bus entered service on route 22, a whole fleet of them joined into that days' operation.

After running most of the day between Homerton and Piccadilly Circus, the fleet headed for Putney Common and then onto Brooklands where the London Bus Museum was hosting a major event.

That evening I was delighted to be speaking at the Museum’s dinner. How things had changed I reminded everyone: in the early days - the night before the traditional Spring curtain-raiser we would have a Chinese takeaway before a short sleep ahead of the arrival of visitors. These days our dinner in the Brooklands Clubhouse includes white tablecloths and wine.

This tells a particular story – the Museum coming of age. Now it is a proper and increasingly accredited museum accessing funding from numerous sources and telling an important story about bus transport inside a larger transport museum.

I reminded all present of the hard work and sacrifices made by the founders. Having given up their jobs and mortgaged their homes, they established a proper museum for London’s buses against all conventional wisdom. Now we have a place where the public pay to visit and enjoy the collection.

The Museum’s original prime mover, founder and Secretary Alan Allmey was tragically killed along with his wife in a 1978 car crash. His co-founder Prince Marshall died from complications after an illness in 1981. Those that followed have transformed their passion and interest into a professional Museum that has kept pace with the changing world.

I remember that era well and am proud to recount those early days. I am also in a very privileged position to be part of the future. And forward it is with Year of the Bus now well underway with many more events to come.

More silver LTs are joining the fleet to support
Year of the Bus activities. A simpler livery has been adopted.
More silver New Routemasters will soon be joining London's fleet as we move closer to our major event on 22nd June. A closed Regent Street will play host to a cavalcade of London buses from the horse bus to present day buses.

Year of the Bus is celebrating the hard work of London’s bus staff, our heritage, the technology and of course how the bus services are the life blood of our city getting over 6m people a day to work, to school, to shopping and everywhere else!

Have you seen the special bus stop signs and logos adorning the network across London?

Further event details are listed on YOTB events.

Next up in our busy calendar is the conversion of route 10 to New Routemaster on 26th April whilst in the meantime deliveries well into the 200s mean we are already stockpiling vehicles for route 38 and others this year. Here is LT232 awaiting delivery from the factory to Arriva.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope

Sarah Hope (left) with her sister Victoria and Mayor Boris Johnson
Photo: Paul Grover for Daily Telegraph
In 2007 Sarah Hope and her family were involved in a tragic accident involving a bus in South West London. Sarah’s mother was killed, Sarah herself was injured and her daughter, Pollyanna who was 2 years old at the time, lost a leg.

I have met and spoken with Sarah and her husband Christopher on several occasions and I have been struck by how they are coping by working tirelessly to help others. Their charity, Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope, named after Sarah’s mother, supports vulnerable amputees across the world. They have helped provide new limbs for 100 amputee children in Sierra Leone and helped numerous others by establishing a Limb Centre in Tanzania.

The Hope family is working with us at TfL in developing new and fresh techniques to ensure bus drivers continually receive good training about safe driving. Whilst serious accidents are quite rare, we will continue to work towards eliminating them altogether and we are delighted Sarah and Christopher are helping us do so.

Sarah and her sister Victoria are running in the London Marathon in April in support of Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope. We are all supporting them to raise money at this, the world’s largest fundraising event.

If you enjoy this blog and would like to do something to support me in what I am doing, please find a moment to support them too.

The fundraising page can be found here:


Monday, 3 February 2014

Going cashless

Today we are announcing that London’s buses will stop accepting cash fares later this summer.

99% of our passengers use some form of pass. The number of people paying cash is so small, yet it costs £24m a year. That is a lot of money which could be reinvested in the transport system.

Who uses cash?

During our consultation, respondents expressed concern on behalf of the following groups:

Older people: They travel free at all times with a Freedom Pass

Children: They travel free too - they need a Zip Oyster photo card aged 11 upwards to prove their identity

People on low incomes: The first to sign up to Oyster Pay As You Go since a bus fare is about £1 cheaper using Oyster than by paying cash

Tourists: Buy their Oyster cards in advance in their home countries 

Overseas business people: Many organisations who send people to London frequently keep a stock of Oyster cards for use. 

In fact, 47% of people who pay cash, do HAVE an Oyster card but with no credit on it. Many passengers have several cards! We will now make sure that there is one last ‘get you home’ facility so those with less than £1.45 on their card will get one more ride. They will also get a paper ticket message reminding them it is time to top up.

44% cited having “the wrong trousers” (or handbag). Yes they have an Oyster card but didn’t have it with them.

And as for people late at night - our rules for the treatment of vulnerable people remain the same. These will be refreshed for all staff.

The big growth market is in contactless bank cards. By the end of 2014, nearly everyone with a bank account in London should have at least one. All our buses already accept these cards, charge the same as an Oyster fare and there have been 8 million transactions to date. When we go cashless the Underground will accept them too and offer all the usual Oyster benefits - price capping and so on.

The ending of cash fares is a big step forward but is entirely driven by our passengers. With less than 1% actually using cash it is time to move on. By so doing London remains at the forefront of transport development. London was the first city with an entire low-floor bus fleet; the integrated ticketing was taken to a higher level than in any other city in the UK. We now continue staying ahead by removing cash, which not only saves the cash-handling costs but also speeds up boarding - and with the additional investment, bringing more benefits to all passengers.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Year of the Bus

Thanks to Peter Zabek for photo

This week we formally launched 2014 as “Year of the Bus”.

Year of the Bus will be centred around four themes - contribution to the economy, heritage, people and innovation of London.

We can look forward to celebrations across London throughout the year kicking off on 4th February with radio’s Robert Elms interviewing me at the London Transport Museum. (See website for tickets).

Events will take place at Brooklands in April, Central London in June, Finsbury Park in July, and hopefully at Millbrook’s Testing Ground in Bedfordshire in September. Plus numerous other local events in and around London.

Today at City Hall, Mayor Boris Johnson launched Year of the Bus to the assembled media. The star was undoubtably the silver-liveried New Routemaster LT150. Look out for these silver vehicles operating across London during 2014.

The Mayor reminded Londoners that its bus service is the life-line of London’s economy taking people to and from work, school and leisure to the tune of 6.5million journeys per day.

In fact, more passengers now use the bus than at any time since 1958.

Three London buses are currently overseas promoting British innovation and technology. The world is looking towards us hoping to learn more about how we carry as many passengers every day by bus as the for example, entire population of Rio de Janeiro!

In the meantime, behind the scenes restoration continues at great speed on an old B-type bus which will arrive in London in the summer. Besides helping us celebrate Year of the Bus it will take front stage in the commemoration of 100 years since the declaration of World War I. Fittingly it will don the khaki livery before setting off for Flanders in the autumn. 

We are set for a brilliant Year of Bus - full of activities - bringing colour and memories.

Welcome to Year of the Bus !

Thursday, 23 January 2014

All good things, as they say, come to an end and I am afraid I have to announce that traditional Routemasters will be withdrawn from route 9 this July.

The last route to use Routemasters was route 159, disappearing from London’s streets in December 2005. Since then some have operated on parts of route 9 and 15 as a tourist attraction.

Originally they operated daily between Aldwych and Royal Albert Hall on route 9 and between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill on route 15. Subsequently route 9 was recast to operate between Trafalgar Square and Kensington High Street and when the contracts were relet in 2010 the routes were rewarded to their original operators - First and Stagecoach. Hence when Tower Transit acquired part of First’s London business in 2013, the operation of route 9 transferred to them.

Route 15 has been of most value, helping with the peak hour flow into the West End whilst carrying tourists out to the Tower. Later in the day, it returns the tourists whilst again supporting the mainstream 15 during the evening peak. At certain times of the day, week, and year an empty bus starting at Tower Hill is a huge blessing when there are 50 or more visitors patiently waiting at there.

Routemasters on route 9 have not been quite so popular and the service has recently been operated by the ‘New Routemasters’ in the shape of the New Bus for London. Nowadays, those travelling for leisure purposes tend to choose the new buses.

With continued growth on our network and no new money, we reluctantly have to accept that the subsidy of over £1m for the tourist Routemasters on route 9 would be better spent elsewhere.

The change also eliminates the conflicting arrangement whereby the conductors on traditional Routemasters serve you at your seat and take cash, whereas the second crew member on the New Routemaster does neither. In addition, the hand-held ticket machines which have long since passed their sell-by date can now be recycled for use on route 15.

This also gives us the opportunity to select vehicles in the best condition, allowing them to continue to perform a useful function on route 15.

During the early summer, we will again arrange for an assortment of vehicles to operate on routes 9 and 15 - as part of this year’s celebrations surrounding ‘Year of the Bus’.

In the meantime, this is your last opportunity to see and ride traditional Routemasters on route 9. Don’t miss it!

(The proposed change is subject to consultation and contractual arrangements)

The top photograph is from 2006 when my newly-repainted RM613 was used alongside other interesting vehicles. Clearly visible on the platform is one of my co-owners and good friend Keith Farrow. A kind person sent me this photo but sadly neither my memory or the EXIF data tells me who. Will gladly credit it if you let me know!

I wasn't there - I had FRM1 (below!) [Photo Colin Stannard]


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Vincent McKenna 1951-2013

I am very sad to report the death of my old friend Vin McKenna, who died aged 62 on Tuesday of a heart attack.

For anyone in the bus industry, McKenna is an instantly recognisable name - that of producers of destination blinds, a business which Vin and his brother Paul set up in 1978.

From small beginnings, their business benefitted from a bus industry rapidly outsourcing. Today, their products are in use worldwide. They now produce electronic displays, powered destination equipment and a complete design, print and fit vehicle vinyls service.

From their earliest hand-cut lettering days McKennas carved a niche market in producing high quality destination blinds. Just as London Transport’s own in-house production department was giving way to outsourcing, McKenna's caught the market. Before long they were producing material to the highest quality standards for which they are deservedly renowned today.

As technology developed they broadened their range and inevitably gained international acclaim for their work. Only a couple of months ago they were visited by Mayor Boris Johnson to acknowledge the work that they do.

Vin was one of the industry’s colourful characters. His dry wit, laconic delivery, and huge generosity was his marque. A family man, he also enjoyed playing a part in the huge family which is the international public transport community.

To enjoy more leisure time, he had handed over daily responsibility to others – Derek Dawson, Malc Randles and team but, remained ‘in charge’ in his own special way.

It is not always easy to describe in a few words how someone may be remembered after they have gone. For Vin it is very simple. On the front, side and rear of every London bus - is a destination blind made at his Middleton, Manchester factory by his team of dedicated staff - showing us the way.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

The conclusion of my 2009 Christmas Eve story

Regular readers will remember the story from four years ago, the one about the old London bus we found in France - of all places.

To recap go to

Originally brought home in 2004, it was despatched for restoration. It was a huge job! As I had previously described – the interior, the hole in the floor, etc – it was a complete wreck.

The photos speak for themselves:

As originally found in 2003

One of our bigger challenges for the journey was a major fuel problem which was overcome by feeding the header tank from a 25litre plastic container down a hosepipe through the front saloon window.

The before and after of the lower saloon
Incredible considering the length of time of disuse and all we know about the degradation of fuel systems and the fungus that grows in it.

A final problem was the refusal of the DVLA to return its original registration number – the authorities confused as ever of decades of identity swaps by London buses and an ever-reducing number of us who know how/why it was done and how to convince modern young officials of the legitimacy of it all.

And so eventually they were – and just in time for the vehicle to make its first official debut on Saturday along with other vintage vehicles at the annual Ensignbus running day.

You will agree that a fabulous job has been done.