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Friday, 16 December 2011

LT1

The media pursues Boris Johnson as he takes a short walk
as LT1 pauses on Westminster Bridge for a special photo
Today was the day that LT1, the first passenger-ready prototype New Bus for London, was launched in Trafalgar Square.

LT1 was delivered from Wrights' Ballymena factory on Tuesday. It ventured out for some radio testing earlier this week but at 0630 this morning it was parked, in the dark, outside City Hall. From 0700 LBC's Nick Ferrari broadcast his morning show from it, interviewing a number of key people including the Mayor.

As Nick's show ended at 1000 LBC's team swiftly removed all of the broadcast equipment and handed the bus back. It was promptly manoeuvred so a position where now, in daylight, it could be seen against Tower Bridge.

At this point the Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced he wanted to drive it again (he did so in Ballymena a few weeks ago). So within the precincts of Potters Field he moved it down to Tooley Street. He was keen to take it on the road but was persuaded otherwise.

So he handed it to me and I took it from City Hall, via Tooley Street and Stamford Street to Westminster Bridge. Three of my elite team of Metropolitan Police motorcyclists from the Safer Transport Command based with TfL escorted us.

Here we had arranged a particular photograph with the Houses of Parliament in the background. Photographs done I handed the bus in turn to Commissioner Peter Hendy who took it via Whitehall and onto Trafalgar Square where the main media were waiting.

From then on it was a constant stream of media interviews and demonstrations of the features of the bus.

I had warned people not to read too much into the registration shown at the Ballymena event recently. LT1 has its own "LT61"registration which will grace the further seven prototypes as well.



As those who have seen will know, the bus is built to an exciting modern design but with many acknowledgements to the Routemaster. The maroon interior, Indian Red wheels, Treadmaster flooring and shallow windows all offer a nod to the last bus specifically designed for London.

After that it is bristling with new features - it is basically an electric bus with a small engine to extend its range. (Several times during my journey was the engine off entirely whilst we ran on battery power).

And down to the smallest detail, its bell pushes are wireless so the miles of wiring associated with multiple hand pole buttons are eliminated.

The bus handles beautifully. It has an excellent turning circle, there are no rattles or similar noises, and accelerates and brakes very smoothly. The tight exit from City Hall onto a narrowed-by-roadworks Tooley Street was easily done.

We have already announced that from 20th February the first couple of LTs will enter service on route 38, operated by Arriva. Crew operation with full open boarding will be provided during the day. It will run on a conventional signal person operation basis at other times. The remaining vehicles will progressively join this group and all will be in use by Spring.

We already know from testing that the bus is delivering better fuel efficiency and lower emissions than expected. These new vehicles will make a positive contribution to London's bus fleet and although no fare paying passengers have yet been carried, the hundreds of visitors today at Trafalgar Square were almost completely positive in their reaction.

From inside LT1 The Mayor talks to a huge group
of media all anxious to learn more. 


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