Huge coup for Wrightbus – from Ballymena to Battersea?

From the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary

*LORD Foster’s architectural firm has been dropped from Boris Johnson’s project to design a new Routemaster bus, despite having won the design competition back in 2008. The Mayor’s Transport for London (TfL) has instead awarded an £8 million contract to design and build five of the new buses by 2012 to Northern Ireland-based Wrightbus.
Getting rid of the unloved bendy buses and the reintroduction of a modern version of the hop-on, hop-off Routemaster were among the central planks of Boris’s mayoral campaign in May 2008, some of which he famously conducted from the rear platform of one of the few remaining in service.
His predecessor, Ken Livingstone, was much derided for getting rid of the Routemasters in 2005, having previously said that “only a ghastly, dehumanised moron” would do such a thing.
In December 2008, the mayor announced Foster + Partners and Aston Martin as joint winners alongside bus-design firm Capoco. Foster’s design featured cream leather seating, wooden floors and a glazed roof. But a TfL spokesman has now told the Architects’ Journal: “Neither the Foster nor the Capoco concepts will be used.”
Wrightbus’s working design, which will be unveiled next month, is understood to have a limited “open” platform to the rear and two staircases.

  • lamhdearg

    Thank you, Brian, Good news indeed, Good old boris.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Great news however it was originally announced in December 2009 so in reality old news.

  • slug

    I look forward to these new Ballymena-designed London Routemasters, the new 21st century British design icon!

  • joeCanuck

    Well done Wrightbus. Presumably they have put the bad reputation behind them.
    Hop on , hop off frequently, Londoners.

  • TellMeMa

    I rather liked the idea of having Aston Martin buses.

    The bendy buses are far too long for London streets and though Ken had the noble idea of speeding up entry and exit, too many passengers decided they were free since they did not have their tickets checked when they got on. They cost TfL a fortune in lost fares.

    However if the Wrightbus replacement requires a conductor as well as a driver then that will double the cost of running the bus, and the Routemaster conductors rarely checked every ticket. And having two staircases will reduce the amount of seating – I look forward to seeing the design. I suspect that this may again be another one of Boris’s a half-cocked ideas.

    However, it is good it will create employment and money for NI.

  • The ‘unloved bendy buses’? Who said so? Not those who used them, to find them replaced by less convenient, more polluting single-deckers with fewer seats.

    The whole ‘unloved bendy buses’ was a magnificent but flawed piece of lying propaganda. All those dead cyclists? Not one existed in reality. London bus deaths are up 8% for 2009 (including the odd one caused by falling down the stairs of a double-decker–not a common event on a bendy). All the zillions lost on avoided fares? Another piece of truth-improvement. For those really interested, “Tom” regularly pontificates on the technicalities of London bus operations for boriswatch.co.uk.

    London’s loss has been Brighton’s gain, apparently. It may also be the case that all those ‘unloved bendy buses’ will be required back in London for the Olympics. There will still be far more ‘unloved bendy buses’ than a precious few ‘Routemaster replacements’ in service when we kick out Blasted Boris.

    As for the Wrightbus ‘Routemaster replacement’, its near-relative is already in operation. In Kowloon. The London version will differ by having an amazing peg-back rear door. A major engineering feat, no doubt (especially since Volvo determine the essential geometry). Now calculate the costs and the double-manning thereof.

    Finally, has Wrightbus improved its “equal opportunities” policy? Last I heard, there was a distinct asymmetry between the make-up of its work-force and that of the local populace.

  • TellMeMa @ 06:46AM

    The bendy buses are far too long for London streets

    Horses for courses? Look at the routes on which the articulated buses run, and, in the case of the 38, ran. On the 38, 47 Citaro “bendies”, providing a peak two-minute service interval, had to be replaced by 68 double-deckers, and a less frequent service. It should have been 72 vehicles: that was another Boris “cut”, but — hey! — the 38 runs through areas which wouldn’t vote for Boris.

    Now, for your party-piece, drive a ‘Routemaster replacement’ through the Strand underpass.

  • aquifer

    The bendy buses are far too long for London streets

    Eh? If london streets are too short for the buses then they have more corners, which bendy buses are made for.

    Wright bus’s bendy urban road tram thing for Las Vegas is a great concept. Lots of room, cheaper than trams and quicker to introduce into cities.

    Great company.

    What’s next? The executive commuter bus with wi-fi, filtered air, big seats for fat banker bums, and free cappuccino’s and croissants served for the lisburn to belfast traffic jam?

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Wonder if Boris knows about Wrights hiring practices.

    Anybody know how that situation resolved itself, if in fact it ever has?

  • Marlaghman

    Aul Willie has done well for Ballymena and “Wrightbus” is the best design buses in europe.
    As for the articulate buses they shiping a load of them to Las Vegas, a fabulous looking and also ecgo frendly bus.

    Joe

    What “bad reputation behind them” are you talking about as they have a record of producing a high quality bus and have been in the top three coach manufactures in europe for the last 8/10 years and have given employment to not only to the Ballymena area but also the most of counties Antrim/Londonderry & even into Co. Down regardless of their colour or cread

  • “9.Wonder if Boris knows about Wrights hiring practices”

    PE,

    Something the Republic’s government missed?

    http://tinyurl.com/yzbbvbo

  • Greenflag

    Ah the good old hop on hop off London buses . I recall waiting for the 137 forever only to be served by three of them arriving simultaneously. And waiting for the 19 on the Kings Road was to forever see no end of No 22’s pass by and vice versa. The bus timetable was a work of fiction and probably only exceeded in imagination by CIE or the West Clare railway of Percy French fame 😉

    Has it improved by any chance ?

  • Marlaghman

    Sad to see the RM are still spining and are shy with the truth when it comes to employment

  • Cynic2

    Wow Brian. What a coup.Your story (copied from the Evening Standard) only lagged Wrightbus’s own press release of 23 December 2009 by a mere 3 months.

    http://www.wrightbus.com/site/default.asp?CATID=9

    Nice to see you maintaining the journalistic standards we have so come to admire

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Marlagh

    >>Sad to see the RM are still spining and are shy with the truth when it comes to employment<

  • Marlaghman

    PE you keep spining the lies and I will keep telling the truth.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Marlagh

    Blowhards tend to talk a lot about truth and lies, I am sure you do not fit the criteria to be labelled as such. Thus if you could enlighten me as to what is truth and what is lies, I would be mightily obliged……….honest!

  • Marlaghman

    Well I am waiting to here of the “Wrights hiring practices that Dublin missed” when Dublin Bus gave their order to Wrightbus

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    oh dear Marlagh, relying on some hoors in Dublin to bodyswerve your “truth and lies” shite. i am bored now anyways so it is your choice whether you chosse to furnish us with the details.

    Fair do’s, but out of interest I can guess by your attitude that you care not, but are you even aware of this company’s previous employment practices? Or is this me at the “lies” again? *groans*

  • joeCanuck

    Marlaghman,
    It wasn’t their buses that had a bad reputation but their hiring practices and behaviour of one or two staff.

  • Marlaghman

    Know of them well as I have had the pleasure to have work for them and know the truth not the RM spin

  • PE

    “Hoors as you well know, but I’m still left bereft not knowing if Boris is aware of their history, if it is indeed history”

    They may well be but I can’t see both them and particularly the London Mayor’s office both turning a blind eye to that kind of alleged practise in 2010.

  • joeCanuck

    A bit of trivia, I didn’t care much for it myself, finding only the miserable old inspector in the least bit funny, but “On the Buses” was a huge hit in N.A.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Joe

    Is your good lady hame safe and well yet? I hope she realises what she put you through and vicariously us the readers of your angst ridden posts on the Pissing about with parades thread.

    Just don’t let her go gallivantin and spendin all the weans inheritance money again ;¬)

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Oneil

    >>They may well be but I can’t see both them and particularly the London Mayor’s office both turning a blind eye to that kind of alleged practise in 2010.<

  • PE,

    “I remember the furore from years ago and was hoping that someone could let me know how or if the situation was resolved to a reasonable degree”

    The Fair Employment Tribunal has got nothing on them, so I am guessing the answer must be “yes”

    http://tinyurl.com/yee4tdx

  • Marlaghman

    Thats correct oneill their a “Fair Employer”.
    THe RM spin fron David McKay did not stand up

  • TellMeMa

    Malcolm Redfellow @post 6, page 1: Are you taking the piss?

    The ‘unloved bendy buses’? Who said so? Not those who used them
    Yeah, those who did not pay for their tickets would love them. They get really crowded, and I like the upstairs part of older buses so I can more easily avoid the crowds – and get a better view, even if it is the same one I have seen 100s of times.

    Also the bus drivers like them because they get around double pay than if they drove ordinary buses.

    I like the newer double deckers with only one driver. They are roomier and have more comfortable seats than the old Routemasters which had really steep stairs and only one bell on the top floor – right next to the stairs or somewhere therabouts as it tended to be in different places. Most people did not know the bell was there.

    a piece of lying propaganda
    Probably exaggerated, but not lying. I voted for Ken and am really disappointed he did not get in. One thing I disagreed with him though was about those bendy buses. If he had been re-elected he may well have reviewed their use. Even politicians can make mistakes, you know.

    All those dead cyclists? Not one existed in reality.
    I didn’t die, Malcolm but I was squashed in between the end of a bendy bus and the railings. The bus driver tooted at me on my bike (so he knew I was there), then proceeded at speed to stop at the bus stop I was at the end of. I had to go backwards to extricate myself. This is just one of many instances cyclists have had with those bendys.

    The bendys are longer than most semi-trailers.

    All the zillions lost on avoided fares? Another piece of truth-improvement.
    Disagree with you Malcolm. I was on a crowded bendy one Saturday and three ticket inspectors got on. Someone opened a door with an emergency release, then half, yes half, of the passengers got off and ran away. One ticket inspector told me this was normal.

    London bus deaths are up 8% for 2009 (including the odd one caused by falling down the stairs of a double-decker—not a common event on a bendy)
    Falling down stairs might not be a common event on a bendy, but catching alight is. Several passenger-filled buses destroyed or damaged by “spontaneous” combustion while travelling along those narrow streets. Fortunately the fires did not combust quickly, but they sure would have scared the passengers who managed to escape.

    As for the Wrightbus ‘Routemaster replacement’, its near-relative is already in operation. In Kowloon. The London version will differ by having an amazing peg-back rear door. A major engineering feat, no doubt
    Ha. I look forward to seeing the design when it is released.

    Reading all of the other comments in this thread, I cannot but wonder if the whole Wrightbus thing was organised by Boris in the hope that Conservatives, along with their UUP allies, will get more votes in the next election. Are Wrightbus factories are in Unionist areas? – though that may be irrelevant if the project is providing jobs to unemployed others and who may be grateful for that.

  • TellMeMa

    Malcolm Redfellow: Now, for your party-piece, drive a ‘Routemaster replacement’ through the Strand underpass.

    I don’t think the Strand underpass has ever been a part of a bus route, Malcolm. There would not be enough passengers and if it did use it, it would miss three stops.

    I don’t miss the Routemasters, they were old, badly designed and their engines were not environmentally friendly. They should be (and most of them were) replaced by newer double deckers with no conductor.

    A lot of the smaller buses (single deck, smaller than Routemasters) are now electric or hybrid vehicles and are very quiet. These buses get used on small roads in the suburbs.

  • TellMeMa

    Greenflag: The bus timetable was a work of fiction and probably only exceeded in imagination by CIE or the West Clare railway of Percy French fame 😉
    Has it improved by any chance ?

    Yes and no. Buses are more frequent (I say reservedly) but there are a couple of new tricks:
    1. Stopping the buses “to regularise the service” So that all the passengers have to sit and wait sometimes several times on a route so the bus is not ahead of its timetable, not caring that passengers may be trying to get to an appointment on time, etc.

    I was on one bus which did this until the next bus caught up with it, then I think it went over the speed limit a lot to stay ahead till the end of the route. Maybe it is just a game for the drivers. on the other hand with satellite tracking it may not be.

    2. Ending a route early. All passengers have to get off and wait for the next bus, sometimes for ages. This again to “regularise the service”.

    The last thing bus companies think of are the passengers actually travelling on a bus.

    On the underground (and trains now), with the advent of Oyster there is another gotcha and that is afternoon travel between 16:00 and 19:00. If you are a pay-as-you-go traveller and start your train journey between those times you will be charged at peak rates, ie around £7 instead of £5. If you have a bus journey before 9:30 then take a train between those afternoon hours you will also be charged at peak rates. And your Oyster runs out of money or goes negative and you don’t realise that until late at night far away from any ticket office. You could be stranded…..

    The best way to travel in London is by bicycle. And your own bike, not a rent one Boris proposes as it will cost a lot of money if you use it for more than half an hour. So take your bike with you when you are next visiting London. It is quite a compact city being only 33 x 25 miles within the M25.

  • TellMeMa

    On bicycle riding in London:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/20/cycling-london-hg-wells

    (comments, not just article)

  • DerTer

    You’ll all know the old saw about realising you were getting old when the police started looking younger than you. That phenomenon didn’t actually worry me at all; but recent visits to London have, and the new Wright contract has compounded my complex. Because I have to admit that I’m old enough to have worked in London when the very first Routemasters were taking to the streets!

  • Stewart

    I wonder does management still allow the workforce to ‘down tools’ and travel in convoy to take down tricolours in Ballymena?

  • Marlaghman

    Now Stewart these are the lies I am talking about. The truth is not hard to tell

  • TellMeMa

    Marlaghman: what is the truth?

    I don’t know anything about Wrightbus except that it has a contract from a Tory Mayor to build buses for London.

    And that apparently its HQ is in Ballymena.

  • Marlaghman

    Best bus design in europe, works out of Ballymena Co. Antrim, is a fair employer and employies from the co’s. Antrim / Londonderry / Down area. Will employ tradesmen/semi-skilled if the they meet their standards.
    If locals don’t apply they wont get a job.
    So they had to look to the uk and europe for workers
    David McKay PSF said they did not employ enough catholic’s, but as I said if you do not apply you will not get an interview.

  • Somehow one might have guessed this would end in tears …

    The New Bus for London (a.k.a. NB4L, the “New Routemaster”, the BorisBus and the Boris Boggler) has not been quite the success some, even some here, predicted.

    It is lardy, and has failed its diet. As a result, passenger capacity and fuel consumption are apparently below spec.

    The boasted air-conditioning did not work in the summer heat waves, except as “moving saunas” [Evening Standard, 5 July 2013] and “hotter than magma” [Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2013].

    That dangerous rear-door (four reported casualties to date) remains permanently closed, unless the expensive and useless “conductor” is present — who invariably isn’t.

    There have been well-reported accidents, collisions and breakdowns. We all enjoyed the leaping-out bollard saga at Hampstead’s South End Green [Camden New Journal, 1 Aug 2013]. That raised questions of reliability and/or turning circle.

    It isn’t fulfilling those ambitious claims of overseas sales — or indeed sales to other UK operators. And that despite being traipsed around the world, at LT’s expense, in demo mode.

    Etc., etc.

    And now this:

    The manufacturers of Boris Johnson’s multimillion pound new London bus threatened to prevent publication of a book criticising the design and construction of the vehicles.

    Wrightbus complained that photos in the book of loose ceiling panels and broken light fittings, as well as criticisms of the bus’s green credentials were “defamatory” and risked “serious reputational damage” to the company.

    They ordered publishers Capital Transport Publishing to remove the excerpts from their book Boris’s Bus or face “injunctive proceedings to prevent publication of the book.”

    Solicitors acting on behalf of Wright Bus complained that the book “suggests that there are problems with the design and manufacture of the vehicles.”

    [http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/12/30/boris-bus-manufacturers-try-to-block-critical-new-book].

    One commentator has it that the publisher’s response to Wrightbus was “along the lines of Arkell v. Pressdram“. Ah! another old friend!

  • Charles_Gould

    They’re wonderful buses to use, and very popular with Londoners.

  • Charles_Gould @ 8:41 pm:

    Really? Are you now, or have you ever been (as Senator McCarthy used to say) a regular bus-user in London, perhaps? On the contrary, NB4L is very much once experienced, never forgotten. Tourists may love ’em, but hanker even more for those original RTs on the “heritage” routes.

    Now explain to a commuter on the no.38 route why the NB4L introduction meant fewer seats and less frequency. Oddly, that matters each working day at 8 am and 5:30 pm.

    Then there’s the difficulties for wheelchairs.

    Put aside the ridiculous “competition” and the costs of the prototypes: the UK government, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, had to help Boris out by taking leases on LT1, LT2 and then LT3. This apparently was to the considerable relief of Arriva, who had happily operated Mercedes Citaros on Route 38, and were left, stuffed, with the remaining five pre-production models.

    But let’s not forget, over the 4-year contract, the London tax-payer coughs nearly £30,000 extra for each “production” model. Then there’s the excess running costs for fuel and that never present “conductor”.

    Now compare and contrast the Alexander Dennis Enviro series, which does not have that magical “official” UK government Seal of Approval (something which will not soon be forgotten in Falkirk), but is succeeding in world markets. The Boris vanity project has that magic marker, hasn’t achieved a single overseas sale and almost certainly won’t.

    Should we hold Wrightbus to blame here? Most definitely not. Their only fault was to be sucked into a party-political promotion (sponsored originally by Policy Exhange), and be lumbered with a project from a “designer”, rather than an engineer.

  • Charles_Gould

    “Really? Are you now, or have you ever been (as Senator McCarthy used to say) a regular bus-user in London, perhaps?”

    Yes, indeed. A regular Oyster-card-carrying user. On the (non tourist) number 38 I’ve heard Londoners say: “lets run for the new bus” when two arrive at once at the same bus stop. People seem to really like its style, and flow.

    I suspect that a lot of the negative comments is from people who project their anti-Tory anti-Boris feelings onto the bus.

  • Meanwhile, today Nissan unveiled their version of the black taxi which nobody was consulted about, let alone the taxi drivers. A bold attempt to enter a niche market.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Meanwhile, today Nissan unveiled their version of the black taxi which nobody was consulted about, let alone the taxi drivers. A bold attempt to enter a niche market.”

    I saw that on the Beeb today Joe, it looks like a Nissan Serena with a bit of a retro facelift to make it look like a olde London Towne cab (and to set it apart from the taxis in NYC and other cities).

    If I am right and it is basically the Serena I don’t think the drivers will have much to complain about. I’ve had mine for seven years now and no problems, apart from one aircon malfunction but given that I drive in the horrible overheated congestion of steamy Jakarta with the AC on full blast I can’t complain, and I don’t see that being a problem in London.

    A well built, reliable Nissan will beat the pants off the iconic but clunky, thirsty Manganese Bronze efforts any day I would think.

  • Gosh, Charles_Gould, you’ve convinced me.

    Let’s ignore the NB4L’s obvious failings — for just a few: poor reliability, dodgy finish, fuel-consumption above and passenger-capacity below spec, excess weight, niche market lack of sales appeal, non-opening windows, dangerous stairs and that potentially-lethal rear platform which is therefore rarely open — and concentrate on what it is really, really for. Which, as you rightly (far rightly?) imply should be pro-Tory, pro-Boris feelings.

    Even if such a Panglossian optimism doesn’t equate to what transport “experts” (whom, of course, we must instantly suspect as running-dogs of western socialism) say in this book. Nor clarify why someone, somewhere (i.e. Wrightbus) tried to censor the book. Nor explain why TfL lied, wriggled, misrepresented and obfuscated over Tom Barry’s reasonable FoI requests.

    One small wrinkle: the 38 route takes me from Islington Green, via Angel, Holborn, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, to Victoria. And that renders it “the (non tourist) number 38”? Well, that really is a revelation! Nearly as perverse as TfL maintaining that the 38 route involves “a relatively short end-to-end distance”.

  • Charles_Gould

    Another innovative product from Wrightbus:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25621426

  • Charles_Gould

    The (non tourist) route 38 is the parts around the Balls Pond Road to Hackney etc

  • Charles_Gould

    At the risk of annoying folks who complain about my multiple posts, one further comment. I confess that I absolutely love the look and feel of the NB4L or New Routemaster. I like the hop on hop off feature, and love using it. I love the shape and look. It’s a beautuful bus; few buses are beautiful. It also has ease of getting on and off, with the two staircases and three doors, ideal for high density routes in London. I have been interested in the response on social media (and from actual bus users at bus stops) and people seem to like it.

    There are some who are against it they fall in two groups: Bus nerds and politicos. There are bus nerds who are unhappy with some build features, there are politicos who see it as ammunition against the Tories/Boris. I think it’s a problem that Boris so personally attached himself to the bus. That means anti-Boris people see the bus as something to attack.

    It has had teething problems: perhaps most seriously the prototypes showed problems in the hot weather in July 2013. But we are in early runs of production. More recent versions have improved on these problems and the total weight is reduced.

    This is a bus for London, who knows yet if it can be sold to other cities, these are early days, but the bus recently did a tour around the world to show it off, and to show off our capacity to build iconic buses, so there is clearly some belief that others may find it interesting.

    Moreover, these buses really have classic London written all over them. They enhance the visual experience of the city, as well as being great to use as a passenger.

  • Charles_Gould