The bendy bus comes in for regular bashings, and the articulated eyesore is one of the hot topics in the Mayoral election, with Boris Johnson threatening to scrap it altogether in favour of a remixed Routemaster. Now a new report comes along that suggests the bendy's popularity with fare-dodgers is bigger than ever.
According to a Liberal Democrat study, fare evasion has almost doubled from 2.2% in 2003 to 3.9% last year. This coincides with the retirement of the final Routemasters and an increase in the number of bendy buses on the road. The Lib Dems claim that this has resulted in a £6.4 million loss of revenue in 2007, a figure TfL disputes.
Despite teams of ticket inspectors roaming the streets, pouncing on buses and prompting the hasty disappearance of half the passengers when they do so, little headway is being made in enticing truculent travellers to pay their way. Of 58 million fare evasions for the 2006/2007 period, some 7.2 million took place on the bendy bus.
Brian Paddick, casting about desperately for any kind of vehicle to gatecrash the Johnson - Livingstone tango, seized upon the news, saying:
Only the other day I overheard a Londoner describing a bendy bus to a tourist as the 'free bus'. No wonder nobody pays.
Actually, we think this is something to be proud of. Londoners were just voted the third friendliest locals in Europe, and Londonist for one is happy that our fellow residents are doling out insider tips for tourists to ensure they get maximum value from their vacation.
Bendy bus and Nelson picture from boothj5's Flickrstream