New Bus For London Cost Revealed

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 61 months ago
New Bus For London Cost Revealed

Transport for London has released the costs for buying the New Bus for London fleet, and despite years of soothing reassurances from the Mayor that they'll cost less than normal hybrids, they'll actually cost a bit more.

Each bus carries an average price tag of £354,500 over its lifetime (around 14 years), or £326,000 at current prices. Mayorwatch has dug up previous exchanges between the Mayor and Assembly; in 2009, Boris Johnson assured Jenny Jones that

If you look at the current cost of a bus, £250,000, roughly speaking, buys you a new bendy bus. We think that we can get a wonderful new bus for London which will be considerably cleaner, greener, lighter and exactly what this city needs for much less than that.

In October 2012, Caroline Pidgeon pointed out that standard hybrids cost around £300,000 each, and how there were rumours swirling in the industry of a (now proved to be rather accurate) £330,000 NB4L cost. The Mayor responded

The deal that we are able to do with Wrightbus will actually be considerably cheaper and better value for Londoners, because instead of paying under some private finance initiative scheme for the rental cost of the fleet (which is basically what happens at the moment) we will be able to own the buses direct.

And these figures don't include the salaries of the second operator (not a conductor) needed when the bus's back door is open, estimated to be around £62,000 per bus per year.

TfL says the NB4L produces four times less particulate matter and nitrogen oxides and 20% less carbon dioxide than a standard hybrid; but there are questions over the particulate emissions and fuel consumption about which TfL hasn't yet (to our knowledge) produced concrete figures. The buses will also need to be retrofitted to meet Euro 6 regulations by 2014, which makes us wonder why they aren't rolling off production already in line with the new standards. (Anyone know?)

The higher cost is, apparently, down to the "higher specification" of the bus – in other words, its design: the three door and two staircase layout. It is stunning to look at, but is it worth paying for? Boris seems to think so:

We will ensure these buses more than earn their keep over the next few years. By keeping them in harness in the Capital for the entirety of their useful life, we will be extracting every last drop of value out of them. Aside from its Hollywood blockbuster good looks, this bus offers an unparalleled passenger experience and is helping to improve the Capital's air quality.

Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson disagrees:

The New Bus for London is an expensive vanity project which the next Mayor will abandon as an outdated and polluting waste of money. The reason why these buses will spend their entire life in London is because no one else wants them. That is also the reason why TfL have had to buy the buses themselves, at a premium rate, rather than let the operators have all the upfront costs and risks.

Photo by HoosierSands from the Londonist Flickr pool

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Last Updated 03 May 2013

Dean Nicholas

Definitely worth paying for. It'd still be cheap at twice the price. It's lifting the mood of the nation.

Andy Brice

I don't think it can be called a "vanity project" since the electorate voted for it.

Andy Brice

Just think of all the iconic pieces of British design that never would've existed had we settled for a cheap, naff alternative. You get what you pay for.


Of course it's worth it. I'm not a Boris supporter by any means but the value to a community and a society's mood, its outlook, as well as the identity of a place, by having unique and interesting objects, architecture and transport, is well worth the small amount extra. We could just build every train station exactly the same in a utilitarian style all over the country but how dull would that be? Thank God that doesn't happen and we have things like St Pancras from the past, and the brilliant new concourse at King's Cross, and a unique and interesting design of bus in London.


So after working out the cost, did they also work out the revenue? That will be the key to working out whether it's value for money in my opinion.


I came back from Leeds to London today on another icon, the Inter City 125.

These were built forty years ago and still ride as well as ever, at their design speeds. I've actually travelled through the Highlands of Scotland in the driver's cab of one of these trains and you realise what an amazing train they are, as they climb up hill and down dale, with the agility of mountain goats.

There is no substitute for good design. Having looked at the method of construction of the NB4L, I suspect that they'll be rebuilt time and time again and many will be running in forty or more years time.

I would also not be surprised to see a much better bus be designed, by either WrightBus or Alexander Dennis, as some of the features of the NB4L, like the comfortable seats, totally flat floor, better staircases and hybrid drive will effectively become essential to sell even a bog standard bus to any operator in the UK.

Mark Johnson

Last I heard was that the NBFL was going to cost between £315.000 to £330.000 per bus, (and it is now coming in at £326.000 per bus) which sounds good. I just get the impression that there are a lot of Boris knockers out there, wanting to put a negative spin on the Boris bus, which I must say is a joy to ride on . . . .

Well done Boris (& Peter Tandy of TFL).


TFL waste too much money on unnecessary things since Boris Johnson and conservatives came round. They are only wasting money on changing things which Ken Livingstone and Labour government did.