NB4L Comes Under Fire Again Over Costs

By BethPH Last edited 43 months ago
NB4L Comes Under Fire Again Over Costs

NB4LThe costs of the New Bus for London (NB4L) have come under scrutiny again, raising the distinct possibility that actually it's only the Mayor who will ever want to buy them.

It's not the first time the finances have been examined. Last year when Transport for London (TfL) revealed the figures, suspicions that Londoners were paying over the odds compared to a standard hybrid bus were confirmed. It's hardly news that TfL has been on the wrong end of some less-than-advantageous deals  — Barclays and Emirates being the two that spring immediately to mind.

Standard practice for bus operators was to buy their own buses from whoever gave them the best deal, then eventually resell them to operators outside London. But the extra door and staircase on the NB4L make them less appealing to out-of-town operators, which in turn makes them less appealing to London operators. Faced with an industry full of NB4L refuseniks, TfL was compelled to buy the buses itself.

While this could make an interesting debate about use of public funds to create a monopoly, the prospect of being stuck with 600 of the monsters in 14 years' time doesn't fill everyone with joy. Green Party AM Darren Johnson said:

“I have no doubt that the next Mayor will cancel this entirely wasteful project, but Londoners will still be stuck with 600 of these buses for the next 14 years as TfL have nobody to sell them to.

“We desperately need innovation in London’s bus fleet and this money would have been far better invested in new technology, such as electric and hydrogen buses.”

Another of Boris Johnson's pet transport projects, the Thames Estuary airport, was finally torpedoed by the government's Airports Commission earlier this week, though the fantasy appears to live on.

Photo by McTumshie in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 05 September 2014

Andrew Stewart

On the plus side - they're pretty!


I think they are high spec, comfy & iconic!

Andrew Smith

One of the New Routemasters has been painted green and is on tour in Yorkshire as a possible New Bus For Leeds: http://www.passengertransport....

Jimmy W

I really like them, and I like the fact you can jump off the back when you are stuck in traffic and know you are closer to your destination than the bus stop. I have done this a surprising amount of times. I am a supporter of the new busses. They are also British made and therefore provide jobs in Britain. This has to be brought into consideration when examining the costs.


Boris killed the Bendy - it's like a lion killing his predecessor's cubs, I guess? I've not had the pleasure of riding one but I do hear they suffer form AC designed for winter use only. Anything London Transport does is compromised - they are afraid to offer anything really good for fear the scales will fall from our eyes and we will notice how crap much of the other stuff is. Unfortunately for them, we do get out and about. How is it those ancient, low-tech NYC buses offer AC in 35C/100% humidity?

Roger Manser

Bendy buses were great and Boris was a pig head to kill them off (as he was with the Thames Air Island). They were presumably sold off to others, unlike these new Routemasters - as Beth reports, we are lumbered with these lumbering hippos for many more years. Maybe if we had not had them, some of the revenue from our high priced fares could have been used for new low-pollution (eg low NOx, PM2.5) pedestrian routes? Where is TfL doing something for the walkers? They represent the majority of London's "trips."


The buses are not air conditioned. When TfL refers to a/c it s referring to air cooling which means pressure ventilation (i.e. air from outside is filtered through and augmented by fans). As far as I am aware there is no cooling mechanism to chill the air. TfL went for this as if they went for air conditioning they did not think the hybrid bus in electric mode could power the compressor to provide air conditioning. They are very fond of using the term a/c which most mortals interpret as air conditioning when TfL is merely referring to pressure ventilation. It is both misleading and dishonest.

The proposed new Tube trains for the deep tube lines are often promoted as introducing air conditioning when TfL intends air cooling due to both cost and anticipated problems with dissipating the heat in the tunnels. The new trains on the Circle, Metropolitan, District etc are air conditioned though as are the London Overground.

Fred Smith

The faster speed of exit and less interference with on boarding passengers should make bus journeys much faster. I presume that's the whole idea. London's infrastructure needs a helping hand from smarter carriage solutions, and this appears to at least be an attempt at that. Judging it against existing practice when existing practice is not coping with passenger demand is probably not fair.


They are quite attractive from the outside - shiny, colourful, rounded. The jump-on, jump-off option is useful, providing you get the timing right, look out for bikes, pedestrians, etc., although the platforms seems very small and all too often the back door is closed. When it is open, the extra costs of paying for a conductor who seems to have nothing to do except tell passengers to hold on to the rails must be enormous. Downstairs seems brighter and roomier than on other buses, while the opposite is true for upstairs - it's stuffy due to the aforementioned "a/c", with low ceilings and narrow windows. The views out of the windows are very limited and you get a real sense of confinement and enclosure. The front windows in particular are very narrow - it's like looking through a letter-box. Watch the tourists bending to get a view of St Paul's and other iconic sights on the no. 11 route for example. One of the joys of bus-riding, rather than taking the tube, is being able to see the world pass by, and this does not seem to have been factored into the design at all.

Andy Brice

They're not even that expensive though, are they? They don't cost much more than a normal two-staircase hybrid bus, and they're much higher spec, and much nicer.

We don't complain about TfL commissioning its own specially designed trains. And you get what you pay for. I think this is mainly just politicking.