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Which Routemaster doors do you tend to board on? Soon, there might be just one answer to that question.
TfL is piloting a new system on the New Routemasters, where passengers will only be able to board at the front. Initially, this is just happening on two routes, the 8 and the N8, but if successful there are plans to roll the system out to the wider Routemaster network.
Customers with pushchairs and wheelchairs will still be able to board on the middle doors, but everyone else will have to walk directly past the driver to ensure that they tap in.
As you might expect, this is being done in an attempt to tackle fare evasion. TfL's data suggests that fare evasion on the New Routemasters is over double the rate of the bus network as a whole.
Customers on routes 8 and N8 must now board using the front door.— TfL Bus Alerts (@TfLBusAlerts) August 9, 2019
When you board, touch your Oyster card or contactless card/device on the yellow card reader or show the driver a valid ticket.
Wheelchair users can use the middle door. pic.twitter.com/FsR2kzUbGH
It's more than a little ironic. These buses were brought in as a replacement to the infamous bendy-buses, which suffered the same issue. To make sure fare evasion wouldn't plague the Routemaster, TfL hired conductors aboard certain buses, but the last of these had been let go by 2016, in cost-cutting measures.
It will be interesting to see how people respond to the pilot. It is notoriously difficult to retrain people out of their daily routines, as the attempt to get people to stand on both sides of the escalators at Holborn demonstrated. This might be simpler considering it will bring the New Routemasters in line with the rest of the network.
A TfL spokesperson said:
We are changing how buses on route 8 operate to reduce the likelihood of people boarding without paying and to improve accessibility. From 9 August the middle and rear doors will become exit only, so customers will board using the front door. This will help reduce fare evasion, which is disproportionately high on New Routemasters and deprives us of vital revenue to invest in improving transport for everyone. Customers with wheelchairs will still be able to board using the middle doors and will find it easier to access the priority space on buses.