Transport for London (TfL) has admitted that from ‘early 2020’ one will only be able to board the fleet of New Routemaster buses in the Capital at the front of their three doors.
The plan, revealed by a Freedom of Information Act request by “Coach and Bus Week Magazine”, has been forced by significant problems with fare avoidance from passengers boarding at the back and middle sets of doors. TfL and its operators are estimated to lose £3.6 million annually due to fare evasion, a problem exacerbated by the2016 decision to make redundant all 300 conductors who had operated on the service. This decision also led the advertised ‘hop-on, hop-off’ capacity to be phased out of use.
The decision will involve an expensive and time consuming refit including removing the Oyster Card readers at the back two doors and reworking the electronics so each door can be opened individually.
This is only the latest in the series of problems experienced by the New Routemaster. The bus has been criticised for its poor air conditioning, although this problem has been rectified after a £2 million refit to install opening windows and for being too polluting. An investigation in 2015 revealed that the buses were emitting significantly more toxic particulates than other London buses.
In 2016 then-newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that no further New Routemasters would be purchased thereby marking some kind of an end to his predecessor Boris Johnson’s signature policy. The New Routemasters first started operating on London’s streets in 2012.