/ Motoring

Will you miss the bendy bus?

London bendy bus

After a decade of moving people around London, this weekend saw the final journey of one of this country’s most controversial travel solutions. The bendy bus has been taken off London’s roads for good.

A few months before the end of his term, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has fulfilled his election pledge of banishing bendy buses. It seemed a popular move when Boris was elected back in 2008.

Bendy bus critics claimed that passengers hated them, and there was definitely uproar on the streets of London when bendy buses took over from the old Routemasters. But, as with many changes, when people got used to them, they quickly forgot what all the fuss was about.

Bye bye bendy bus

And now, predictably, the streets are ringing with complaints about the new double-deckers. Let’s just hope Boris won’t be so quick to change London’s buses again.

I’m no fan of the bendy bus. As a cyclist, they’ve proved to be pretty dangerous and were also a major hogger of bike-friendly bus lanes.

However, the roads won’t necessarily be any safer without them. A bendy bus takes 120 people and a double-decker only 85, so to meet the needs of London’s bus users, there will surely have to be an increase in the number of buses on the road.

The cost of scrapping bendy buses

Apparently Transport for London (TfL) will be £7m a year better off from the reduction in fare dodger numbers – thousands of people benefited from the bendy bus, also known as the ‘trust bus’, by getting on and off at the back entrances to avoid paying.

But surely those savings are cancelled out by the millions of pounds that have been spent on new buses – it’s costing £2.2m to convert just two of the twelve routes back to double-deckers.

So when every penny counts and council cutbacks are rife, it seems rather a waste of money to replace the whole fleet across 12 different routes. I’m sure TfL could think of better things to spend this money on.

Are you heralding the end of the bendy bus era? Or, like me, can you think of better ways to spend the millions that’s being pumped into reinventing the wheel?


Huzzah for Boris
-but why not just add efficient Trams and get rid of nasty diesel stinking taxis and buses from congested streets -try walking down Oxford street for example.

Not just trams but trolley buses too. Not only quiet and efficient but would make the city air a lot cleaner too.

I agree with the fare dodging comment, whenever I used one there were always crowds of people getting on via the two rear doors and not paying. If it was costing TfL £7 million per year then that alone should be justification for removing them.

Shall be glad to see the last of the long wretched intimidating things
that seem to think they’ve more rights than cyclists on use of shared bus

Trolley buses not ideal but preferable.

Mike S says:
13 December 2011

BorisWatch did the maths on this a couple of years ago and reckoned that the premium on replacing bendy buses with double deckers for all the bendy routes was around £20m per year in ongoing cots(http://www.boriswatch.co.uk/2009/01/05/bendy-bus-contract-costs-in-full/). And that’s without the costs of Johnson’s vanity Routemaster project.

The fact is that this was a political, headline-grabbing stunt with Johnson’s main argument being that bendy buses are not suitable for London streets. The facts are rather different with one person sadly killed in an accident involving a bendy bus compared to 26 cyclists alone killed by HGVs in London in the last four years.

I’d suggest that HGVs are more unsuitable for London’s roads than the much maligned bendy bus. Perhaps as a cyclist Johnson should focus his efforts on reducing deaths on the roads.

Nigel Whitfield says:
13 December 2011

Yep; I wholeheartedly agree. It’s another of Johnson’s expensive vanity projects – like the cable car – that’s costing tax payers money which could be better spent on other things.

If fare dodging was a serious problem on the bendy buses, then employing more bus inspectors/conductors would have helped – and would have been welcomed by many people, especially travelling late at night.

And, of course, the bendy buses, while maligned by some, are much more accessible for those with children in buggies, and for people in wheelchairs. We should surely be trying to make transport in London more accessible, not less so.

Any cyclist dying is one too many – but you wouldn’t really know that from the actions of those on the London assembly who walked out in a fit of pique over committee chair positions recently, rather than debating some of the serious issues involving cyclists and HGVs.

Besides conductors, perhaps some of the money that’s been spent on the vanity bus project could more usefully have been spent on properly separating cyclists and other traffic at some of the most dangerous junctions in London.

I’m sure BorisWatch is impartial.


Oxford experimented with bendy buses in the 1980s and they were not a success then.

Mike S says:
14 December 2011

Lies damned lies and statistics!

The throwaway line at the end of that article stating “TfL claimed bendies had more accidents because they ” encountered more road users” than non-bendy buses.” is telling because it’s true. They ran on central London routes rather than much quieter suburban ones and you don’t need a stats degree to know that central London is busier than outlying suburbs.

….there is no excuse for overtaking a cyclist then cutting them up by
pulling in to a bus stop.
DS (A London bus driver)

Yup… I get done this all the time… the driver of such a monstrosity seems
to have an attitude ‘ I’m coming, everyone out of my way’… tough if you
can’t pedal fast enough to get out when that huge long contraption is coming
close behind you….. have personally witnessed a cyclist coming to grief on
getting too close to it.

Yup… a killer of cyclist(s) and pedestrians not to mention causing
large numbers of cases of personal injuries…. can’t imagine why they
were brought in in the first place on London’s mostly narrow roads
which use thereon is wholly unsuitable.

I’m glad to see the back of the bendy buses. They need to swing out so far to turn a corner and can pinch cyclists and pedestrians of their space quite quickly. They always seemed quite dangerous to me, and their disappearance from London’s roads will also put a stop to many fare-dodgers. A friend of mine used to call the 149 to London Bridge the ‘free bus to Liverpool Street’ (he used to live in Dalston). He earns a decent salary and is a generally good law-abiding citizen, yet he thought it was quite all right for him to jump on bendy buses for free.

I have mixed views on bendy buses. Like Miranda, as a cyclist, I think the roads would be better off without them. But as a passenger I can see many benefits.

The hop on/off system does make for a quicker journey. But by far the biggest advantage for me is space. Because they are the equivalent of a double decker on one level, you can get many more people standing safely. Also, they can fit twice as many pushchairs, so it’s much easier to get on with a buggy that on a double decker, where it’s always likely that there will already be the limit of two buggies on board already.

I prefer the double-deckers, if only because I’m usually more likely to get a seat and not get crushed on the night bus. Having said that, the idea of scrapping so many buses at such a high cost did make me really frustrated – that money is surely better spent elsewhere (perhaps improving cycle lane provision which, in certain areas, is really dire).

They scrapped bendy buses on the route running past my house about four months ago. My housemate and I had much fun riding the new double-decker and listening to people complain as they got on ‘but I thought this was the free bus’ ‘I can’t belieeeeve you’re making me pay to get on the bus.’

They ran on central London routes rather than much quieter
suburban ones….
Mike S

The 207 route going past Acton- Ealing- West Ealing- Southall- Hayes
all the way to Uxbridge seems suburban enough as to the areas it serves
and no, they are not “much quieter” at all… and they used to thunder
at terrifying speeds on less congested parts/ open stretches of the road
past me to my nervousness. They also think a stationary bike for whatever
reason on a bus lane is an affront and they indicate they want you out
immediately OR if you pedal too slowly AND in places where road is not
wide enough (or as to traffic conditions) to permit safe overtaking.

Yup, I loathe them: the bendies.

LAMOT191 says:
14 December 2011

We have some bendy buses in Aberdeen and I don’t much like them because of the amount of space they take up. However, there’s no problem with people getting on free at the back, because the drivers never open those doors, even to let people off. And everyone just accepts the situation.

On the subject of public transportation, would like to see adapted low-cost
buses run on disused or underused rail lines like they do/did in Germany.

In view of the relatively low numbers of passengers using it and it
being closed Sundays AND before ten at night in the case of the
Greenford-Ealing Broadway-Paddington suburban line, surely it can’t
be profitable at all…. damn slow (apart from the Paddington bit) and
unreliable service in terms of cancellations/delays that I’d not use at
all…. much faster by pedal bike.

Take some/ buses off congested roads and put (at least as to the
lower-density routes) onto rails that the continentals seem to have no
problem in so doing in my observations. A more direct and faster route
as well as being more energy-efficient, I might have thought.

Razia says:
15 December 2011

I am glad the bendy buses are gone and we have reverted back to the old double decker bus if for no ther reason than the greater likelihood of geeting a seat! With all the fare dodgers gone I always get a seat on my way home now! Biggest downfall of them is the smell of chemicals that seems to be on all of them and follows me around all dy, I’m not entirely sure it’s safe or wirth the cost of a seat?

Melody says:
9 August 2012

Has no-one done the maths?

New double deckers – saving £7m PER YEAR per route due to fare dodging
Cost of getting rid of bendy buses and replacing with new double deckers one off £2.2m per route

That means that, within 4 months, on each route, they will have saved more money than it cost to convert back to double deckers. Then a saving on £7m per year per route thereafter.

More than worth the investment it costs to convert back.