Friday, March 07, 2008

Boris' buses

I rarely talk about politics on this blog, but Boris Johnson's claims of political bias in Transport for London has got me interested. It's quite an easy one to imagine, that a strongly unionised employer would support the left wing candidate for the election of over the right-wing candidate.

The row is over Boris's plans to bring back conductors and routemaster buses back to London's streets, replacing the bendy buses. It's a romantic idea, and quite a popular one I should imagine, becuase nobody really likes those bendy buses.

Boris is claiming that it would only cost 8 million pounds to hire the extra conductors, based on the fact that there are 337 bendy buses, thus 337 * 24,500 (salary of a conductor) = just over 8 million. Fine.

TFL has released it's figures about this. There are actually 390 bendy buses, and 350 on the road at any one time. Each bus works a twenty hour day, and is staffed by a rotation of three drivers. So actually you'd have to hire 350 * 3 = 1050 extra conductors.

But hang on, the capacity of bendy bus is 150 people. The capacity of a routemaster is 69 i.e. half. So you would actually have to have twice as many buses to maintain capacity, thus hire twice as many conductors. 2 * 1050 = 2100.

But hang on a little longer, becuase if you're doubling the buses, you'd need to double the drivers as well. So that's an extra 1050 drivers, each earning 35,000 a year.

So the total increased staffing cost for replacing the bendy buses with routemasters is:

2100 * 24,000 + 1050 * 35,000 = 87,150,000

More than ten times Boris' headline figure, and that's excluding the cost of hiring and training the extra staff, and replacing the actual buses themselves!!

I don't like Red Ken that much, there is undoubtedly some truth in the cronyism stories and so on. And it's very easy to like Boris, he's such an affable chap. The fact that TFL's figure disagree with his has got him crying of bias. But figures are figures, and Boris' just don't add up. If he can't do the simple maths for buses, he's in no way capable of running one of the world's greatest cities.


Rich said...

your calculations assume that you need to replace all bendy buses with 2 routemasters, I'm not sure this is necessarily true, as some routes may never fill the bus.

However, you've not allowed for cover when conductors are ill, I'm sure 10% of them will be off on any given day.

Rich said...

Also - I guess the idea of using the conductor means you can make more efficient use of the vehicle, as it spends more time moving. So you should be able to get it to do more routes in a day. So that also reduces the total number of buses you need.

I'll shut up now.

Alun said...

good points Scuffy, especially about lower waiting times. Though the advent of Oyster cards has done a lot to speed things up, I hate having to buy a ticket at one of those stupid machines, while the bloody bus drives off!

I'm not against bringing back conductors in principal, but the point I was trying to make is that there is a lot more to consider than simply saying "let's hire 350 conductors, it will only cost 8 million". There hasn't been an accurate breakdown of neither the costs nor the benefits.