The ‘Borismaster’ has attributes that could appeal to high quality, high capacity services elsewhere, says Dr Bob Tebb of BRTuk.

Now with its launch into everyday service, there has certainly been plenty of publicity in the national media about the New Bus for London; whatever pressure there is to name it otherwise, I suspect ‘Borismaster’ it will remain for many. For the first time in many a year the media is reporting enthusiastically about a new bus product – a rare event indeed and most welcome.

The bus is in the public eye again – positively – and it takes a lot to achieve that.

To our friends in continental Europe it may look, at first glance, as far removed from their idea of a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) vehicle as it possible to get – I think that second deck might be the giveaway! Look more closely, though, and I would suggest that in the detail it may well be not just a candidate for being the best bus, but also the best BRT bus around in Britain, though it may be run a close-second by those multi-door articulated buses still to be found in ordinary urban service in a few places, but never used here in proper BRT high-performance service.

In the detail, I commend such things as the multi-door layout (particularly in terms of ‘doors per unit length’), the internal circulation freedom, the short door-to-park space for wheelchair users, a separate crew-member able to provide confidence, information and security to non-regular users, and so on. All these will minimise bus stop dwell times, speeding up journeys, increasing reliability, and reducing the frustrations of interminable stops for passenger/driver transactions – towards BRT in fact! In performance terms, the top deck is actually almost irrelevant here, save that it increases significantly the number of persons carried per unit length, and is a great viewing platform for tourists – big commercial pluses!

I suggested earlier that continental Europeans would conclude the Borismaster was a very-British solution. They would be wrong, however, as I well remember making many journeys in Copenhagen a decade ago, happily pushing an occupied child-buggy, onto and off double-deckers with three doors and two staircases, working on some of the ‘S-buss’ express bus routes there. These routes sought to replicate the attributes of the city’s rapid transit S-tog train network – in other words to be BRT, albeit generally on public highway, ahead of the actual slow and costly process of building more S-train lines.

Of course, there was something rather familiar about these Copenhagen buses; their East Lancs bodies on Volvo chassis certainly displayed their design origins to the full. So – when are we going to see Borismasters on BRT routes in Britain? They’d certainly capture the attention of both the media and the public – although an open back platform might not suit all tastes at 55mph-plus in the Cambridgeshire fens!

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