Perhaps cognisant of the envious glances thrown the way of the new Piccadilly line trains that are expected to enter service in 2025, TfL have been on the lookout for other ways to spruce up the transport network. Today, that includes unveiling some fancy new London buses that are being rolled out on the number 63 bus route (between Honor Oak and Kings Cross), complete with skylights, USB charging points, and phone holders – meaning it’ll be easier than ever to watch your soaps on the commute.
First developed around two years ago, the all-electric buses have been introduced to encourage more people back to public transport as Londoners return to commuting now that the pandemic has begun to subside. They join a zero-emission bus fleet that now stands at 650 strong, and have been made more accessible with instantly-identifiable priority seats, and a larger wheelchair and buggy space. Plus, they’re well-equipped to keep us entertained in traffic, with mobile phone holders and USB chargers letting us set up our phones like mini TV screens. The skylight offers the opportunity for gazing at the sunny blue sky (or clouds, knowing London), and the buses feature new digital signage that shares real-time information about buses and Tubes.
Mind you, Londoners are perhaps right to be wary of upgraded buses; the ‘New Bus for London’ (aka the New Routemaster, and subsequently nicknamed the Borismaster after the former Mayor of London and current UK Prime Minister, who ordered the thousand-strong fleet) infamously suffered from ineffectual air conditioning and small upstairs windows that often made the upper deck a touch gloomy. (Even with all that, I still kinda love ’em.) Just last month, it was revealed that TfL’s funding crisis could force them off the road, as they’re due a mid-life update that the transport network cannot afford at present.
That same funding crisis is having an impact on the new buses (the New New Bus for London?); TfL have made clear in today’s press release that they won’t be able to order any new buses or retrofit others without a long-term funding deal. That’s been a bone of contention between the city and the UK government for a while now: whilst a £1.6 billion bailout was agreed in May 2020, a further cash injection led to an increase in Tube and bus fares in 2021. Currently, TfL is fully funded until February 18, 2022, and talks continue to secure a long-term deal that can fund TfL for the next three years.
Hopefully, once that’s sorted we’ll start seeing plenty more of these lovely new buses on the roads of London. Although if TfL is crowdfunding suggestions about where to put them, could I suggest a few for my local 141 route, please?
Also published on Medium.