Friday, October 12, 2007

Should the European Commission choose London's buses?

I have always been an admirer of Sarah Ludford. Unlike some of our MEPs, she has always struck me as a practical politician rather than an evangelist for the European project.

Each week she sends out an e-mail bulletin. In the latest one (the story is not on her website yet) she writes:
Only weeks after I asked the European Commission to investigate the dangers of bendy buses and the reasons for their poor safety record, another awful incident has occurred. This week saw the tragic and distressing accident when a man was killed after being dragged by a bendy bus on Ilford High Road. This is a further sad indicator of the potential dangers of these buses, and I will be adding this information to my dialogue with Commissioner Barrot who had already promised me to raise the matter with Transport for London.
Reading the details of this accident, it is clear that there is a serious question mark over these buses. But why is it a matter for the European Commission? We have a London Mayor, a London Assembly and London MPs. Can't they tackle this matter between them? Isn't a great city like London capable of choosing its own buses?

Meanwhile, these buses do look set to become an issue in the next Mayoral election. The great Craig Murray recently wrote:
I am seriously considering voting Boris, mostly because of his high profile stance against the calamitous bendy buses which are eternally preventing me from crossing when there is a little green man. I also strongly approve of his stance on bonking. Doubt it will happen as have never voted Tory, but another candidate needs at least as strong a bendy bus stance to get my vote. Bonking more optional.
And in my essay in Liberalism: Something to Shout About last year I wrote:
Perhaps the next Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate should campaign for a new generation of Routemaster buses and promise to employ conductors on them.


Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet that London is the only capital city in Europe to experience these sort of problems with "bendy buses"!

dreamingspire said...

James got there first... The serious problems are with the behaviour of pedestrians and with the road system in London that we send the buses round. That is not to say that we should just leave it there: I'm sure I remember seeing on pictures of buses in the USA (New York perhaps) that they have had additional fenders added along the sides in front of the wheels, to prevent pedestrians getting underneath.
First Group have been trundling round the country with a new style bendy bus that has much lower side skirts. Trouble is, it also has its front wheels right at the front, so the longer wheelbase of its front section means it has more difficulty getting round corners - I saw it get stuck on its demo visit near me.
When rear engined buses first came to London, they were criticised for their unreliability - but later a senior engineer from LT told me that the problem was really poor maintenance, and thus a management failure. It looks as if some of the fires on the bendy buses are in the same pot.