The Thick of It


Friday, March 14, 2008

How exactly is Boris Johnson proposing to bring back the Routemaster?

Boris Johnson keeps saying that he wants to bring to London a modern version of the Routemaster bus. Great. Only one small snag, how exactly? Where does this new bus exist and how much will it cost?

It doesn't. So nobody knows how much it will cost to research, design, build and buy. A mayoral term lasts four years, product development and licencing would take longer than that. So even if Boris managed to get a design approved it is unlikely that he would be able to replace bendy buses with a new Routemaster duting his term of office anyway.

If this is all he has to offer then London deserves more ambition than a vague and unresearched idea. It is nothing more than that.

"A spokeswoman for Johnson said the new Routemaster bus had not been designed yet it was not possible to say how many would be needed or what the total cost would be."

1 comment:

Jim said...

You're missing the point, Tim. Everyone who feels more sympathetic towards Boris in light of his Routemaster advocacy knows full well that, as you say, the Routemaster - the noble lumbering elephant of the West End - is as dead and defunct as Aldwych underground station. However, that is entirely beside the point. You see, what Boris - the noble lumbering elephant of the West End - is doing in affiliating himself with this 'project' is proposing time travel. I'm not talking flux capacitors or anything from HG Wells, what I mean is that he is standing firmly and clearly in front of a grainy, gaslamp-lit banner which reads, in someone's best calligraphy, 'Step right this way for the London you think you remember but don't really: jellied eels, chimney sweeps, 'Enry 'Iggins, smoking on the underground.' It doesn't matter one jot that Old Custard Barnet's intentions and policies are entirely arbitrary and Heath Robinson; what the British public want is a Mayor of London (and here, consider the antediluvian notion of such a title in itself) who:
a) represents the afore-mentioned archaic notions of London-ness (the docks, deference, spivs, ghettoised black communities in Brixton and Notting Hill, White brick Belgravia mews and, yes, the Routemaster.)
b) does not represent the new London (the Olympics, Eurostar, genuine multiculturalism, the congestion charge, East London media, city academies).

I don't think Londoners feel compelled to use their mayoral vote with the same sincerity or ideological solidarity that they reserve for general and local elections. Some, I would even go so far as to suggest, take their responsibility very lightly indeed, perhaps even 'experimenting' by voting for their natural antithesis just to see how it feels - a bit like wearing your girlfriend's knickers to fetch the paper: no harm done, just a little frivolity to spice things up a little on a gloomy winter morning. It is, after all, a secret ballot.

The British public are daft, fickle, opportunistic and downright selfish but they are also a little more self-aware and whimsical than a lot of politicians and statisticians would warrant.