Proposal to reduce Routemaster 15H 'Heritage' operation in London

Discussion in 'Buses & Coaches' started by theblackwatch, 8 Nov 2018.

  1. theblackwatch

    theblackwatch Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Routemaster Association is reporting that TfL is proposing to cut the days of operation of the 15H Routemaster service to just summer weekends and Bank Holidays from its current daily operation. According to a post on their Facebook page, TfL have said:

    This is a huge reduction from what I assume is a 364 day operation to probably under 40 days. Although I'm not from London, I'm down there every couple of months and regularly travel on Tfl tub/train services, and I've never seen anything advertising 'ride on an iconic bus' or similar - I'm sure more mebers of the public would if they knew they could and where.
     
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  3. carlberry

    carlberry Established Member

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    TfL have to save money and it's better to cut stuff like this than real services.
     
  4. Robertj21a

    Robertj21a Established Member

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    It's been going for long enough. Only really originally intended to shut up certain people, and provide a bit of a sight for tourists. TfL need to cut costs.
     
  5. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    This service, and another known as the 9H, were started in November 2005, just a month or so before regular Routemaster operation in London ceased on conversion of the 159 to opo. It was, at least in part, a sop to those who were critical of TfL's change in policy under Mayor Ken Livingstone to remove mainstream RM operation. The RMs/RMLs that were used on the 159 were each plastered with ads saying that Routemaster buses were not going from the streets of London as these two 'heritage' routes would still feature the buses. A personal view, but as one who had spent many hours as a kid stood at Crystal -Palace Parade waiting for RM1 to appear on route 2, when it was the sole Routemaster, etc etc, I considered this to be rather disingenuous. When the last trams went in 1952 (and, living in Eltham, I CAN just remember that, though very young) there were posters on the side saying, from memory, 'This week we say goodbye to London' and I feel the RMs on the 159 should have carried much the same message. Now, that doesn't answer your point as to how well the services (the 9H went two or three years ago) were advertised thereafter: I think the most significant factor in their severe truncation was Leon Daniels' vacation of the hot seat as head of London buses a year ago, because he was a champion of them.
     
  6. James H

    James H Member

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    The fact that the 15H doesn't accept contactless has prevented me from using it on several occasions.
     
  7. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    Agreed. There's plenty of opportunities to ride Routemasters at various events anyway. I don't really think it will be missed, and I agree that TfL have bigger fish to fry.
     
  8. Teflon Lettuce

    Teflon Lettuce Established Member

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    Surely the best way of operating a heritage operation would be to invite enthusiast groups to provide vehicles for a skeleton service on Christmas Day... all pay on the bus and all profits going to charity.
     
  9. Max

    Max Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Completely agree with this. I hadn't been aware of this absurdity until I attempted to use it with my partner's dad on their holiday to London. As somebody who doesn't have a paper season or use Oyster on a regular basis, (let's be honest, who does now if they don't have a season or get a railcard discount), I felt quite disgruntled!
     
  10. James H

    James H Member

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    This change has now been confirmed

    Background report: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/changes-to-route-15-heritage-buses.pdf
     
  11. tbtc

    tbtc Veteran Member

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    Gosh!

    That puts things in a little context, I suppose - there must be a lot of rural bus services chopped that required lower passenger subsidies than that (especially as the 15H was a relatively short route).
     
  12. Jordan Adam

    Jordan Adam Established Member

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    I'm surprised there's not the typical lot of people who we all know about crying and protesting about this being the end of the world! I agree with the comment earlier in this thread that it's better to cut something like this rather than an actual vital service.
     
  13. Mikey C

    Mikey C Established Member

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    I've always thought that the heritage routes were poorly advertised. When tourists see them, do they think they are normal TfL routes or do they assume they're special sightseeing routes?

    I occasionally used the 9H when I worked in High St Ken. It was a nice way into the West End. I remember the final day, and how knackered the RM I was on looked! It was "easy" to remove the 9H though as the normal 9 had Borismasters with the open platform (i.e. with the platform supervisor)
     
  14. Andyh82

    Andyh82 Established Member

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    I would perhaps of reduced it to summer, rather than just summer weekends, as if you are a tourist in London a weekend is no different from a weekday.

    In reality how many summer weekends will the service actually be able to be run as advertised due to all the various planned events?

    The service is very poorly advertised, and many tourists might not think it is a public service able to be used by normal Oyster card holders. They stand out no more than a pre booked private Routemaster tour bus that you will often see in Central London
     
  15. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I'm amazed it lasted this long after the 9H ended. As Max says, the fact you can't use Contactless on them only makes them less appealing (though IME the conductors are sympathetic and sensible if you have Contactless).

    Controversial opinion, but I don't think TfL should be subsidising these museum pieces when they're cutting frequencies elsewhere. Let the tour bus operators have them.
     
  16. Andyh82

    Andyh82 Established Member

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    In the world of London bus operations, if Stagecoach wanted to take it on commercially what barriers would they face?
     
  17. Robertj21a

    Robertj21a Established Member

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    They couldn't operate it with the 'heritage' Routemasters as a normal service as the buses don't meet the disability regulations.
     
  18. Shimbleshanks

    Shimbleshanks Member

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    Yes, quite - especially as TfL have possibly more prime advertising space than anyone else in London - the service could effecitvely have been advertised for free. In my opinion they should be made to advertise it properly and only then take a decision on cutting it back.
     
  19. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I introduced this subject on to another, specialised bus forum, as I thought that might be something Stagecoach would consider, but no-one agreed with me. I certainly don't think it could form part of the TfL bus network, so Oyster cards couldn't be accepted, and an added factor since the original proposal is that Stagecoach no longer operate the 'proper' 15, so that would probably make them less interested.

    I'd take the subsidy per passenger figure with a ladle of salt, personally, as it has increased by several hundred per cent according to TfL's figures in two or three years! It's well-known that many passengers on the route try to make payment for their journey and are unable to (no cash fares, no contactless cards, and no ability to either purchase or top-up on Oyster.) TfL, once Peter Hendy and then Leon Daniels had departed, had no advocates left for the 15H, and some might say for buses in central London per se.
     
  20. 158756

    158756 Member

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    it does seem very high. People must be actively avoiding them to have such an extreme difference with the standard 15. Is it the contactless issue, do people not recognise it as a TfL service or what? I suspect even fewer regular passengers will use it when it only operates on tourist days.
     
  21. Andyh82

    Andyh82 Established Member

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    The 15H is much shorter, much less frequent and has much lower operating hours

    Also because it is the same route as a 15, if a real 15 is already on the stop, quite often in my experience the Routemaster will just go past. Very few are specifically waiting for the 15H for it to make a point of pulling in behind, because very few people actually know about it.
     
  22. 158756

    158756 Member

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    That should also mean that, before the cost of maintaining a Routemaster, operating costs should be much lower too. If the shortness of route is a problem, that suggests the 15H section isn't any busier than the rest of the 15, which goes with the next point;

    that it doesn't sound like it's attempting to provide a genuine public transport service, and as such shouldn't have been funded by TfL to begin with.
     
  23. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    If anything they'd be better off operated by the tour companies, but the tour companies aren't interested.

    I'd just get rid. That massive subsidy can't be justified for something like that.
     
  24. 700007

    700007 Member

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    I am sad that the 15H is going however I don't think TfL even tried with this one. I do agree, the subsidy is absolutely crazy, but I think operating a tourist routemaster service has a large potential but TfL did not explore this.

    As previously mentioned, TfL should have allowed Contactless payments and I think for this one of bus route should have retained the passenger right to pay by cash as well.

    The Routemasters should also be operating a different bus route, not the 15. The 15, as a result of several bus cuts and increasing congestion along the route with barely any attempt to tackle this issue made the route more unattractive to use over the years and also lose its high profile.

    Lack of promotion of this bus route meant that most of the public did not know this route ran or that this route was not a tour bus.

    I would have put the Routemasters on a bus route like the 88, between Westminster and Regents Park for London Zoo (or Camden Town), with better promotion to the public, more ways to pay for your fare and a less congested route.

    Surely a private operator could run the route because as long as it follows an existing bus route that is DDA compliant I believe the route would be granted?
     
  25. James H

    James H Member

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    I always thought that it was a shame that neither of the heritage RM routes crossed the river.

    A Routemaster on, say, Westminster Bridge - you can hardly get a more 'London' image than that.
     
  26. carlberry

    carlberry Established Member

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    It isnt TfL's job to run old buses. Any operator could register it however if it dosent cover it's costs when it's run at normal fares I suspect it'll have no chance once 'excursion' type fares apply.
     
  27. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    Diamond Geezer wrote a blog about this a couple of weeks ago. Seems it is a popular service but TfL need to make more effort to collect fares.

    It strikes me as a removal by stealth.

    http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com/2019/01/route-15h.html?m=1

     
  28. alex397

    alex397 Member

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    More proof that TfL are not the amazing organisation that people perceive them to be.

    The 15H is ridiculously unadvertised - to see the timetable I've had to look it up on the Londonbusroutes website, basically a website for enthusiasts. For any tourists, there is a tiny note underneath he ordinary 15 timetable mentioning the Heritage Routemasters. It's no wonder it is under-utilised. If properly advertised, this service could have made TFL a profit, and possibly help to subsidise their other services. They could have even charged a premium price for this service - I'm sure most would have been willing to pay it for this service, to ride on a classic London bus.

    To reduce this service to summer weekends is surely less efficient. They might as well withdraw it altogether. Vehicles will still have to be maintained, and there will be the cost of having special rotas. What will the Routemaster drivers and conductors be doing when it's not a summer weekend?
     
  29. Andyh82

    Andyh82 Established Member

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    The report two posts above shows that the income generated is misleading because they aren’t generating all that is there.

    Why did they not install an Oyster reader on board somewhere around the rear platform?
     
  30. Dai Corner

    Dai Corner Established Member

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    Or even enable the conductor to sell souvenir tickets for cash. The full heritage experience!
     
  31. Jack15001

    Jack15001 Member

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    You can still use it, you get a free ride. As others have alluded to advertising of the service is poor to non existent and people are often unsure if it's a regular bus service. It does provide support to the main 15 service at busy times and the running costs of half a dozen Routemasters really are a spit in the ocean in the overall scheme of things.
     

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