PASSENGERS are baking on Northern Ireland-made ‘Boris Buses’.
Technical problems with the multi-million pound Routemaster style vehicles on the streets of London have left passengers sweltering in the July heat.
For the problems have been caused by faults in the vehicles’ air conditioning system and the fact that the windows on the bus don’t open.
The buses were built by Wrightbus of Ballymena where London Mayor Boris Johnston recently visited, hence the name ‘Boris Buses’.
On Thursday, heat levels on the upper decks were recorded at more than 30C – the maximum for transporting cattle and other farm animals across Europe, according to an investigation by London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
Transport for London (TfL) has admitted the buses, which cost £354,500 each, were suffering “teething problems” and encouraged concerned passengers to make a complaint.
Windows were omitted by bus designer Thomas Heatherwick – best known for his Olympic cauldron – as he feared they would “ruin the efficiency” of the on-board cooling units.
Temperatures recorded at 1pm yesterday on the upper deck of the 24 bus reached 30.4C, more than 7C warmer than outside.
Humidity levels were 77 per cent – 15 percentage points higher than notoriously hot Asian countries such as Malaysia – and almost double that of the Tube.
Last month route 24 – between Pimlico and Hampstead Heath – became the first to be run entirely with the new buses.
TfL plans to roll-out 600 of the buses, built by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, across London by 2016. Route 11, which runs between Liverpool Street station and Fulham Broadway, will convert on September 21.
The buses, described by the Mayor as “a brilliant feat of British engineering”, were first trialled on route 38, where several continue to operate alongside conventional double deckers, 18 months ago.
Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and deputy chair of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “After spending a fortune of public money and after extensive testing the public should not have to put up with a cauldron on wheels.
“The Mayor and TfL should stop making excuses and ensure that such basic problems are sorted out as a matter of urgency.”
Mike Weston, operations director for London Buses, said: “We are aware of some technical issues with the ventilation and air chill system on some of the New Bus for London vehicles on Route 24.
“Our suppliers are working to fix the issue as soon as possible.
“As you would expect with the introduction of a large fleet of new buses, there will be teething problems and we are working hard to minimise the impact of these on our passengers.”
Passengers have taken to Twitter to express their fury.
One described the conditions as “hotter than magma”. Another dubbed the buses “moving saunas”.
Others called on TfL to hand out water to passengers.
It came as TfL yesterday published its “beat the heat” plan for summer – and as forecasters warned London was set to experience the hottest day of the year on Sunday, with a 27C peak.
The so-called “New Bus for London” was one of Boris Johnson’s 2008 key election pledges as he sought a replacement for the classic Routemaster open rear-platform bus. He spent £7.8m developing five prototype buses and they have been trialled on the capital’s streets since February last year on route 38.
A TfL spokeswoman said: “We would ask any passenger who feels our service falls below what they expect – for example the air cooling system on the bus not working – to contact us on 0845 300 7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Their concerns will be fully investigated.”
In May, Boris Johnson opened a new Wrightbus plant in Northern Ireland to build the new hybrid engine double decker bus for London.
Wrightbus are supplying 600 of the vehicles to London in a contract worth more than £200m.
Boris Johnson, who was accompanied on the visit by Northern Ireland Office Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, said he believed they were good value for money.
“We will ensure these buses more than earn their keep over the next few years,” he said.
“By keeping them in harness in the capital for the entirety of their useful life, we will be extracting every last drop of value out of them.”
Transport for London (TfL), the public body which manages transport in the capital, said the new bus is the greenest diesel electric hybrid bus in the world.
TfL estimates the 600-strong fleet will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city by almost 20,000 tonnes a year.
The bus features three doors and two staircases which are intended to speed up the process of getting on and off the vehicle.
It also has the famous Routemaster open rear platform which will allow people to “hop-on” when a conductor is on board.
It is expected to cost an additional £37m a year to employ conductors on the buses.
Mr Johnson said the design deserves much praise.
“Aside from its Hollywood blockbuster good looks, this bus offers an unparalleled passenger experience and is helping to improve the capital’s air quality,” he said.
“It also demonstrates that we, as a nation, remain a great force in design, engineering and manufacture.”
The vehicles will be delivered over the next three years.