Here’s a cut we can all approve of: Transport for London says that Boris Johnson’s scrapping of bendy buses has reduced fare-dodging by more than three-quarters.
TfL has monitored fare evasion on the 38, the only major trunk route to be converted so far. It says that in February 2009, when the 38 was still covered by a bendy, 6.4% of all passengers dodged paying their fares. By February 2010, the fare-dodging rate was down to 1.5%.
The 38 carries about 13 million passengers a year. So even allowing for the large numbers of people who legitimately travel free, the move from bendies to double-deckers on just this one route alone is on course to save at least an extra £260,000 of lost fares in its first twelve months – or £5,000 a week.
This doesn’t fully make up for the cost of the huge number of extra buses that were provided on the 38 when it was converted back to double-deck operation: but that was the result of a deliberate and massive over-provision that will hopefully be reduced over time, and will not be done on the same scale in future bendy conversions. All the “old” double-deck routes, before being converted to bendies, were cheaper, often much cheaper, than the bendies which replaced them.
The fascinating thing about the three bendy route conversions to date is how smoothly it has gone, and how completely all the shroud-wavers – with their predictions of chaos, stranded passengers and the rest – have fallen silent. Even in the extraordinary heritage replica that is Ken Livingstone’s campaign to return to office in 2012, bringing back the bendy is just about the only policy he hasn’t resurrected.
Roll on the final destruction of these loathsome vehicles – the 18 and 149 by the end of the year, all the rest by the end of 2011. The fare-dodgers will hate it, but the rest of us will be millions of pounds in credit.