Being a bit of a purist, I'd rather not blog about the New Busfor London until I've actually ridden on it. That's difficult at present, given that the inaugural journey has been delayed and is supposedly due sometime later this morning. In the meantime, in line with current journalistic best practice, I'll simply cut and paste from TfL's official press release.
Mayor rejoices as New Bus for London launches 27 February 2011
The New Bus for London, the best bus since the Routemaster, started service in the Capital today.
The first prototype vehicle set out from Hackney Bus Garage this morning, just as soon as the Post Office had opened and the tax disc had been paid for.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, joined the first journey to Victoria with a tear in his eye. "The bendy bus is dead, and freedom and common sense have returned to the streets of London," he said. "This is a day that will long be remembered. Exultet laudibus omnibus."
The Mayor, who committed to build a Routemaster replacement in his election manifesto, was one of the first to jump onto the rear platform today. Here he was greeted by Rajinder Hussain, Arriva's first Rear Platform Operative, who reminded him to board safely and move along inside the bus thankyou.
Along the Balls Pond Road a group of Pearly Kings and Queens hopped on and off of the rear platform, in a choreographed move designed to showcase the New Bus's finest feature. They then had to stand for the rest of the journey, because there aren't that many seats downstairs and the stairs are a bit steep when you're eighty-three.
Later tonight, in an exciting new feature never before seen in London, the rear door of the bus will be closed with a perspex cover. This will make the back staircase mostly redundant, but it is still beautifully designed with sweeping curves.
Only one New Bus vehicle has so far been completed, although there should be another one along soon and maybe eight by the summer. London's taxpayers can be reassured that eleven million pounds has been well spent on this project. Two-man operated vehicles are ideal for these austere times, so bus operators in other UK cities will surely place orders for hundreds.
The 38 is one of the Capital's busiest routes, and will act as the ideal showcase for Boris's single prototype. Sixty-eight normal double decker vehicles will continue to be used to service the route, so your chance of turning up and riding on the New Bus is quite frankly tiny. Please do not let this put you off what excellent value for money the New Bus represents.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'This revolutionary New Bus combines iconic features from the much-loved Routemaster with the very best of 21st century style. We are all shareholders in this marvellous enterprise, which will help save not only the planet but also my Mayoral career. I know that Londoners will cheer this sleek and sinuous beauty whenever she goes by, unless they live and work in Outer London where she will never run.'
Convicted fare dodger, Michael Ngoro, said: 'I thought free rides had disappeared with the bendy bus, but these New Buses are just as easy. With three doors for boarding, I'm spoilt for choice. Even better, the muppet on the rear platform isn't allowed to check tickets, he just stands there watching for trip hazards. Thanks to Boris I need never pay for a bus ride again.'
Head of Surface Transport, Alice Ridpath, said: 'This is a masterpiece of British engineering and design, apart from the ten downstairs seats that face backwards, and so long as tall people learn to crouch when they go upstairs. I am certain it will become a much-loved and iconic vehicle akin to the legendary Routemaster from which it draws so much inspiration.'
Notes for Editors:
Critical design features include three entrances and two staircases to deliver speedy boarding, a new seat and moquette design, a poky little space for wheelchair users, low energy LED lighting, a climate controlled air system, innovative use of new materials, the opportunity to look up women's skirts through the glass as they walk down the stairs, and an open platform at the rear in common with the iconic Routemaster.
The New Bus is not a Routemaster, but we do try to slip the word 'Routemaster' into our press releases as frequently as possible to enhance branding and aid public perception.
Economy: 11.6mpg; CO2: 640g/km; Kerb weight: 17,900kg; Generator: 4 cyls in line, 4460cc, rear-mounted, turbodiesel; Transmission: RWD Siemens full-series hybrid system with DC inverter, Siemens AC electric moto and 75kWh lithium ion battery pack; Power: 174bhp; Torque: 1844lb ft
For passengers too young or too foreign to remember Routemasters, a leaflet has been produced to explain how hopping off between stops actually works.
Aww, stop moaning. You'll love the New Bus once you've ridden it, and in 20 years time you'll be pleading with us not to withdraw it from service.
Images from the event will be available on request from the TfL Press Office.
See you on the New Bus later? (assuming any of us can track it down...)