When Routemasters were phased out in 2005, TfL chose to keep a few running during daytime hours on parts of route 9 and 15. Last year they decided to scrap heritage route 9, so they held a consultation. 84% of respondents disagreed, but they scrapped it anyway. This left only heritage route 15 with proper Routemasters. Now they want to trim back this service by losing one of the five buses an hour, so they've held another consultation. And this time 61% of respondents disagreed, so they're cutting the frequency anyway.
"We're opposed to a reduced frequency," said the public. "Ah," said TfL, "the regular fully-accessible service on route 15 provides sufficient capacity. The reduction in frequency of the heritage service will increase its reliability without the need for additional financial support, by allowing buses more time to complete their journeys. When buses keep more closely to the advertised timetable this can reduce waiting times for intending passengers."
"You need to run more Heritage Routemasters," said the public. "Ah," said TfL, "we make every effort to maximise value for money and public benefit from every pound which we spend providing services. The proposed service is considered sufficient for the purpose of allowing our customers to experience travel by traditional Routemaster. A high frequency service of modern fully accessible buses operates on the parallel route 15."
"It's the beginning of the end," said the public. "Ah," said TfL, "the Heritage Routemasters will still be available for customers to experience and see in operation in London. A new contract has been let to secure the continued operation of the service."
"You should advertise the service better," said the public, "because your publicity's nigh invisible, indeed you've just published a 20 page free leaflet for tourists called Visiting London and you don't mention the Heritage Routemasters once, even though the bloody cablecar gets at least three plugs." "Ah," said TfL, "the 15 Heritage Routemaster will continue to be publicised through the wide variety of media used to publicise the London Bus Network."
And that's the end of the matter. It might even be the right decision, in these days of austerity, cutbacks and Garden Bridges. But what's very clear from TfL's four-pronged response is that they had every intention of cutting back the service no matter what the public said, indeed they could easily have written their rebuttal beforehand. Which begs the question, why bother responding to a consultation, or indeed holding one, when the outcome is never in doubt?