One of the policies which swept Boris Johnson to power, you'll remember, was his championing of a New Bus For London. By the end of his first term a prototype had been showcased, and a single route rolled out between Hackney and Victoria. Since then his grand project has been renamed the New Routemaster, and its technological specification hasn't always impressed. But what will be the geographical legacy as Boris steps down four years later? Specifically, which parts of London will benefit from the 1000 vehicles bequeathed to us, and which will miss out?
The following 21 London bus routes are now operated by New Routemaster buses.
And the following four routes are scheduled to transfer across to New Routemasters before the end of the summer.
59 (April) 91 (April) 189 (July) 211 (June)
That's 25 routes in total, which you might expect would be enough to cover most of the capital. Not so. Instead some parts of London see lots of New Routemasters and some see none, because they've been concentrated geographically in a very particular way.
To see this more clearly, I've attempted to tot up all the London boroughs each New Routemaster route runs through. It turns out that all but one of the 25 New Routemaster routes run through Westminster (the only exception, if you're counting, being the 149). More than half run through Camden, just under half run through Lambeth, and around a quarter run through Southwark and Kensington and Chelsea. But several boroughs are served by only one such bus route, or more likely none at all. Here, let me do you a list...
How many New Routemaster routes run through each London borough? 24: Westminster 14: Camden 11: Lambeth 7: Southwark, Kensington & Chelsea 6: Islington 5: Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham 4: City of London 3: Tower Hamlets 2: Brent, Haringey 1: Wandsworth, Lewisham, Bromley, Barnet, Enfield, Waltham Forest 0: The other fifteen boroughs
Shall we take a look at that on a map?
All the action is in the centre of the map, with bugger all out west and nothing doing in the east. And that's because TfL only run new Routemaster buses where routes are busiest, where having three doors for entry and exit is most useful. And so they only run them in Inner London, not Outer London, because what would be the point of wasting them out there?
Admittedly Enfield does get a New Routemaster, the aforementioned 149, but this only nudges into the south of the borough at Edmonton Green. Barnet will be getting a New Routemaster in July, on the 189, but only for half a dozen stops between Cricklewood and Brent Cross. And I know it looks like Bromley gets a New Routemaster, but this is a mere technicality, with the number 3 bus terminating ten metres inside the borough boundary at Crystal Palace bus station. In reality the map of New Routemaster coverage is reverse-doughnut shaped, with all the shiny new buses in the middle and a gaping void around the edge.
To be completely accurate, I should also mention the night bus routes the New Routemaster serves. Most of these follow exactly the same path as the daytime service, but the following six routes extend a little further into the suburbs during the early hours...
N3 N8 N11 N38 N55 N73
Adding these into the mix increases the number of boroughs served by four - specifically Ealing, Hounslow, Newham and Redbridge. These boroughs are served by New Routemasters overnight, but not during the day, which means the majority of residents never see them.
So here's an overall summary map.
The 12 London boroughs served by more than one New Routemaster route are coloured red.
The 6 London boroughs served by only one New Routemaster route are coloured yellow.
The 4 London boroughs served only by New Routemaster night bus routes are coloured grey.
The 11 London boroughs not served by New Routemaster routes are coloured white.
I think the map makes things pretty clear.
Four years ago, you may remember, the Mayor sent his New Bus For London prototype on a tour of London to showcase it in front of potential passengers. It spent a couple of hours in Trafalgar Square, then did the two Westfields, before visiting eight further centres in the outer suburbs. But however much voters in Romford, Bexley, Sutton and Kingston loved the new bus back then, they won't ever get to see it. Boris's legacy is a New Bus for Inner London, and looks like remaining so, whatever its outer suburban fans might hope.