FOI request detail

Bus route 8 and NRM Buses

Request ID: FOI-3003-1920
Date published: 31 January 2020

You asked

In relation to the trial on bus route 8, Specifically, I would like to know: 1. Which routes operated by NRM busses currently (13/11/2019) allow boarding by the middle and rear doors? 2. Which NRM bus routes are or were undergoing a 'pilot' programme to trial front-door-only boarding (e.g. route number 8)? 3. What is the success/failure criteria for the pilot programme of front-door-only boarding to be implemented permanently vs. to allow middle/rear-door boarding again? 4. For the number 8 bus route, what is the financial impact for the business case of moving to front-door-only boarding vs. allowing middle/rear door boarding (i.e. what are the cost savings or revenue improvements expected to justify running the pilot)? 5. How much does it cost to install and have a card reader active at the middle and rear doors on a NRM bus? 6. How many middle and rear door card readers are currently active across the NRM bus route fleet? 7. How many disabled middle and rear door card readers are currently present across the active NRM bus route fleet (e.g. the readers on the number 8 route busses are inactive at present)? 8. Are there plans to deactivate any current middle or rear door card readers on further NRM busses? 9. Are there plans to deploy NRM busses in the future which will not have active middle/rear door readers (either deactivated or not installed) Furthermore, I have 2 additional queries based on comments in your reply above as these are not adequately explained: what metrics are used to assess if the trial is 'popular'? Was customer feedback taken into consideration? What was the mechanism for customers to provide feedback on the trial, as I saw no communications on busses which were running the pilot explaining how I could provide feedback on the scheme? Secondly, it was noted in TfL meeting minutes in 2019 that there was an intention to switch to single-door boarding across all NRM busses, yet it’s been extended. Can you please explain this contradiction - was the decision to extend the trial indefinitely on route 8 because of the 'successful' outcome of the trial, or was this decision already made prior to the conclusion of the trial on route 8?If the decision was already made, why is it presented as if the trial on route 8 ever could result in an outcome where three-door boarding was permitted again?

We answered

TfL Ref: 3003-1920

Thank you for your request received by us on 29 December 2019 asking for information about New Routemaster (NRM) buses

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy.  I can confirm that we hold the information you require.

The New Routemasters currently allow boarding through all doors, but this has seen fare evaders deprive London’s transport network of millions of pounds of vital revenue. Fare evasion on New Routemasters is more than double the rate of other buses, with Transport for London (TfL) estimating that more than £3.6m is lost each year on New Routemasters. The current system also means that customers with accessibility needs cannot always board buses first.

Early indications suggest that fare evasion dropped by more than half during the trial of front-door-only boarding on route 8, with no adverse effect on service efficiency. The pilot, which started in August, was successful in communicating the change and encouraging people to board through the front doors – reducing fare evasion and improving accessibility.

Boarding using the middle and rear doors on all New Routemasters will be phased out, starting with the routes 55 and 267 on 25 January. Customers will be advised of the changes to boarding with emails and on-board announcements. Signage will also be changed on buses. Customers with wheelchairs and pushchairs will continue to be able to board through middle doors.

The changes will also make using buses in London simpler for all, as boarding arrangements for New Routemasters will now be the same as on other London buses. All drivers have undergone training to improve their customers’ experience, and by boarding at the front, it will be easier for passengers to interact with drivers.

You asked for the following

In relation to the trial on bus route 8, Specifically, I would like to know:

1. Which routes operated by NRM busses currently (13/11/2019) allow boarding by the middle and rear doors?

2. Which NRM bus routes are or were undergoing a 'pilot' programme to trial front-door-only boarding (e.g. route number 8)?

As mentioned in our previous response (reference 2456-1920), all of these routes apart from bus routes 8 and N8 are currently operating on an  all-door boarding and alighting basis. We also responded to questions three to nine below in the aforementioned request, which are provided respectively below for ease of reference. The 55 and 267 are also now front boarding only as of 25th January.

3. What is the success/failure criteria for the pilot programme of front-door-only boarding to be implemented permanently vs. to allow middle/rear-door boarding again?

The main reason for the change is to reduce fare evasion, which is higher on NRM routes, and to make boarding and alighting more consistent across the London bus fleet. Success includes lower levels of fare evasion, and that customers understand the change.  As stated above, early indications suggest that fare evasion dropped by more than half during the trial of front-door-only boarding on route 8, with no adverse effect on service efficiency.

4. For the number 8 bus route, what is the financial impact for the business case of moving to front-door-only boarding vs. allowing middle/rear door boarding (i.e. what are the cost savings or revenue improvements expected to justify running the pilot)?

5. How much does it cost to install and have a card reader active at the middle and rear doors on a NRM bus?

Whilst we expect revenue benefits to quickly outweigh the costs involved for moving to front-door-only boarding, in accordance with the FOI Act, we are not obliged to supply the financial information in response to Questions 4 and 5. Information for the latter is contained within our wider revenue collection systems contract with Cubic and both questions are subject to a statutory exemption to the right of access to information under section 43(2).

In this instance the section 43(2) exemption has been applied as disclosure would be likely to prejudice our commercial interests, as well as those of the companies concerned. Disclosing this information would be prejudicial to the contractors’ ability to compete for tendering opportunities with TfL and other companies in the future, as their competitive edge would inevitably be prejudiced by disclosure of a detailed cost breakdown.

The use of this exemption is subject to an assessment of the public interest in relation to the disclosure of the information concerned. We recognise the need for openness and transparency by public authorities but in this instance the public interest in ensuring that TfL is able to obtain the best value for public money outweighs the general public interest in increasing transparency of our contractual agreements and processes.

6. How many middle and rear door card readers are currently active across the NRM bus route fleet?

With the exception of bus routes 8 and the N8, all card readers were active in the NRM fleet at the time of your request.

7. How many disabled middle and rear door card readers are currently present across the active NRM bus route fleet (e.g. the readers on the number 8 route busses are inactive at present)?

There were approximately 30 buses that were part of the trial, which had their centre and rear car readers deactivated.

8. Are there plans to deactivate any current middle or rear door card readers on further NRM busses?

Following the successful pilot the other card readers will be deactivated and removed.

9. Are there plans to deploy NRM busses in the future which will not have active middle/rear door readers (either deactivated or not installed)

The NRM fleet is moved from time to time based on service changes, and if appropriate we would ensure that buses in different configurations are not mixed on the same route.  Additionally, all NRM vehicles that are modified and operated in front-door boarding mode will have the middle and rear-card readers removed as part of post service introduction removal process.

Furthermore, I have 2 additional queries based on comments in your reply above as these are not adequately explained:

what metrics are used to assess if the trial is 'popular'? Was customer feedback taken into consideration? What was the mechanism for customers to provide feedback on the trial, as I saw no communications on busses which were running the pilot explaining how I could provide feedback on the scheme?

Secondly, it was noted in TfL meeting minutes in 2019 that there was an intention to switch to single-door boarding across all NRM busses, yet it’s been extended. Can you please explain this contradiction - was the decision to extend the trial indefinitely on route 8 because of the 'successful' outcome of the trial, or was this decision already made prior to the conclusion of the trial on route 8?If the decision was already made, why is it presented as if the trial on route 8 ever could result in an outcome where three-door boarding was permitted again?

Our intention was to have these changes largely implemented by now. However, since bus manufacturer Wrightbus went into administration and was recently taken over by the Bamford Bus Company, we have been liaising with the new owners to see how they can be taken forward.

Customers who were identified as route 8 users were emailed as shown in the screen snapshot below,  a message was also posted on Twitter shown below right, leaflets were provided, as well as on-bus announcements two weeks before and after the pilot began. Customer feedback on the Route 8 pilot came from various sources including ticket inspectors, teams handing out leaflets and assisting customers during the first days of the trial, our customer services centre, route 8 operating staff and social media. Other information used including monitoring route performance and fare evasion rates after the trial launch.

The route 8 pilot aimed to achieve the objective of minimising fare evasion and having no overall adverse impacts on the service’s performance. There was no definitive period of time put on the pilot but its success in meeting the objectives set and the generally positive reaction from customers when they understood the reason for it convinced us to continue implementing front door boarding on all NRM routes as soon as possible.

If you wish to register your views, our Customer Experience Team can also be contacted on 0343 222 1234.

Examples of email and Twitter communications:

cid:image001.jpg@01D5CAE5.DE8690A0

Image

If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for any reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.

Yours sincerely

Jasmine Howard

FOI Case Officer

Information Governance

Transport For London

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