London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced this morning that the red double-decker buses known as “Boris buses” will be discontinued — at least as far as new purchases go. The cherry-colored fleet was a key acquisition of former Mayor Boris Johnson, touted heavily during his 2008 campaign according to BBC News. The mayor also trumpeted the start of a major freeze of transit fares.
According to government agency Transport for London, a slew of fares will be frozen until 2020, including:
• all fares on buses and trams
• all single pay as you go fares and paper single tickets on Tube and DLR services
• all Santander Cycles hire and access charges
• all fares on Emirates Air Line
The new Labour mayor suggested the bus nixing would be in the works last year on his campaign trail, citing concerns with the fleet’s expense. Johnson, a Tory, meanwhile called the buses a “stunning piece of automotive architecture” representing the “very best in British design, engineering and manufacture” according to The Guardian.
Khan is currently championing the takeover of commuter rail services in London by TfL as an alternative to fare hikes — lines currently run by the Department of Transport. In an op-ed published in The Evening Standard, the new mayor wrote:
“The truth is that TfL is simply better at running commuter lines than the Department for Transport — something it has proved time and again. Look at the London Overground service, which runs inside and out of London. It has gone from being one of the worst-performing services in the country to one of the best since TfL took control.”
The agency saw fares rise by 42 percent under Johnson, according to Khan, who writes that such hikes are an “expensive and failing approach.”
Khan has been tinkering with alternatives to fare increases in other areas as well. He promised last year to leverage TfL’s innovative “contactless ticketing system,” which allows users to carry a kind of debit card instead of a paper ticket.
“I made a firm commitment to sell Transport for London’s expertise around the globe,” Khan said then in a release. “We will use the income from those deals for further investment in new infrastructure and to freeze TfL fares.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.