The first time I stepped inside a Borismaster I was taken immediately by the obvious effort that had been made to somehow preserve the feeling of travelling on a Routemaster - the seat moquette, the circular soft lighting just like the old lightbulbs but using up to date LED's, the interior colour scheme even circular bell pushes. They feel solid, have lasted the London pace better than I anticipated and I have never had an issue with them.
But now there is a new kid on the block. Alexander Dennis have seen how successful the Borismaster has been, and have created their own version of the E400MMC to challenge the Borismaster. So today I went to London to compare the two. Ended up comparing more than that as it turned out.
After a very impressive journey on an Arriva 04 reg B7tl ALX400 to Bluewater and then a surprisingly acceptable ride on an 11 reg E400 to Woolwich I was pleased to see I could get to Peckham on a route recently converted to MMC operation.
|Two of the E400 MMC's on the 177, showing both destinations|
However my grumbling was stopped in its tracks when I spotted my target for the day, the E400H City on its first London route - the 78 which operates between Nunhead near Peckham and Shoreditch in the heart of the East End. I have to say if I was Foster and Partners I would be a little miffed. Take a look at these two pics of two offsides.
|Front upper interior of the E400H City|
|Rear upper deck|
So come on Steve just show us the bleeping bus I hear you yell! Ok here it is!
|Arriva HA2 E400H City LK65 BYY at Shoreditch terminus|
|Rear view of the E400H City|
They lack all the advantages of a Borismaster, 3 doors, rear platform, 2 staircases. The passenger capacity is no higher than a normal E400MMC. I assume performance is no different to a normal E400MMC so why do they exist? Is it that they are a lot cheaper than the Borismaster (the plastic certainly is) so operators who really want a Borismaster but can't justify the extra expense (or don't need the extra door and staircase) can have something that resembles one? The E400MMC is a perfectly good bus, far better than its predecessor, despite the air chill noise, so if the City version isn't meant to just be a cheap version of the Borismaster, copying just enough to not be sued, then what is it for? Discuss.
I got off an E400H City in North Peckham and jumped straight on a Borismaster operating one of the latest routes to be converted to the vehicles, the 168 which runs between North Peckham and Hampstead Heath, which is quite a trek.
|LT550 in front of LT547 at North Peckham|
However since I had the opportunity the ultimate comparison had to be made, and I rode one of the heritage Routemasters on the 15 between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.
|RM 324 in front of two imposters by Charing X Station|
So to sum up. The E400H City is a good bus but I have no idea why it's been built as the standard E400H does everything the City does anyway and is proving popular. The Borismaster reigns supreme but the original Routemaster I'm afraid is now well past its best and as for the Dart engine...
But it wasn't the worst bus I went on today. That award goes to a 15 reg, yes 15, Volvo B5LH Gemini 3 on the 6 which rattled and banged appallingly for a bus less than a year old. Perhaps Wright should put the same build quality into them as they do the Borismaster, but at least it backed up my Scottish conclusions of November. All in all a really good day.