Hot Demand

The two-week consecutive conversion programme started today, route 10 becoming London United's third Borismaster route.

Au Morandarte photographs a line of new Wright Borismaster
hybrid (LT) buses in Stamford Brook (V), awaiting service on
route 10. Batch LT148-175 were delivered a few weeks early,
 so there were no worries about a late conversion or a phase-in plan.
Pulling up into High Street Kensington, the traffic was immense. I was able to spot two Borismasters, a reasonable distance away from each other, amidst the heavy traffic. I had never seen High Street Ken quite like it; usually, you could duck into the bus lane to avoid the momentary queues at each traffic light along the high street, but today there was nowhere to duck. When we finally approached the end of the traffic, I realised all this was due to inconveniently positioned roadworks blocking off the right lane of the road.

High Street Ken was unaffected by roadworks in the other direction, and I saw a few smart-looking unadvertised Borismasters on the 10 glide past. On approach to Hammersmith, there was traffic again! Like High Street Ken, there is usually the momentary build-up of traffic due to the lights going green and red too quickly with contributions from the abundant junctions in the area, however I had not seen Hammersmith quite like this, either! Due to road closures near the Kings Mall Shopping Centre and the Hammersmith Bus Station entrance on the side of Hammersmith Broadway, we had to go all around the bus station complex to enter the upper level from the other side, which meant unfortunately getting stuck in further traffic, although this phase was surprisingly easier to escape.

Finally arriving at Hammersmith Upper Bus Station, I took some photos of the new Wright Borismaster hybrid (LT) buses on both routes 9 and 10 before boarding LT168 (LTZ 1168) to King's Cross. I noticed LT150 (LTZ 1150), famous for its chrome-coloured paintwork as part of the Year of the Bus 2014 celebrations, was still on route 9 despite being due allocation to the 10 today - no doubt the bus will alternate between both routes.

Able to merely exit and ignore the traffic going on in the other direction, I was expecting the bus to zoom all the way to Marble Arch as the spacious Hammersmith Road, High Street Ken (with the exception of small short-lasting traffic), Kensington Road, the Hyde Park end of Knightsbridge and Park Lane barely encounter congestion at all, with cars and buses on different lanes and, for High Street Ken, approaching separate exits speeding past each other blissfully. This was what I anticipated ... this was surely imminent ... but this was not what I got.

Drivers no doubt would have had enough time to get used to driving these new buses, not only because the batch for the 10 had been here for a few weeks prior to service but because batch LT69-94 for route 9 had been here for several months, now, giving them plenty of time to use any spare buses from that batch to prepare. It seemed this driver was still in driver training mode, as he did not exceed fifteen miles per hour throughout the whole journey. If I had jogged the whole length of route 10, I probably would have sufficed twenty minutes of what became an abysmal journey. You can understand my apathy when a Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TL on a Tower Transit route from Westbourne Park (X), a batch of buses generally slated by the drivers for their lack of acceleration and unsteady braking, attempted a drag race down High Street Ken with us in the more innovative, smooth and (should be) faster Borismaster hybrid! The ten year older bus almost had it in the bag until the road got too tight and the Borismaster, only marginally ahead, was permitted to collect the position first as the driver of the Volvo B7TL wisely pulled back with the consequence of having to endure another few minutes stuck behind us.

Route 9 and 10 will alternate Wright
Borismaster hybrid (LT) buses from
each other's batches, including LT150.
Do you think the 10 only does what the
 9 does better from where they parallel?
Talking of overtaking, the driver was driving slow yet still tried to get ahead of other vehicles at traffic lights by changing into the other empty lane and pulling alongside them. It was an unwise manoeuvre as the road ahead between the traffic light land was too tight and, with a few agitated honking of horns, cars had to allow the Borismaster to cut across just so we could keep them tailing us in a very dilatory fashion, kind of like what police drivers tend to do to piss you off, on approach to Knightsbridge. It really was the worst of successful amateur class overtaking. By Royal Albert Hall, when we got overtaken by a Borismaster on the 9, I came to the conclusion that route 10 only does what route 9 does better from where the two routes parallel from Hammersmith to Hyde Park.

I would assume that the driver might increase the pace at Park Lane, where it is surely illegal to drive at walking pace ... but the driver did not care. It just left me slightly reminiscent to a quite similar experience on what became an infamous bus the day Borismasters were introduced on route 11. And then we had Oxford Street: a shopping district where the infamous 'Wall of Red' buses can be seen slowly making their way past each other without running over the mistaken or opportunist tourists sprinting or even walking to the other side of the road - or even in between buses, whilst traffic still moves with deliberation while the lights are still green. I have to admit, it was the best part of the route, because this was the only section in which the bus driver was at a speed normal to the area he was driving in - I dare say he might have even been at his fastest.

So when we finally got to King's Cross - under two hours later - I took some more photos, but by the end of this I was so demotivated by the experience that I just could not be bothered to take any more bus photos, including catching up with the rare double-decker hybrid working on route 391 and then some, and haphazardly left.

I cannot say that route 10 with Wright Borismaster hybrid buses did not exceed my expectations, but I can say that my experience of route 10 with Borismasters definitely did not exceed my expectations. It actually was not what I expected at all. But I saw other drivers on the 10 driving faster, so no doubt I was probably just unlucky to get a slow bus for my first experience on route 10 as a Borismaster allocated route.

London United seemed to have gone from providing the best conversion, to a commendable conversion, to a fairly average conversion. However, a lot was demanded from the route as it did have a lot to contend with on its first day with new unique but controversial buses: the High Street Ken one-lane queue, the Hammersmith diverted traffic and (a less temporary) Oxford Street 'wall of red' and tourists. And I think the service did well on its first day, even though I was informed that LT170 (LTZ 1170) crashed on the route just as it departed Hammersmith Upper Bus Station on approach to Latymer Court (G) towards King's Cross just after five hours of being in service.

You might think I am being biased as London United is my favourite operator when I say that route 10 is the third best Borismaster route after routes 9 and 148 respectively, however I do think that this may have been one conversion too many for London United, or at least if they get another batch of Borismasters, that will definitely be one batch too many. Besides, we have route 38 to be phased in with a full allocation of Wright Borismaster hybrid buses in two weeks time before Stagecoach: East London introduce its first batch in June and I have a feeling route 10 will have to perform much better soon if it wants to keep third place in my Borismaster performance hierarchy!