The BBC reports online of increasing problems facing drivers of London's novel? double deck fleet - the so called 'Borismasters', named in honour of the Mayor of London who railed successfully against the articulated 'bendibuses' in his campaign for Mayor. These were all withdrawn to be replaced by a bespoke double deck design built in Northern Ireland by Wrightbus. One of the bendibuses made it to Blackpool in 2014 for an unsuccessful 'Red Rocket' bus service by the local independent operator. So did a couple of 'Borismasters' which featured in the 'Bus Driver of the Year' competition in 2013/2014.
A notable feature of these vehicles are very low windows on the upper deck which result from the deep dome roof. This is reminiscent? of Southampton's 'dome roof' cars - enclosed double deck trams capable of negotiating under the profile of a medieval arch in the city centre (in the late 1920s). One example (11) is undergoing restoration by that city's team of dedicated enthusiasts, along with two further open top Southampton trams. Below : Looking down on the competition on a rainswept Blackpool Promenade in September 2013 - from one of Boris's London buses.... The top deck interior brand new from Ballymena.
Borismasters apparently are now suffering from battery failure in service causing drivers extreme anxiety and Union complaints, among other issues. A large fleet of these buses are now evident in the capital, with 150 more on order. The design features of the vehicles incorporate new battery technology which limits emissions but there are increasing concerns over the failure of batteries in service. The lack of opening windows is also an issue; especially for top deck passengers.
Left : Bound for London with a brief stopover on Blackpool prom !
Blackpool's modest fleet of ten new vehicles - Mercedes Citaros and 'Palladium' branding (funny - I thought this was a Blackpool cinema from former times), have had nothing but praise for their styling and riding qualities. Not having ridden on a Borismaster in service (but plenty of Routemasters in the capital) - I can't give a judgement on the experience. However the vision limit for top deck passengers was definitely noticeable on the two 'demonstrators' which appeared in Blackpool as part of the 'Driver of the Year' events. Berlin's bus fleet has always featured double deck vehicles on main services - and here too earlier generations of designs were less well endowed with window space on the upper decks. Overall it seems Blackpool's Palladiums are ahead of London's Borismasters in style and efficiency - but we will need to see the double deck versions before real comparisons can be made! Photos : John Woodman