True to its word, Team Boris has shown me how Johnson calculated what it would cost to have conductors on his proposed "21st Century Routemaster" replacement for Livingstone's bendys. I quote:
"Ken claims that Boris's suggestion that conductors on buses would cost just £8 million is wrong and that in fact the total cost is £110 million."
By "total cost" here, Team Boris means what Team Ken claims it would take to replace the bendys themselves too. Livingstone told Vanessa Feltz that the cost of the conductors would be more like £80 million than £8 million and his website puts the figure at £70 million. Team Boris's email continues:
"The current per annum cost of the 24 conductors on the remaining Routemaster routes is £590,000."
Here, a footnote cites Mayoral Answers, 23 May 2007, 0996/2007.
"That is £24,600 per conductor. If you replaced the 337 bendy buses with new Routemasters, with conductors, that would cost £8,290,200 per year. Ken's absurd calculation claims that conductors on 600 buses would cost £70 million - £117,000 per bus. This is clearly nonsense."
Well, I don't know if it's nonsense or not. But I think we can now start to see where the huge discrepancy comes from.
It's partly that Team Ken say that because a bendy can carry more people than any new Routemaster would, you'd need more of them - that's where Team Boris gets its "600 buses" figure from, this being the estimated figure contained in the press release sent out by Team Ken yesterday responding to Johnson's transport plans. They arrive at 600 on the grounds that there are "approximately 400" bendy buses and bendys have "50 per cent more capacity than Boris Johnson’s proposed new bus."
The Team Ken press release also says:
"Even to replace the bendy bus routes with buses with conductors on buses would cost £108 million a year – not the £8 million a year falsely claimed by Boris Johnson. This would require a 15% increase in bus fares in London."
Now, now! That isn't what Johnson said, is it? His £8 million figure referred only to the cost of conductors. Other stuff from Team Ken, though, is helpful in understanding its number crunching.
"At an annual salary, and add on costs such as national insurance, pension, recruitment, uniforms etc the cost of each conductor is around £40,000 a year. Three shifts are required to operate heavily used bus routes so the cost of conductors per bus is around £120,000 per bus."
Which is why Team Ken would say that Team Boris's citing of £117,000 per bus as "nonsense" is, well, nonsense. But this is the biggest reason why the two sets of figures are so far apart. Both sides agree on what the annual salary of a bus conductor is. The main difference between their sets of figures seems to be that Team Ken's are based on three shifts operating and Team Boris's on one sift. Am I close?
As for the additional costs of conductors - the ones that inform Team Ken's "around £40,000 a year" - Team Boris's email reckons to have that covered.
"What the £8m figure doesn’t take into account is the cost of training, equipping and other costs that would be involved in getting 337 conductors onto a new fleet of Routemasters. However, we can justifiably say that Boris’s original figure was correct and we can cover the operational costs with the reduced fare-dodging etc."
So what about the cost of the buses themselves? Team Ken say:
"It is unlikely that any bus manufacturer would agree to design and produce as small an order as 600 buses, compared to 5,000 double deckers and bendy buses in London. If they did the cost per bus would be astronomical - each bus would cost around £600,000. That gives a total cost for the buses of £360 million – or about £36 million a year if a bus last 10 years. The cost might actually be higher, or it is likely that no manufacturer at all would be prepared to produce them, given the smallness of the order."
Over to you, Team Boris:
"Furthermore Ken's figures add on the supposed cost of new buses. Pensioning off bendy buses should not cost Londoners anything, as when we renew the bus contracts on routes that operate them we will specify to the bus companies that they must not operate bendy buses on those routes. TfL doesn’t even own the bendy buses, so the removal of this unloved bus should not cost Londoners anything."
Ah-ha! But, there again, mightn't such a requirement itself put the bus companies off? Just wondering. And, hang on, how many bendys are actually operating right now? Are there 337 as Team Boris say or is it "approximately 400" as Team Ken put it? As Johnny Nash put it, 'there are more questions than answers." This one could run and run.