Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Extraordinary Note – “Going for a Ride” on the (PR) "Magic Bus"?

As a PPS in the last essay, a good luck message was offered to those responsible for the prototype testing of the New Bus for London project. - known as NB4L or Routemaster II.

This was put in as an addendum to the essay the following day, after a radio announcement stated that vehicle would undergo testing at Millbrook Testing Ground.

However, in an extra-ordinary posting, investment-auto-motives further questions the project.

From basic desk research, it now appears that the 'prototype-test' could well have been used as a photo-opportunity for the project, the Mayor taking the driver's seat and driving in an understandably gingerly manner – with a short 22 second video posted on youtube.

Unfortunately the clip leaves a less than convincing impression.

The bus itself seen driven looks more akin to a powered mock-up as opposed to the types of test-vehicles which would fully utilise Millbrook's facilities. These would be either an 'undressed mule' for chassis and power-train testing of new components, or a fully fledged production prototype, which as the name infers would be tested to production specification (as part of the shake-down process typically related to trim and hardware items).

However, this does not appear the case with NB4L. Look closely at the supposed prototype and a one's eye can see the same light-brown coloured internal surfaces on the wind-screen lower and driver's partition (either in hand-laid fibre-glass or MDF/fibre-board) as is apparent on the mock-up vehicle.

This then is at best confusing, and suggests that a mock-up is being touted as a prototype, when the two are normally constructed in very different ways for very different objectives – purely aesthetic conveyance versus robust engineering prove-out. Should it not instead be termed a 'demonstrator', in which case it should not even be at Millbrook.

To alleviate any misunderstanding (and to generate mass interest prior to launch) TfL and should provide a dedicated project website with videos, project schedule, engineering milestones & methods – including the types of pre-production buses built - and count-down to the launch day itself.

The £11m worth of monies that have been accorded so far are in reality supposed to be an investment in the city's infrastructure, and not at best a vanity project as suggested, or at worst, a far more costly red & 'white elephant'; to which additional funds must be directed after the official launch. There should be no 'catch-22' here.

A web-site of this nature would provide as much 'transparency' as the windows of the bus itself, and demonstrates that ultimately a worthy vehicle will be delivered to London.

And in doing so, would provide a magazine platform for the science, technology & engineering 'engagement' that the UK so desperately needs from its crop of youngsters.

Put them in the cold and it is yet another generation that will not return, focused instead on far more financially rewarding arenas. Such a mistake was made years ago, and now the UK is having to pay an excruciatingly heavy price.