Does each seat on Boris's Routemaster buses cost as much as a BMW?

1 May 2012

"With 62 seats at a cost of £1.4 million, the cost per seat is £22,580. At £22,695, you can buy a brand new 3 series BMW."

David Lammy's website, 28 February 2012

In February this year London's new fleet of 'Routemaster' buses came in to service on a few routes in the capital. This initiative by Boris Johnson has been criticised by some for being too expensive.

In an open letter to the mayor David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, claimed that each bus cost £1.4 million and that each seat would cost £22,580, around the same price as a new 3 series BMW.

But does each seat on one of these new buses really cost more than a sports car?


According to a Transport for London's Finance and Policy Committee £11.37 million was approved for a contract to design and develop a new bus for London. According to TfL documents, eight of the new buses will be in operation by May. In terms of the whole development process therefore, each of the new buses currenty in service would therefore cost £1.4 million.

Many newspapers have reported that the new buses will have 62 seats but we have been unable to find official documents to confirm this. However we were able to hop on the new Routemaster to confirm this: there are 40 seats on the top deck and 22 on the lower.

When we divide £1.4 million by 62 we end up with £22,580, the same as the figure mentioned by David Lammy.

As for the price of a new BMW 3 series, Mr Lammy has taken the figure of £22,695 from the website carpages. This price is cheaper than that advertised on the BMW website, but is supports Mr Lammy's claims.

It is important to note that the cost of the new buses is so high because only eight have been built and the £11.37 million price tag includes the costs of design and development.  It is likely then that if more buses are built then the cost will come down.

Whether more buses are built is entirely dependent on which candidate wins the mayoral election on Thursday. In his manifesto Boris pledged:

"I will expand the New Bus across London with 600 new buses operating on the streets by the end of my second term as Mayor."

Meanwhile Ken's manifesto says:

"Save tens of millions of pounds by cancelling the Tory Mayor's vanity project 'new bus for London'."


Mr Lammy's claim that each seat on the new buses costs £22,580, and that you can buy a new BMW 3 series for £22,695 are both accurate in terms of the sources provided.

However it is important to note that the small numbers of buses built have inflated the 'per unit' cost, and these would fall if new ones were built. Whether or not the Routemaster does become a more regular fixture on London's streets of course depends upon the result of Thursday's election.

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