Routemaster

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


Routemaster

 

A Routemaster bus on the number 15 'heritage route'
A Routemas­ter bus on the num­ber 15 ‘her­itage route’

The orig­i­nal Routemas­ter was the clas­sic, dou­ble-deck­er, Lon­don bus with access via an open plat­form at the rear. It was designed by Lon­don Trans­port and built from 1954 by the Southall-based Asso­ci­at­ed Equip­ment Com­pa­ny and its sis­ter busi­ness Park Roy­al Vehi­cles.

Routemas­ter pro­duc­tion ceased in 1968, pri­mar­i­ly because the bus was unsuit­able for the more cost-effec­tive sys­tem of one-per­son oper­a­tion.

The musi­cal duo Flan­ders and Swann famous­ly dubbed the Routemas­ter the ‘monarch of the road’ in their song ‘Trans­port of Delight’ (1960):

“When cab­bies try to pass us, before they over­takes,
My dri­ver sticks his hand out and jams on all the brakes.
Them jack­al taxi dri­vers can only swear and cuss
Behind that monarch of the road,
Observ­er of the High­way Code,
That big six-wheel­er scar­let-paint­ed Lon­don Trans­port diesel-engined 97-horse­pow­er omnibus.”

For sev­er­al decades the Routemas­ter was rivalled only by the black cab as a mobile emblem of the cap­i­tal and was con­sid­ered a vital prop in depic­tions of the city on post­cards and in films.

In addi­tion to the cost of employ­ing the nec­es­sary con­duc­tor, the age­ing nature of the fleet and con­cerns regard­ing the safe­ty of the open plat­form and its acces­si­bil­i­ty to dis­abled users were major fac­tors in its pro­gres­sive removal from ser­vice in the late 20th and ear­ly 21st cen­turies.

The Routemas­ter was offi­cial­ly with­drawn from reg­u­lar ser­vice on 9 Decem­ber 2005.

Bendy bus­es con­tro­ver­sial­ly replaced the Routemas­ter on three of its for­mer routes but on elec­tion to his first term as may­or of Lon­don in 2008, Boris John­son declared his inten­tion to do away with them. He launched a design com­pe­ti­tion to cre­ate a suc­ces­sor to the Routemas­ter that would be envi­ron­men­tal­ly sen­si­tive and acces­si­ble to all trav­ellers. Built in North­ern Ire­land by Wright­bus, the ‘new bus for Lon­don’ went into ser­vice in Feb­ru­ary 2012 – begin­ning with route 38, which runs between Vic­to­ria and Hack­ney. A few months after Sadiq Khan replaced Boris John­son as Lon­don’s may­or he dumped the ‘Boris bus’ because it is too expen­sive to pro­duce.

Five orig­i­nal Routemas­ters con­tin­ue to ply the num­ber 15 ‘her­itage route’ that takes in many of the capital’s best-known tourist des­ti­na­tions – and the vehi­cles can also be hired for spe­cial occa­sions
 
A Routemaster bus at the Bank of England