If you visited London at any time from 1960 to 2000, the chances are you will remember the classic red double-decker bus. Immediately recognizable and full of character, this was the famous Routemaster – built in England by British Leyland in the days when we still had a motor industry. Not only was it practical and tough, it was fun, because you could jump on and off the open rear platform when the bus was stopped in traffic.
The Routemaster was finally phased out in 2005. We still have red double-decker busses in London, but they have neither the atmosphere nor the open rear platform of the Routemaster. However the classic version still runs on two “Heritage Routes”: the number 9 from the Albert Hall to Trafalgar Square, and the number 15 from Trafalgar Square to the Tower of London.
Yesterday, February 27th, saw the debut of the brand new hi-tech Routemaster. A modern reworking of the classic, it tries to combine the best features of the old bus while being cleaner, greener and more accessible. Have a look at it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/interactive/2012/feb/27/routemaster-new-buses-boris-johnson-london-interactive
For the time being it is only operating on one route, the 38 from Victoria Station to Hackney. London Mayor Boris Johnson has been criticised for backing what many see as a personal “vanity project”, having made an election promise to replace the much-loved original. The prototype was even known as the “Borismaster”. And it is true that the new Routemaster will cost £1.4 million, as against £190,000 for a conventional London double-decker, at a time when bus fares have risen 50% in 2 years.
As against this, the new Routemaster is truly innovative, with a hybrid diesel-electric engine delivering twice the fuel efficiency and half the emissions of its conventional counterpart. And it has two staircases. And that open rear platform. Doesn’t it look great?