London is all things to all people, but nothing is more iconic to the city than the Routemaster bus.In celebration of the return of the Routemaster this year, we thought we’d review its history after more than 50 years in service on London’s streets.
New Routemasters being prepared for service in late 1959 at Poplar garage. image courtesy of SkylineAviation.co.uk
Following its first outing at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle show in 1954, the red Routemaster bus was introduced to London’s streets in 1956 and revolutionised the efficiency for many of the city’s busiest bus routes, remaining in full service until 2005.
During its time, the bus went through many transformations, but the overall look and feel stayed very close to original designs for 49 years. The first Routemaster produced for the public was the RM8, a model praised for its chassis-less construction, use of lightweight aluminium, improved fuel consumption and increased seating capacity.
A restored RM8 bus. Image: Wikipedia
The AEC Routemaster, a model of double-decker bus built by Associated Equipment Company (AEC) was gradually introduced to London to replace the existing ‘Trolleybuses’ of the time to deal with the expanding population and travel needs of the capital.
Primarily front-engined, rear open-platform buses, a small number of variants were produced with doors and/or front entrances for efficient entering and exiting for passengers. By the end of 2004, 200 Routemaster buses remained in service on seven different bus routes around the capital. Some original Routemasters still exist on various tourist routes and private open-top tours of the city.
The Return of the Modern Routemaster
With the well-loved bus firmly planted in the hearts of Londoners and worldwide visitors alike, a new fleet of Routemaster buses were commissioned by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to service one of the most popular tourist bus routes across the capital.
The new Routemaster bus ready for service. Image: Wikipedia
Priced at roughly £1.4million per bus, compared with £190,000 for a regular double-decker bus, a total of eight new Routemasters are in service on the 38 route, which takes the bus from Hackney to Victoria, stopping off at tourist hot-spots Piccadilly Circus, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. The design from Thomas Heatherwick, built in collaboration with the Wright Group brings a fresh new take on the classic British design.
With the red bus reinvented for the 21st century, here’s to the next 50 years of service for this historic London vehicle. Let’s just hope there isn’t a queue…
- A total of 2,876 Routemasters were built between 1954 and 1968
- The Routemaster remains one of the most popular recurring themes found in London memorabilia and souvenirs
- An original Routemaster is still in use on route no. 9
- On July 25th 2004, 100 original Routemasters were lined up in Finsbury Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of the bus.
- Original Routemaster buses have been sold as far and wide as Sri Lanka, Australia, Croatia, Alaska and the Falkland Islands.
- The new Routemaster double decker bus entered its first day of service on February 27, 2012.
- Novelty uses of the Routemaster buses have included the ‘Dalmation’ bus and numerous open-top ‘Party buses’.
The Dalmatian bus, used in the film ‘101 Dalmatians’ last saw actual service in May 1985, but has since been customised for private film work. Image:SkylineAviation.co.ukGoogle+