"While the Routemaster was an icon, it was also ageing, inaccessible and draughty. "
We won’t miss freezing our bits off
The Routemaster bus has now gone from the streets of London with their replacement on Route 159; Marble Arch to Streatham. There will be a few maintained for tourists on a truncated central section of routes 9 and 15, but other than these very limited designated ‘heritage’ routes they have been consigned to history. This has been seen as a tragic loss, an end to a part of London’s identity and singularity, a sign or the creeping tide of uniformity overwhelming us. But while the Routemaster was both an icon and a very advanced piece of design and engineering for its time, it was also ageing, inaccessible and draughty.
How the Routemaster was born
The Routemaster prototypes were built between 1955 and 1956, with the first production models coming into service in 1958 and the final vehicles coming off the production line in 1967. The newest vehicles are therefore nearly 40 years old. London is a changing, diverse metropolis demanding a public transport system that acknowledges this. The new generation of double-deckers and the much-maligned ‘bendy buses’ filled that remit.
An end to wallowing
As a disabled passenger I am glad of the adjustable front entrance height and the designated seats adjacent to the doors. I am thankful that I am in a warm brightly lit interior and not squinting over a newspaper whilst freezing my bits off. The Routemaster is a fine symbol of London’s past but we need to meet future transportation needs and not wallow in some dewy-eyed mythical past largely created by people who never use buses. I will return to some of these themes at a later date.