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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 04:36 GMT
New routes for defunct red buses?
By Alison Freeman
BBC News, London

A Routemaster bus
Bus enthusiasts and companies are buying the Routemasters
The Routemaster's reign has finally come to the end of the road.

From Friday Londoners will only be able to hop on and hop off the iconic red buses on two heritage routes which aim mainly to attract tourists by taking in city sights.

But with a series of companies and private owners queuing up to buy those that have been taken out of service, you never know where you will see one next.

One of those companies is Red Room Events who have turned their bus into a mobile bar.

The steel seats with their grey coverings have been replaced with comfy brown sofas.

Lovingly restored

And the ting of the bell cannot be heard for the tunes pumping through the new sound system, operated from the section where the conductor would have once stood.

But from the outside the Red Room bus looks the same - if not better - than the buses which have just been taken out of service.

It cost the company 5,000 to buy and Mike McSherry, one of the owners, says about the same amount again was put into lovingly restoring it.

The top deck of the Red Room bar bus
It cost 5,000 to restore the Red Room bus
The plan is to park the bus up at events, like horse racing meets or music festivals, and stream live action in via plasma screens.

But why a bus?

Mr McSherry said: "We like the bus and everyone likes the bus and when you see one you want to jump on or ride it for a while, so we thought if people want to jump on the bus, they're going to want to jump into a bar."

The buses are being sold from the family-run Ensign bus company in Purfleet, Essex.

They say there are just 50 which need to be found homes.

Steve Newman, whose father started the firm, said those who come looking at the buses with a view to buying them fall into distinct categories.

It's something I can't express too much, it's just in the mind - it's an 'I want one' thing
David Muirhead
Bus enthusiast

"Some are bus enthusiasts who want a piece of London and want to restore a Routemaster to its former glory, or a person who worked on the buses and wants something that was a huge part of their lives.

"You then come to families who maybe want a family project - something that they can all work on," he says.

"Then you've got bus operators who want a traditional London vehicle and companies who want to use the Routemaster to advertise their product."

And of course there are those who think they will be able to buy a Routemaster and travel around Europe like Cliff Richard did in the film Summer Holiday - even though the bus the singer used was the predecessor to the Routemaster, the RT.

David Muirhead
Mr Muirhead would like a bus for personal use
But Mr Newman explained it is not that simple.

He said: "Its a lovely romantic notion but European countries have height restrictions of 4m and the Routemaster comes in at 4.3m.

"So you could end up decapitating your bus on a bridge, or even worse a passenger, or stop a railway from running."

David Muirhead from Kent, is a bus fanatic who is thinking of splashing out on a Routemaster.

He plans to keep it for his own personal use, taking his friends out on trips.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's such an icon of London, and I'm sad to hear its going
Tristan Benson, Richmond, US

Mr Muirhead said he is not certain why he wanted to part with his hard-earned cash in exchange for one of the 50-year-old vehicles.

"I don't think I can explain really, it's something I can't express too much, it's just in the mind - it's an 'I want one' thing," he said.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See what the future holds for one Routemaster



SEE ALSO:
Red bus revamp for green living
08 Dec 05 |  London
End of road for 38 Routemasters
28 Oct 05 |  London


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