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Routemaster: an enduring London love affair

New design for the 'Routemaster' bus. Transport for London 2010
The new bus is expected to be on the capital's roads by 2012

Final designs for London's "new Routemaster bus" have been unveiled but why do we continue to try to recreate the past?

It was in 1956, the year of the Suez crisis and Elvis Presley's first UK hit, that the Routemaster, with its hop-on, hop-off platform and a conductor, began to replace the capital's electric trolleybuses.

It was considerably ahead of its time. Built by AEC in Southall and Park Royal, it was largely designed by a man with an intimate understanding of the job it had to do, the then LT vehicle engineering manager, Colin Curtis.

It had semi-automatic transmission, power steering, supple suspension and still carries more passengers than most modern buses, despite its lighter, aluminium construction. Crucially, perhaps, it was simple to maintain and cheap to run.

Global success

But in 1970, London Transport declared: "By the end of the decade, every London Transport bus will be operated by one man..."

Throughout the 1970s, new double-decker models aimed at dispensing with conductors came into service.

Hundreds of Routemasters were sold to other operators around Britain and the world.

New design for the 'Routemaster' bus. Transport for London 2010

But when the new London buses were beset by severe mechanical problems and many had to be withdrawn, the city's remaining Routemasters were granted a stay of execution.

In 1994, they survived privatisation and in the new Millennium, 600 of them, only a few dozen of them owned by London Transport, were still trundling through the streets of London.


In December 2005 the Routemaster was finally withdrawn from general service but it is still used on two heritage routes in London.

In July 2008 a competition was launched by London Mayor Boris Johnson to design a new Routemaster bus for the capital - it attracted 700 entries.

Warwickshire-based sports car maker Aston Martin, along with architects Foster and Partners, won the £25,000 prize jointly with Wiltshire bus maker Capoco Design.

The contract for the design and build of the new bus for London was awarded to Wrightbus in January 2010 and contains some design elements of the competition winning bid. However, Foster and Partners are not involved in the Wrightbus deal.

Wrightbus engineers are working on a static mock up of the bus to be completed later this year, with the first prototype to be delivered late next year.

The new buses will enter service from early 2012.

'New Routemaster' design unveiled
17 May 10 |  London
New Routemaster maker announced
23 Dec 09 |  London
New Routemaster is 'years away'
01 Sep 09 |  London
Aston Martin designs Routemaster
19 Dec 08 |  London



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