Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Routemaster is a red double-decker bus first built in 1954 and first introduced in London on 8 February 1956. It was developed by Douglas Scott, Colin Curtis and their team. Its manufacturer was AEC, the Associated Equipment Company, based in the United Kingdom. This company built buses and trucks from 1912 to 1979.

The Routemaster was meant to replace the RT model of 1939, which was itself meant to replace electric trolleybuses and trams. The Routemaster’s design was in advance for the time: the body was made of light aluminium, which allowed to increase the number of seats from 56 (for the RT model) to 64 and to have more comfort. Because of its strengthened body, it didn’t require a chassis like the other buses. Its specificities was the open-air platform and the presence of a conductor (not to be confused with the driver!). Thanks to him there was less delay as he collected the money for the tickets during the ride.

Later in 1961, a lengthened version was made, the RML. It had 72 seats and weighed about seven and three quarters tonnes. This model became the most common in London. In the following years, the Routemaster has underwent many design variations, such as the radiator grille or the upper deck front windows. Another version was made in 1968, the RMC (for Routemaster Coach), which contained 57 seats, ‘fully enclosed platforms, electrically-operated doors, air suspensions, fluorescents lightings, different interior trims, luggage racks and twin headlamps’ (http://www.icons.org.uk/theicons/collection/routemaster-bus). Some other changes have been made through the years, till the Routemaster gradually went out of the service.

Why such a withdrawal? Firstly, because in 1967 the buses became nationalised, and secondly, because of its shortcomings: it had very restricted place for the legs, was not designed for wheelchairs and pushchairs, was not well protected from the cold, and was more expensive because of the need of two employees (the conductor and the driver). Finally, it could be dangerous to sit on the open platform: indeed, an average of 3 people a year died while sitting there. From 2003 to 2005 the Routemaster gradually disappeared from the roads. Their regular service was officially withdrawn on 9 December 2005, to be replaced by the articulated buses, which can carry more or less twice the number of passengers and which are two joint single-deckers. Nowadays, there are two Heritage Routes in London where the Routemasters can still officially drive: Heritage Route 9 and Heritage Route 15.

The Routemaster is truly a british icon. Indeed, one glance at this red double-decker bus with its open-air platform will make you immediately think about England and more precisely about London. Its figure is deeply rooted in the british culture as it appears in many movies, books, postcards and guide books and as many of them have been turned into restaurants, bars or homes. Some revivals are now taking place: designers are trying to modernize it and the London Bus Campaign, which stands for the come back of the Routemaster, is underway. And for the Routemaster’s fans, you can even buy one for about £2,000!

FX and Mary

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