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Posts Tagged ‘Routemaster bus’

It’s here! The new Routemaster bus took to the streets this week.

I blogged about this two years ago, as a matter of existential concern for Londoners:

Perfect freedom is being able to step off the back of a London bus whenever you want, whatever the reason, and walk into the sunset without a bus-stop in sight.

Here are some pictures:

And here is the new all-important platform at the back:

And a few thoughts from the BBC:

The mayor called the bus “stunning” and “tailored to the London passenger”.

Following the new driver-and-conductor vehicle was a “protest” bus covered in slogans attacking the rise in public transport fares in London.

Mayor Boris Johnson has been criticised by the Labour, the Lib Dems and Green Party over the cost of the buses.

Mr Johnson announced plans for the new buses, which run on a hybrid diesel-electric motor, in his 2008 election manifesto.

In total, eight buses with an open “hop-on, hop-off” platform at the rear, costing £11.37m, will run on route 38. They will be staffed with conductors and will not run at night or during the weekends.

The last of the popular, open-platform Routemasters was withdrawn from regular service in December 2005, although some still run on tourist routes.

It costs a fortune:

In an open letter to the mayor, Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy said each new bus costs £1.4m compared with the conventional double-decker bus which costs about £190,000.

The original Routemaster buses were withdrawn from regular service in 2005

“Riding this bus is surely the most expensive bus ticket in history,” he said.

“With 62 seats at a cost of £1.4m, the cost per seat is £22,580. At £22,695, you can buy a brand new 3 series BMW.”

But Mr Johnson defended the new bus, saying: “When ordered in greater numbers it will make a significant economic contribution to the manufacturing industries, while also helping deliver a cleaner, greener and more pleasant city.”

“It’s not just a pretty face,” he added.

“The green innards of this red bus mean that it is twice as fuel efficient as a diesel bus and the most environment-friendly of its kind.”

TfL’s surface transport director Leon Daniels said: “This vehicle really has set a new standard.

“It utilises the latest cutting edge engine technology to deliver phenomenal fuel economy and emission performance.”

It’s on my agenda, together with the new fourth plinth, for when I am in central London next.

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Perfect freedom is being able to step off the back of a London bus whenever you want, whatever the reason, and walk into the sunset without a bus-stop in sight.

Apologies for this second London-centric piece of trivia, but the city is abuzz with the news that Boris’s new Routemaster will be hitting the streets soon. Well, five prototypes will be designed and built for £7.8m.

Matthew Taylor reports:

The original Routemaster was withdrawn from regular service in December 2005 by Ken Livingstone, while he was London’s mayor, though some still run on a limited basis on two “heritage routes”. The new buses, which were a key part of Johnson’s 2008 election manifesto, will have two doors as well as a shuttered platform, which will allow passengers to hop on and off.

A spokesman for the mayor said the initial cost of the buses included design and development, research, prototypes and testing. He added that the cost was expected to drop to about £300,000 per bus as “hundreds” came into use in the coming years.

However, Darren Johnson, a Green party member on the London assembly, claimed the mayor had underestimated the cost of the new buses at every stage. “Development costs have more than doubled since Boris said the budget was only £3m, and that the rest would be borne by the industry. In September he was saying each bus would cost less than £250,000, now it is £300,000. We still haven’t got clear answers from him about the extra costs of running these buses with the conductor and the ‘hop on, fall off’ insurance premium.

The new buses will have two staircases and be made of lightweight materials. The mayor’s office said this meant they would be 15% more fuel-efficient than existing hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel double-deckers.

At today’s launch Johnson dismissed his critics. “This iconic new part of our transport system is not only beautiful but also has a green heart beating beneath its stylish, swooshing exterior. It will cut emissions and give Londoners a bus they can be proud of, complete with cutting-edge design and the freedom of an open platform. I expect to eventually have hundreds of these on London’s roads, and for cities around the globe to be beside themselves with envy for our stunning red emblem of 21st-century London.”

For me, the rear platform of the Routemaster is another magical example of liminality, like bridges and tangents and waiting rooms and wardrobes. You are on but not on. You can go or stay. You are inside and outside at the same time. You can jump.

The other public transport example of liminality (and danger) that springs to mind is the paternoster lift. Are they still legal? The ones where there are no doors and the lift platforms simply move without stopping – and you have to step on, at your own peril, at just the right moment. Which is easy, compared with the stepping off. I had a friend at Sheffield University in the ’80s and I’d take a detour just to jump on the paternoster in the huge arts faculty building. The last functioning one I found was at Northwick Park hospital – closed to the public, but I was able to use it as ‘a member of staff’ (a visiting priest on a sick call). Is it still there? Health and safety have probably closed it down. I’d love to read a study of paternoster lifts…

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