London Buses

London’s buses are recognized far and wide, to the extent that many of the world’s people will name check them if asked to mention something that immediately puts them in mind of London. Those big red buses are instantly recognizable and emblematic of the city which is viewed as one of the world’s premier capitals. The original big red buses were known as Routemasters, and although the Routemaster design specifically has been replaced there are still big red buses on the streets of London. New Mayor Boris Johnson has called for the return of the old-style buses, although this is still the subject of feasibility studies.

Routemasters were popular for a number of reasons. The open platform at the back of the bus, although it let the elements in from time to time, was a popular development as it allowed passengers to climb on board while the bus was pulling away from stops. Although this is broadly considered to be dangerous now, it made a lot of people happy as they watched their buses pull away from the stop and were able to jump abroad from a distance. This was made all the more possible by the presence on board of a conductor who could distribute tickets while the bus was in motion, leaving the driver to concentrate purely on driving the bus.

London BusesRoutemaster buses are not popular with every resident of London, however. BBC TV personality Jeremy Clarkson has proved to be no fan of the buses and their place on London streets. Clarkson, presenter of the extremely popular series Top Gear, blew up a Routemaster in a publicity stunt for his 2008 DVD. While the chairman of the Routemaster Association let his displeasure be known, Clarkson’s spokesman said “What Jeremy wants to blow up is up to him – it’s a well known fact he isn’t fond of buses”. It should perhaps be recognized that Clarkson had paid for the bus prior to the incident.

In recent years, the Routemaster has been replaced by bendy buses. While this has been controversial and the bendy bus is still not popular with several people, there are clear advantages to the system.

More people can board a bendy bus at one time than a Routemaster, due to it having a similar capacity but all being on the one level with multiple doors. Also due to it being at the lower level, the bendy bus is easier for passengers in wheelchairs and those with other mobility impairments. They also have a higher top speed. Previous London Mayor Ken Livingstone was a backer of the bendy bus, while new Mayor Boris Johnson has said that they are inconvenient and dangerous. Although some anecdotal evidence has suggested that there are those who agree with Johnson, there is actually no statistical evidence to back up his claims.  Nonetheless, it is expected that the Routemaster will be back on London’s streets within two years, replacing the existing fleet of bendy buses.