Published: 08/07/2020 By Allan Fuller
The first Routemasters entered service with London Transport in February 1956 and the last were withdrawn from regular service in December 2005,
A total of 2,876 Routemasters were built, of which 1,280 are still in existence. Several can be hired for events such as transporting wedding guests.
The old-fashioned features of the standard Routemaster were both praised and criticised. The open platform, while exposed to the elements, allowed boarding and alighting in places other than official stops; and the presence of a conductor allowed minimal boarding time and optimal security, but with greater labour costs.
In 2006, the Routemaster was voted one of Britain's top 10 design icons which included Concorde, Mini, Supermarine Spitfire, London tube map, World Wide Web and the K2 telephone box.
Articulated buses, popularly called "bendy buses," were introduced to London in October 2001
Bendy buses with multiple doors and simultaneous boarding arrangements were capable of loading passengers in less time than conventional double decker buses and Routemasters. They had a much higher passenger capacity, being able to carry over 140 people per vehicle compared to 77 in a Routemaster, although with far fewer seats.
Articulated buses took up more road space per vehicle (18 metres compared to 9.1 metres for a Routemaster and 10 metres for a double decker), although in terms of road surface used per passenger, there was little difference between double decker buses (which stack passengers vertically on two floors) and articulated buses – 11.8 cm road surface length per Routemaster passenger against 12.8 cm per articulated bus passenger: 8.7% more.
The increased vehicle size meant they were more likely to block junctions and cause difficulties for other road users. Press coverage regarding cyclists and motorcyclists was generally negative due to the reduced viewpoint of the driver and greater likelihood of cyclists to enter blind spots.
During the initial stages of deployment of the articulated buses, between December 2003 and March 2004 there were three similar fires on the new buses, causing concern over the possibility of an in-built risk to the public. In one incident, a bus caught fire on its delivery route to its operator. The fires caused the temporary withdrawal and modification of the entire fleet of 130 buses.
The introduction of articulated buses increased fare evasion as passengers were able to enter through any door, leading to the buses becoming known to Londoners as "The Free Bus". On other UK buses (including articulated buses outside London), entry is only permitted via the front entrance, which is monitored by the driver and thus discourages evasion. As a result, Transport for London recruited an extra 150 Revenue Protection Inspectors to police revenue collection. In 2006 it was reported that conventional buses (i.e. single and double-deckers) accounted for £3,636 of fare evasion in a year, compared to articulated vehicles at £6,333 per year.
The New Routemaster, originally referred to as the New Bus for London, is a hybrid diesel-electric double-decker bus designed by Heatherwick Studio and manufactured by Wrightbus, it was notable for featuring a "hop-on hop-off" rear open platform similar to the original Routemaster bus design but subsequently declared unsafe so doors have been added.