London's iconic double-decker buses have gotten an update that looks uncannily like the past.
with an open hop-on hop-off platform at the rear hit downtown streets on 20
February, running on route 38,
between Victoria Station and Hackney, an east London neighbourhood.
1950s and 2000s, royal red double deckers sported distinctive open platforms in
the rear. But in 2005, authorities took that Routemaster model out of service,
replacing it with versions that only have an entrance at the front.
The city also
added so-called “bendy", or articulated, buses, because they could carry
more passengers, thanks to hinged midsections. But locals loathed the
replacement vehicles. A common complaint was that the extended length of the
buses snarled traffic on many narrow, twisting streets. So the city pulled that
design off the streets in 2011, leaving regular double-decker buses in service
and shipping the bendys off to other cities in the United Kingdom that have
more spacious streets. Officials then ran a design competition to see if a
better bus could be invented. The design that won, by Thomas Heatherwick and
Wrightbus, restored the open rear platform.
The revived Routemaster
design adds a second staircase to speed up passenger movement. It also
claims to get a low 12 miles to gallon thanks to energy efficient engines and
interior-heating systems. That efficiency means it produces 40% fewer emissions
than the current double deckers, which run on diesel.
of this design depends on the outcome of this spring's mayoral election. If
candidate Ken Livingstone defeats current mayor Boris Johnson, he may kill the
new Routemasters, which are Johnson's pet project and cost about £1.3 million
each, significantly higher than more prosaic models. A Johnson victory, on the
other hand, may mean that hundreds of the buses are put into services within
the next few years.
meantime, original 1950s buses with the open platform in the rear are still in
service on parts of route 9, running between Trafalgar Square and
Kensington, and route 15, running between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.
Check the Transport for London website for
route maps and schedules that say "heritage".