Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quiet but costly Routemasters poised for return to London’s streets

I thought the old Routemasters were great buses -- even though I did inadvertently fall off one once. So I am pleased to see the return of something that is at least similar

Boris Johnson hailed the return of the Routemaster today as he promised a cleaner, greener bus for London — albeit at a hefty price tag.

Mr Johnson, the Mayor of London, unveiled the first images of the futuristic-looking bus, which has two staircases and a “hop-on, hop-off” feature.

It marks the widespread return of the open platform to the capital’s buses, after the Routemaster was banished by Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, in 2005. The return of the Routemaster was a key aspect of Mr Johnson’s election campaign, promising Londoners a “new icon” for their city.

Launching the new design at a bus depot in Battersea this morning, Mr Johnson said he was sure that passengers would appreciate being able to hop on and hop off the buses “in a free and enjoyable way”.
Times Archive, 1956: New London bus

The 64-passenger Routemaster will go into public service on route 2 next week

* Advertisement: The Routemaster

* London Bus Week

Related Links

* All aboard for London's new Routemaster

* Routemaster retirement: a sad day for London?

* Winning designs for new Routemaster bus unveiled

“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.

“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.”

There will be a second crew member on the bus whenever the open platform is in use. It is expected to be closed during the night and quiet periods.

The price tag for the new Routemaster has raised eyebrows and the mayor has been accused by the Labour opposition at City Hall of wasting taxpayers’ money on a “vanity project”.

Transport for London has budgeted more than £11 million for the project and the first five buses will cost £7.8 million. However a TfL spokesman said that amount included design, development and building costs.

Mr Livingstone’s much-maligned bendy buses, the 18-metre articulated vehicle that runs on several of London’s most popular routes, cost about £250,000 each. They are being withdrawn by Mr Johnson and will be replaced by the Routemaster on some routes.

Future buses in the Routemaster fleet are expected to cost about the same amount as existing hybrid doubledeckers, at roughly £300,000 apiece.

The first bus is expected to be delivered this autumn. The others will follow in early 2012. The contract for design was awarded to Wrightbus, a busbuilder in Northern Ireland.

TfL said that the new buses would use the latest green technology and would be much quieter on the streets. The transport body said the new Routemaster would be 15 per cent more fuel efficient than existing hybrid buses and 40 per cent more efficient than conventional diesel double deckers.

Peter Hendy, the Transport Commissioner, said: “This beautifully designed, environmentally friendly vehicle built for the capital will be loved by Londoners for many years to come.”


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