How the New Routemaster came full circle: back to a regular old London bus
With the decision to rid the Routemaster of its entire raison d’etre – the second conductor and its ‘hop on, hop off’ back door – Dave Hill marvels at the grand, baffling saga of Boris Johnson’s signature policy
On a mid-December day in 2011, London mayor Boris Johnson posed for photographs in Trafalgar Square standing triumphantly aboard the policy result that symbolises most completely the thinking that has guided his seven years at City Hall. It was the public debut of what was then called his New Bus for London but was already better known as the New Routemaster or “Boris Bus”.
Leaning out from the bus’s open rear doorway, Johnson was at his most ebullient. “Christmas has arrived early,” he boomed, declaring that the red paint and “sinuous curves” of the vehicle would “brighten the day of all who see it humming along our great city’s streets”. The bus was “revolutionary,” he went on, referring to its new form of diesel-electric hybrid engine, which would make it the “cleanest, greenest” bus in town. It was a patriotic bus, too, “the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering and design”. His boast embraced not just the bus’s gleaming shape and claret interior, provided by Heatherwick Studios of Kings Cross, but also the respected Wrightbus company of Ballymena, Northern Ireland, which built it.
Johnson fought Livingstone in the 2008 elections pledging a new Routemaster – open rear platform, conductors and all
Johnson portrayed the new bus as a metaphor for freedom, independence and enterprise
Passengers made known their disquiet … the bus should be called the ‘Roastmaster’ instead
Source: Guardian Transport