There's a little piece of London that people from all over the world came here to see. To them it was one of the major symbols of London, and a major attraction.
It was the timeless machine that was known and respected by all who would
ride in it and photograph it.
London's very own double decker red bus: The Routemaster Bus.
It was something of such astonishing design that it would never be outmoded, never outclassed. But all the same it was wiped out, thanks to the idiots that attempt to govern our capital. Now reduced to a minor shuttle service, the Routemaster was once king of the London road, with thousands of it's type in everyday service, and was a familiar sight to anyone on the globe.
What a sensation the world famous iconic Routemaster was. Forever the red London bus, it was introduced in the 1950's, and was the culmination of decades of design and testing. The final incarnation in a century old development to perfect the perfect ride, it had served its apprentiship in the frame of trams and trolleybuses. This was the greatest of inventions. A bus that you may hop on and off at will, and that was such a pleasure to drive. The presence of a conductor chap or chapess who would help you to your seat and share their knowledge of the metropolis, or even share a few jovial quips. A reliable and durable vehicle, with it's two decks using less roadspace than other, somewhat bulky configurations. But most of all, there was the ripcord bell activator. Ding ding!
Its obvious advantage was it's speed in passenger transfer, and its consequent speed of service, due of course to the big 'always open' door and added conductor partnership. With no door, there is no arguement. One can always RUN for the bus, a Londoner's prerogative. That hop-on and hop-off so crucial to dynamic London. And one can alight, safely, at the spot of ones choice. No getting beaten up by hastly closed doors. No waiting in traffic jams for the driver to open the doors. It's the ultimate urban accessory. And then there were the Conductors, a personal service, making sure all was safe, issuing tickets, saving time. A presence to stop disorder, to stop vandals, keep the peace, and tell the driver when it's REALLY time to set off. All these pieces combined to make that flawless package that ensured there are no rivals for this monster of a success, the Routemaster. And what a sight she was, and what a friendly sound. Engine at the front, not at the back, not stinking and throbbing under a makeshift back seat.
The Routemaster was truly the envy of every other city. A figure of such immense character, such ingenious design and capability. It was a reason to travel to London. An event to be enjoyed. The most successful bus design on earth. So why was it, as early as the 1980's, did we start to hear about the demands of phasing this bus out? Why did politicians begin to hate it so much? They were full of stupid excuses. They just wanted the Routemaster phased out for ANY reason. Never had opinions on our bus system been so polarised, as government acted directly against the wishes of londoners. It seemed everyone wanted the beloved Routemaster to stay. And so, for nearly twenty years, people wondered: How can we save our beloved big Red Bus from extinction?
Why mess with something so perfect? It's just politics. It was nothing to do with what was best for London. Of course there were a couple of standard reasons issued for killing off the RM. Firstly, there's the modern obsession of favouring the minority with restricted mobility, whom obviously need very very specialized vehicles to serve several of them at a time. True, the new euro-bus designs have a desperate ability to squeeze on single wheelchairs or prams causing alarming difficulties to the passengers and timetable. Look what happens when just ONE buggy needs to get on these modern buses, and everything comes to a standstill, especially when the bus is even half full, its just impossible to get a buggy on, let alone a wheelchair. This quick fix was a chaotic mistake. A specialist service should have run in tandem with the Routemaster. Another argument put forward concerns people falling off the back platform. Misadventure I say, and then again I've seen many people trapped by new bus doors, some almost dragged along the street by getting caught in them. It was all just a mass of lame excuses from the RM hate-lobby. The bottom line is that Routemasters are old England, non-euro design, and give you freedom of movement. These are ingredients that some politicians just do not like to see available to the common people.
And so the end of the Routemaster's service as the mainstay of the London bus fleet came in December 2005. It had been jested about for years in WhiteHall and County Hall that they wanted to kill off the Routemaster. There were minor protests. We made our websites, we wrote letters, but the cull had it's own moronic momentum. And so, Routemaster routes had been wound down over a few years, until finally there was only one route, the 159. Most runs had been taken over by airless euro buses, or worse, the rediculous bendy bus - a 60 ft long comedy contraption, totally unsuitable fot the small London streets, taking up about three times the roadspace as Routemasters! They would now do absolutely anything just to snuff out the RM.
So came the last ever Routemaster service day. I travelled on the early morning run, already crammed with bus spotters. The top deck was filled with spotters and their cameras, shooting anything that moved. Flags draped from the windows, it was a sad end to a fine part of London's heritage. Later, and from a safe distance, I viewed the last ever regular service, beseiged by spotters, leave the west end, en route for Streatham. Enthusiasts fought bravely to get on for the last ever trip. And londoners lined the streets to see it, just to bid it farewell. And that was it. You could see how much London held the RM in reverence. But still they went ahead and cancelled it. The media sheepishly just reported on it, but made no attempt to support a reprieve. Old Routemasters were sold off to profit, finding themselves all over the world, working as trivial sideshows or collectors pieces. A sadder end you could not invent. Our heritage in humiliation.
So who were the criminals that took our beloved bus away from us? It was that rotten Mayor and his Transport For London. Rotten Red Ken & co. And it was all that nasty euro mob. And all the lefty loonies who dont like British heritage, who hate anything reminiscent of empire and englishness. Why didnt they leave our beautiful Routemaster Buses alone? The politicians really hated the brilliant RM, and they were so desperate to pander to ignorant Euro-rules too. It all led to a death sentence for the doomed bus. And europe won. But what do they know about London? The last thing on earth we needed was a bus system modelled on the failures of some European super state. Why destroy the Routemaster just to make London into an identikit version of Brussels? This was worse than political idiocy, some worthless bunch of bureaucrats trying to make a name for themselves by fixing the un-broke. Meddling with our transport system to suit their own mindless agenda. The Routemaster became nothing but a casualty of their madness, and should have been protected and run for all time. For there is nothing better on any road.
And then there's the economics: The fact that managers love cutting staff. They have never liked two man buses, and saw conductors as non essential, no matter what the benefits. It's always a naive mistake: And they have wasted more money in the long run. Just look at the endless funding that appeared just so they could convert the whole bus system! Millions spent on the bendy bus bungle. Millions on bendy garages. Millions wasted decommisioning Routemasters. All because they have been conditioned to see staff cuts as a major target. And so the relentless drive to phase out conductors, bring in one man services. They didnt care of any resulting successes, and had no consideraton for the passenger. Every people transporter needs its own steward, and the conductor was necessary in the extreme.
They should have made more of these Routemasters. But instead, they sold them off for profit. But they should have created more and more of this ergonomic masterpiece. Saturated London with the premier bus design of all time. Built more British Routemaster factories. Then used the Dome as a Routemaster Bus Garage! What needs to be trashed are those new bendy buses. They could be melted down to produce more Routemaster replicas. Never mind the desires of the profit mad. Bring back the Routemaster! Augment them all with some specialist services, run the RM along side a service for wheelchair users and buggy enthusiasts. Then never ever ever take our Routmaster away. We're all going on a summer holiday! No more working for a week or two!
Try as they might to replace and disrespect the most perfect Bus of all time, the Routemaster will never ever be beat. It's the envy of the world, absolutely beautiful, great to drive, great to ride, symbol of London, invention perfection, it IS the greatest. It's a most majestic part of London's history, a classic crafted design, and unlike the competition, it's magnificent, it's our Routemaster, it's brilliant, and IT WORKS! But it's not the end. Not yet. They could rebuild a thousand Routemasters, and London could have it best bus back. This is a hope for the future.
Charles (of London Town)