It was in 2010, some 2 years after winning the London mayoral election, Boris Johnson unveiled the new design for the Routemaster bus. The commission for the design was awarded to Thomas Heatherwick and the bus was to be manufactured in Antrim, Northern Ireland by Wrightbus. The design owed much to its predecessor with the popular ‘hop on hop off’ rear platform included in the new design.
“The Bus for London” as it was heralded back in 2012 amidst much fanfare returned to the streets of London on February 20th 2012 running along the number 38 route between Victoria station and Hackney. There were to be 8 new Routemasters introduced in the first half of 20012 with more buses coming on stream later in the year. In fact, the first 600 new Routemasters cost £213m. Boris Johnson had met his self imposed deadline of having the new buses on the streets of London before the 2012 Olympics. Boris Johnson’s mayoral election pledge, in 2008, to replace the unpopular bendy buses with gleaming new Routemaster buses had come to fruition.
The new Routemaster design came with 3 doors (front, rear and centre) and 2 staircases, the rear ‘jump on jump off’ platform could be closed off when required. The bus design was also designed to be a hybrid of diesel and electric making the streets of London greener. How Mr Johnson has come under a lot of criticism surrounding the hybrid diesel-electric engine. Reports that many of the electric batteries have failed and that a substantial amount of the buses are running solely on diesel which puts paid to the dream of an eco bus.
Boris’s problems with the Routemaster don’t just stop there. There have been many reports by passengers that the temperature inside the buses during the summer months is unbearable and also the cost of running the buses has increased significantly. There was a desire to return to the old days with a bus conductor at the rear of the bus on the ‘hop off hop on platform’. However, the cost of maintaining this extra member of staff is £62k per anum which if you multiply by the number of buses is not an insignificant amount of extra money.
2016 saw the election of a new London mayor. Sadiq Khan has been quoted as saying in relation to the new Routemaster buses “They’ve ended up costing way more than expected, they’ve not been anywhere near as good for the environment as we were promised and now their oven-like heat is having to be sorted.” Khan has also stated that “And I will end Boris Johnson’s practice of using Londoners’ money to fund expensive vanity projects – such as the cable car and the failing ‘new Routemaster’ buses.” It would be ironic if Sadiq Khan finally put an end to the London Routemaster bus as he is a son of a bus driver.