At attempt to return to the past always gets the Brits drooling. Let’s get back to times when Britain ruled the waves!

This was essentially the sentiment behind Boris Johnson’s promise to get a new Routemaster bus onto London’s roads by 2011 2012, replacing the bendy buses he made such a fuss about. It’s time to restore a London icon was the refrain, and the original design proposals that I previously blogged about did at least look a bit like the bus of old.

But shock of shocks: the realisation that no manufacturer makes a front engined bus chassis, that an open back would require a conductor at all times, and that hydrogen power is not yet adequately advanced means that the plans have been changed quite a bit, culminating in the unveiling of the final design a few days ago – as shown in this Youtube film:

More from the Mayor’s website here.

The engine has now been moved to the back, the characteristic bonnet has been removed and the only two aspects of the traditional Routemaster – the curved rear and back entrance – remain. Only the back does not even have to be open all the time.

Interestingly the bus actually has 3 doors and 2 staircases – a welcome innovation… But where else in the world are there double-deckers like that? In Berlin of course – the MAN Lion’s City DD… This irony has of course not been noticed by ‘design critic’ Stephen Bayley who is quoted thus in a sycophantic and ill-researched BBC article about the new bus:

It proves the old rule that if you want things to stay the same, they have to change. And it was designed for London, unlike the hated and insulting bendy-bus, which was designed for Berlin

No Stephen. This bus has not been designed with London in mind. It’s a standard chassis, probably built in Sweden, with a slightly amended body on top of it and some odd bit of 1950s history bolted onto the back, making the bus work more like a Berlin double decker than a London one. It’s a horrible mess, designed with the heart rather than the head. And who’s to say it will even be on the roads by 2012?

3 Comments

  1. robert

    I’d like to know exactly *who* hated the bendy bus? I never had any problem using one (the 521) when working in London.

    I’d also like to know some actual statistics and analysis regarding the various claims about the bendy buses, such as reliability, safety (i.e. catching fire), capacity and how they supposedly clogged the traffic. I suppose there could be an argument in terms of reliability given the new design needing to ‘bed in’ but isn’t that also going to be the case for this bus?

    Total costs over the next ten years would be nice too. How transparent are those?

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