Routemaster – The Bus We Loved

2002_18948 routemaster in air_cropped

Excerpt from The Bus We Loved; London’s affair with the Routemaster by Travis Elborough.

The Routemaster was made to measure, Savile Row tailored for the city, ‘an attractive piece of street furniture’ specifically built for London. It exemplified the highest ideals of a public-spirited passenger transport service – physical evidence that London and ordinary Londoners should have the very best. ‘A handsome city deserves a handsome transport’ as All That Mighty Heart, the London Transport film, proclaimed in 1962. We loved it, not because it was old and quirky, but because it was good. Well made. Importantly, it was greeted as an equal. It respected our custom. It was comfortable. Convenient. Efficient. We were free to get on and off, within reason, when we wanted to. ‘Passengers’ an old London transport motto maintained, ‘are our business not an interruption to our service.’

2006_1729 routemaster engineering drawing

Of course it grew out of and was born into another world. The society it was created to serve was more, or more visibly, stratified. It was a world with a certain intolerance of difference; you might see in its straight rows of seats a reflection of those times. A bus built for a city known for forming orderly queues rather than for wild alcoholic sprees; for a city of parsimonious coupon-snippers rather than designer-label consumers. It’s a bus that by today’s standards can exclude (the disabled, the pushchair). But you can also see a more egalitarian spirit at work. It was designed for (nearly) everyone, and everyone aboard is equal. By its careful, skilful design, it was intended in some small was to elevate an everyday experience.

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