Saturday, 14 December 2013


Route 390 now served by New Routemasters
Fourth route in the capital to operate entirely with world’s greenest diesel electric hybrid buses
Fifth bus route the 148 to convert from February 2014

From Saturday 7th December route 390 became the fourth in the capital to be served entirely by 'New Routemasters', the now established name for the New Bus for London (NBfL).

Included is LT 115 shown here as it circumnavigated Marble Arch when on way towards the western terminus at Notting Hill Gate during their first week of operation. The Customer Assistant can be observed at the rear platform with the door open (Mark Lyons)

Route 390, which runs 24-hours a day and is run by Metroline, operates between Notting Hill Gate and Archway, via Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, King’s Cross and Tufnell Park. During peak hours, 21 of the new buses are in passenger service to carry the 18,400 people who travel on the route each day.

Every London bus route is different and as these buses are rolled out across the capital Transport for London (TfL) will consider the best possible staffing arrangements on a route by route basis.  Buses on route 390 operate with the rear door open and a conductor on the rear platform for the majority of the day on weekdays (6am–6pm Monday to Friday).  At weekends this route, in common with routes 9 and 24, operates with just a driver.  This means the rear platform is closed when the bus is moving but all three sets of doors are opened and closed by the driver at bus stops.

The 390 was the last route to be introduced from new with the original half-cab rear open platform Routemaster, which occurred in February 2003. It initially ran between Archway and Marble Arch.

Seventeen such crew-operated buses ran out of Holloway Garage on Monday to Saturdays, with opo Volvo B7TLs on Sundays. However, in September 2004 the whole service was converted to opo Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL operation and a couple of months later was extended on from Marble Arch via Bayswater Road to Notting Hill Gate.

The next route to be converted, the 148 another 24-hour route is operated by London United (previously part of Transdev) and runs between Camberwell Green and White City, via Elephant and Castle, Parliament Square, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park and Shepherd’s Bush. During peak hours, 25 of these state of the art buses will be in passenger service to carry the 22,500 people who travel on the route each day. The route also relatively young having been introduced in October 2002, is operated out of Shepherd's Bus Garage and will be converted in February 2014 from the current allocation of all-Polish Scania double-decks.

The New Routemaster, now the official name for the vehicle, is the greenest diesel electric hybrid bus in the world.  In tests a prototype bus was found to emit a quarter of the NOx (Oxides of Nitrogen) and harmful ‘PM’ particles of a fleet average hybrid bus and 20 per cent less CO2. So when all 600 are in service in 2016 they will reduce CO2 emissions in the capital by around 20,600 tonnes a year.

Focus comment

The name Routemaster must surely remain synonymous with the original iconic design of a half-cab, double-deck bus with a single open platform rear entrance/exit. In 1954 RM1 was produced but it was not until some 4-years later in 1959 that the first production models entered full time operation in London.

But as we approach the 60th year of the vehicle type and its variations, the bus does still provide a daily service in London, albeit limited to two Heritage type services 9 and 15, shortened versions of the main routes.

So as a reminder of Routemaster operation on the four routes that now feature the 'new' Routemaster (9,11,24,390), plus the small allocation on one other (38), there follows a few images in route order that date from the 1970s to the 2000s.


The standard length Routemaster is illustrated by RM 1802 in May 1977 as it drove out of The Strand into the bottom side of Trafalgar Square with a late afternoon complement of passengers just before the peak time rush hour began.

Route 9 let alone Routemasters no longer pass over the River Thames in service, the route cut back to Hammersmith bus station. However, RML 2679 one of the longer 30' versions is shown as it passed over Hammersmith Bridge in July 1979 bound for the south western terminus at Mortlake.

And at that end of the route RML 2600 just about passes beneath the railway bridge over the High Street. The iconic rear platform is visible here complete with handrails and centre pole (no comments about dancers please), along with the used tickets box. Full blinds on front, rear and nearsides, which included intermediate points were a feature of London's buses for decades.

In 1981 Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married and several Routemasters were decorated to celebrate the occasion. Wrapped somewhat parcel-like the buses were sponsored by various organisations and retail outlets, who were able to send their greetings on a card feature towards the rear of the decorated buses. RM 559 was one of the chosen few and in June that year headed east along Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner bound for Aldwych.

In 1992 buses route 9 was still crossing Hammersmith Bridge before the cutback and one of the earlier batch of longer vehicles, RML 902 showed that the bus was now in the hands of London Buses subsidiary London United.

During the early 1980s there was a bit of light relief from the general regimented livery. This allowed individual garage staff to adopt, prepare and run some buses for appearances at rallies and other events, but at their own expense. One such example was RM 1563 operated out of Mortlake Garage (hence the 'M' plate and running number just behind the canopy), and shown here as it circumnavigated a rather empty Hyde Park Corner in March 1994. The bus featured a full sized air intake above the cab, cream cantrail and underlined gold "LONDON TRANSPORT" fleetname. All rather smart.

By the early 1990s though Routemaster operation in London had been seriously depleted by the introduction of more and more one person operated buses. Several found their way into new hands such as Southend Transport, who acquired a small fleet of the type including RM 1543. In 1994 the bus found itself back in service in London on a special one day operation over route 9. Here it took a well earned break at the western end of Piccadilly.

Routemaster operation over route 9 continues to this day albeit in a muted fashion. Whilst the main service is operated by low floor buses between Aldwych and Hammersmith, a heritage element with standard RMs runs nowadays from Trafalgar Square to Kensington. RM 1640 is one of five buses allocated to the route daily and shows the leaning ability as it ran around the bottom side of Trafalgar Square.


Back to May 1977 and RM 20 with non opening upper deck front windows passed through Victoria in the company of another London icon, the black hackney cab. The triangular AEC badge is still clearly visible on the bus, although over time these disappeared as they became collector's items.

Buses have carried advertisements attached to the panels between the decks for many years and indeed since the days of the horse bus. However, during the 1970s it was realised that there was additional financial gains made by covering more of the panels in advertising. Thus there was an explosion of allover advertisement buses throughout the capital. Between August 1969 and September 1975 twenty-seven buses were adorned in a variety of hues to advertise such products as car parts, electrical goods, food, football pools, paints, publications and wines. There was then a bit of a lull until the odd one appeared now and again in 1979 and 1983. But in 1984 along came RML 2492 which operated over route 9 in this green and yellow livery for Underwoods the photographic developers and printers. The offside (upper) is illustrated at Hammersmith (Butterwick), the nearside (lower) in Buckingham Palace Road about to pass the Victoria Coach Station. 
During this period two other buses featured allover advertising for gentlemen's intimate area coverings in the shape of Y-Fronts. These plied their trade on various routes that sometimes passed by the seat of government and the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately this did not please the Members, so to speak, and allegedly an edict came forth and off they came. The adverts that is.

During the spring of 1989 London Buses as was gave up the daily operation of all buses throughout London. Instead control was passed to a number of subsidiaries, that had been established from the operations across the route network. In order to advertise this fact the newly established London General chose to adorn two of their Routemasters (89 and 1590) in a sort of pseudo 1930s style livery along with a bold 'GENERAL' fleetname on the lower side panels. RM 89 (upper) is shown at the top end of Trafalgar Square as it passed by the National Gallery, whilst RM 1590 (lower) passed along Whitehall.
Note the Grey-Green bus on route 24, but perhaps that is best left to another feature.

RM 2015 was one of a small number of Routemasters with Leyland engines that survived through to the end of the 1980s. Based at the now long closed RM 2015 by now with the management operated London General subsidiary of London Buses, is shown in the summer sunshine at Fulham (upper) and again by Victoria Coach Station in Buckingham Palace Road (lower). All windows appeared to be fully open including the driver's windscreen to its fullest extent.

Over the years the Routemaster fleet received a series of refurbishments. An internal and external exercise in the early 1990s saw RML 2648 used for yet another upgrade, which included attention by Volvo Leyland at their premises in Loughborough. Here the bus proclaimed this fact with advertising between the decks as it pulled away from a stop near to St.Paul's Cathedral.

During 1991 long RML 2516 in the London General fleet received a unique conversion, as amongst the completed work the rear end from one of the shorter Green Line coach versions (see lower), was grafted on. This included the doorway and replaced the open platform. There were other refinements that made the vehicle available for both general service work as well as private hire duties. Thus it appeared now and again on route 11 along with the re-classification to DRM 2516.

RML 2305 along with many other buses that served route 11 received bold route branding on all sides, with details of places served as it passed through Victoria in April 2000.


The first bus route in the London network to be fully converted to the NBfL (before it was renamed to the New Routemaster), was the 24. Here at the northern terminus of Hampstead Heath in November 1973, RML 2280 was another bus that operated in an overall advertisement, this one for Hanimex photographic and associated equipment.

Around the same time RML 2471 is seen as it sped through Parliament Square (perhaps not a bad thing), with the seat of government providing the backdrop.


Route 38 was very first one to be operated by the NBfL with up to five in service at any one time. The route had for a while been one of the many in London to use the now retired bendibuses, which in turn had received a mixed reaction during their relatively short years of service. As times moved on the 38 became operated by the Leaside Buses subsidiary of London Buses, amongst which they could count RM 5 as one of their own. Here in splendid summer sunshine (remember them), the bus trundled along Piccadilly bound for Victoria. The was kept in such splendid condition being another that was a regular attendee at various rallies and events.

RM 311 with bold route branding departed the Victoria bus station in April 1999 bound for Clapton Pond, but you can be assured that no pigeons were harmed during the production of this image.

Black is not really a traditional colour to be displayed on buses, perhaps due to its funeral overtones. However, in 2001 RML 2716 appeared just so adorned as it featured a promotion for Amnesty International's 40th anniversary. By now the privatisation era had begun with Leaside Buses and South London Transport acquired by Arriva to become Arriva London North and South respectively.

In 2002 fifty Routemasters were repainted gold to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee on the throne. Again like earlier Royal events so proclaimed, sponsorship was provided by a selected number of bodies, able to promote their wares both inside and outside of the vehicles. RML 2750 by now with Arriva had just set out from Victoria on the long haul htrough the West End and out east to Clapton.

And finally ROUTE 390

Just over ten years on from February 2003 when the route was introduced and nine years after they were withdrawn, the type although in name only, is back on the route in the guise of the 'new' Routemaster. Representative of the original though is RML 2296 (upper), on the final approach to the original terminal point beside the Marble Arch, RM 1971 (centre), on the stand and RML 2389 as it departed Marble Arch and into the western end of Oxford Street for a return journey to Archway Station, all images taken in 2004.

Well that is about it for now, but there is no doubt much more left in the Routemaster story. Suffice to say that there will no doubt be a splendid 60th anniversary for the marque over the weekend of the 12/13th July 2014, at Finsbury Park in North London, a year that TfL have deemed as "The Year of the Bus".

See also a posting on the Focus blog in respect of the preservation of a London 'B' type, many of which went abroad for the war effort during the First World War.

No comments:

Post a Comment