London's red double-decker buses, called the Routemaster, have long been a prominent feature of the streets. What everyone loved about the old Routemaster was that you could jump on and off the back at will, without having to wait for doors to open. Sadly they were all taken off the streets by 2005 because of cost: the buses were getting old and required two conductors: one to drive and one to take tickets.
But they are back! In a new and improved hybrid diesel-electric version. Their return was part of a campaign pledge of the London Mayor: get rid of the hated bendy buses and bring back the Routemasters.
The first bus will hit the streets in February 2012 and there will be eight of them in service by May, with a total of 12 in all.
The new features in the bus include lots more glass to make it brighter inside. Three doors and two staircases will provide smoother, speedier boarding and access to the upper deck. An open platform at the rear can be closed off at quiet times and also offer the much-loved hop-on hop-off service.
Designed by Heatherwick Studio and bus manufacturer Wrightbus, the new bus will be 15 percent more fuel efficient than existing hybrid buses and 40 percent more efficient than conventional diesel double-deckers.
In tests, "the engineering test vehicle emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of CO2 and 3.96 g/km of Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – less than half of the CO2 emitted by a current diesel bus (1295g/km) and under half of the NOx emitted by a current diesel bus (9.3g/km)...fuel economy was also better than twice that of a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg."
The interiors are updated as well. The seating upholstery is reminiscent of the original 1930's fabric. There will be LED lighting and signage telling what the next stop will be. A conductor will be on duty to help people on and off the back.