The Routemaster
– how the double-decker bus became an icon

The red double-decker bus is a symbol of London, and shapes the cityscape just like Big Ben or the vintage telephone booths. The AEC Routemaster has become a cult vehicle with its open rear platform. Today, its modern successor is mainly in use.

Unusual design, great suitability for everyday use

The rolling legend was developed as early as 1947 by the Associated Equipment Company (AEC), which produced commercial vehicles from 1912 to 1979. On 8 February 1956, the Routemaster made its first bus trip in London. As unusual as the design with the right driver's cell and the open entrances was, the mode of transport proved its suitability for everyday use. Because the open platforms enabled passengers to get on or off at any time. The “hop on / hop off” principle proved to be extremely practical, especially in London's stop-and-go traffic. A bus conductor helped the passengers and sold the tickets at the same time.

Why was the popular double-decker superseded?

The last Routemaster left the factory in 1968, and the end of today's cult vehicle emerged in the early 2000s. The conductor turned out to be too expensive, and critics also complained that the vehicle was not handicapped accessible. The open platforms were suddenly considered too unsafe. In 2013, former Mayor Ken Livingstone even spoke of around 12 people per year who had died after falling from the platform during his tenure. In December 2005, the icon was finally removed from the last regular line. Many Routemasters had previously been replaced by modern buses.

The Routemaster as a tourist attraction

Nevertheless, the double-decker is considered a landmark of London. Due to violent protests against its replacement, the Routemaster continues to be a tourist attraction on bus trips to sights across the country. The upper deck in particular is perfect for sightseeing. In the British capital itself, the Routemaster is currently still on the 15th Heritage Line from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square - and only over the weekends from March to September.

The New Routemaster or New Bus for London

The New Bus for London (NB4L) has been in use since February 2012. As the successor to the Routemaster, it also has a stern platform, which can, however, be closed. It was also called "Borismaster" - after Boris Johnson, who, as the mayor of London at the time, replaced the articulated buses with the new double-decker. The conductors were also reintroduced at certain times.

The London bus as a 3D puzzle

As a 3D puzzle, you can now park your own double-decker at home - in London red, of course. The 216 individually shaped puzzle pieces fit together perfectly thanks to Easyclick Technology and form a stable three-dimensional image of the legendary bus without any glue.

The Routemaster in numbers

• The forerunner of the Routemaster was still making headway with real horsepower: In 1829 the first bus service started in London. The carriage, drawn by three horses, could seat 22 people.

• Pantone 485 C - that is the colour code of the typical London red, which makes the double-decker so distinctive. However, the Routemaster for the express lines to the suburbs was temporarily painted green.

• For the silver (1977) and gold (2002) jubilee of the Queen, 25 of the mega buses were painted in silver and 50 in gold.

• A black Routemaster from 1960 is still on the road today: Once used to transport coffins and body parts through London to cemeteries, the “Ghost Bus” is now another tourist attraction.

• On average, the original Routemaster weighed 7.5 tons, made of aluminium, inspired by the aircraft of the Royal Airforce.

• A total of 2,876 copies of the AEC Routemaster rolled off the production line, of which 1,280 still exist today. Curiously, the double-decker can still be seen regularly in the Macedonian capital Skopje - as a new production by a Chinese manufacturer.

• Around 6 million passengers now use one of the 9,142 buses (as of March 2019) in London every working day.

• During peak time (Monday to Friday from 6:30 am to 9:30 am and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm ) you should - especially in the banking district - avoid traveling by bus in London. Not only is it packed, the travel costs are sometimes higher.