London's beloved Routemaster bus returns to streets

Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:10am EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - London welcomed a new open-backed double-decker bus on Friday, six years after the much-loved but ageing fleet of "Routemaster" vehicles were removed from the streets of the British capital.

The distinctive snub-nosed red Routemasters, popular with tourists and locals alike and as synonymous with London as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, were almost totally withdrawn in 2005 because they were regarded as expensive relics of the past.

The sleek modern bus, which also features a conductor and the distinctive open rear boarding platform to allow people to jump on and off, was unveiled for the first time on Friday, gliding through busy traffic on its first trip through London.

Beaming London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had promised a modern Routemaster in his 2008 election manifesto, said he believed the new design would become as resonant worldwide as its predecessor.

Such is the international attraction of the bus that reporters from across the globe gathered in a chilly Trafalgar Square to see Johnson show off the gleaming "Boris Bus" as it has been dubbed.

"I think the magic thing about this bus is that domed appearance that it has," he told reporters, before launching into the flowery prose for which he is renowned.

"It reminds everybody of all those things that are iconic of London -- the design of an old taxi, or the design of a bowler hat, or the noble domed brow of a battle elephant.

"That's the thing that says London to loads of people. Just going along the streets just now it's been obvious how many people like it and what an eye-catching thing it is."   Continued...