Revamped double-decker to hit London streets soon

The latest incarnation of the British capital’s iconic

double-decker buses will be crisscrossing the city’s streets in

time for the summer Olympics, London Mayor Boris Johnson promised

Friday.

Johnson said the sleek new vehicles would be a fitting successor

to London’s much-loved red Routemasters, which were nearly all

pulled off the streets in 2005. Their bigger, boxier replacements

proved more practical in many ways, but haven’t inspired the same

kind of loyalty.

Johnson promised a redesign when he became mayor, and the he was

on board Friday as a prototype pulled into Trafalgar Square.

”It is the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering

and design,” Johnson crowed.

Although some old-style Routemasters still ply the tourist route

between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, the bus

beloved by generations of Londoners was doomed by issues of

accessibility and cost.

Passengers loved the buses’ curved lines, their conductors and

their open platforms at the back – ideal for a harried commuter

racing to make a connection.

But Routemasters weren’t wheelchair-accessible and the aging

fleet proved expensive to maintain. Even the handy hop-on, hop-off

platforms were a problem: Passengers racing to catch their early

morning ride or coming home from the pub sometimes fell off the

bus, occasionally with fatal consequences.

Johnson’s new bus revives the platforms (which can now be

closed) and restores some of the original’s asymmetry and rounded

feel. The mayor’s administration claims it will be the most

environmentally friendly vehicle of its kind.

The mayor’s opponents have raised concerns over the cost of the

redesign, attacking it as a vanity project.

Opposition assembly member Val Shawcross said Londoners should

be asking themselves ”whether spending millions on redesigning

buses when we’re on the verge of another recession should really be

a priority.”

Online:

A New Bus for London:

http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/transport/new-bus-london