The Routemaster is an icon of London (see our article on its history here). Our image of London is so suffused with it, that even though the bus was long ago taken out of regular service, it still serves that purpose. Several buses are kept in good order and operated on Heritage Routes through central London for tourists to still enjoy. Seeing a Routemaster on the roads, with it’s rumbling diesel engine and bells is still a treat. Starting this spring, the sight will get ever rarer.
There were two heritage routes and now it’s been brought down to one. Now, Transport For London, in an effort to kill more joy in London, has decided to remove the heritage routes on weekdays and limit them to weekend only and also only during the peak tourist seasons.
The major change comes on 2 March 2019. After that, you’ll only be able to catch a route 15 heritage bus ‘on bank holidays and weekends, between the last Saturday in March until the last weekend in September’. That’s roughly 60 days of the year — less than a sixth of its current availability.
I get WHY they are doing this. The buses are not accessible for all, they’re expensive to run and maintain and often, the buses run empty. But losing them takes something wonderful out of London’s visual landscape and audio soundscape that will be missed when it’s gone.
It’s the thin end of the wedge – I suspect, within five years, the final heritage route will be scrapped altogether. So, go ride one of these Routemasters while you still can. Heritage Route 15 runs from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square. They’ll still keep these buses in mothballs and wheel them out whenever they have an event that will require ‘Londonyness.’ But their daily use will be done.
I hate to lament on the things that London loses as time marches on… but there you go.