10 December, 2007


London's heritage

I'm fairly relaxed about the demise of the Routemaster in London. I grew up with such conductor-operated open-rear-platform buses in Manchester and feel little especial nostalgia for them. They worked. Hopping on and off between official stops was sometimes useful. They could be bloody cold in winter and waiting for the conductor to be arsed to come and collect fares was often irritating. Equally, I am quite relaxed about the introduction of the articulated, or "bendy", bus to the streets of the capital. They are not suitable for some of the more cramped routes where they have been introduced, but they are useful form of high-capacity transport on very busy short routes where standing is tolerable -- a sort of trackless urban tram. The excitable anti-bendy campaign by the London Evening Standard is incomprehensible other than as a vehicle for attacking the Standard's arch-enemy, Ken the Newtman.

Nevertheless, the Routemaster is a symbol, a touristic icon of London, and I have no problems with it being retained as an attraction in tourist areas. Indeed, I frequently use the No 15 myself, as I did yesterday. Only to find that a flat screen TV display had been installed on the bulkhead behind the driver's cabin. Thankfully it was not yet operational, but no doubt it will be used to display advertisements for London's numerous touristic attractions.

Someone is losing the plot here. If the Routemaster is being preserved as a nostalgic exhibit of London past, then there is no place for this sort of thing. If they are going to put adverts in these vehicles, which might be a good idea for without them they do look rather stark, then why not replicas of old ads from the buses' heyday. Remember the tall thin advert for the British School of Motoring, always placed on the bulkhead I refer to, comprising the island of Great Britain driving a car, with the Isle of Man as its steering wheel?

If you're going to do touristic nostalgia guys, at least try to be authentic. Think of it this way: if you try to milk it for every last penny, it just puts the punters off and then everybody loses.

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