29 October, 2005


Routemaster Shmoutemaster

While we're on the subject of public transport, am I alone in being bemused by the weeping and wailing over the demise of the Routemaster? OK, it's a London icon, but then so in their various times were "pea-souper" smogs, Tardis-style police boxes, and those little milk float-like electric trucks that ferried cheques to and from the banks' clearing house on King William Street.

Certainly modern buses have fewer seats, particularly the articulated buses which have replaced the No 38 Routemaster this morning, but then they do provide room for pushchairs and wheelchairs and more standees and more circulating space. The only real issue I have with the "bendy" buses as a passenger is that the ventilation isn't up to scratch and it gets bloody hot in the summer sun. As far as boarding and alighting is concerned, they are at least as quick as any Routemaster.

The much-vaunted conductor, whose disappearance is supposed to make us pine for the halcyon paradise of the Routemaster, has in recent years become something of a waste of space anyway. Frequently, they can't be arsed moving from their perch on the platform in order to collect fares and check tickets; leaving you sitting there with your pass in hand and then magically appearing just after you put it back in your pocket. One or two have the interesting habit of waiting until you are about to get off the bus before challenging you for your fare/ticket in a tone of voice which clearly implies your intention to avoid payment; they seem strangely surprised when I get shirty with them.

No the days of the good old clippie -- or guard as we used to call them in Manchester -- are long gone. I'm sure some of the remaining conductors -- about 140 prior to the demise of the 38 apparently -- are fine fellows, but a fair number of the residual force, I'm afraid, are idle riff-raff who just get in the way.

The "Save the Routemaster" thing seems to have been largely dreamt up and driven almost entirely by the Evening Standard as part of its ongoing anti-Ken campaign. There's plenty of things to have a go at Ken about, guys; this nonsense just makes you look ridiculous.

Time to move on.

I liked being able to get on and off whenever I chose. Could be a bit dangerous if you'd had a few though.

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