Routemaster Heritage buses
a report by Gavin Francis who also took the pictures
Monday November 14th saw the start of the long promised Routemaster Heritage routes. Two routes were awarded using Routemasters recently withdrawn from routes 13 and 38. Route 9 was awarded to First and Route 15 awarded to Stagecoach. Each route requires 5 buses and runs every 15mins between 09.30 and 18.30 seven days a week. Route 9 runs from The Royal Albert Hall to The Aldwych and Route 15 runs from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square. These buses in effect supply additional buses over a part of the normal routes. The main 15 is operated by Stagecoach but London United operates the 9.
As it was a rest day for me I decided to check out the new services. I decided to start at The Royal Albert Hall to wait at the western terminus of Route 9. After only a few minutes RM 1640 arrived, what a disappointment. I had assumed they would be repainted into a livery as similar as possible to what they wore when they were first introduced over 40 years ago. Instead it looked exactly the same as when it was withdrawn from Route 38 on the 28th October. Other RMís on the 9 were RMís 1627, 1735, 1280 and 1776. None of them appeared to have had any form of painting at all and were just as they were withdrawn a few weeks earlier. There were yellow bands, white bands, no bands and looked very shabby.
I decided to move on to Trafalgar Square so rode on RM 1776. The route passes through Knightsbridge, Piccadilly, and Haymarket, some of the busiest roads in London and most of the trip was done at a crawl. The conductor was cheerful throughout and called out each point as we arrived there. My ticket took some time to issue as this was the first one for her. Most people in London use passes.
As I arrived in The Strand, RM 1968 came into view and what a difference. Completely repainted with cream band, gold London Transport fleet names, gold fleet numbers with ROUTEMASTER above them, gold Stagecoach names, chrome radiator surrounds, AEC grill badges, chrome wheel nut guard rings, glossy Indian red wheels, blackened tyres, silver painted chassis, and some of them with no advertising holders. Stagecoach had clearly tried to present these buses in the best possible way they could and the result in the short amount of time they had was outstanding. Also running the 15, were RMís 1933, 2089, 2071 and 324. Each one of them looked immaculate. When the driver changed the ultimate blind I noticed that there were far more destinations than a route which ran from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square would need. I would guess the blinds fitted will cover both routes, but quite what Victoria was on there for I donít know. All the crews were also smartly turned out. Between The Aldwych and Trafalgar Square the routes parallel each other and when buses from both companies were next to each other it was like chalk and cheese.
Whilst standing in Trafalgar Square it was like old times with RMís still on the 159 plus those now on the 9 and 15, there seemed to always be a Routemaster in sight. Even after the RMís are withdrawn from the 159 on the 9th December there will still be 16 RM movements through Trafalgar Square an hour. I am pleased to say that all the drivers were aware of how many people were trying to take pictures of them and tried as much as possible to help photographers take decent pictures. I am aware that certain drivers do not like having their pictures taken and any like this should not apply for a job on the 9 or 15 otherwise they are going to have a stressful day.
So after a disappointing start, thanks to Stagecoach it turned out to be a very good day. There may be a very good reason why every 15 RM was immaculate and every 9 was just as withdrawn but on the first days evidence it must be Stagecoach 10, First Group 0. Letís hope they intend doing something in the near future. Of course when Stagecoach ran RMLís on the 15 they were always in excellent condition so it should come as no surprise that these are just as good.
Who would have thought, that when most of these RMís were withdrawn nearly 20 years ago, they would be back to form the Heritage fleet. I have listed below what each one has being doing over that period.
RM 1640. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Blackpool Transport, Reading Mainline, then Routes 36 and 38 in London.
RM 1627. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Blackpool Transport, Reading Mainline, the Route 13.
RM 1735. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Blackpool Transport, Reading Mainline and Route 13.
RM 1280. Withdrawn 1989, sold to Burgsport, then into preservation, and back for Routes 36 and 19.
RM 1776. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Greater Manchester Buses, then Liverline, Blue Triangle, Red Bus Fish and Chips, Newcastle and back for Route 36.
RM. 1968. Withdrawn 1987, sold to Hampshire Bus, then Magic Bus, Stagecoach, Bluebird, Sharp Glasgow and back for Route 38.
RM 1933. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Kelvin Scottish, then Stagecoach, into preservation and the Route 13.
RM 2089. Withdrawn 1986, sold to Blackpool Transport, Reading Mainline and the Route 13.
RM 2071. Withdrawn 1988, sold to Blackpool Transport, Reading Mainline and Route 13.
RM 324. Withdrawn 1997, sold to Halifax Joint Committee and then Route 13.
So out of the 10 RMís used today 5 of them have virtually stayed together since there withdrawal by London Buses. Also of note is the fact that all the RMís used have retained their original registrations.
Standard fares apply and passengers can use their travel and Oyster cards and once passengers have got used to seeing them again I am sure they will be well used.
Pictures by Gavin Francis
The number 9 operated by First Bus
The number 15 operated by Stagecoach