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Transport for London scraps last heritage service of iconic Routemaster buses

Abbianca Makoni
·2-min read
<p>The buses were the last of the city’s famous open-backed vehicles in operation.</p> (Nigel Howard)

The buses were the last of the city’s famous open-backed vehicles in operation.

(Nigel Howard)

Transport for London has permanently halted its heritage service of 10 iconic Routemaster buses on the number 15 route.

The buses were the last of the city’s famous open-backed vehicles in operation, after the other heritage route, the 9H, was retired seven years ago.

The news, which has devastated some on social media, comes more than a year after the UK was hit with by the Covid pandemic, slashing ridership across London’s transport network.

After reviewing the bus network to ensure it responds to customer demand, TfL told the Standard it had concluded that the heritage buses on a section of route 15 are “not needed for the current and predicted customer demand on the corridor.”

It also said that this combined with concerns about the environmental and accessibility limitations - they are not step-free or ULEZ-complaint - meant that their continued operation was “no longer viable.”

TfL added it was important to note that the buses did not have ULEZ standards because they were built in the 1970’s.

But Andrew Morgan, the chair of the RouteMasters, has contested with the reasons of the withdrawal.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “It’s just a case of whether or not TfL wanted to find an economical way to do it. But the buses were likely seen as frivolous when TfL has bigger priorities, which in the current situation you can understand.”

Mr Morgan also disputed the idea that the Routemasters could not meet the Euro VI engine standards because one of the buses, owned by TFL’s former commissioner, Sir Peter Handy turned “green” in 2016 and featured at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The red bus had a Cummins ISB4.5 clean diesel engine, ensuring it could meet the ULEZ standards, according to automotive world.

“So it can be done. It’s just a case of whether or not TfL wanted to find an economical way to do it,” Mr Morgan said. “But the buses were likely seen as frivolous when TfL has bigger priorities, which in the current situation you can understand.”

The heritage route, which only operated seasonly between 10am-6pm on summer weekends and bank holidays between March and September only, had not operated since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.

This saved TfL £825,243 in contract payments to Stagecoach, and now the service will not be coming back.

The network’s financial struggles saw it granted an emergency bailout funding from the Government worth £3billion since March 2020.

But the extension of the investment was under the condition that it make efficiency savings in order for it to reach financial sustainability as soon as.

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