I’ve just had my first journey on the new Routemaster bus, officially the New Bus for London. As of today the 24 route is to be entirely served by the new bus (aside from the occasional use of the older buses until a handful of delayed deliveries arrive). It will be the first route to exclusively use the new buses.
The 24 is my regular. It stops amazingly close to both my work and my home. It’s a lot slower than the tube but it’s convenient to have no changes and little walking. It also passes some of London’s more interesting locations (including Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Trafalgar Square) so it’s good for people-watching. I tend to take the tube in the morning but catch the bus in the evenings when I’m in less of a hurry.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t expect to be using it at the weekend but today we happened to be out meeting one of my wife’s school friends near Victoria.
The bus we took today was incredibly busy. I don’t know to what extent that’s because the route is always popular on weekends, because there was a lot going on in the West End on this particular day, or just because people wanted to try out the new bus. There was certainly an element of transport geekery in the air though. I heard at least two pairs chatting enthusiastically about the vehicle we were on and some other types of bus we passed along the way.
The new bus is a nice mix of classic and modern. The outside is boldly future-looking, with an emphasis on opening it up to the outside with large (often curved) windows. It will be easy to tell this bus apart from those serving other routes, even at a distance. Inside, the colours are beautiful deep reds and gold, making the seats look almost like old theatre seats, and of course the rear stairway and corner door are taken straight from the original Routemaster from the 1950s.
The extra door seems like it will make it much more efficient to get on and off, especially in the near future before most people realise they can use any of the three doors to board the bus.
I like having the assistant at the rear door, as it makes it possible to thank someone one the way out. I grew up with Dublin buses, on which you can thank the driver on the way out. But until now London buses have always required you to board at the front and leave by the middle doors, the prospect of actually having any interaction with a person being apparently too much for native Londoners to bear.