Anger at ‘secret’ plans to axe last daily service on Routemaster
The historic Routemaster bus is approaching the end of the road after “secret” plans emerged to withdraw the last vehicles from daily service. Transport for London wants to axe the daytime “heritage” service on route 15, which uses the 60-year-old buses between Trafalgar Square and Tower Gateway. Under the plans, the buses would appear only at weekends during the summer and on bank holidays. “Stakeholders” were asked to comment, but there has been no public consultation. No details were published on TfL’s website.
Enthusiasts are dismayed that transport bosses and Mayor Sadiq Khan is prepared to kill off a “London icon”. Andrew Morgan, chairman of the Routemaster Association, accused TfL of acting in a “secretive” way. He said: “We should be keeping them to attract tourists, but tourists don’t know about them. They are London’s biggest secret.” Mr Morgan said leaving the Routemasters unused in a garage was the “worst thing you can do with an old vehicle”. He added: “They will get them out at the last minute and they will break down. From an operator’s point of view, it’s going to cost more. They have not repainted them in the last few years and they are looking very unloved and shabby. It’s obvious they are driving them into the ground. They don’t advertise them — there is no publicity anywhere.”
TfL recently spent £200,000 refurbishing four of the buses. Last year the Mayor said: “They promote London as a key tourist destination.” Two heritage routes, shortened versions of routes 9 and 15, were launched in 2005 when Routemasters were phased out by Ken Livingstone after 50 years of service. The 9 heritage route was axed in 2014. TfL says the proposal to cut the 15 heritage service comes alongside the Mayor’s proposed cuts to 33 bus routes in central London, and will save £800,000 a year.
Passengers today spoke of their sadness. City worker Gareth Mason, 29, said: “It’s part of the heritage of London and should be kept going. It makes visiting London special.”
Joaquim Pelassa, 18, a business student at King’s College, said the buses were a factor in choosing to study here. “Every time I see the buses they turn my head. It’s what you think of when you think of London. People love it.”
TfL said: “The heritage buses provide an attraction for tourists that celebrates London’s transport heritage, but use of the service is low.” A spokesman said restricting the service to times of peak demand would “improve emissions while helping to reduce congestion”.