The enigmatic Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has not only managed to banish the reviled bendy bus from the historic “Square Mile” but has also fulfilled an election pledge – and provided Londoners with the perfect New Year’s gift – by restoring the iconic red liveried Routemaster double-decker bus to the Greater London area. Eight prototype buses operated by Arriva and manufactured by the Wright Group – one of Europe’s leading providers of passenger transport solutions – will begin official passenger operations on the Capital’s Victoria Station to Hackney bus route in late February next year.
“This revolutionary new bus …will brighten the day of all who see it humming along our great city’s streets. It is the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering and design, and I am certain it will become a much loved and iconic vehicle akin to the legendary Routemaster from which it draws so much inspiration,” said Johnson in a December press release.
It’s been a long road back for London’s legendary double-deck omnibus. The original AEC Routemaster double-decker bus was first introduced in 1954 and its durable chassis, rugged construction and remarkable stability proved extremely popular with transport companies all over the world. However, in spite of its mechanical dependability the Routemaster’s high floor left it unable to cope with modern disability access requirements and in December, 2005 – after five decades of sterling service – the Routemaster was finally pensioned off.
The AEC replacement was designed and built by a team of 25 engineers and a 40 strong production team at The Wright Group in Northern Ireland with interior and exterior design provided by the London-based Heatherwick Studio. The Wright Group is likely to be familiar to US transport industry readers because of its OPUS range of buses which are assembled under licence – in CKD Kit form – by Optima Inc in Anniston, Alabama.
The new “Wrightbus” incorporates the most innovative and cutting edge hybrid technology and is said to be “the most environmentally friendly bus of its kind.” Indeed, tests conducted at the Millbrook Proving Ground revealed that the vehicle emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of CO2 and 3.96 g/km of Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – less than half of the CO2 (1295g/km) and under half the NOx emitted by a current diesel bus (9.3g/km). Fuel economy was also more than double that of a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg (when compared to 8.6mpg for a hybrid bus and 5.8mpg for a normal diesel bus). Better still, it’s estimated that if all buses in London performed to the standard of the new bus then this could realise a 57 per cent reduction in the amount of NOx emissions and a 230,000 ton reduction in CO2 emissions.
The Wrightbus Routemaster – which was designed from the wheels up in the space of just two years – includes three low floor entrances and two staircases, a new lightweight bench seat with moquette design, and an open platform at the rear. The rear platform (which can be shuttered) will be open when there is a conductor on board allowing passengers to hop on and off at bus stops just like the original Routemaster. The three sets of doors will ensure easy entry and egress whilst the two staircases will allow quick access to the upper deck. Accessibility features include a wheelchair ramp on the centre door and a wheelchair bay that’s longer than on nearly every current double-decker. There is also priority seating with space for assistance dogs and a step free low floor throughout the lower deck.
“This fantastic machine is chock full with the latest technology and London buses will be world leaders once again when the first eight buses take to our roads early next year,” enthused Johnson. Many of us – Londoners or not – are right there with him.
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Additional Information: www.london.gov | The Wright Group | Optima OPUS bus range |