Aston Martin has Designs on new London Routemaster Bus

By Andy Bannister

12.21.2008

One of the iconic sights of London, the double-decker Routemaster bus, could be reinvented for the 21st century, with sports car maker Aston Martin just named as joint winner of a competition to design a replacement.

Aston’s entry was a collaborative effort with leading architects Foster and Partners. Their design envisages a highly-manoeuvrable, zero-emissions vehicle, with solar panels built into a glass roof, full accessibility, warm lighting and wooden floors.

A second design was joint winner of the competition and produced by British bus, coach and truck design firm Capoco Design.

Capoco’s entry pays closer homage to the original Routemaster, with a design combining old and new, featuring the classic model’s front engine and open rear platform, plus a low flat floor.

Transport for London, the agency responsible for public transport in the British capital, wants to see greener and more accessible double-deckers in service within two years time, although clearly the new Routemaster will take much longer to appear.

The winning concepts will now be passed on to bus manufacturers, following a competitive tendering process, to develop into a final proposed design.

Recently elected Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is a Routemaster fan and has enthusiastically backed the competition, which had 700 entries from five continents. Many of those taking part were children.

However, opposition politicians on the London Assembly have described the competition as a poor use of public money, arguing the Mayor and his administration has yet to make a case for why the British capital needs the new type of bus.

Political point-scoring aside, there’s no doubting the London and wider British public’s affection for the orginal Routemaster, which was finally withdrawn from mainstream use in 2005. A small fleet can still be seen running limited heritage services, mainly used by tourists.

The original AEC (Associated Equipment Company) Routemaster dates from the mid 1950s and was actually designed in partnership with London Transport. Most often produced with a distinctive red livery, it remained in production until 1968, by which time some 2,876 had been made.

By the late 1990s, concerns were being raised about the age and suitability of these venerable buses. There were worries over pollution from their elderly engines, and complaints about poor accessibility for disabled users. The need for a two-person crew was another drawback. As a result, the design was gradually withdrawn from service.

Most buses in the British capital today are much more conventional double-deckers without any of the unique character of the Routemaster.

LTI, with its modern TX4 interpretation of the London Taxi, has shown that classic designs can be successfully updated without losing their essential character, so let’s hope this most distinctive of buses really does make a comeback.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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1 Comment

  1. While this sounds good in theory it’s surely going to be extremely expensive to develop this new bus design. Given the old Routemaster sold less than 3,000 units I wonder if it ever made a profit or was subsidised by the taxpayer?

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