Heatherwick’s London buses to be phased out for “greener” alternative

A spokesperson for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says that the “vanity” buses will no longer be produced and “greener” public transport alternatives will be prioritised.

Image by James O Jenkins for TfL
Image by James O Jenkins for TfL

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed it will be phasing out Thomas Heatherwick’s Routemaster buses, and will instead be investing in “greener” alternatives.

The New Routemaster – also known as the Boris Bus – first started being used on London streets in February 2012, brought in under Boris Johnson’s tenure as Mayor of London.

Its distinguishing feature is its “hop-on hop-off” open platform at the back of the bus, which was introduced to allow greater accessibility for passengers.

The double-decker hybrid diesel and electric bus has three doors in total, and two staircases, one at the front and one at the back.

Current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan confirmed that he would not be buying any more Routemaster buses, saying that “Londoners deserve a bus fleet that is greener, more affordable and more functional”.

A spokesperson for Khan says that TfL is swapping investment in Routemaster “vanity” buses for a new generation of ultra-low and zero-emission buses to help “clean up London’s toxic air”.

There will be a transition to hydrogen and electric-powered buses, including a trial of a new hydrogen double-decker bus which is set to hit London’s roads next year.

The bus will be manufactured by Wrightbus, the same company which manufactured Heatherwick’s Routemaster.

The Routemaster bus previously received criticism for alleged design faults such as overheating in the summer and producing more pollution than was claimed it would.

The cost also fell under scrutiny, with some questioning whether London “could afford” the buses, which initially required a conductor to man the back door and which individually cost more than £300,000 to produce, according to The Guardian.

In 2015, Transport for London announced it would be changing the back door of the bus, meaning that it could no longer be kept open during stops, indicating that its distinguishing “hop-on hop-off” design function was being phased out.

A spokesperson at Heatherwick Studio says: “There’s been no cancellation of orders of Routemasters. 600 were originally ordered and manufactured, then this was extended to 1000. This was the maximum number that was ever going to be made during Boris Johnson’s tenure.”

“We still feel that the bus has been a massive success in design. It’s been all around the world promoting British manufacturing and has changed the way people feel about riding buses over the last five years. It’s been the most-widely used bus in the city of London.”

At the time of publishing, manufacturer Wrightbus has not confirmed what buses will be produced to replace the Routemaster.

Hide Comments (5)Show Comments (5)
  • Kieran Stevens January 9, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I have always thought these buses are an example of style over substance. The small windows make the bus look pretty but severely restrict the view from the top deck.

    • Paul Coomey January 13, 2017 at 11:16 am

      I wholeheartedly agree. This whale-faced plasticky blob always looked like a design fully realised indoors, with no thought given to users – the end result being a gloomy, cramped, noisy, and stuffy experience for passengers. A development of something like the Enviro series with high ceilings and plenty of light would be most welcome.

  • Kate Pellegrini January 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

    If Sadiq Khan can commission a London bus that is greener in emissions and fuel efficiency, and still has the comfortable interior of the Heatherwick design, with pleasant seats, no squeaks, double glazing and good non-fluorescent lighting so it’s a pleasant alternative to travelling by car, and still save money, I congratulate him.

  • Ben Glazier January 15, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    It would be nice if the next set could be more stable than these. Try getting up and walking downstairs while the bus is moving – it’s like walking on a bucking bronco. The heat generated from and within them is incredible – and the aircon is very English… style over substance, definitely. Vanity obviously triumphed over engineering.

  • Flash Gordon January 16, 2017 at 3:18 am

    I personally love the design. It has become a modern-retro icon loved by all tourists as much as the Black Cabs. Why not just change the powertrain to a hydrogen-electric and keep the design?

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