From Academic Kids

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First London AEC Routemaster RML 2473 (JJD 473D) on route 7 approaching Ladbroke Grove tube station in April 2002.

The AEC Routemaster is a model of double-decker bus that was designed in 1954 and introduced in London on 8 February 1956. Production examples, at first to the 27'6" length then permitted, were placed in service from 1959 to replace trolleybuses, this process being completed in May 1962. Subsequent Routemasters, the last 500 of which were 30'-long RML types, began the process of replacing the previous generation of RT-type AEC Regent buses and their similar Leyland Titan RTL and RTW counterparts. The last Routemaster, RML 2760, was put into service in March 1968.

The design has proved very popular with Londoners and tourists alike. Its two main advantages are the open platform at the rear, and the presence of a conductor to collect fares, required by the isolated driver's cab.

The platform allows large volumes of passengers to alight and board quickly at stops, and indeed at traffic lights and slow speeds (such foolhardy behaviour is of course not recommended!). The conductor collects fares when the bus is travelling, which considerably reduces waiting time at stops.

Many of London's bus routes switched to modern "one-person operation" in the 1970s, out of a desire to reduce operating costs and address staff shortages. However, it has been found that the increased boarding time while each passenger pays the driver slows down busy routes, and leads to "bunching" of buses and a poor service. In an attempt to solve this, in central London bus tickets are now bought from machines before boarding. The Oyster card has also made an impact in this regard.

Withdrawal of Routemasters commenced in 1982 but were largely halted by 1988, with comparatively few withdrawn between then and 1992, when a programme was instituted to refurbish 500 of the RML type for ten years' further service. This work, which included updating the interior to modern tastes and re-engining, was carried out by Mainline, TBP and Leaside Buses, and was completed in 1994, in time for the privatisation of London Buses Limited's subsidiaries. This saw the Routemaster fleet divided between nine new companies.

In spite of an earlier public promise to retain the Routemaster, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, announced the phasing out of the type in order to satisfy accessibility requirements demanded by 2017 under the Disability Discrimination Act. Withdrawals commenced on the dates below as the routes' five-year contracts expired.

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A Routemaster on Route 14 crossing Piccadilly Circus.
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London Central AEC Routemaster RM 758 (re-registered 209 UXJ) on route 36 at Vauxhall bus station, 6 January 2005.

Last days for Routemaster-operated routes confirmed in 2005 are:

The remaining two routes, 13 and 38, are planned for conversion by early 2006. After this, up to six 'heritage' routes are to be introduced to keep the Routemaster alive in London. The services are currently out to tender, with the routeing to be specified by potential bidders (with the proviso that Oxford Street not be served, and that the routes be operated on a wholly commercial basis).

For many people, Routemaster buses evoke nostalgic feelings, and the announcement spawned a campaign to save the bus. See also the television sitcom (later a film) On the Buses, although the buses depicted there, while rear-entrance double deckers, are not Routemasters.

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