London Mayor dumps iconic Routemaster buses as part of election pledge

The New Routemaster bus, manufactured by Wrightbus, in front of Big Ben in London - image courtesy of Wrightbus
The New Routemaster bus, manufactured by Wrightbus, in front of Big Ben in London - image courtesy of Wrightbus.

London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has halted production of the new, Thomas Heatherwick-designed, double-decker Routemaster buses.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has followed up on his election campaign promise to discontinue production the re-designed new Routemaster buses as a cost saving measure to help pay for a four-year freeze on bus fares in the capital.

The plan to halt new orders of the London buses was outlined in the recent Transport for London (TfL) Business Plan released in December 2016. The TfL Business Plan indicated that no new Routemaster buses will be purchased for London with funding instead now allocated to upgrade the city’s existing bus fleet with the latest sustainable technologies.

The report stated that: “New capital investment will be reduced significantly as we discontinue purchases of new Routemaster Buses. We will carry on investing in the fleet however, by retro-fitting 3,000 vehicles with Euro V1 standard emission technology by 2020.”

Boris’s Routemaster legacy grinds to a halt

The new Routemaster buses are a legacy of former British mayor Boris Johnson, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and manufactured by Northern Ireland-based Wrightbus International.

Dubbed the ‘Boris Buses’, the new Routemaster design was based on the iconic front-engined double-decker AEC Routemaster buses that were originally built between 1954 and 1968 in London. The ‘New’ Routemaster buses were introduced to London streets in 2012 as part of Mayor Johnson’s ambition to update the London’s buses while also providing the city with a more eco-friendly transport system. The bus upgrade was one of Johnson’s highest profile projects during his time as London Mayor.

Despite their iconic status and great initial reaction from Londoners as they brought an end to the unpopular ‘bendy buses’, the new fleet was attacked by Labour Assembly members. The members described the new buses as a “vanity project” following revelations that technical issues with some of the buses’ batteries meant they were primarily running on diesel and provided questionable environmental benefits. This in turn lead to Sadiq Khan’s election pledge to discontinue the buses if he was elected London Mayor.

Wrightbus was reportedly in line for a deal to sell hundreds of new Routemaster buses to London in the next five years , before Mayor Khan put paid to this potential contract with his recent announcement that the fleet would be discontinued. Wrightbus International has said production lines would have to close if there were no more orders for the model.

As well as making the now discontinued Routemaster buses in recent years, Wrightbus International is currently producing double-decker buses for Singapore-based public transport operator SBS Transit, as part of a three-yeara contract running from 2014 to 2017.

In November 2016, the Ballymena firm also announced a major order in Scotland for more than 300 vehicles to be to Lothian Buses over a four-year period from 2017.