Recognised all around the world as one of London's principal icons, the red double-decker bus is a well-known symbol of the British capital and provides a fast, inexpensive and convenient way to get around the city. London buses carry 6.5 million people around the (almost) one thousand bus routes of the city each day. In fact, travelling by bus around London is a great way to do a spot of sightseeing.
Used for transit throughout the United Kingdom, buses are likened to the pulsing arteries moving large numbers of people through Britain's main city centres and extremities.
The first-ever London City Omnibus service took place on Saturday 4th July 1829. George Shillibeer got the idea from Paris, France where bus services were already being used. The bus was pulled by three horses and could take up to twenty-two people, for four return journeys per day.
Before 1907, London buses used to be different colours to indicate their routes. To stand out from the competition, The London General Omnibus Company painted its fleet of buses red and eventually became the largest bus operator in the city. Then the use of numbers was introduced for the indication of the different bus routes.
The iconic Routemaster bus has been around for the last sixty years and the RT-Type double-decker bus has celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, in the Year of the Bus. It also marks one hundred years since London buses were used during the First World War when nine hundred B-type Battle Buses transported soldiers to the front line of one of the worst conflicts in world history. Some of these buses were converted to house carrier pigeons.
Articulated buses, more popularly referred to as bendy buses, came into use in London in October 2001. However, their role in the city was short-lived when Boris Johnson pledged to withdraw the buses from the streets of London during his Mayoral campaign in 2008. Deemed unsuitable for London, the last of the bendy buses were withdrawn in December 2011 to make way for the newer, more suitable design of the modern-day Routemaster. The articulated buses that were used in the British capital have now made their way to other parts of the UK and some have been exported to Malta.
The New Routemaster bus, which entered service on 27 February 2012, was designed to replace the much-loved AEC Routemaster. With an attractive design inspired by its predecessor, the new London Routemaster bus still features a hop-on, hop-off open platform at the rear. while meeting the accessibility requirements of modern-day buses and using the latest green diesel-electric hybrid technology.
Oyster cards, travel cards and contactless payment cards can be used to pay for bus fares in London however you can no longer pay by cash. It is free to travel by bus for wheelchair users and low-floor buses allow easy access for all people travelling with wheelchairs, prams, strollers, assistance dogs and mobility issues. In fact, all of London's 8500 buses have a retractable ramp which has to be fully working at all times.
Up until May 1990, there had been reports of a ghostly number seven bus in Cambridge Gardens in Notting Hill Gate, W10. Without lights on, nor anyone at the wheel, the bus apparition was spotted on a number of occasions around 1:15 a.m. during May time. It would cause drivers to swerve to avoid a collision and then the bus would suddenly disappear without a trace. Fatal accidents have taken place due to this, such as a motorist who was killed in 1934 on the exact spot where the bus is said to appear.
If ghost stories are your thing, The London Ghost Bus Tour is a theatrical sightseeing tour which provides a piece of comedy horror theatre on board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus. From the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey over to St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London, you can see the city's darker side and learn about the ghosts of London and the grisly skeletons it's cupboards.
Undoubtedly, viewing the sights of London from the top deck of an open top sightseeing bus would always be a memorable part of a visit to England's capital.
You can sit back, relax and take in the sights of this wonderful, bustling city in a comfortable and secure environment. There are plenty of London bus tour operators to choose from and many allow you to hop on and hop off so you don't miss out on attractions, shopping and other places you wish to see.
A die-cast metal red London double decker bus model is one of the most classic toys that come to mind and a perfect idea for a gift from the city or a memento of one's travels. But it doesn't stop there, there is a whole bunch of red bus memorabilia to choose from, including stoneware mugs, teapots, fridge magnets, keyrings, stationery, jewellery, T-shirts, clocks, snow globes, moneyboxes and much more!