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The Routemaster bus was an icon which has run in London for over 50 years. The design of this bus was way ahead of its time and just right for the travelling conditions in London. It outlived much newer buses due to its flexibility, speed and build quality, only being replaced on age and cost grounds. Route 159 was the last Routemaster route in London, its last day was 9th December 2005, however parts of the 9 & 15 have Routemasters running on them as Heritage routes.
The AEC Routemaster is a model of double-decker bus that was built by Associated Equipment Company in 1954 (in production from 1958) and produced until 1968. Primarily front-engined, rear open-platform buses, a small number of variants were produced with doors and/or front entrances. Introduced by London Transport in 1956, the Routemaster saw continuous service in London until 2005, and currently remains on two heritage routes in central London.
The Routemaster was developed by AEC in partnership with London Transport, the customer for nearly all new Routemasters, although small numbers were also delivered to the airline British European Airways (BEA) and the Northern General Transport Company. In all, 2,876 Routemasters were built, with approximately 1,000 still in existence.
A pioneering design, the Routemaster outlasted several of its replacement types in London, survived the privatisation of the former London Transport bus operators and was used by other operators around the UK. In modern UK public transport bus operation, the unique features of the standard Routemaster were both praised and criticised. The open platform, while exposed to the elements, allowed boarding and alighting away from stops; the presence of a conductor allowed minimal boarding time and optimal security, although the presence of conductors incurred greater labour costs.
The Routemaster became one of London’s most famous symbols, with much tourist paraphernalia continuing to bear Routemaster imagery, and with examples still in existence around the world. Despite the retirement of the original version, the Routemaster has retained iconic status, and in the late 2000s work began on an updated version, which entered service in February 2012.