Saturday, December 10, 2005

The routemaster is dead...long live the routemaster.

UK: One of the first toys I got was a routemaster diecast when my grandparents came back from a trip to England. I thought this was the coolest thing ever and still have it after all these years. England loses yet another iconic entity that made it unique and London becomes less what made it London to just another big city in the world.

Telegraph: "They were bus-spotters - here to capture a sight that will not be seen again. The Routemaster, one of the most recognisable icons of London life, will today be withdrawn after more than 50 years of service. Their disappearance from London's streets - scrapped by London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in favour of "bendy buses" without conductors that offer better access to disabled people - marks the end of a bitter battle. Some 10,000 Londoners joined a campaign to save the Routemaster and more than 80 per cent in a poll opposed the bus being scrapped. "It's the end of an era, isn't it?" said Gary Collin, 40, who had come up from West Dulwich to say goodbye. "I'm not a bus-spotter; I don't write down the numbers. But these photographs are something for the archive." He was not alone in his feelings. One young man jumped in front of a slow-moving bus and stood there with his arms out, as if saluting it. Then, giving the driver a great thumbs-up, he scampered off and let it pass. An elderly man outside a snack bar at the top end of Brixton Road snapped a passing bus with his camera phone. Dozens of people lined Westminster Bridge. It was only yesterday that you really got to see how much affection Londoners can show towards a bus.
Timesonline: "....Bus enthusiasts from around the country gathered to bid farewell to one of those British icons that goes with red phone boxes and bobbies’ helmets. The Routemaster, workhorse of London’s public transport for 50 years, was making its last appearance in regular service. The beloved double-decker has fallen victim to Ken Livingstone. Four years ago he declared that only a “ghastly dehumanised moron” would want to get rid of the immensely sturdy and long-lived vehicle. But then, just like a Routemaster, he executed a perfect U-turn and drove smartly the other way, throwing his weight behind bendy buses and those with low floors more suited to the disabled. Anoraks had begun forming an orderly queue at Marble Arch, first bus stop on the nine-mile 159 route to Streatham Hill, from 7am in the hope of grabbing one of the 61 seats or 5 standing places. By the time the last bus arrived at 12.25 — 15 minutes late but nicely scrubbed up for the occasion — the queue had collapsed into a scrum of hundreds. Five policemen stood on the rear platform barring the way and completely defeating the object of the Routemaster, a bus you could leap on and off at will with only moderate risk of serious injury. Even Mr Livingstone fell off a couple of times in his youth. What had once been a queue descended into pushing, shoving and a great deal of shouting, predominantly by middle-aged men. Not many women are bus nuts. The police eventually allowed a couple of dozen aboard, one at a time. Outside Selfridges several more were admitted, including two women with shopping who looked suspiciously like real passengers. Among the serious enthusiasts on board was Mike Hurley, 56, from Leeds, delighted to have achieved a double; he had ridden London’s last trolleybus in 1962. As the bus turned right at Oxford Circus there was a joyous moment when a man dashed from the crowd and leapt on to the platform in traditional style. He was allowed a seat. One man who had been in the original queue ran alongside the bus all the way to Piccadilly Circus. Each time it stopped he pleaded with the on-board police, “Just one stop.” But to no avail. In Trafalgar Square dozens more enthusiasts took pictures as the big red bus lumbered by. Everywhere motorists, taxi drivers and pedestrians captured it on their camera phones. Across Westminster Bridge another enthusiast was restrained by police when he tried to put a wreath on its bonnet. "
AP/Reuters photo gallery here. You can't get more English than this.

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