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Red London bus
Photograph: Chris Jenner/

Most Googled: why are London buses red?

Written by
Flo Wales Bonner

You ask, we answer: tackling the most popular Google searches about London.

The proud livery of London’s buses wasn’t always bright red. Motor buses, which started appearing on our streets at the beginning of the twentieth century, used to be painted different colours according to their routes, explains Caroline Warhurst from London Transport Museum: it was common to see vehicles that were ‘green, brown, yellow, maroon, and more’.

In 1907, when London General Omnibus Company (the principal bus operator at the time) merged with the Vanguard Motor Bus Company, buses took on Vanguard’s bright red colour palette. And yet, incredibly, there’s no surviving documentation as to why red was chosen. Warhurst speculates that it could be practical (red paint tends to be more durable) as well as symbolic: red has powerful associations with strength and national pride. It turns out there’s much more to buses than your pukey N38 ride might suggest.

And while we’re at it: why is London weather so unpredictable?

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