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The classic Routemaster bus is going to heaven

Every tourist’s favourite icon is leaving London for good

By Joe Mackertich

‘All things must pass,’ sang George Harrison in 1970. ‘All things must pass away.’

Well, it gives me no pleasure to announce that The Nicest Beatle has been proven correct again. The latest thing to cease existing? It’s only the classic bloody Routemaster. The ol’ hop-on-hop-off design classic with the pull-cord bells and friendly conductors (all of whom were made redundant years ago). The ’master's one remaining route (known as ‘a heritage service’) was the number 15, which goes from Poplar in east London to Charing Cross. It’s a good route. Runs parallel to the Thames: Tower of London, St Paul’s. Classy stuff.

Transport for London has explained that keeping the service running simply wasn’t feasible anymore, what with declining ridership across the capital, environmental issues and also the bus’s fairly significant accessibility limitations. The second-to-last heritage service to be kiboshed was the 9, which disappeared in 2014.

‘They were popular to look at,’ said misty-eyed transport historian Tim Dunn to the Guardian. ‘Who doesn’t love to see an old Routemaster trundle past St Paul’s at Christmas in the snow like a picture postcard?’ 

True, we still have the new-ish Routemasters, introduced in 2011. You might remember its designer, Thomas Heatherwick, even spoke to us last year about how he feels about that project now. Not quite the same, though, are they? The new ones? For one,  people don’t fall out the back of them so often. And also they’re not freezing cold in the winter (bus interiors would often frost up overnight). And they have proper suspension. And they don’t emit clouds of acrid black smoke every few minutes. And the lower deck isn’t built to solely accommodate people under five foot seven. Yeah, maybe this is all for the best.

Happily, you will still be able to rent Routemasters for your wedding. Or eat scones and drink tea on one.  Or drink at a bar inside of one. Or take a virtual tour of one.

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