Thursday, 10 July 2014

End of the line for AEC Routemaster's on Route 9

New Routemaster and AEC Routemaster on route 9

Route 9 has been called "London's oldest existing bus route" and the origins of the route can be traced back as far as 1856. The route was first introduced on the 1st November 1908 and was operated by the London General Omnibus Company. In 1933, London Transport gained control of the route as well as other bus routes in London.

AEC Routemaster's started full operation on route 9 in 1963, on the 17th May. The route starts from Mortlake Garage in South West London and runs towards Liverpool Street (Monday – Saturday) and Aldgate (on Sundays). Then on the 27th November 1987 the Routemaster Long (9.14 metres long) RML types were introduced and replaced the Routemaster (8.38 metres long) RM type, this happened on the 15th April 1988. But during the Sunday service of route 9, it operated MCW Metrobuse’s with a 'crew' during its early stages then it was later turned in to a one man operation on Sundays. In 1997 route 9 routing was standardised as Hammersmith to Aldwych daily, while the route 9A was replaced by route 209 which served from Hammersmith to Mortlake.

Routemaster Long on route 9 during early 2000's

On the 23rd April 2000 the route 9 Sunday operation was converted to 'Low Floor buses' which used VA types (Volvo B7TL Alexander Body) and some variations like VP (Volvo B7TL Plaxton President) and VR’s (Volvo B7TL Gemini double deck). The AEC Routemasters were withdrawn from full service on the 3rd of September 2004. The very next day the route was operated with more accessible VLE’s (Volvo B7TL East Lancs Myllennium Vyking) with just a One Man operation, operated from Stamford Brook (V) Garage.

Heritage Routemaster on side with VLE on route 9

AEC Routemasters were reinstated as a 'short working Heritage route' between the Royal Albert Hall to Aldwych, which occurred on the 14th November 2005. Those Routemaster buses were actually 'Marshall refurbs' which have Euro 2 engines and a modernised interior. The short working Heritage Route was operated by First Group from Westbourne Park (X) garage. At the same time Route 15 had the AEX Routemasters reinstated as a short working Heritage route between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.

Route 9H was extended westward from the Royal Albert Hall to Kensington High Street and the eastern end curtailed towards Trafalgar Square. This occurred on the 13th November 2010. Why they did this is because the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea wanted to boost the number of visitors to Kensington High Street. On the 25th February 2012, the main Route 9, Route 9H as well as Route N9 got re-routed between Green Park and Trafalgar Square via St James's Street and Pall Mall, instead of Piccadilly Circus and this was done to give passengers faster journey times. But the AEC Routemaster's on 9H will no longer pass the sight of Piccadilly Circus. During the summer of 2013, First Group left all their London operations to companies like Go Ahead Group, Metroline and Tower Transit after the loss of 365, 165, 252 and 179 to Stagecoach London. The Route 9H got transferred to Tower Transit without a change of operator which occurred on 22nd June 2013.

The New Routemaster's were fully converted to Route 9 on 26th October 2013 replacing the VLE’s. The 2nd crew members on the New Routemaster's operate during the weekday between mornings and evenings. It enables passengers to jump on and off between stops like they do on the AEC Routemaster's. The conductors on the New Routemaster's will not go round the bus to collect fares as there are Oyster readers in place for passengers to touch in as they enter the bus on any of the 3 doors. The conductor can also give out travel advice to passengers as well as help wheelchair users into the bus.

When there is no 2nd crew member on the bus, the rear door operates as a normal door which is shut between stops. This benefits passengers as  they can use the 'open boarding', using any of the 3 doors on the New Routemaster buses, the same as they could on the Bendy Buses when they were around in London. Also passengers can get upstairs quicker as the bus has two staircases which are located behind the driver and the rear of the bus. The bus uses hybrid technology which the prototype New Routemaster was found to emit a quarter of the NOx (Oxides of Nitrogen) and harmful 'PM' particles of a fleet average hybrid buses, and 20 per cent less CO2.

There are big differences between the AEC Routemaster and New Routemaster. First the New Routemaster is more spacious and large then the AEC Routemaster, second the New Routemaster has two staircases and three doors whilst the 3rd door can be used as an open platform for during the day. Thirdly the New Routemaster is hybrid whilst the AEC Routemaster is diesel. Flexable operation where you can have a second crew member during the weekday and have the buses operating during weekends and nights in one person operation. 

So right now the AEC Routemaster's on the 9H are going to be withdrawn on the 25th July 2014, even though 84% of people who consulted were against it. The reason it’s being removed is because less passengers are using the bus which ends up causing it to be more expensive to run. The route 9H cost over £1 million to run the short working route, but passengers can still hop on and off between stop's with the New Routemaster which is the long awaited replacement of the iconic AEC Routemaster bus. So the AEC Routemaster which ran for 51 years on route 9 is coming to an end. But the AEC Routemaster's remain on the 15H for the time being.

The years in which the AEC Routemaster operated on Route 9 are from 1963 to 2004 and they were reinstated as a 'Heritage route' which was operational between 2005 to 2014. Time that we move on and have the rest of the bus system improved as TFL's main purpose is to enable people to travel around London. The AEC Routemaster have a place to go next which is the museum. 

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