Topics include Dining Scene, United Kingdom: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Ask a visitor to London to name something typical of the city, and the chances are they will come up with the Routemaster, the traditional red double-decker bus, with the open platform at the rear and the helpful, friendly conductor (although how many conductors actually lived up to the ideal is debabatable).
Times have moved on, and London is today served by a modern fleet of buses, mostly still double-decked and red but with doors, heating, and improved accessibility with flat floors, space for buggies and ramps for wheelchair users. Most buses even have 'next stop' announcements, making them easier to use than ever before, and bus use has again risen to levels not seen since the 1950s.
However it is still possible to get a taste of what bus travel in London used to be like, as Transport for London operates Heritage Routemaster buses as extras over part of Central London route 15 between Trafalgar Square and the Tower of London, via St Paul's Cathedral - and they can be used with regular Transport for London tickets. Buses run 09.30 to 18.30 every day (except Christmas Day)
Route 15 - Trafalgar Square - Aldwych - Fleet Street - St Paul's Cathedral - Monument - Tower Hill / Tower of London
Routemasters depart Tower Hill daily at 09.35 and every 20 minutes until 18.35
Routemasters depart Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross Station) daily at 09.41 and every 20 minutes until 18.41
The main service on route 15 operates frequently between Trafalgar Square and Blackwall using fully-accessible buses, and together with night route N15 provides a 24-hour service* over the route.
Transport for London withdrew Heritage Routemaster operation over route 9 during July 2014 but will continue to operate Heritage Routemasters on route 15 for the foreseeable future.
HOW TO USE THE BUS
Simply board the bus in the time-honoured way that Londoners used to do - get on at the back, take a seat and wait for the conductor to come round. The conductor will check all travelcards and Oyster cards (he/she has a portable reader).
The Heritage Routemasters are fully integrated into Transport for London's fares and ticketing - meaning all Travelcards, passes and Oyster cards that would be accepted on regular buses are also accepted on the Heritage Routemasters. A single journey using Oyster Pay-as-you-go costs £1.50. Children under 11 travel free. In common with other buses, cash fares are no longer available on the bus, and the conductors on the Heritage Routemasters cannot accept contactless Bank cards (these may be used on other buses on route 15).
If you simply want a ride and don't want to get a Travelcard or Oyster Card, you can obtain a one-day Bus Pass from any Underground Station for £5.
The Heritage Routemasters are not step-free, so passengers in wheelchairs cannot be accommodated. Babies/small children must be removed from buggies and the buggy folded, before boarding the bus.
ACCESSIBILITY AND SAFETY
Remain seated at all times during the journey.
When approaching your stop, ring the bell once. In the lower deck there is a cord runnning along the roof on the left hand side, this gives a signal to the driver to stop at the nest stop. Do not ring more than once, as different numbers of bells have different meanings and may confuse the driver. Also, do not ring once the bus has reached the stop, as the driver may mistake this as his/her signal to drive off. On the top deck there is a push button at the top of the stairs, again push this - once only. Do not attempt to descend the stairs until the bus has stopped.
Children, and passengers who are less steady on their feet, should remain in their seats until the bus stops.
Riding on the open platform is unsafe and should not be done at any time.
A note on accessibility
The Heritage Routemasters were first designed nearly sixty years ago, when transport priorities were different and accessibilty not the concern it is today. Therefore they are not step-free, do not have space for unfolded buggies and cannot take wheelchair users. The Heritage Routemasters are exempted from current disability regulation as they operate as extra short journeys over a regular bus route rather than as mainstream transport. If they are not suitable, route 15 together with night route N15 provides a frequent service of fully accessible buses 24 hours a day (except Christmas Day*).
* London's buses do not operate from midnight on 24th December until 06.00 on 26th December.