Away from a handful of generally aesthetically sumptuous municipalities such as the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London is not a city particularly blessed with outstanding architecture. Vast swathes of the United Kingdom’s capital are essentially architecturally impoverished, with the south and east of the metropolis especially bereft of structural beatitude. London has traditionally compensated for this admittedly probably unfillable chasm in its urban fabric with its world class street furniture, specifically those sporting a red hue: post boxes, telephone kiosks and buses. The latter two features have been in steep decline in recent years, with classic iterations of each being overwhelmingly supplanted by plasticised and soulless replacements.
It was therefore with great anticipation that Mediolana’s CSO – fresh from yet another late lunch at a trendy fast food outlet – decided to give the city’s brand new double-decker bus (the ‘LT’) a test ride. This vehicle – the first to be specifically designed for London’s narrow streets and impetuous temperaments since the fabled and universally-adored Routemaster – has been quickly termed the ‘New Routemaster’, and not without reason: its sleek curves, open-entrance rear platform and posterior to die for are all reminiscent of the bus that is indubitably one of the great modern design classics.
The LT is presently in working prototype mode, with one vehicle currently pounding the mean streets of route 38; several more LTs are to be introduced shortly. While there is still time to make changes to what may well become another world-famous double-decker bus, we’d like to suggest the following (and mostly minor) amendments:
1. Introduce Manual Override for the Air Conditioning. The LT2 that our CSO clambered onto had an air-conditioning fault which meant that the vents constantly blasted out hot air. Transport for London are apparently well aware of this glitch and are fixing it, but it does seem strange that neither the driver nor the conductor have the option of simply switching the AC off.
2. Change the Record. The sound that the doors on the two non-open entrances make when they are closing and the vehicle is ready to move off is a bland, beeping horn more suited to a reversing fork lift truck than an elegant mode of metropolitan transportation, a noise which is totally out of keeping with the excellent attention to detail evident in much of the rest of the LT’s design. There are so many elegant and pleasing synthesised bells, pianos and mallet-based instruments available in the second decade of the twenty-first century that it seems criminal to persist with a fundamentally tired indicator.
3. Increase Conductor Functionality. The present conductor arrangement on the LTs makes for a rather bizarre job specification: the conductor does not actually collect fares, but merely supervises the rear platform and tells the driver when to start moving again at each bus stop; moreover, there is no conductor present beyond about 7 or 8 at night, meaning that the safety and security of passengers is compromised. Given that fare evasion on the outgoing articulated or ‘bendy’ buses that the LT is meant to replace reached Brussels Metro levels, it seems only right that conductors should be a permanent, payment-collecting fixture on the New Routemaster – they might even end up paying for themselves.