Sutton High Street 1980Worcester Park 2008

The Routemaster

London's icon
Buses planned for operation: RM938, RM1033, RM1397, RMC1469
RM1661 on a garage journey of the 93 from Sutton Garage to Putney via North Cheam on 13 Jul 80.  By this time, garage workings were run in service.  The High Street is largely pedestrianised but the top section is still in use by buses.  No longer.
Photo © John Parkin
It is hard to say anything about the Routemaster that has not been said many times before.  The next evolutionary step from the RT, the RM became the last in the line of London Transport's buses, designed and built in London especially for London.   First operated in service on 8 February 1956, the Routemaster design has now achieved over 50 years' service to London, a truly staggering achievement.
Far ahead of its time and inspired by aircraft production techniques, the aluminium-bodied Routemaster was revolutionary in many ways, including its chassisless construction, automatic transmission and independent suspension, yet was considered by some to be already obsolete when introduced due to its open platform, front-engined design.  Oh well, we can't all be right all the time, or we'd all be Prime Minister.
Limited numbers of country buses and Green Line coaches were built, but the Routemaster was quintessentially a red bus, moving the masses day in, day out.  Seating 64, or 72 in the later RML class, Routemasters started life replacing trolleybuses, moved on to replacing RTs, then in some cases replacing buses that were supposed to replace them. But the economics of providing services to a reducing number of passengers eventually led to Routemaster operation being concentrated on busy central London routes.
Last orders pleaseMany were re-engined with modern low-emission engines and refurbished internally to extend their lives.  Once ubiquitous in London, the last ten now in service on two central London heritage routes are testament to British engineering.  Had London continued to control its destiny, the rear-engined FRM would have taken over.  But it was not to be, and the rest is history.


In our area, the Routemaster was a relatively late-comer, with most routes continuing to operate RTs into the 1970s.  Of the routes featured, the first RMs were operated by Putney on the 93 from 1964, but the main allocation was only converted from RT in 1976.  The 118 and 164 were also converted in the mid-70s, but several routes went direct from RT to one-man operation.


The 77A was extended to Worcester Park on certain journeys at the morning peak in 1956 as part replacement (with the 127) for the 32.  Merton's RM1727 is on the last journey of the 77A to serve Worcester Park on 27 Oct 78.

Photo © John Parkin