The Routemaster bus is one of Britain's most well known motoring icons. Between 1954 and 1968 2,876 Routemasters were constructed. It entered service with London Transport in 1959 and remained in continuous service for 46 years. Other customers for the Routemaster were British European Airways and Gateshead's Northern General Transport Company. The Routemaster was withdrawn from service on 8 December 2005. Transport for London operates two 'Heritage' Routemaster routes in central London which are very popular with tourists. The AEC Routemaster is a popular vehicle for hire, and many companies operate hiring out retired Routemaster buses for wedding parties and special excursions. At the beginning of 2012 a new Routemaster bus for London entered service with London Transport. The new bus features a rear-platform and rear staircase, inspired by the original AEC Routemaster.
The Routemaster (RM) was developed to replace the old diesel and trolley-buses of London's post-war bus fleet. The design was a collaboration between the Associated Equipment Company (AEC), Park Royal Vehicles (PRV) and London Transport (LT). LT was in overall charge with Douglas Scott as designer. AEC produced the mechanicals and PRV the coachwork.
Today the RM is seen by many as a traditional bus, and has earned its iconic status. However its design was innovative, using aluminium to save weight. A prototype was exhibited at the 1954 Commercial Motor Show at Earls Court. That year LT ordered 800 RMs, which entered service from 1958 onwards.
In 1965 a lengthened RM entered service. It could carry 72 passengers, eight more than the first RMs. The Northern General Transport Company took delivery of RMs in 1964. LT's Green Line Coaches, connecting London with the Home Counties, used the RM from 1968.
The RM outlived many buses introduced to replace it, staying in full service for 46 years. The RM still operates on heritage routes in London and can be seen at transport rallies across the country.