The Heritage Routemaster buses run by Transport for London is a contracted bus service and is considered to be one of the typical features of the city by most Londoners. It is a traditional red double-decker bus that has an open platform at the rear with a helpful, friendly conductor. However, the inclement weather of London that remains wet, dreary and cold most of the time has led to some changes as the modern version of these buses, though still double-decked and red, feature doors instead of the open platform and the bus interior is heated. There is better accessibility because of flat floors and space has been provided for buggies and ramps for wheelchair users. Moreover, the modern-day buses also have ‘next stop’ announcements making it easier for commuters and leading to a greater patronage of buses by commuters.
However, the old system is not entirely extinct and you can still get a glimpse of what bus travel was in the past if you travel by the London Heritage Bus Route 15 which is a contracted bus route in London. It operates between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square, via St Paul’s Cathedral and is run by Stagecoach London. It is at present the only preserved Routemaster route and is a shorter version of the standard route 15. It can be used with regular Transport for London tickets and the service hours are from 09.30 to 18.30 every day (except Christmas Day).
The Heritage route 15 along with route 9 that were short workings on existing routes were spared the axe after the Government’s legislation that made it mandatory for buses to be fully wheelchair-accessible by 22 October 2014 in the entire United Kingdom. However, route 9H was withdrawn in 2014 and only 15H is still left. Route 15H was awarded to Stagecoach London covering the tourist section of route 15 such as the Tower of London, Monument, St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill. An extension up to Oxford Street area was not approved as there is severe congestion there. However, route number of 15 was still maintained for the Routemasters.
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Initially, the operator was allocated ten buses for this route with five for the daily turnout, three operational spares and two as a “strategic reserve”. Despite having little time for preparing the buses, Stagecoach managed to present 5 immaculate Roadmasters for the first day launch on 14 November 2005. The managing director of TfL, surface transport himself drove the first journey. One of the buses was painted in a special Red and Silvery, to promote Bow Garage’s Centenary in April 2008. The ten Routemasters were refurbished in 2015 and opening windows were refitted.
The route of 15H is Trafalgar Square – Aldwych – Fleet Street – St Paul’s Cathedral – Monument – Tower Hill/Tower of London. These buses depart Tower hill daily at 09:37 and every 15 minutes until 18:37. The buses depart Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross Station) daily at 09:48 and every 15 minutes until 18:33. Operating frequently between Trafalgar Square and Blackwall the main service on route 15 uses fully accessible buses and provides a 24-hour service over the route, together with night route N15.
When you board the bus in the same way as most Londoners do for other buses, you should get on at the back, take a seat and wait for the conductor to come to you for checking your Travelcard or Oyster card as he has a portable reader. The fares and ticketing system of Transport for London has been maintained for the Heritage Routemaster buses also and as such the Travelcards, passes and Oyster cards applicable on regular buses are also accepted. It for a single journey using Oyster Pay-as-you-go and children under 11 travel free. However, cash fares are no longer accepted nor are the contactless Bank cards, which may be used on other buses on route If you do not have Travelcard or Oyster Card, you can buy a one-day Bus Pass from any Underground Station for. The Heritage Routemasters are not fully accessible as wheelchairs cannot be accommodated and you need to remove babies/small children from buggies and fold the buggies before entering the bus.
A word of caution – You should remain seated all through your journey on the Routemaster. Moreover, if you wish to get down on the next stop, you should ring the bell once by using the cord that runs along the roof on the left hand side. This will act as a signal to the driver to stop at the next stop. Ringing the bell more than once can have different meanings and as such you should only ring it once. Moreover, the bell should not be rung, once the bus has reached the stop as this may act as a signal for the driver to drive off. If you are travelling on the top deck you will find a push button at the top of the stairs that should also be pressed only once. Please do not descend the stairs until the bus has stopped. Children and infirm passengers should remain seated until the bus stops fully. You should not ride on the open platform at any time of the journey.