Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Undoubtedly, the characteristic red buses are one of the elements that we first associate with the British capital. With almost two centuries of history and essential for locals and tourists, today we discuss some curiosities about one of the most iconic elements of London:
1. Today we assume that London buses are red, but the truth is that until 1907 the different private companies that operated were free to paint the buses in the color they preferred. It was the London General Omnibus Company that decided to paint them in a striking red to differentiate themselves from rival companies. A strategy that would work, since it helped him to become the biggest operator. Shortly after that, and at the request of the metropolitan police, the numbers were also entered on the buses to indicate the different routes they followed.
2. The local bus network in London is one of the largest and most extensive in the world. It currently has more than 6800 buses, which operate a total of 673 routes, with 52 night services. There are more than 19000 stops and every day it is used by almost 5 million people, producing 1800 million annual services.
3. On Saturday, July 4, 1829, the first bus service in the capital was launched, which covered the route between Paddington and Bank. The precedent archaic consisted of a chariot pulled by three horses that had a capacity for 22 people, and was known simply as a bus because it was a public service that admitted anyone who paid the fee, which was one shilling. The idea of public transport was “imported” from Paris, a city that for years already had its own bus network.
4. In the First as in the Second World War, thousands of buses were requisitioned by the military authorities. Their speed and great load capacity made them suitable for all kinds of tasks, from the transport of soldiers or weapons to ambulance services, including even pigeon holes where the carrier pigeons used on the battlefield could be protected. Only a small fraction of the vehicles used could return to London.
5. As of 300 it is common to find numbers without an assigned route, but currently there are only 3 numbers with no route assigned below that number: 218, 239 and 278. Paradoxically, route 15 that connects Regent Street with Blackwall Station is duplicated, since it also exists route 15H that connects Trafalgar Square with Tower Hill.
6. Various factors such as the reduction of social benefits or the exorbitant increase in the price of rents are pushing many people to sleep on the street. And since on winter nights the temperature in London goes down or around zero degrees, many homeless are forced to seek refuge anywhere. Some routes are frequently used by these, given that the shelter offered by buses in the cold can make the difference between life and death, and routes such as 25, 29 or 207 are known to serve as a refuge for them in the worst nights of cold.
7. On December 30, 1952, on route 18 at Tower Bridge, a situation occurred that may have served as inspiration for subsequent action films. One of the buses was crossing the bridge, when suddenly it started to get up. The driver, aware of the short time he had, reacted quickly and accelerated, being able to save the distance between the two platforms. After making sure no one had suffered damage or physical injuries, the driver continued the service.
8. According to the Lost and Found Office of Transport For London, the objects that we most often forget on buses are umbrellas and books. However, the administration itself has cited cases of other less common objects such as dentures, a dissected puffer fish, breast implants, a fishing harpoon or even a leg prosthesis.
9. Given the shortage of buses due to their use during the recently completed conflict, the service was far from satisfactory and the buses used to be congested. The businessman A.G. Partridge opted to launch an independent transport service to cover the most popular routes, an idea that was quickly copied by others and that in just 3 years a dozen companies operated independently more than 200 pirate buses. These vehicles used to use shortcuts to avoid traffic jams during the busiest days and charged fares above the legally established ones.
10. In 2008, in an episode of the Top Gear program, the journalist Richard Hammond set out to discover which bus model of those circulating in London was the fastest. In this race they faced the classic double-decker, an articulated bus, a hopper and the simple bus. The victory was for the latter, who passed the double-decker in the last corner after it overturned.
11. After thousands of complaints received last summer, Transport for London has announced that it will proceed with the installation of a new model of windows that can be opened. The almost 550 new Routemasters as well as the 250 that will soon be incorporated will be modified to improve ventilation on the upper floor, which will involve an outlay of approximately two million pounds. In summer, the temperature inside these vehicles reached over 30 degrees, although through various social networks have been reported that in one of the hottest days the temperature inside one reached 41 degrees.
12. Since 1934 there have been reports of what appears to be an appearance of a ghost bus on route 7 in the Cambridge Gardens area, in the W10 zip code. Many people claim to have seen a bus with one of the side lights fused at high speed towards them, which vanishes after passing them. In 1934 Scotland Yard came to blame the specter of an accident in which a car left the road, predictably to avoid the collision with the spectrum. The last time the bus was reported was in 1990.
If you want to find out about London’s tourist bus, check out our article on this topic: London’s tourist bus.
[Photo from Pixabay]