Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Visiting London's New Routemaster Bus In Sunny Singapore


London is home to many landmarks like the River Thames, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and many others. London is also home to iconic stuff like the red telephone booths, London taxicabs and the red double decker buses known as the Routemaster. Back in February 2014, the British High Commission Singapore, brought London's New Routemaster, a public double decker bus which was introduced in 2012, to Singapore as part of a British tourism campaign. I took this opportunity to find out more about the bus and I want to share my experience of the bus right here with you!

What is the New Routemaster?


The New Routemaster or New Bus For London (NB4L) is the replacement for the old iconic Routemaster double decker buses that were introduced in London in the 1950s. The old buses were traditionally red (some have different colours and liveries), non air-conditioned and they have an open platform at the back for passengers to hop on and hop off. The old Routemaster buses were considered an icon of London due to their unique designs.


They were eventually phased out in 2005 and replaced by modern buses due to safety and environmental concerns save for one heritage bus route. In 2008, the new London Mayor wanted to reintroduce the Routemasters which also adhere to the new transportation rules. The New Routemasters were then introduced in 2012 containing several features like a diesel hybrid engine, on-board wheelchair ramp and much more to replicate the old Routemasters but also to adhere to the current bus transportation routes.

Why is the New Routemaster in Singapore?


The New Routemaster was in Singapore as part of a world tour to promote Britain. Countries like Malaysia and Hong Kong were some of the countries where the New Routemasters made an appearance as well. The bus travelled around several parts of Singapore like Suntec City and Sentosa Cove to give visitors an up close and personal tour of the iconic bus.

Gardens By The Bay was also selected as one of the places where the bus was on display and that was the location that I went to to find out more about the bus. As the display was a static one, the bus was stationary and parked but it would be really cool if they could give free rides around the Marina Bay area to visitors.

Checking Out The Exterior of the Bus


Unlike the regular double deckers commonly seen in Singapore, the New Routemaster has a unique design that aims to replicate the classic Routemaster with the rear platform and at the same time, offer the same comfortable experience and ride as the existing double decker bus fleet in London. The bus has a unique dome-looking shape on the upper deck and the open platform at the back comes with a door (unlike the classic Routemasters) so it can be closed whenever it's not in use.


The New Routemaster is designed by Thomas Heatherwick who also designed the London Olympic cauldron and one of the buildings in Singapore's National Technological University which recently opened in early 2015. The bus is manufactured by Wrightbus, a Northern Ireland company who also manufactured the bodyworks for double decker buses commonly found in Singapore, Hong Kong, London and many more countries.

The New Routemaster's Unique Staircases


The New Routemaster has two staircases. One located right behind the bus driver's cabin which is common on existing double decker buses while the other one was located right at the back for passengers who intend to ride through the rear platform. Climbing the stairs at the back of the bus was special to me as it's something that can't be done on any other double decker bus in Singapore.


The staircase located nearer to the front of the bus behind the bus driver's cabin, is also unique as there is a window at the side when you climb the stairs. The windows brings in more light to the staircase and you can see a great view of the streets while climbing. All these small details do go a long way to make the bus journey more special.

The New Routemaster's Upper Deck


I took a visit on the Routemaster's upper deck as well. As the bus was stationary, the air-conditioning system was switched off so some parts of the bus were hot and humid. However, there were fans located at several parts of the bus interior to cool the visitors down. The upper deck of the bus has smaller windows and the seats were quite small as compared to the regular Singapore double decker buses. The smaller windows gave the bus a slightly gloomy upper deck interior.


Despite all that, the upper deck was still unique to me as it was definitely more "fresh" and it's quite an extensive change compared to Singapore's double deckers. The seats has a nice designer pattern to it and it does make the bus more premium. In fact, the whole interior looked very premium and luxurious to me.

Stickers Found on The New Routemaster


The New Routemaster does have some stickers pasted in the bus as well although they were not as extensive as the ones found in Singapore. One of the stickers was a small sticker consisting of rules and regulations. The usual warnings to not stand on the stairs and the upper deck were also present.


Several stickers and advertisements of the tourism campaign's logos and slogans were pasted on the inside as well as the outside of the bus. These stickers however were temporary so they will eventually be removed once it's returned back to London.

The New Routemaster's Lower Deck


The lower deck of the bus was highly frequented by many visitors. A lot of young bus enthusiasts could be seen taking lots of photos, tinkering around with the equipment and chatting among each other about the bus. Children and adults alike also enjoyed the tour around the bus and taking loads of photos of it as well. Although the lower deck has lesser seats, it's probably because of the rear platform, standing space and wheelchair bay which do take up some space in the bus.


The bus also has zero steps so the elderly could hop on with ease, a wheelchair ramp to facilitate the boarding and alighting of wheelchair passengers and for the rear platform, a bus conductor will be standing there to facilitate the boarding and alighting of passengers at the rear platform. The New Routemasters will have a two-man operation system but only at certain timings. At other times, the rear platform will be closed.

Bus Driver's Cabin and Revenue Equipment


As the bus was stationary and its engine switched off, visitors could make use of this opportunity to take a picture of themselves in the bus driver's cabin and take a picture of the revenue equipment of the buses. There were plenty of people, especially children and young bus enthusiasts, who enjoyed taking pictures of themselves pretending to be a bus driver in the bus driver's cabin.


One thing I noticed about the bus driver's cabin was that instead of a half height door for the bus driver commonly found in Singapore's public buses, the door was full height. It had some holes for the passengers to communicate with the bus driver as well which I presume it's for the bus driver's safety. The Oyster contactless card readers were also present and has a similar set up to the EZ Link card readers in Singapore. Hong Kong's buses also uses this technology but they're called the Octopus card.

Extra Shots of the New Routemaster's Exterior


Here are some more pictures of the New Routemaster with the beautiful Marina Bay Sands in the background. Although most New Routemasters are red, they are usually operated by different operators. In this case, the New Routemaster that appeared in Singapore is currently operated by British transport provider Arriva. However, the Arriva logo was removed in place of another of Britain's transport provider, Metroline.




Metroline is currently owned by Singapore's largest transport company, ComfortDelgro which also operates SBS Transit public buses and Comfort/CityCab taxis which explains why they temporarily removed the Arriva logo. The New Routemaster was driven by an SBS Transit bus driver who's also a Star Award award winner which are usually awarded to bus drivers who go the extra mile. The caretaker of the New Routemaster was present as well and he was friendly to the visitors and helped to open up the engine cover for the bus enthusiasts to take a look at.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed the experience and I was very fortunate to get a glimpse of the bus. Ever since I saw the pictures of the new London bus online, I have always wanted to know how it actually looks like in real life. When I heard it was on its way to Singapore, I immediately searched around to find out which parts of Singapore it travelled to.

Checking out the bus in real life was really special as the experience was completely different than the regular double deckers in Singapore. I even felt like I was in London when I was inside the bus. I do wish that the bus can make its appearance again in Singapore and hopefully, they can offer free rides to visitors as well but for now, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that I finally get to experience and I certainly enjoyed my time in the New Routemaster.

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