TfL Services running on Route 15 with Routemaster buses will be drastically reduced. The heritage buses will only run on bank holidays and weekends, between the last Saturday in March until the last weekend in September.
This means the beloved 60-year-old routemasters will only run for 60 days of the year, less than a sixth of its current availability.
Transport for London has not yet issued a press release about the route changes, but it has put the information on its ‘permanent bus changes’ page. The curtailed service is one of many routes under review.
The iconic buses have been part of London life since 1956, but their numbers were drastically scaled back in 2005 and Route 15 is the last route to have the Heritage Routemasters running a seven day service.
The buses currently run daily from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square. This is a shortened version of the regular route 15, designed for sightseers or anyone who wants to ride a distinctive old bus for the fun of it.
The reduction of service is no great surprise. TfL proposed changes in November 2018 and sought feedback from ‘stakeholders’ (but not the wider public). Whatever feedback was given, it was not enough to convince transport planners to retain the service.
TfL cites three main reasons for the cull. First, the buses are unsuitable for wheelchairs. Second, they don’t meet modern emission standards (they have an exemption).
Thirdly, TfL claims that the buses are financially unsustainable: ‘This service is currently subsidised by around £9.00 per customer. This is compared to 23p per customer across the rest of thr bus network,’ claims TfL.
The transport body recently spent £200,000 refurbishing four of the buses.
Two heritage routes, shortened versions of routes 9 and 15, were launched in 2005 when Routemasters were phased out by Mayor Ken Livingstone after 50 years of service.
The 9 heritage route was axed in 2014. TfL says the proposal to cut the 15 heritage service comes alongside the Mayor’s proposed cuts to 33 bus routes in central London, and will save £800,000 a year.
The withdrawal of the historic Routemaster bus will not affect many commuters, but it is a blow to the character of the city. TfL are keen to point out that it’s not quite the end of an era, and that the buses will still run, if much less often.