Aston Martin designs Routemaster
Sports car manufacturer Aston Martin is joint winner of a competition to design a new Routemaster bus for London.
The Warwickshire-based firm’s winning entry was a team effort with leading architects Foster and Partners.
They share the £25,000 first prize with bus, coach and truck design firm Capoco Design, based in Wiltshire.
This is really about the vanity of Mayors in general.
Labour’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, Val Shawcross, said: “The design competition may have been fun and the winning designs are extremely impressive, but this is not a serious way to make policy and not a worthwhile use of public money. I have yet to hear one convincing argument for why London needs a new double-decker bus and until Boris comes up with some, Londoners will see this as little more than a vanity project.”
But Boris Johnson is not alone in thinking that his ideas beat everyone else’s simply because he won an election. We see the same thing here – both Sam Sullivan and Gregor Robertson think that they know more about traffic than their traffic engineers. A quite reasonable idea – to try two bike lanes across the Burrard Bridge – was rejected by Sullivan based simply on his own prejudices. Robertson thinks he is even cleverer, now proposing a five lane bridge wth a single reversible lane.
The problem with both these ideas is they are based on a politician’s need to be popular. This is not a sensible way to plan anything, let alone a transport system. Londoners have always had a preference for nostalgia. These new Disney cartoon versions of what was once quite a good bus design – for the 1950s – actually doesn’t satisfy that very well. Since then there have been a whole bunch of changes in our understanding of how buses work – and also regulations governing how they should operate. The old Routemaster’s features , an open platform on the back and no accessibility except for the able bodied, no longer fit the requirements of a safe, accessible form of transport. Trying to retain the “design cues” of an old fashioned bus in a “modern” design is, frankly, pointless.
The Burrard Bridge decision – which the City of Vancouver makes soon – should equally reflect the new reality. There are a lot of cyclists now – and there has never been a real need for three lanes of car traffic in each direction. That is because the volume of traffic across the bridge is determined by two sets of traffic lights: the controlled intersections at each end of the bridge do not release the sort of volume that need three lanes. That really should have been the only thing that counted. All the rest is sound and fury signifying nothing. Except the self importance of the Mayor.
In both cases there are simple, low cost, workable solutions. Having a few old buses refurbished for two “heritage” routes is quite enough to satisfy the need for nostalgia. Two lanes designated for bikes will work – all you have to do is try it and see. Both of you mayors – get on with some important work and stop messing about.