Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Iconic bus for 21st century London"

LONDON (AFP) — A new environmentally-friendly version of London's iconic red double-decker bus will be introduced in the capital from 2011, officials have said.

The new Routemaster buses could also feature the sleek lines of an Aston Martin, after the sports car maker jointly won a competition to design them along with top architecture firm Foster and Partners.

The Aston Martin-Fosters proposal will go forward with a design by British bus maker Capoco as the basis for the final shape of the new generation of the world-famous bus.

Routemasters, featuring open rear platforms and a spiral staircase, were taken out of service at the end of 2005, replaced by elongated "bendy buses" as well as a new generation of driver-only double-deckers.

The iconic double decker, which has been seen on the streets of London for over 50 years, is still in operation but only on popular tourist routes in the city centre.

As part of his election campaign earlier this year, new London Mayor Boris Johnson promised to bring back the Routemaster in some form.

The Aston Martin-Foster design features a zero-emissions double-decker that remains highly manoeuvrable, with solar panels built into the glass roof, warm lighting and wooden floors while remaining accessible for disable passengers.

Capoco's proposed bus has a low flat floor to allow passengers to get on and off easily, with a Routemasteresque front engine, an open rear platform and it will also be low emission.

Transport for London said it expected to award a contract for the development and manufacture of the first new bus by the end of 2009, with the vehicles expected to hit the capital's streets by 2011.

Overall, more than 700 entries were submitted for the competition, with children actively encouraged to take part and given special prizes for the best entries in various age groups.

"When I launched the competition, I asked for stylish and imaginative designs which would resonate with Londoners," Johnson said.

"We have had a phenomenal response, with ideas submitted from around the globe, and we now have, in our joint winners, two stunning designs that allow us to go forward and produce a truly iconic bus fit for 21st century London.

"I know that, like me, Londoners will be waiting eagerly to see how these ideas evolve into the final design that will appear on our roads."

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