diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 07, 2013

Today's the day that route 390 changes over to brand new buses. You know the type. Sleek and red with curvy corners and swooshing stairs, plus an extra door at the back with an open platform. Boris said he'd introduce them when he was first elected, and now here they are rolling out across their fourth new route. But what precisely are they called?

Up until now TfL have gone out of their way to be careful not to call them Routemasters, because they're not. Routemasters are much-loved 50-year-old inaccessible workhorses with a permanently open rear platform, and these shiny things very much aren't.

Except that earlier this week TfL sent out a press release calling this same bus the "New Routemaster".
Route 390 to be served by New Routemasters from Saturday
"From Saturday 7 December route 390 will become the fourth in the capital to be served entirely by New Routemasters."
It seems a quite deliberate re-branding. TfL even tweeted the new name three times.
From Saturday bus route 390 will become the fourth in the capital to be served entirely by New Routemasters
Passengers on route 390 will travel on New Routemasters from Saturday as the fourth bus route is converted
New Routemasters will operate on route 390 from Saturday as the fourth bus route converts to these green vehicles
I wonder what's brought this about all of a sudden. Because TfL didn't describe the last three rollouts like this.
27 February 2012: First passengers jump aboard the new bus for London
17 June 2013: Route 24 to be served by iconic New Bus for London from Saturday
21 October 2013: Route 9 to be served by iconic New Bus for London from Saturday
This was very definitely the New Bus for London, not the New Routemaster, before this week's re-naming. So I thought I'd dig back into TfL's press release archive and search out every mention of the new bus over the last five years. And that's interesting, because the name has definitely been evolving.

Five years ago, when the original design competition was underway, the key descriptor was the bus's 21st-century-ness.
2008: "A new Routemaster fit for 21st Century London", "a new bus fit for 21st century London based on the iconic Routemaster", "21st Century Routemaster moves closer", "a bus inspired by the classic Routemaster"×2, "a 21st Century Routemaster bus"×6

Four years ago when the Heatherwicks won, the 21st century description was phased out and the "new bus" phrase appeared.
2009: "a 21st Century Routemaster bus", "a new bus for the Capital, inspired by the iconic Routemaster", "a new bus for London, based on the iconic Routemaster", "the New Bus for London, based on the iconic Routemaster"

Three years ago there wasn't much to shout about, as the new bus's development inched forward.
2010: "taking inspiration from the old Routemaster"

Then two years ago, as the first prototype prepared to take to the roads, the "New Bus" gained its capitals.
2011: "The New Bus for London - inspired by the iconic Routemaster", "The New Bus for London symbolises a stylish, modern and fully accessible version of the much loved Routemaster", "a contemporary take on some of the best-loved elements of the original Routemaster", "a full-size, 3D mock-up of the Routemaster inspired New Bus for London", "Inspired by the famous red Routemaster"×2, "in common with the iconic Routemaster"×2

Last year, alongside the actual launch, the word "iconic" was bandied about a lot.
2012: "in common with the iconic Routemaster"×2, "a new bus for London that drew inspiration from the iconic Routemaster but was fit for the 21st century", "the new Routemaster-inspired vehicles", "New Bus for London launched, taking its design cues from the iconic Routemaster"

And finally this year... still inspired, still iconic, but still definitely not a Routemaster.
2013: "The New Bus for London, inspired by the classic Routemaster", "Inspired by the classic Routemaster", "The new bus for London incorporates iconic design, echoing the historic and incredibly popular Routemaster"

Until this week.
December 2013: "the fourth in the capital to be served entirely by New Routemasters", "The New Routemaster is the greenest diesel electric hybrid bus in the world", "The introduction of the New Routemaster is part of a comprehensive programme to reduce emissions"

Is this change a deliberate attempt to embrace the power of the Routemaster name? Or is dropping "Bus for London" a deliberate attempt to broaden the bus's sales appeal beyond the capital, given that other cities like Hong Kong have shown absolutely no interest in buying any? Only London wants a fleet of three-door two-staffed omnibuses, it seems, hence the bus needs rebranding.

And obviously that's allowed. TfL can call their bus whatever they like, be that the New Bus for London, the New Routemaster or whatever. Hell, they could even rename it the Ecobus, the Boris Bus or the Emirates Airbus if they wanted, it's their prerogative. But New Routemaster seems to be the 21st century iconic name they'd like us all to adopt. No longer "inspired by", but properly actual. So please be aware of what TfL's branding team have done, and then every time you see the name in the future you can join me in muttering "but it's not a Routemaster..."

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