diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I had been, thus far, unimpressed by the Year Of The Bus.

The YOTB was announced very quietly, you may remember, at the end of last year. It was to be the follow-up to 2013's highly successful 150th anniversary of the Underground, this time hanging on the 60th anniversary of the Routemaster and the 75th of the RT. But as 2014 began nothing much bus-related actually happened. Tube 150 had the huge advantage of kicking off with a bang with the actual anniversary in the second week of January, whereas the YOTB began with a campaign resembling tumbleweed. Some fashion photos went on top of some bus shelters along Piccadilly, and a New Bus For London got painted silver, but other than that things were rather quiet.

And then these stickers appeared.

Someone had finally come up with a logo for the YOTB, better late than never, and started slapping it on bus stops around the capital. I think it's only ever appeared inside Zone 1, there being too many bus stops throughout the rest of London to justify the expense. It's not exactly a top quality sticker either, more some vinyl that'll peel off easily later, and too small to cover the entire board, and not always stuck on very accurately either. That St George's Circus example above is a bit of a mess, for example.

And then the YOTB logo started appearing on the side of buses.

This doesn't appear on all buses, indeed I'd say a minority, but watch out next time you're boarding in case yours has this emblem stuck on the side. It's a peculiar graphic, in that only half is given over to the YOTB logo, and the other half is devoted to promoting an advertising company. Exterion Media is TfL's outdoor advertising partner, formerly known as CBS Outdoor International (having being rebranded following a private equity takeover in January). It's telling that TfL weren't able to add a logo to the exterior of their own buses without including an advert alongside... or else it's a sign that nobody at TfL would have wasted the company's money on YOTB branding had not a commercial concern stepped in to pay.
Year of the Bus is supported by and delivered in partnership with Exterion Media, Abellio, Arriva London, Clear Channel, Go-Ahead London, Metroline, RATP Dev UK Limited, Stagecoach, Wrightbus, Optare and telent Technology Services.
Things stepped up a notch when the TfL Twitter account started tweeting bus-related facts and sticking #YOTB at the end.
» BUS FACTS: The 25 is the busiest bus route carrying over 23 million people a year, more than the population of Australia #YOTB
» BUS FACT: The first red London buses were introduced in 1907 - all buses in the fleet are painted in Pantone 485c #YearoftheBus #YOTB
» We have improved our on-board iBus system by introducing a digital clock for our passengers’ convenience #YOTB
» Bus Fact – Jill Viner was the first female bus driver in 1974 #YOTB
» Smell like teen spirit at your bus stop? Kurt Cobain is one of the celebs featured in Juergen Teller’s bus stop tops photo exhibition #YOTB
I didn't make that last one up, by the way. But it is the only genuinely YOTB-related tweet. The digital clock that's appeared on the iBus display in the last fortnight isn't really a YOTB initiative, for example, it would have happened anyway. Indeed up to this point I'd say there's been something of a feeling of desperation in the Year Of The Bus's promotional narrative.

Hurrah, then, for the announcement of actual proper Year Of The Bus events. A couple of weeks ago the London Bus Museum stepped in and organised a mass heritage run along route 22, which was of course excellent. The London Transport Museum are running several bus-related talks, including one on Routemasters (not yet sold out) next Tuesday. Rather more excitingly, for people who like buses, a number of bus garages are throwing open their doors for a series of Open Days over the summer. Those confirmed so far are as follows.
Saturday 10 May: Catford Bus Garage
Saturday 7 June: Alperton Bus Garage
Saturday 21 June: Stockwell Bus Garage
Saturday 28 June: Fulwell Bus Garage
Saturday 5 July: Potters Bar Bus Garage
Saturday 19 July: Walworth Bus Garage
For people who like modernist architecture, the really exciting one on that list is Stockwell Bus Garage whose concrete roof is a post-war classic. And for everyone else, the highest profile event takes place the following day in the heart of the West End.
Sunday 22 June - Bus Cavalcade in Regent Street
Around 30 buses, spanning the last century, from Horse Buses through to the very latest New Routemaster will be on display. Visitors will be able to explore the buses and take part in family activities.
It takes a lot of clout to close Regent Street for the day, not least because it buggers up the buses, so this is clearly The Big One in terms of PR mileage and public consciousness. You might well want to mark the third weekend in June in your diary now. You might also note the full-on 60th birthday party for the Routemaster scheduled a few weeks later.
Finsbury Park, London – 12th & 13th July 2014
In 2014, the very first of London's famous Routemaster buses, RM1, will be sixty years old. The Routemaster Association will be commemorating this significant anniversary by staging a birthday party for RM1 at Finsbury Park – and everyone is welcome to join in.
A number of smaller events are planned later in the year, notably the restoration of a 100 year-old Battle Bus to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. But all the best stuff appears to be happening in June and July. Calling it The Year Of The Bus may be overstretching things somewhat, but the Two Months Of The Bus promise to be rather special.

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