Look, a new central London bus route...
...and, ooh, it's run by Routemasters...
...and, erm, it has a letter rather than a number.
This is Bus Route A, or more officially Tourist Bus Route A because it's not run by TfL. TfL gave up on Routemasters in 2020 because they weren't well used or making money or step-free, using the pandemic as a convenient excuse to pension them off. Now a new operation called Londoner Buses has stepped up with a fresh tourist route running between Waterloo and Piccadilly Circus, launching yesterday, and hoping to attract passengers back on board.
Wnat's the route? Waterloo to Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square to Whitehall to Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus, and back again.
Is there a map? Yes, and a leaflet
How often do buses run? Every 15-20 minutes from 9am to 5pm
Where do you catch them? Hop-on/hop-off at any of 14 bus stops
How much does it cost? £5 for as many rides as you like in a day
Do they take Oyster? No, just contactless or cash
Which three Routemasters are they using? RM 871, RML 887 and RM 1941
Where's the depot? Somewhere in Wandsworth
Who's behind all this? A group called Transpora
The buses do look splendid in the sunshine rounding Trafalgar Square, crossing Westminster Bridge or wherever.
The main stopover point is in front of Waterloo station at the bus stop normally used by route 507. You won't find an 'A' on the stop, or at any of the 14 bus stops, indeed there's no information whatsoever on the ground, only on the buses. I spotted a bloke handing out leaflets at Waterloo, and a kid jumping off the bus in Whitehall trying to press info into the hands of people waiting, but to no avail. Some of the buses looked very empty, others had a dozen passengers, seemingly a mix of tourists, Men Who Like Buses and the operator's friends and family.
It's an interesting route, about a mile and a half in length, seemingly trying to tick off as many tourist attractions as possible with such a small fleet of buses. As the blind on the front says: Piccadilly Trafalgar Sq Whitehall Westminster Big Ben London Eye. No TfL bus route does exactly this, especially the twiddle round Parliament Square, although the 12, 159 and 453 all shadow the Westminster Bridge to Piccadilly Circus section. The entire route's very walkable, indeed it's about as quick to walk from Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo as it is to take the bus. But tourists aren't likely to realise this, or to want to do that, plus the £5 hop-on hop-off ticket makes this potentially good value for money.
And no I didn't actually ride route A, sorry, I rode the 159 instead because that was cheaper and offered better views of passing Routemasters. But if you're missing your heritage fix on buses in central London, bear route A in mind. And maybe soon, because past experience suggests a Routemaster operation for tourists might not be entirely viable. But good luck anyway.