Saturday 31 December 2022

Here We Go Again? (Part 2)

Sometimes fbb Is A Bit Thick!

Back in October, fbb dutifully read Roger French's excellent blog (Bus and Train User) about a new Routemaster tourist service in the Big Smoke. Clearly fbb's leedle grey cells were only in standby mode as your old codger-blogger completely missed the point. Sorry Rog!

This new operation was yet another company in the hands of the redoubtable Philip Higgs of Bristol and of Coastliner Buses fame.
Those unschooled in the ways of limited liability company operation may be befuddled to note that Mr Higgs was appointed as director in 2012, yet the new service started over 10 years later in 2022.

That is because, to save setting up a new company, he simply renamed an old one!
It existed under three previous identities. And there is nothing wrong in that. There is no requirement for a company name to be relevant to its business (viz "Musterphantom Ltd" a k a Solent Blu Line) so Mr Higgs could have called himself "Higgs Happy Hexcursions Ltd"!

It took some time to get the appropriate licences from various authorities in London, notably because of a "requirement" that all buses should be fully accessible; which Routemasters palpably are not.

Eventually "they" realised that a "heritage" bus would never be accessible and grudgingly agreed, conveniently forgetting that Transport for London had run two Routemaster heritage routes of its own.

London's efforts differed radically from Mr Higgs'. 
Neither of these "official" routes had any meaningful printed publicity. They were just strange buses on parts of routes 9 and 15,
They were "not successful".

So Londoner Buses ...
... has an excellent leaflet.
There is an equally excellent map of the route from Waterloo ...
... via the London Eye (at a distance) ...
... Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and so to Piccadilly Circus. It is the same route back with a round trip time of 40 minutes but an effective sightseeing time of only 20 minutes. There are plenty of sights NOT seen, so you do wonder whether it is worth doing.

Are there enough lovers of Routemasters and enough tourists intrigued by a real London bus to make a viable business. It "costs" three buses and six staff (plus cover for breaks) and runs 7 days a week. That is a lot of cost.

The fare is cheaper than the usual mega London tours, but still more expensive than buying a couple of ordinary bus tickets on your bank card, or even walking!

Would you really want to ride this route more than twice; i.e. out and back?

And it is a tough time to start such a business in the depths of winter. Things were very quiet on its first day as per this video.
There is plenty of Facebook publicity ...
... all very jolly and well done ...
... including non-operating days over the "festive season".
But will tourists be trawling through possible Facebook pages for inspiration? There is a Londoner Buses web site as well. Same question?

At least one video reviewer bemoans the total lack of roadside publicity as the service started.

Is it sorted yet?

Will Mr Higgs succeed?

Only time will tell.
And there's more ...

The indefatigable Philip Karl Higgs appears as a recently appointed director of Altonian Coaches; it's in Hampshire!
Altonian had been around for a good many years with a distinctive orange livery ...
... but Hampshire's bus watchers report only spotting a couple of minibuses in blue and white.
Blog readers may await 2023 developments with interest.

But there is another twist to the story ...

... which will investigate on Tuesday of next week.

 Next Sunday Snippets blog : 1st January 2023 


  1. Bristol ? I think you mean Blackpool.

  2. Altonian is trading as Transpora Bus in Bristol. One public route (the 52) and two contracts (a Coop staff bus and a school bus) can be found on their website

  3. You've got it wrong about the accessibility issue. A Special Authorisation was required from the DfT. TfL for the 9H and 15H, plus the various tour operators of Routemaster had to go through the same process so I don't see why Higgs should have been any different.

  4. The DfT awarded us special exemption to operate Routemasters in central London. Other Routemaster operators operating under LSPs have similar exemption certificates.