The year I lived in Coventry I spent an inordinate amount of time on the city's double-decker buses, riding them from my flat on Broomfield Road to Warwick and back again. I never quite got over the novelty of scampering up the steps to the second floor, and I loved gliding along above traffic with that bird's-eye view. Of course Coventry's battered silver buses were mere workhorses compared to the shiny red London Routemasters, still one of the iconic symbols of England's capital even though the traditional hop-on-hop-off open rear platform design sadly went out of regular service back in 2005. Two weeks ago London mayor Boris Johnson (pictured right) announced the top designs that emerged from a recent contest to rethink the Routemasters, and the two winning plans by Capoco Design and a team-up between Aston Martin and Foster and Partners are not only sleek and modern but utilize cutting-edge environmental technology as well. Jonathan Glancey talked to London's transport commissioner Peter Hendy about how soon the new buses would be hitting the streets:
"What we should aim to create now is not just a Routemaster replacement, but a whole new generation of London buses that could affect the future of the entire industry. You can't rush that, but we'll definitely have some working prototypes for passengers to look at and ride on as soon as we're able to."
Something tells me the engineers will be working hard to get the new buses into operation by the time the Olympics arrive in 2012, and I for one cannot wait to go cruising around London in them. Check out pictures of the new prototypes as well as some wonderful snaps of the old Routemasters' glory days in the gallery here.