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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Public Transport Legend

We say goodbye to Boris - probably Britain's most colourful Mayor with Local Council and Mayoral Elections today. Famous for many incidents, quotes and escapades, his tenure as Mayor of London will certainly go down in the history books and tablets as more than simply noteworthy. For a start he went to work on bike - carrying the over the shoulder grab bag which replaced brief cases years ago.

His antipathy and disdain for the articulated buses which cluttered central London roads was an key element of his original election campaign and quickly led to the decision to replace all of them with something iconic and worthy of the capital's long association with classic double deck conveyances (including trams). The result was a design competition with prototypes built in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. The successful design has now become a common sight unique to London (for the moment). It may not be everybody's cup of tea but what is now popularly referred to as the 'Borismaster' certainly stands out among the common boxlike buses now standard up and down the country. Above and Below : front and rear of probably Britain's most unusual double deck design now a familiar sight in London with hundreds in service - and more to come. This one however paid a visit to Blackpool unfortunately not as a trial vehicle for BTS - but during a trade event held at the Hilton on a somewhat miserable day. It was brand new having arrived fresh from the Wright assembly plant in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

However hard coachbuilders try to come up with a distinctive design they always end up with a round edged box. The 'Borismaster' defies all description and certainly has attracted attention, if not the affection, formerly shown to previous generations of London buses such as the thousands of RTs and RMs. London's trams, with exception of the 'Feltham' class were less than distinctive, perpetuating a traditional design which originated well before World War One. The last tram routes (other than the Croydon light rail system) were discarded in 1952 still perpetuating a pre-1914 tram fleet - which hardly endeared them to the public (travelling or not).

Blackpool transport's equally great flourish in the 1930s created quite a sensation when the flamboyant designs turned out by English Electric, Brush Engineering and HV Burlingham appeared on our streets (and the promenade). Going against the grain a wholesale regeneration of the tram fleet with streamlined appearance, deep cushioned seating, art deco interior refinements put most trams to shame (not to mention those in the capital). It is not surprising that Blackpool managed to retain its long coastal service having expended considerable capital on its trams and their infrastructure during the 1930s. Equally striking were the town's new buses built locally by Burlingham and unreplicated anywhere else in the UK (much like Boris's buses). While Boris's tenure as Mayor of London is ending today (or shortly thereafter) his role in ridding the capital of its 'bendibuses' will be remembered for years to come - with shoals of distinctive double deck all British buses introduced to replace them. Long live the 'Borismaster'.

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