It’s the noise I miss the most. The Kennington Road is a barren speedtrack. Buses can get up a good lick there, if passengers at request stops don’t flag them down. Even if your head was in the newspaper, you could tell a 159 was coming from the gurgling roar of the Routemaster’s engine, stick out a hand just in time and hear the machine change register, grind to a halt and turn over in moody reverberation, till the bell rang and it was time for the off.
[*] Granta, 204 pp., £12, September 2005, 1 86207 794 0.
Vol. 28 No. 5 · 9 March 2006
Andrew Saint has allowed nostalgia to influence his judgment (LRB, 26 January). Routemaster buses were not ‘sleek’ machines but angular, noisy, smelly, cumbersome, obstructive, draughty and uncomfortable behemoths that made no concessions to their users. Modern buses have wider doors, and many can lower their suspension at stops and extrude ramps to help mothers with prams, the old and the disabled. They are also more environmentally friendly and economical to operate.
Pace Mr Saint, having the stairway of a double-decker bus immediately behind the driver of a front-entry vehicle is not impossible. The ones I drove in the area covering Bath, Bristol, Chippenham and their hinterlands during the 1980s and 1990s functioned perfectly well with this design. It is just a matter of getting used to it.