100th Special: Borismasters make their first route conversion

Yo, guys, it’s the London Bus Breh! I am delighted to have been given the chance to write The West London Bus Blog’s one hundredth article, and I aim to make it a special one. Which means having to include special buses: the Borismasters.

Now the actual name for the Borismasters is a working title. ‘New Bus for London’ seems to be its most popular name, but that title is commonplace, like its other name, the ‘New Routemaster’. No. Just no. It may have an open platform – sorry, open door – a similar shape to the Routemasters and the reintroduction of conductors – sorry, passenger assistants or customer servicemen: reintroduction of two-man operation - but I feel a certain discourtesy to the legacy of the Routemasters by calling them the ‘New Routemaster’. The abbreviated form of New Bus for London is NB4L or NBfL, and although I quite like that, I don’t really like the banality of what it stands for. So Boris Bus and Borismaster is left. Boris Bus – again, boring. So that leaves Borismaster, which seems the best because it is the most creative and because it was based on the idea from Boris Johnson and does have a couple resemblances to the Routemaster – so Borismaster is the name I use in reference to these buses.

Old and new: original Routemaster meets 'new Routemaster'. RM1562 and LT3 meet at Trafalgar Square. There is a sort of envious atmosphere in this photo, the Routemaster passing the Borismaster without a second glance because it is jealous of its modern and futuristic looks whilst the Borismaster is unwillingly forced by the red lights at the end of Pall Mall to look at the Routemaster, envious of the Routemaster's legacy and how renowned it is being an icon of London. ©London Bus Breh.
The idea of the Borismasters came about in 2007, when Boris Johnson was campaigning for role of Mayor of London and was contemplating introducing a ‘modern-day Routemaster’ in which people could hop-on and hop-off other than at bus stops. A good idea, one would think then. An almost pointless one, one would think now.
In 2009, WrightBus were announced to be manufacturers of the ‘New Routemaster’ and the following year had accompaniment from Transport for London and Heatherwick Studio to produce the final design for the bus.

In 2011, the first prototype - LT1 (LT61 AHT) - was unveiled, an eleven-metre long diesel-electric hybrid complete with a Cummins ISBe 4.5 litre (Euro 5 EEV) engine and a Siemens liquid cooled valence lithium-iron phosphate power cell battery pack with a 17.4 kilowatt capacity. The unveiling of the prototype was much to the excitement of bus enthusiasts, photographers and Londoners alike.  However, in December of that year, during testing on the M1, it broke down due to the bus running out of fuel. Was this a bad prognostic hinting the Borismasters were not such a good idea?

In February 2012, the second prototype: LT2 (LT61 BHT) - don't ask me why the first prototype was not the first to enter service - was the first Borismaster to enter London service for route 38 (Victoria Station, Terminus Place – Hackney Central Station) amidst crowds of hundreds, maybe even thousands, flooding the streets of Victoria to get a glimpse of it during its rush hour and day shift. A couple hundred were there for its night shift. I had never witnessed such excitement circulating buses before. For those Routemaster fans who were there that day, they probably hadn’t seen such a great atmosphere since the last London Routemaster’s departure on 9 December 2005.

For those who are regular viewers of my Photostream, you shall remember me mentioning my two hour wait for that prototype at Victoria Station on its first day of service. If not, press this link, select the photos and read their captions.
LT2 (LT61 BHT), the first Borismaster to begin London
service, enters Victoria Station after waiting two hours!
                           ©London Bus Breh.

LT2 (LT61 BHT) amidst a crowd of approximately a hundred - a mixture of enthusiasts, interested members of the public and photographers. ©London Bus Breh.

The small hybrid logo to the side of the bus can be seen from this angle.
©London Bus Breh.

LT2 (LT61 BHT) at Angel Islington, a couple passengers
having ran for it and hopped on via the rear open platform.
©London Bus Breh.
LT2 (LT61 BHT) glows in the night, ready to depart bus stop.
                               ©London Bus Breh.

A further seven prototypes were introduced later in 2012:

LT4 (LT12 DHT) curtailed to Rosebery Avenue. Taken in Bloomsbury in May 2012.
©London Bus Breh.

The rear of LT4 (LT12 DHT) in Bloomsbury in May 2012.
©London Bus Breh.
LT3 (LT61 CHT) parked at Ash Grove Bus Garage in July 2012.
©London Bus Breh.

LT2 (LT61 BHT), the first ever Borismaster to serve our streets,
is seen in Pall Mall on 8 December 2012. ©London Bus Breh.
In January, just after two months since Metroline regained route 24 from London General after six years with new Volvo B9TLs and Metroline’s first purchase of the Volvo B5LH chassis – both chassis based on the Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodywork - the London Metro newspaper announced that route 24 was the first route to be fully converted to Borismaster operation. This seemed a pointless conversion as the 24 had only recently been fully converted to Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 operation. However, these Gemini 2s were said to replace the Plaxton Presidents on routes 17, 91 and/or 390.
The Borismasters started appearing around the Cricklewood area, having being sent to Cricklewood (W) – where Metroline headquarters are – for driver training. I was informed by a Cricklewood bus driver that two Borismasters had already faced internal issues: one of them being that there was not enough air pressure in the suspension, the other being because the doors at the rear open platform could not open/close. Was this another bad prognostic: that the Borismaster conversion was not such a good idea?
LT10 (LK13 FJE) at Silverdale towards Hampstead Heath.
                                          ©London Bus Breh.
Last Saturday saw twenty-five of the twenty-seven Borismasters purchased fully convert route 24. When I saw two Borismasters heading for Pimlico at Warren Street, the white blinds immediately put me off. However, when I got off at Silverdale for photography, I immediately kind of warmed to the white blinds and the Borismasters as a whole, taking a liking to photographing them; they were an exciting prospect indeed.
LT40 (LTZ 1040) turning towards Silverdale bus stop. I caught
LT40 later on in the day. It was one of many Borismasters that
day to be curtailed to Parliament Square. ©London Bus Breh.

Everything ran smoothly, except that most buses had to be curtailed to Parliament Square. A couple were curtailed to Trafalgar Square. A few did go the whole way to Pimlico, however. I took a friend on a ride of the Borismasters and we met a couple friendly conductors … or passenger assistants, as is their stated occupation. The first passenger assistant said he was told that routes 11 (as we all know) will be the next route to be fully converted to Borismaster operation in September, but Boris Johnson is also planning for Stagecoach East London route 15 and excitingly ex-First London now Metroline ran route 18 to be next, Go-Ahead London subsidiary London General route 453 also in consideration.

The other passenger assistant told us that for health and safety reasons, he has to 'stop people from hopping off the rear open platform other than at bus stops or in standstill traffic’ – which makes the rear open platform useless as that is what the conventional London bus does anyway (drivers open the doors at bus stops and standstill traffic to let passengers off) – but if they tried to push past him, he need not do anything about it; ‘if they got injured and tried to get a claim, the cameras would show that I did my job by trying to stop them whilst not invading their personal space’.

Passenger assistant of LT32 (LTZ 1032) smiles for the camera.
                                         ©London Bus Breh.

LT14 (LTZ 1014) at Mornington Crescent Station.
                                          ©London Bus Breh.
So what do I think of the new buses? When the first prototype was unveiled, I just thought this was Boris Johnson’s plan on vengeance on Ken Livingstone as a replacement of the bendy-buses, but it is always exciting seeing a new bus. However, the front exterior looks ghastly. The headlamps (or eyes, I sometimes refer them to as) look unattractive, and I have nothing to say about the diagonal mixture of red and black patterned around the bus.

However, when I took my first photo of a Borismaster on the 24, as said earlier, it was an exciting prospect. Let me now expand on that. The rear does look quite nice and photographing the bus – both front and rear - from the right side is great; less the left, but still quite nice nevertheless. The curves are also very reminiscent of the Routemasters, but that, the rear open platform (that has doors that have to be closed at night anyway, so basically it is an open door) and the spiral staircase are the only things reminiscent of the Routemasters. Talking of the staircases, no-one seems to have noticed or cared that there are two. If you jump on-board from the front of the bus and take the front staircase upstairs, you may not realise there is another staircase at the back of the bus, vice versa if you jump on from the back you may not realise there is a staircase at the front.

LT40 (LTZ 1040) at Trafalgar Square. I had just got off it.
                                           ©London Bus Breh.
I caught LT40 (LTZ 1040). The ride was smooth and quiet, but that is what to expect for ‘the cleanest, greenest [hybrid] in the world’. The only engine-related noise is the Siemens battery pack, so not actually the engine. What the Siemens battery pack is doing is charging up the engine and when the bus goes quiet, that means the engine is fully charged. The only uncomfortable thing about the ride was that as soon as we approached Camden Town Station – going in the Parliament Square direction – crowds of people that could not catch the Northern Line train due to weekend closures awaited at the bus stop, flooding onto buses. And unfortunately, LT40 was one of the victims of overcrowding. If not for the high frequency that route 24 seemed to have that day, with three Borismasters pretty close (mine being the second), the atmosphere of the ride would have been humid and therefore traumatising.

LT33 (LTZ 1033). Has just curtailed here in Trafalgar Square.
                                          ©London Bus Breh.
Which brings me onto the capacity of the bus: the upper deck has a seating capacity of forty people. Okay. With twenty-two people seated and no wheelchair users, the bottom deck has a standing capacity of eighteen people. However, if a wheelchair user is on-board, the capacity of standing people is decreased to eighteen. Another plus side to this scenario was that there were no wheelchair users occupying the space, so crowding was not as bad as it could have been and the wheelchair user would not have had to endure squeezed standing passengers surrounding them.

So what thoughts do the public have about the Borismasters and their conversion of route 24?

LT24 (LTZ 1024) on route 24.
                     ©London Bus Breh.

'Bus travel should be enjoyed rather than just endured and the NBfL does not disappoint. On route 24 last Saturday the ride was smooth and the passenger assistants (conductors) were informed and courteous. The new buses will benefit Londoners and tourists alike. Critics should recognise a winner and stop carping about the cost of converting other major routes,' said Peter Doble.

A low shot of LT24 (LTZ 1024) on the
24 at Hampstead Heath, South End Green.
©London Bus Breh
Lawrence thinks, ‘They are a nice addition to the limited fleet of buses in London. They have a sleek and futuristic exterior and a peacefully quiet ride. However, interior seems to be too ‘plastic’ thus being quite plain and it does get cramped on-board. Also, you cannot open windows. Route 13 (from Golders Green to Aldwych) should acquire these new buses because it passes through central London [having these buses in central London attracts more tourists] and it used to use Routemasters. Overall, nice buses but a waste of money.’

The Borismasters have now twice been problematic during training runs before being put into service – the M1 low fuel capacity incident with the prototype and the internal issues with two of the twenty-seven route 24 converters. But there have not been any problems whilst in service ... yet. So is it that there have been problems twice now a bad prognostic or merely a coincidence? 

Comment below - what do you think of the new buses?


Lewis JN
I have to thank LondonBusBreh for writing the article and providing the pictures above. I think that the new LT's (that's the name I use - it's the only properly official one there is) are very sleek. The use of the Northern Irish registrations show that TfL do have some heritage, along with the new white blinds. Everything above is (C) LondonBusBreh, so please refrain from using any of it without permission from him.

Coming up soon will be:
- Metroline West
- Kingston Changes
 Also, for those who are wondering, the 'Know Your Routes' page will be back up, as I aim to continue that series very soon!

Thanks for reading this post!


  1. A very fantastic post, I would defo back Route 453 to get NB4L's. I hope I will never miss my bus again. :P

    Route 15 - Stagecoach
    Route 18 - ex First London (Metroline)
    Route 11 - London General
    Route 73 - Arriva London
    Route 9 - London United
    Route 13 - Transdev

    ^ Above is my suggestions to the routes that could run fully on NB4L (some are mention on your post) .

  2. One NBfL ended up smoking whilst I was with the WLTM crew (for some reason?) Could be some fuel burning off but I don't personally know.

    I think these buses are a great idea for Central London routes but I think that we need to get buses with more capacity on some trunk routes (12m Tri Axle DDs?) and the NBfL to be used on main touristy routes like, as LB453 mentioned, the 9, 12, 15 etc.

    Anyway, good post and keep up the good work!

  3. I personally hate the Borismaster for many reasons and like James have said I agree we need to make 12m Tri Axle DDs that are hybrid to be used in London. E.g they could make a 12m Tri Axle Wright Gemini 2/Volvo B5LH.

    James, do you want to join my blog?

    Anyways, I like the new team. Good Luck.