The (controversial) year of the bus

This year, Transport for London (TfL) and the London Transport Museum have been celebrating the ‘Year of the Bus’. Several events, exhibitions and activities have been presented to connect Londoners with what is not only one of their means of transportation, but also a symbol of the city.


They explain: “It’s been 60 years since the creation of the iconic Routemaster, 75 years since the launch of the RT-Type bus and 100 years since the world’s first mass-produced motor bus, the B-Type ‘Battle Bus’ that carried soldiers to the frontline during the First World War.”

The RT Type was the predecessor of the Routemaster model, with very similar looks

The RT Type was the predecessor of the Routemaster model, with very similar looks

According to TfL, each day 8,600 buses operate across 700 bus routes, serving 19,500 bus stops and carrying 6.5 million passengers, more than the rest of England combined.

Many busses garages have held special open days to celebrate it, displaying historic vehicles and offering fun activities. On June 7, it is Alperton bus garage’s turn and, on June 21, Stockwell’s. Check the whole calendar here.

Also, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, unveiled a specially commissioned silver-painted New Routemaster to mark the year. Gifts and souvenirs inspired by London’s buses are available from the London Transport Museum shop.

The New Routemaster, specially silver-painted to mark the year

The New Routemaster, specially silver-painted to mark the year

But not everything in the garden is rosy, in this celebration year. TfL has decided to go cashless on buses from July 6. Yes, that is it: no cash to pay for a ride anymore. You should carry your Oyster card with you topped up at all times.

A consultation was held and two-thirds of the 37,000 respondents were against their decision, but that did not stop TfL from going ahead. They say only 1% of passengers pay with cash, but this low percentage means 24 million journeys a year.

People are worried; more ticket machines are needed, especially away from the central area, and they rejected the idea of installing Oyster machines by bus stops, and drivers should be trained to deal with uninformed people in a sensible way.

There is also a delicate issue concerning tourists. TfL says most of them know how to pick up a Visitor Oyster card – the plastic smartcard they can use instead of paper tickets, and the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London. The town has been considered the world capital for tourists. In 2013, it received 16.8 million visitors, a record that made it beat Paris as the top city to visit. And from this year on, all these people will have to learn new ways to pay for their buses rides.

The Visitor Oyster card

The Visitor Oyster card

Contactless – It is also possible to pay for bus using contactless credit, debit or charge cards, since it has been issued in the UK and displays the contactless payment symbol.

The contactless payment symbol

The contactless payment symbol

All users should do is touch the card on the yellow card reader, as they board, as they do with Oyster.

But be aware: if there are other cards in your wallet or bag when you try to touch in, the reader may detect them and it won’t be able to identify which one it should read. The card is then rejected, what they call as ‘card clash’. Your fare could be charged to a card you didn’t intend to pay with.

Contactless payment is cheaper though: £1.45 for each bus journey.

If you need more information on how it works, download this TfL PDF file.



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