In what is considered a landmark event in Britain, the double-decker Routemaster buses were removed from regular service on 9th December 2005. Introduced in 1954, it passed through a newly rebuilt London and soon it became associated with the Post-War boom in Britain and much of Western Europe. Almost a part of the scenery of London, it is still fondly remembered as part of the quintessential heritage of London, and its withdrawal was heavily bemoaned among all sectors. The Routemaster in a way symbolizes the central position that public transportation and buses have in most societies.
The bus is actually a short for ‘omnibus’, literally ‘bus for everyone’, and derives from ‘voiture omnibus’ (carriage for all), the first bus service. Arranged by a Frenchman in Nantes for carrying clients from city center to his baths constructed outside the city, the service soon developed into a full fledged travel service, and was probably copied by other European cities. While steam powered buses were introduced in both Europe and America, the invention of internal combustion engine was the real breakthrough in transport industry. A new source of immense power was discovered, and lo and behold, the world was infinitely more mobile. The public bus inspired rapid urbanization, better roads, better transport systems and traffic management; it became an avenue of social intermixing and was invaluable in faster travel. In fact, the bus is centrally located in American Civil Rights Movement, as it was within a Montgomery bus that Rosa Parks became a figure around whom battle lines were formed.
The bus is a quintessentially urban phenomenon, although it has made sharp inroads within the rural hinterland. A cheap mode of transport for all – indirectly a vehicle of democracy within society – the bus is a great enabler. It shortens huge distances and cuts down on travel time. It brings the world far away within our reach, something that was fantasy during the days of our forefathers. The bus is a character in many an adventurous travel, the theater of a fleeting romance with a co-passenger, or the vehicle for an important appointment. Buses today serve the needs of everyday commuting, travel and transport. Luxury buses ply between tourist points, while chartered buses may be hauled for any purpose. Regardless of our reason, the bus is a character in much of our daily experience.