Ten years ago this week The Red Bus rolled up in Edinburgh for the first time. That was the day I drove RM1353 up the A1 from Newcastle with Clunie and our 10-year-old son. And 62 empty seats – 63 when Gabriel perched in the cab with me.
The bus was already in my blood – Routemasters in general but maybe even this particular vehicle, since it used to work the 88 route between Acton and Tooting, via Notting Hill Gate. That’s where I grew up, near Portobello Road, and my parents went on to live in that house for half a century. The year they moved there, 1962, was the same year a pristine RM1353 drove out of the factory gates at Park Royal, just four miles to the west.
So much for history. Millions of London passengers later, and four hundred miles north, the bus is still going strong today in Edinburgh. Now it’s in a fleet of three Routemasters (RMs), all much the same in terms of original fittings, seating, chrome poles etc. And let’s not forget the glorious, unmistakable AEC engines – these don’t quite chug or purr, it’s something else robust and smooth and timeless.
The Red Bus gets around, that’s for sure. Not just major landmarks in the city itself – up the Castle esplanade, down the Royal Mile, in and out of Holyrood Park via the high road round Arthur’s Seat. You’re just as likely to spot us in East Lothian, maybe by Prestonpans or Longniddry. Or at one of the hidden gems such as Winton House in Pencaitland or Gosford House near Aberlady. Or in West Lothian, say Hopetoun House, Kirknewton Stables or the Dalmahoy.
It could be a wedding, as in taking people to and fro. It could be a couple getting married on the bus itself. It could be a mass ukulele session on the move. Or it could be puppeteers and storytellers at a fringe show in the Meadows. Or dancers from New Zealand. A pop-up bookshop has just been mooted.
Thank you to everyone who has boarded since 2007. Long live The Red Bus! And, if you don’t mind, Happy Birthday to us.