The coolest bus in the world?
The first fully working version of the New Bus for London (NBfL), formerly described as a "21st century Routemaster", has been unveiled in Northern Ireland with the UK capital's mayor, Boris Johnson at the wheel of what he called "a beautiful, beautiful thing".
Launched at the Ballymena headquarters of the bus manufacturer, Wrightbus, which already supplies many of London's 7,500 buses, the vehicle was hailed by Johnson as "not just a bus but a visible statement of confidence in what British industry can do". He said the new bus "goes back to the traditions of London transport".
His sentiments were echoed by the Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, who described the bus as "a fantastic long-term export opportunity" and said he expected versions of it to eventually be running on the streets of Las Vegas and Hong Kong as well as in London.
The bus has an environmentally friendly serial hybrid engine and, in London transport terms, it will blend an element of throwback appeal with the utility of the articulated "bendy" buses that the city’s Mayor has been steadily removing from the capital.
Like the Routemasters, the last bus London's transport authority produced, it has a distinctive open platform at the back allowing passengers to get on and off when they want, rather than only at bus stops.
It has three doors to speed up entry and exit, and its two staircases are expected to further lessen "dwell time" at stops. It will carry two crew members most of the timethereby introducing a contemporary equivalent of a conductor.
The mayor emphasised the bus's "contemporary take" on some elements of the Routemaster's design, including its interior lighting and grooved flooring on the staircases and entrance, and stressed its environmental advantages.
Wrightbus says tests show these include lower fuel consumption than any other London bus and substantial reductions in emissions of both oxides of nitrogen air pollutants and carbon dioxide.