More on RUA 461W here
When is a red London bus not a London bus? When it’s on Dr Who.
The stars of Saturday’s Dr Who Easter special feature not one but two buses, though they apparently purport to be one and the same, as the BBC used identical models, one in Cardiff Wales and the other on location in Dubai.
Of the Easter special, the Radio Times declares, “It all began with a red London bus”. And this London icon to which they refer? 1981 Bristol VR RUA 461W...
Correct me if I’m wrong, but no operator in London actually ever bought a Bristol VR new and certainly not London Transport. London Country had 15 interesting looking ECW highbridge versions but they don’t count, as LC was split from London Transport in 1969, well ahead of the LC’s 1977 VR batch (all of which lasted less than four years). And LC’s were green in any case.
No, buses as classic, graceful and proportioned as the ECW bodied Bristol VR never graced London’s Routemaster-, DMS-, Metrobus- and Titan-filled streets.
I’m not suggesting that Bristol VRs didn’t operate in London as I’m sure the odd one or two made their way there from the home counties (and on express services, especially Standerwick’s 30 from the north west of England). Surely not in anything approaching huge numbers. And it may be that some early privatised tendered operations used them but, again, these would’ve been few.
So, what is it with the Red London Bus (RLB)? Why is the BBC describing a Yorkshire bus as from London?
Would the programme makers have evoked the same response had it been a Red Wakefield Bus (as RUA 461W originally was)? Or a Yellow Bournemouth Bus? Or a White Birmingham Bus?
Labelling a bus as an RLB immediately raises it from the ordinary. An RLB is instantly distinguishable and the population can visualise it. They somehow have a stake in it. Among the multitude of body styles and seemingly ever-changing liveries, the RLB is a certainty, a constant, an example of continuity. It’s internationally known. How, for example, did international Ipcress File cinema goers know that Michael Caine had escaped not from an Albanian prison but a London dungeon? The first shot after his freedom panned to a RLB.
And, since red liveries seem to have gone the way of blues and greens, red is very much now equated with London alone. Recognisable, then, even if in this particular instance it has nothing whatever to do with half-cab Routemasters or London.
i Dr Who Easter Special
|Dr Who Factfile|
Bus type: Bristol VR
Original Owner: West Riding Automobile Co Ltd
Registration: RUA 461W
Location: Dubai (damaged in transit)
Current Value before damage: £20,000 according to the Daily Telegraph (really??!!)
Destination indicator set to: Victoria (even though the actual 200 is Raynes Park-Ridgway-Wimbledon-Colliers Wood- Mitcham)
Original livery: Poppy red as new and even returned to red working for Hedingham.