With its sleek curves, blazing red paint and open-backed platform, London 's Routemaster bus has earned a place alongside Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as a British icon. Sadly, after nearly a half-century of loyal service since they first hit the roads in 1956, these old-fashioned double deckers are being phased out in favor of newer models that are more accessible to the elderly and disabled and don't require a bus conductor to check tickets. By 2006, there won't be a single Routemaster left on the capital's roads.
But London 's loss could be your gain.
The Ensignbus Company, based in the town of Purfleet, 20 km east of London, has been buying up decommissioned Routemasters and reselling them for as little as $7,500, although a bus in top condition will set you back as [an error occurred while processing this directive] much as $19,000. Ensign has sold over 150 Routemasters in the last year alone, some to bus buffs as far afield as Dubai and the Czech Republic. Steve Newman, one of Ensign's directors, says that many buyers are eager to preserve a piece of London history. "If they were buildings, they'd be listed" as historical landmarks, Newman explains. Imaginative transport fans have converted the vehicles into restaurants, bars and even mobile homes.
If you think a Routemaster could set you on the road to happiness, call (44-1708) 864340, or visit www.ensignbus.co.uk