It seemed such a long shot, a new London double decker with a conductor and a platform you can fall off , seeming to defy the twin political correctnesses of efficiency and health and safety, like the old days before mobile tin boxes and bendy buses took over. Just a retro election gimmick from the nostalgia – fixated mind of mayor Boris Johnson. And even more way out, a green bus built in Ballymena.
But now it has actually become reality. In February, Wrightbus’s £55 million contract was confirmed. Today who else but Boris showboated the prototype on a test drive, our very first sight of the moving real thing. In the interests of health and safety, the bus’s design may not be quite as elegant as its 1950s predecessor you can still ride on the No 9 heritage route. But distinctive it is and will surely become part of London’s signature the world over. Even the Guardian gives a cheer.
Provincial it may be but it’s heartwarming to know there’s another piece of Ulster on the streets of the metropolis, skirting those kerbstones quarried in the Mournes. The last stanza of a favourite poem takes on a new meaning:
“While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core”
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London