Crayolas, set squares and glue-on sparkles to the ready: a competition has just been launched to design the next generation of Routemaster buses.
Voters will of course recall that the much-loved bus was a key plank of Boris Johnson's manifesto, as he tempted bendy-bus loathers by claiming the articulated eyesores would be banished from our streets in favour of a new fleet of Routemasters. Yet during his first two months in office the topic has received nary a mention. Today, though, Boris was on hand at London Transport Museum to invite ideas for Routemaster redux, with a £25,000 prize and the adulation of Londoners awaiting the winner.
The competition has two elements: 'Imagine', which is open to anyone and calls for a 'feature or overall look' of the new bus; and 'Design', which is aimed at professional companies and technicians who can help to realise the former category.
Yet a lone black cloud of doubt floats on this cerulean horizon of hope: as Ken Livingstone pointed out during the election, Boris' crowd-pleasing turn was built on financial plans that looked as though they'd been fiddled with by the bean-counters at Enron, with an estimated £8m cost ballooning to £100m in April. Unite officer Peter Kavanagh now claims that the labour costs alone will total £135m.
Director of transport policy Kulveer Ranger was saying only recently that a new Routey would be unlikely. We hope that the competition is not some fig-leaf aimed to fobb off the anti-Bendites by declaring that no acceptable design was entered (much like the tube cooling design competition of 2003) and allowing Boris to sweep the issue under the rug. So come on, people, do your duty - get scribbling.
The competition runs until 19th September - full details here.