Nottingham loves London buses

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Philip Blackmore is proud of his heritage fleet. NICK LARKIN

Nottingham has a long and current association with the Routemaster, as Nick Larkin outlines

Nottingham heritage operators are embracing the AEC Routemaster in the latest stage in the city’s long association with the legendary London bus. Blackmore Commercials is celebrating its 10th anniversary of RM operation and is believed to have one of England’s largest fleets of former London Transport vehicles on heritage duties. These include four Routemasters, fleet numbers RM121, 1174, 2033 and RML2619. All are in regular use for weddings, private hires, contract work and even the odd funeral.
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Also owned are 1953 AEC Regal IV fleet number RF593, registration MXX480, and 1952 Leyland PD2/1 RT-type RTL1323, (MLL685), giving Blackmore the most diverse range of 1950s and 60s London buses available for hire outside the southeast.

Blackmore Commercials, a highly respected repairer of lorries since the early 1990s, started looking after Routemasters belonging to the late Harry Prue-Smith, who ran Exclusive Cars in Nottingham. Finally Blackmore started operating its first RM around 2009.

“We’ve never looked back,” said Director Philip Blackmore. “We love running these vehicles and there’s a lot of pride in doing what we do!”

Work on the buses is carried out in-house and Blackmore has the equipment to recharge the infamous brake accumulators. The heritage side of the business became a separate operation, Classic & Vintage Hire, last year. The buses run alongside two Rolls- Royces and a classic FX4 taxi.

Much business comes by word of mouth – people who have travelled on the buses at an event then hiring one themselves – as well as through the firm’s website, www.londonbushireuk.co.uk. There’s a pool of six part-time drivers to call on and buses have operated as far away as Portsmouth as well as across the Midlands.

The fleet must also have the most diverse range of engines of any heritage operator – Cummins, Scania and Iveco in the Routemasters, an AEC in the RF and a Leyland 0.680 in the RTL. So far obtaining spares has generally not been a problem.

As well as the Blackmore fleet, Routemasters from other operators are a familiar sight in Nottingham.

Sharpe’s heritage fleet includes the immaculate RM291 and Tiger European has acquired an RML – more on that in a forthcoming issue.

Nottingham has a long history of association with the Routemaster. A major AEC, later Leyland service centre in the city saw Routemasters being overhauled and road tested. In the 1980s and 1990s several local operators operated the type in service including Gagg of Bunny, East Midlands and Gash of Newark. More recently, and a surprise to many, was Bellamy’s 2008 Routemaster operation in competition with Nottingham City Transport.

Finally, there is a chance to make a rather special journey by Routemaster. Undertakers AV Lymn operates RML2262 on funeral duties.

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