intermediate English - Discover London
changed over the years; they're not the same today as they were thirty
years ago; but big red double-decker buses are icons of London, and
they are recognised (and found) all over the world
best-known symbol of London? Big Ben? The statue of Eros in Picadilly
Or could it be something much more ordinary than that? Could it be the
big red London double-decker
It certainly could. Big red buses
are recognised - and even found - all over the world, and people
them as symbols of London. Visitors climb into London buses to go and
the Niagara Falls. London buses can be seen driving round Europe to advertise
, or British events
They don't need to have the words "London Transport" on the side of
them. People recognise them at once!
Red London buses in 2016
Above right: a line of Routemasters in 2002
It was over 100 years ago, on October
1911, that the London General Omnibus Company ran their last horse-drawn
through the streets
of the capital. Since then
the big red motor bus has been London's "king of the road".
Today, every day, thousands of Londoners
use the big red buses to move - often slowly - around town. Lots of
tourists know that a one-day London bus pass, valid
on all regular bus routes, offers
a wonderful way to see Britain's capital city.
The idea of the "double decker" is
actually much older than the motor bus. It is a continuation
the system that was used for public transport in the age of horse-drawn
vehicles, when some of the passengers sat inside, and the rest
on the roof. Too bad if it was raining!
The earliest horse-drawn double-deckers
in London had steps at the back, so that people could climb up
onto the roof.
main difference with today's buses was that in those days, there was no
protection for the people travelling on top. If it rained, they could
a sort of oil-cloth cover out of the back of the seat in front of them,
and pull it over them; but they still got wet.
Today the only open-topped buses are
the special tourist buses.
It wasn't until the 1930's that all
new buses came equipped with roofs over the upper deck! Increasingly
powerful engines meant that buses could be bigger and heavier.
they could then have roofs.
The most famous London buses, however,
are not those that filled the Capital's streets in the 1930's, but the
powerful "Routemasters" which date from the 1950's and 60's. These are
the buses that have been taken all over the world, the buses that you
see in the tourist brochures, and the ones which have been sold, in
to millions of visitors and souvenir hunters
The Routemaster is an icon in itself!
With its open platform at the back end, the Routemaster was the
popular bus in London, because passengers could climb on and
off anywhere, even if the bus was moving (though this was not
buses were designed specially for London, by people who knew what
needed, and they served
well, and did so
for half a century !
Things started to go wrong for the
London bus in the late 1960's. That was when the Ministry of Transport
decided that it would only give financial help to bus companies
bought new buses with doors! Suddenly London Transport found they could
no longer buy any more of their favourite Routemasters, that they had
They had instead to choose other models. Today, European Union rules
also say that new buses for public transport must have doors.
London, however, resisted the
bureaucrats! Determined to keep the buses that Londoners (and tourists)
wanted, London Transport kept the old Routemasters
long as possible. Five hundred of the solid and popular old buses
were extensively renovated, and put back on the road as good
if not better! But not even the Routemaster could resist the winds of
change. Modern transport systems require one-man buses, not buses with
both a driver and
a conductor. So in 2005, the old Routemasters were finally taken out of
Still, it's not too late to enjoy travelling on one of these historic
buses. Some of the old buses have been preserved, and were used on two
"heritage routes" through the centre of London, specially for tourists.
Route 9 went from the Royal Albert Hall to Aldwych, via
Piccadilly circus and Trafalgar Square; but the last Routmasters were
used on this route in 2014. The only route left is Route 15, which goes
Square to the Tower of London, via St. Paul's Cathedral. But
other old Routemasters are used by the tourist bus companies,
which offer trips round the centre of London.
publicise, promote conductor:
on a bus, the man who sells tickets, not the driver. - department
stores: big shops with lots of different departments
decker: with two levels - drawn:
to draw, to pull
presentations - horse-drawn:
pulled by horses - hunt:
look for- increasingly:
and more - omnibus:
bus - pass:
ticket - serve their
what they are meant to do
buses that run on rails
- are valid:
can be used.
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Complete this extract
text, replacing the missing prepositions:
at - for - in - in - in - of -
of - of - of - on - onto - out - over - over - until - up - with - with
earliest horse-drawn double-deckers ________ London had steps
_______ the back so that people could climb _______ _______ the roof.
difference ________ today's buses was that _______ those days, there
was no protection _______ the people travelling _______ top. If it
rained, they could pull a sort _______ oil-cloth cover _______ _______
the back _______ the seat _______ front _______ them, and pull it
It wasn't _______ the 1930's that all new buses came equipped _______
roofs _______ the upper deck!.
True or false: you may
reflect carefully to determine the answers to some of these statements:
1. There are buses that go
London to Niagara Falls T / F
2. People recognise London buses because they have the words "London
Transport" on them. T / F
3. Motor buses operated in London before October 1911. T / F
4. A daily bus-pass does not allow people to use special tourist buses.
T / F
5. Some old horse-drawn buses had roofs over the top deck. T / F
6. Double-decker trams had roofs over the top deck. T / F
7. "Routemaster" buses have no doors at the back end. T / F
8. London Transport are now building new Routemaster buses, in spite of
European Union rules. T / F
Notes for teachers
Taking the article paragraph by paragraph,summarize
this article in less than half its length. To do this, they should
first of all write down a short sentence summarizing the essential
point(s) of each paragraph, then string these sentences together,
adding extra important information when appropriate.
Town names used as adjectives. Use the expression Big red London bus
to illustrate how the names of towns and cities (and other locations...
though not usually countries) are used like adjectives in compound noun
groups. We say a London bus
, not a Londoner bus
or a Londonish bus
, or a Londonian bus
there are a few city names for which English also has common
adjectives, such as Paris / Parisian or Rome / Roman, these are
quite rare exceptions: the general rule is to use the name of the town,
so... a London fog ,
the Manchester team, the Washington office, my
Toronto friends, New York skyscrapers, the Berlin orchestra,
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching
materials or exercises.
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Revised 2017 . Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate
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