The last 'proper bus' or 'bashed-up old relic'?

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Over 50 years since they appeared on London's streets, the Routemasters are still running -- but not everyone is delighted.

The veteran vehicle with its curvy design and its open platform has been called "the last bus to be a proper bus".

Many Londoners remember fondly how they used to hop on and off them and pull the string to ring the bell.

But a Disability Rights Commission spokesman says it is "a bashed-up old relic from a bygone age" and the fact that it is still running on two central London heritage routes is "a disappointment".

A programme of repurchase and refurbishment -- begun after the election of Mayor Ken Livingstone in 2000 -- stopped in 2003-4, and the last full-scale route -- the 159 -- withdrew its Routemasters in December 2005.

What remained was the heritage routes - though only in the hours from 0930 to 1800 and only on the central part of two routes, the 9 (Albert Hall to Aldwych) and 15 (Tower of London to Trafalgar Square).

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