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The first of the new Routemaster-inspired ‘Boris Buses’ – dubbed a vanity project by Labour – has gone into service today.

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The hop-on, hop-off red double-decker bus - complete with driver and conductor – is running on route 38 which runs between Victoria station and Hackney in east London.

The last of the popular, open-platform Routemasters was withdrawn from regular service in December 2005, although some still run on tourist routes.

Mr Johnson promised a return for a new “green” successor to the Routemaster as well as vowing to get rid of the bendy buses, which have now all been withdrawn.

The first of the new buses will be operated by transport company Arriva. In total, eight of the new buses will enter passenger service in the first half of this year.

They have been built by Northern Ireland company Wrightbus, while London-based designers Heatherwick Studio have provided the exterior and interior design.

Mr Johnson has described the new bus as being “revolutionary” and “the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering and design”.

However Val Shawcross, Labour’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, has questioned the “spending of millions on re-designing buses” during hard economic times.

Labour claims the first new bus has cost £1.4 million – meaning travelling on it is the “most expensive bus ticket in history”.

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly group, said: “Boris Johnson made two specific promises to Londoners. One that the new ‘Routemaster’ style buses would be on London’s streets in 2011, and two, that the development costs associated with any new bus would be picked up by industry. He has broken both these promises.

“What Boris Johnson has managed to achieve is to hike up the cost of a single bus fare by 50 per cent and ensure that buses on routes across London are far more crowded.

“A single new bus which has cost Londoners’ a fortune will not cover up Boris Johnson’s real record on bus services.”

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