Why Are London Buses Red?

The colour was decided upon at a conference attended by transportation officials from all 48 states and has endured until the present day even being adopted in other countries as well including some parts of the UK.


Next Up: Iconic Buses for Childrenís Toys

toy bus

Buses and Their Colours

Some things just are. London buses being red is one of those things. But why? If you have a toddler thatís into buses this is probably a question youíll get asked at some point so we thought weíd do our best to answer that question.

Londonís Red Buses and Black Cabs

When you think of London, or buy any London based toys you will invariably find a red bus and a black cab. And in fact, red double-deckers have become an iconic symbol of Britain. But why are London buses painted red?

London buses were first painted red in the early part of the 20th century when there were a number of rival bus companies operating in the city. The London General Omnibus Company owned the majority of the buses and decided to paint their fleet red in order to stand out from their competitors.

Prior to that buses were painted in different colours according to their routes. They also started numbering buses at this time. In 1933 the London Transport Company took over, they kept the red and it has remained ever since.

The exact colour used is Pantone 485 C and it is the same colour that is used on the London Underground Logo and by Royal Mail, as well as Kit Kat and McDonalds. However, unlike toy buses, the roofs of modern buses in London are usually painted white to reflect heat.

Black Cabs are almost as iconic as red buses. Although taxis have been around in some form for around 300 years the first incarnation of what we now think of as the classic black cab was the Austin FX3 that was first produced in black as standard from 1948, before that, as with buses, there were lots of colours used.

Why are American School Buses Yellow?

If you get asked why London Buses are red we figure itís pretty likely youíll also get asked why school buses are yellow, or possibly why the school bus isnít yellow when children have seen so many yellow buses on American TV shows.

This story feels a little more deliberate than the biggest competitor choosing their favourite colour. School bus yellow is a particular colour that was first created for use on school buses in North America in 1939 and the colour was chosen because it attracts attention in our peripheral vision faster than any other colour.