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Until the 1920s most, if not all, double-decker buses were constructed with no roof on the upper deck, and were the original "open-toppers".
Open top buses are now primarily used as tour buses for sightseeing in cities, or around rural monuments or areas of special interest. These often include specialist information equipment, and colourful liveries illustrating the route.
Open top buses can also see service in some regions on regular public transport transit bus services, in warm climates, or as seasonal services in temperate climates. Seasonal services are often in seaside towns, or along rural or coastal routes of particular scenic quality.
Open top buses are also often used for victory parades for sport teams, and as temporary viewing platforms at events such as the Epsom Derby. Vintage open toppers can also find use for hire at events such as weddings.
The traditional tour bus open topper was usually either a restored heritage bus, or a converted standard bus. Sometimes the bus is converted if its top deck structure (roof) has been damaged by hitting a low obstacle e.g. a bridge. Tour operators sometimes export a double-decker bus from the United Kingdom, and convert it to an open top bus. This is to give the impression of an archetypal British bus, such as the Routemaster London bus, although often the bus actually purchased is not a Routemaster.
In recent years with the growth in tourism, open top bus designs have become available to be purchased new, often with long multiple axle and low floor Easy Access features. In the past, and in smaller companies, open top buses were converted from regular service buses, sometimes after a de-roofing bridge strike type accident.
The open deck in an open top bus may have the roof partially or fully removed, with a guard rail. An intact roof section may be left at the front or rear, and the full/half window height may remain in the open sections. Some open top buses may feature a re-fittable roof section, for fitting in inclement weather. Most also feature upper deck seats specially outfitted to withstand the elements (i.e wooden slats per the old buses or vinyl (plastic) type material).
- Open top buses in the United Kingdom
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