By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s not a crisis yet, but city officials are confronting the hard truth that Oxford’s iconic double-decker buses won’t last forever.
The two red buses that gave their name to the city’s popular Double Decker Arts Festival have been part of Oxford’s identity since the early 1990s, highlighting connections to the town’s British namesake. Thousands of tourists, schoolchildren, newlyweds and others ride every year for an elevated view of the town.
“We think the double-deckers are an icon of the town, and we want to keep them in operation, but we’re concerned about the age and condition of the ones we have,” said Mayor Pat Patterson.
We’re looking at all our options. We’ve looked at double-deckers that cost $750,000, and we simply can’t do that, so we’re in the market for a new style of double-decker.”
Bo Ragon oversees maintenance for the city’s fleet of garbage trucks, police cars and other vehicles.
“If we just go to city use – parades, football games, Double Decker Festival – instead of seven-days-a-week weddings … I can keep them running another 30 years if we limit the use,” he said. “If we keep up the pace we’re doing now, at the end of six or eight more years there’s not much left.”
Ragon said the 1962 and 1963 models, respectively, had several million miles of service when they came off the routes in England. Since the English company that built them discontinued those models before 1970, the parts are almost impossible to find. Ragon has converted one already to an American drivetrain and hopes to do the same to the other.
Meanwhile, city officials are considering the ultimately necessary replacements.
“We’re not pulling the plug on them, but if we could find some in good condition, that’s certainly an option,” Patterson said.