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With a history dating back to the early 1900s, The Original London Sightseeing Tour is the first sightseeing tour of its kind. It was formally introduced by London Transport as ‘Service J’ for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The thousands of visitors descending on the capital were invited to take the tour “around the town for half a crown!”. At the time it was described as a non-stop circular tour of London operating with double-decker buses from Buckingham Palace Road in Victoria. As part of the tour, visitors were given a free London Transport Guide Book from which they had to identify the major sights of London. It was the first incarnation of the open-top sightseeing tours that are now a familiar sight in cities across the world.
In the early 1970s the service extended to offer conducted coach tours in the City, Windsor & Hampton Court, all “live guided” by the renowned Blue Badge Guides. The fares for an ‘Around London Sightseeing Tour’ in 1971 were 50p for adults and 30p for children, whilst the Conducted Coach Tours in the City were £1.40 for adults and £1.10 for children.
The first guides were introduced on the Round London Tours in 1984, with taped commentaries in French and German following the next year. Digitally recorded commentaries in 8 languages were introduced in 1990.
In 1991 the company launched its hop-on hop-off service. After several name changes from the initial Service J, the name The Original London Sightseeing Tour was finally adopted in 1992. In the same year the company was sold to the Pullmans Group Limited and traded as London Coaches Ltd.
In April 2001 London Pride Ltd was acquired and merged with The Original London Sightseeing Tour, creating the largest single operation of its kind anywhere in the world.
The Original Tour has been afforded the stability and support of some of the world’s largest transportation providers. In December 1997, The Original London Sightseeing Tour Ltd was taken over by Arriva plc, one of Europe’s largest public transport providers. In turn Arriva plc, became part of Deutsche Bahn GmbH, with The Original Tour joining its subsidiary DB UK Holding Limited in August 2010.
In September 2014, The Original London Sightseeing Tour Ltd was acquired by RATP Dev, owned by RATP Group; the world’s 5th largest public transportation provider. RATP Dev alone has a network of over 70 subsidiaries including several sightseeing tour operators; L’Open Tour in Paris, Open Loop in New York and The Bath Bus Company which operate tours in Bath, Cardiff, Eastbourne and Windsor.
Today, nearly 65 years later, trading simply as “The Original Tour”, our company continues to provide visitors to London with a multi award-winning, enjoyable and informative tour of the capital’s famous landmarks from open-topped buses throughout the year.