Here’s a story to add cheer to Christmas. The Mayor of London’s office has just announced that the contract to build the new-age Routemaster bus has been awarded to Wrightbus of Northern Ireland.

According to this afternoon’s report from AP the final design is pretty innovative. It has three entrances and the rear most one is a Routemaster-style open platform. It also has two staircases, one at the front and one at the back.[/intro}

The report says the bus ‘will incorporate the latest hybrid technology to make it 40 per cent more fuel efficient than conventional diesel buses and 15 per cent more fuel efficient than current London hybrid buses.’

This new way of building a bus looks pretty clever, with three three main types of bus riders getting their own ‘zoned’ space.

It seems means that wheeled passengers get their own entrance in the centre of the bus (along with plenty of open space) while less able passengers can use the ground floor seats near the front and rear entrances.

The most able passengers can take the staircases to the top deck.

Autocar has got a personal stake in this project, as we kicked the whole thing off two years ago when we commissioned leading bus designer Capoco to come up with detailed proposals for a new Routemaster, a New Bus for London.

Capoco excelled themselves with a new design based around an aluminium spaceframe and a self-charging electric drivetrain of the type that will be used in the upcoming Chevy Volt. You can read about its work by clicking here.

We took the designs to Boris Johnson, who was then a candidate for the 2008 London Mayoral elections and had been calling for a new-generation Routemaster.

He backed the Autocar proposal ‘in principle’ and when Boris became Mayor, he announced a formal competition to design a new Routemaster.

The Autocar/Capoco design came joint first in last December’s competition, alongside a design from Aston Martin and architects Foster and partners.

Many of the hundreds of entries to the competition were handed over to potential contractors, as a starting point and the winner – announced today - is Wrightbus.

It looks like we won’t see the final design renderings until the new year, but in the meantime we can all be glad that the UK still has ability to combine its manufacturing and design forces in the successful pursuit for innovative products that have export potential.

We’ll need more of this in the future, if this country is going to pay back its debts.