Is the world’s most famous spy named after a humble bus?
The name is Rushton, Nathan Rushton - National Express 007 driver
Suave and sophisticated James Bond is unquestionably one of the most glamorous characters of all time - but was the world’s most famous spy named after a humble bus?
It’s a question National Express, which reports a spike in passenger numbers on its 007 service, hopes to answer once and for all by turning to the travelling public.
The National Express 007 coach service – which was formerly a bus route before being taken over by the UK’s largest coach company in 1973, operates nine times daily between Deal and London’s Victoria Coach Station.
The furore surrounding the release of Spectre – the most eagerly anticipated film of the year - has seen October’s passenger numbers on the 007 jump by eight per cent compared to September this year, with hundreds of extra journeys taken.
It is rumoured Bond author Ian Fleming, who created the character in 1952 having recently purchased White Cliffs Cottage in Kent’s St Margaret’s Bay, was inspired by the destination blind of his local bus to adopt the moniker - immortalising the numerical sequence in the process.
It certainly wouldn’t be the only example of Fleming making the everyday evergreen. A keen birdwatcher, Fleming named his hero after the author James Bond, a world authority on birds of the Caribbean. He owned a copy of Bond’s famous book Birds of the West Indies and purposefully chose the name because he wanted something as “ordinary as possible”. Arguably then, it would seem appropriate the 007 prefix was also inspired by the everyday, and such a move would also be testament to the droll humour characteristic of the world-famous novels.
It is also believed examining the earlier timetable of Fleming’s life, specifically his home in Belgravia could offer a crucial puzzle piece to the decades-old mystery.
Fleming lived at number 22b Ebury Street from 1934 – 1945, directly behind the then newly-opened Victoria Coach Station. This means he would have been very familiar with the 007 not just at the time of Bond’s inception, but also in the decades before. Ebury Street itself crops up in Moonraker as the home to villain Sir Hugo Drax and also the starting point for a thrilling car chase to Dover.
For National Express 007 coach driver Nathan Rushton the fact Fleming was familiar with both ends of the route and not just the Kent side proves beyond doubt he used the service number to name the spy.
The 26 year-old from Whitfield who drives the 007 daily said:
“While James Bond is more likely to be seen behind the wheel of a Bentley, it’s a massive honour to drive the 007 and it certainly attracts a lot of attention. It’s always a talking point, you see heads turning as you go by and people pointing. There’s definitely been more passengers recently, perhaps because of the new film and people are often quite excited to get on.
"Sometimes you get people taking pictures of the coach – you do see people taking selfies with mobile phones but there are also proper coach spotters who are waiting specifically for the coach to come by and they bring proper cameras with them. It’s all good fun. People in Kent have always believed James Bond was named after this local service and I personally think the fact Ian Fleming also previously lived so close to the coach station at Victoria proves it – it’s just too much of a coincidence otherwise.”
He added: “Bond is suave, sophisticated and devastatingly cool so it’s quite funny to think he could have been named after a bus, but then again what could be more quintessentially British?”
As custodians of the famous 007 service and in a bid both to definitively answer the question and to record the history of this famous route National Express is urging people who have travelled on the service throughout the years to get in touch. The coach company is particularly interested to hear memories from people who used the 007 during Fleming’s time in the 1940s – 1960s to get in touch so it can store the memories in its archive. Photographs are also welcomed.
To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The 007 coach route takes in several places featured in Moonraker’s car chase including Canterbury and Dover although without the aid of Bond’s 4.5-litre Bentley convertible, which is in Fleming’s words, "the fastest, genuine four-seater in the world that could top 120mph with ease.”
- It takes National Express a safe and respectable 25 minutes to travel from Canterbury to Dover, compared to Bond’s 15 minute dash
- While James Bond has not yet currently taken the wheel of a National Express coach, the cost of one of these luxury coaches is roughly comparable to a Bentley at around £250,000. Just like a Bentley, the coaches feature leather seats
- Sights visible from the 007 include Canterbury’s city walls, Dover and Deal castles and even France over the English Channel on a clear day
- Daniel Craig is welcome to try out National Express’ 007 any day of the week