God, the buses have been ghastly lately.
Last night at Liverpool Street the 242 arrived, rammed with commuters, and the bus driver refused to open the front door until every last person had got off. By then there was a rib-busting crush at the door – it was raining – and one bloke simply got on through the back door. The bus driver spotted him and made him get off – after lengthy negotiations we all had to watch from the rainy pavement – so he got on through the front door behind me.
We started moving, but at the next bus stop more yelling was heard from below. It appeared that the bloke was being told to get off, even though he’d paid for the journey and come through the front door with everyone else. The yelling escalated into accusations of racism hurled at the bus driver (he was Chinese; the bloke who’d got on the back door was black).
I was reading My Brilliant Career, so for a while was far away on a drought-stricken dairy farm in Australia, but as the yelling continued it became clear that an intervention was needed. Some sparky young Aussie girl yelled down the stairs – Ask the driver for his name, he has to give it to you!
So I went down and did just that, and although he didn’t give it to me, he did decide to start driving again. The driver and the bloke (along with a few other commuters who’d got involved) continued arguing about who’d been in the country longer and the bloke assured the driver that you’ll be dead within two weeks, blud.
All very pleasant.
At this point the bus was moving, albeit rather jerkily and with much yelling, so I retreated upstairs with the bloke close behind me, smiling.
I blame Boris.
Bus drivers are having to take a much harder line on people climbing on through the back door because people are sneaking on for free. They are sneaking on for free because the bendy buses have been taken off the streets. Now I know that it’s wrong to ride a bus for free, which is what half the people on the 38 used to do. But times are tough, and at least the bendy buses were always moving, because the drivers could simply turn a blind eye to fare-dodgers.
And let’s not forget that while tube fares (generally used by wealthier Londoners) have gone up by 3.9% this year, bus fares – the cheapest way to get around – went up by a much harsher 12.7%. Particularly tough in East London, which doesn’t even have a tube. And as for people who commute into London – your Surrey stockbrokers and the like – well, their fares fell by 0.4%, in line with inflation.
If you can decipher it, the Conservative Manifesto has a few more treats like this in store. I particularly like the fact that missing an NHS dentist appointment will – under Cameron – incur a £10 fine. Now who will that hit the hardest?
I do feel sorry for bus drivers – it must be incredibly stressful trying to deal with fare dodgers and abuse all day. And quite frankly, public transport should be free anyway.