Is it just me or are bus drivers losing it?

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.



Filed under News

12 responses to “Is it just me or are bus drivers losing it?

  1. Free. I agree. All over the world, not just in old blighty.

  2. Matt

    Great article, sums up the bi-daily frustration quite well

  3. Thanks Matt. Nothing like a rant to get over these traumas.

    And you’re right Edwin, it should be free all over the world…

  4. wow. and here i am full of naiveté professing my glee for using public transportation. I suppose a few months on the double decker would change that.

    • Nimo, don’t be put off! I reckon the system in London is brilliant (compared to where I grew up, anyway) and the tube map is rightly famous. Double deckers aren’t so bad, and there’s always good people-watching to be had. I just think Boris is wrong to raise the fares.

  5. tim

    Fantastic Article. Thanks for that!
    Oh, and yes: Public transport should be free.

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  7. Psylo

    God save the 149

  8. A peed-off bus driver

    I’ve just seen this post, and despite it being quite old, wanted to reply. I’m a bus driver (not on the 242, however, so I’m not THAT driver LOL).

    If revenue inspectors board the bus and we have too many non-paying passengers, we are reported to our company, because TfL insist on it. It is seen as theft, because the assumption is that we should be able to verify every pass in the brief instant that they are flashed in front of us. We are supposed to be able to verify that Oyster cards are legitimate, too – that young people aren’t using pensioners’ Freedom Passes, etc. And if we don’t, TfL assume that we’re letting out friends ride for free.

    If we allow too many people on the bus, we risk our livelihoods. For each person standing forward of the driver’s shoulder (and thus forward of the bright red sign that you all ignore!), we can be given 3 points on our licence and a £60 fine. As I’m sure you know, 12 points means loss of licence. And that’s not just our PCV licence, it’s ALL of them – in my case, car, motorbike, lorry, the lot. No job, no way to take my daughter to school… So we open the rear doors to empty the bus before letting people on. We are human; we do sympathise when it’s cold and raining, but whenever I’ve tried to explain why I’ve kept you waiting, I only get abuse, because you don’t actually want to know why you didn’t get your own way, you’re just outraged that a lowly bus driver didn’t automatically accede to your demands.

    Yeah, we are losing it. I start each day cheerful and helpful, and end it ready to rip someone’s head off. Every single day, without fail, I am abused. If traffic is bad, abuse the driver. If the passenger’s Oyster card doesn’t work, abuse the driver. If they don’t have enough money on it, abuse the driver. If they want change of a £20 and the driver doesn’t have it, abuse the driver. Here’s some news for you – we are not issued with change when we start work. If a driver has change, it’s because he or she has gone to the effort of getting some, just to help you out. We deal with traffic, drivers cutting us up, cyclists riding like Kamikazes, and woe betide us if we have to brake sharply – because if passengers are jostled, guess what? It’s blame the driver time! No win no fee lawyer heaven, and disciplinary proceedings for us! Lovely!

    But, we soldier on. Times are hard, and there’s not a lot else out there, job-wise. Next time you get on a bus, look at the driver – that’s a human being sitting there. Try and feel a little of what we feel. And remember, we are not obliged to give out our names, or numbers. The number of the bus, the route, and time are all you need to identify the specific bus, and hence the driver.

    Thanks for reading!

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  10. I am also a bus driver, Since privitization 1993 there hasn’t been one single report on the welfare of bus drivers in the london area,because bus companies and TFL don’t care about their staff. Yet there has been 32 reports from 13 countries that go into full detail of how dangerous the job over time can be to an individual. Plus now that the W.H.O has deemed diesel as dangerous as mustard gas, and other unsavoury substances that is not conducive to humans. Including causing cancer and giddyness.We work long hours, including shift work which upsets the cycle of sleep. We are expected to perform miracles within a system that is badly design. I.e picking up wheelchair users, yet the bus stop is sdesign with street furniture, in the way , parked cars on either side of the stop making it differcult to straighten up for the ramp. Bins, trees ,bus shelters and standing passengers are usually in the way. Not to mention mothers and buggies . We are always having to sit with our legs crossed as there are no toilets. The bus companies are ruthless with there attitude in getting rid of senior drivers, in favour of new drivers at a cheeper rate of pay, The differences can be as much as £4p/h .So more stress in trying to keep a job. I agree that transport should be free, but anyone found causing a problem for drivers or other passengers should be banned for a year from using the system. I also think that everyone when leaving education should have to do a year in working in these industries , Be cleaning roads, driving buses around to working in hospitals. Might make them more humble and not so aggressive.

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