Please, don't get on the bus (at least, not mine)

Labour wants us back on public transport. Spare a thought for the crews, says Magnus Mills
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Indy Lifestyle Online
At least the Government has shown it has a sense of humour. Let's get more people on the buses, says Gavin Strang, transport minister. That's great news for bus drivers, isn't it? As if it's not enough having to cope with ferrying around the present bunch of moaning ingrates, we must put up with thousands of new recruits - people who can't understand why they have to wait for 45 minutes in the rain, and then three buses come along together. (Actually, this is an urban myth: it's more likely to be five or six together.) These new people will also have to learn the bus passengers' double-think - the art of complaining both when the bus is late and when the bus doesn't wait for them.

Of course, under the new scheme things may be different. Vehicles parked in bus-lanes and on bus-stops will be whisked away at a stroke. People at request stops will put their hands out as the bus approaches, rather than after it has gone past. Everybody will have the correct fare ready when they come on board.

Most likely there will be publicity photographs of some smiling minister on the platform of a Routemaster, laughing and joking with a (smiling) conductor. Oh yes, the Routemaster will save the day. Huh. There has been more nonsense written about Routemaster buses over the past few years than I care to think of. Everybody seems to think that the staff are characters from an Ealing comedy, paid to be jolly and calling passengers "ducks" and "dearie". You try being a conductor, then. Try thinking of a polite reply to "Where've you bloody been?" and you'll see why conductors appear anti-social. As for the driver up in the cab, imagine being a goldfish in a bowl and you've probably just about got it. And he has to put up with the demented conductor as well.

Routemasters were OK for the Fifties, but what's needed now on a bus is doors. Doors that prevent people stepping off the back and flattening cyclists. Doors that can be held shut to keep unwanted passengers off. Doors that say "We're full up" much more clearly than the spoken word.

Get on a bus with 21 standing passengers and 67 seated and ask if there should be more people on buses. Share a seat with John Prescott and see how much room you've got. Remember the bus drivers' motto: an empty bus is a happy bus. What drivers want is for people to travel on other buses, so they can have the bus to themselves. In the same way, what people want is for other people to travel on buses, so they can have the roads to themselves. Please, ignore the latest initiative and get a bike instead.

But remember to keep out of the way of busesn

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