The view from here: Pity the conductor ..It's standing orders

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Years ago someone decreed that these buses should have five standing passengers and no more. This was both for safety reasons and to give the conductor room to move round and collect fares.

Which seems reasonable. This is not how the passengers see it.

People desperate to get home from work don't say 'Ah, this bus already has five standing passengers: I'll wait for the next one'. They see room for another 10 or 15 at least, so they keep clambering aboard. And nothing is going to stop them.

The first time I experienced this was outside Brixton Underground station. Brixton is at the end of the Victoria Line and a train had just come in. The blokes in the station must have opened all the ticket barriers at once, because this great crowd surged out of the entrance. I looked back through the glass and the conductor's face had gone pale. Then he disappeared in a sea of bodies. The bus rocked under the onslaught. The cab bounced up and down. It was a bit like being inside one of those coin-operated Postman Pat vans you put children in to keep them quiet for five minutes. It took a long time for the conductor to get everybody sorted out and to get going again. Some conductors are more ruthless: they just hit the bell and hope for the best. That's why buses at busy stops line up with their noses sticking out into the traffic as if they are on a starting grid. It's so they can make a quick getaway. There are certain times of day when it seems that any vehicle painted red and parked by the side of the road is likely to be boarded by people with a wild 'take me home' look in their eyes. This is probably why fire engines keep to the back streets. If it's red it must be a bus: get on and then find out where it's going.

If it's a one-person operated bus, take a good book, 'cos you'll be a long time getting home. Whoever thought of putting these buses on the same roads as Routemasters?

Six o'clock in the evening and we've just loaded our people and we're ready to go. We're behind a driver-operated bus and he's just closed his doors and started to pull out, so I move off. Then a woman runs up and knocks on his door. I will him to ignore her, but he doesn't. He stops again and I'm trapped. I can see through his bus. She staggers on board. She's been running. She looks in her bag. She puts it down. She tries her pockets. She speaks to the driver. Time passes. I thought she was looking for her bus pass, but perhaps I was wrong.

Maybe she's negotiating to buy the bus. Maybe she's a terrorist. I close my eyes. Eventually his engine roars and he's away. But by now my conductor has been swamped. I look back. He's trying to explain about five standing passengers. . .

Of course, passengers will say it's all very well for me to go on about being swamped and all that, but all they seem to see are buses hurtling past without stopping at all. Well, it never ceases to amaze me that people will stand for ages at a bus-stop and then when the bus comes not stick their hand out. Only the white stops are compulsory; the reds are request only. Do people who work in offices answer phones that aren't ringing?

The odd thing is that the white stops are not located where they are because they are more likely to have passengers standing at them. It is so that the brakes get tested from time to time. This is to keep the Metropolitan Police happy. Therefore a stop on a bend near a hospital may be red, so that people have to be alert to catch the bus when their minds are on other things. Meanwhile , a stop hardly used by anyone, say in Park Lane, might be white.

If a policeman sees a bus fail to make a halt at a white bus stop, he is supposed to take appropriate action. So next time a driver leaves you behind at a stop, have him arrested.

(Photograph omitted)

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