On The Buses…

Last night, as I was crossing the road, one of those LONG bendy buses got in my way and it reminded me of last week…

It was on last Wednesday, that I attended a very important meeting at a very important place in central London! After it, like most Londoner’s wanting to get about, I used a Transport for London bus, namely the Number 73 to take me home. I swiped my Oyster card against the machine reader and sat down on the smallest seat, next to the biggest person. You know how it is?

Two plain clothes bus-type oyster-type (not as in the fish!) inspectors got on, and went about checking tickets. I have one of those automatic top-up thingy-ma-jigs now, so I was a good boy. The poor man next to me wasn’t though, and received his fine. The inspectors brought back the previous experience I had on the same bus home, at 2pm (to be precise) on 16 February this year. I pay attention to detail!

This time, before I got on the bus I had to check my balance, as I didn’t have the top-up facility then. So, being as diligent as I am, I went into the underground station and checked my Oyster card. I didn’t have any credit, so topped it up. This is when my journey became fun…

I got on the number 73 and swiped my card, but the machine didn’t work! I walked from the back of the bus (where I had got on) to the middle and tried to swipe again, but this too didn’t work. I then walked to the front of the bus and tried to swipe that machine reader. Yes, you guessed it, this too wasn’t working. All readers on the bus were faulty. If you haven’t seen them, these bendy buses are so long, that by the time I got from the back of the bus to the front, I was nearly home anyway.

I sat down and we stopped, a few minutes later. As we did, some random man on the street, shouted ‘into’ the bus – “the police are checking at the next stop”! I thought, who was this guy and what was he going on about? Anyway the doors shut and the bus headed up the road. When we got to the next stop, six London Transport staff got on the bus to do a ticket inspection. That man had tried to warn the passengers – only in London?

I say six, but only actually four of them were visible! Two were plain clothes (again), but were as discreet as a child pretending he or she doesn’t want a lolly ice in a sweet shop! Two staff were dressed in Transport for London uniforms and two were Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) for the transport network. And finally, the two plain clothes transport staff, who tried (and failed miserably) to blend in and pretend they weren’t with the other four.

The two transport staff went along the bus asking people to show their cards and fares etc. I heard them challenging passengers as to why they hadn’t swiped and no one said nothing to them, with regards to the readers not working. People seemed scared, and it being London, I was surprised. I asked the male member of staff who seemed to be leading the troupe, whether he knew that the card readers on the bus weren’t working. He didn’t actually give me a clear answer. I then said to him… ‘you can’t really fine people if the machines don’t work’. He then said to me, well if the machines don’t work, you have to go to the front of the bus and let the driver know. What? These buses hold over 100 people, was he seriously expecting this to take place? Shouldn’t the driver have checked before he set off?

Having thought about it, the ‘leader of the pack’ conceded that ‘policy’ here wasn’t applicable. Whatever the policy was! This is when it got silly… like the TV series… On The Buses. Two stops later, these six ticket inspectors were about to get ‘off’ the bus, BUT bumped into (literally) ‘another’ six ticket inspectors. Two in uniform, two PCSOs and two plain clothes trying to get on the bus. You couldn’t make it up! These twelve staff members stood on the step of the number 73 bus, wondering why they all had ended up in the same place at the same time. Who was meant to be on the bus and who wasn’t? The four plain clothes staff members ‘instantly’ became visibly with their own embarrassment and confusion – dithering about. It was fun just watching.

The two people who appeared leaders of each pack, chatted briefly about who was getting on the bus and who was getting off. It was becoming ridiculous… The first team was about to step off the bus, but the second team backed off instead. Then, the first team stayed on the bus taking up their original positions, but the second team then changed their minds and got on to the bus.

My eyes weren’t rolling, but spinning. Karma had hit these guys, quickly and in a big way! So now, as the bus travelled on, we had twelve members of inspecting staff on a single double decker bus. Twelve people were checking to make sure passengers had paid their fairs, yet all I saw was a waste of public money with so many staff at a small ‘moving’ location. It isn’t the customers who should be fined, but Transport for London.

I couldn’t resist and asked the supervisor I had spoken to earlier, if it was the best use of resources having twelve members of staff on the same bus, checking tickets. He mumbled something. The answer should have just been a straight ‘no’. These are the people after all who are checking to ensure bus passengers have paid the correct fair, ensuring revenue is not wasted. They need to get their own house in order first. Respect has to go both ways. Joking aside, there is a serious point to this blunder, in that you can’t just take our money, you have to give ‘value’ for it too. Transport for London failed ‘miserably’ on this day.

I only blogged yesterday about Transport for London’s Barclays Cycle Dire… It seems, when the sun is out – the capital’s transport system goes to pots (more so)!

As I did yesterday, I’ll send a copy of this blog to Transport for London for transparency. With the Olympics coming up, you’d hope we at least have a transport system that is efficient and effective. It’s not cheap either…

Ciao, Max x.

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