Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Competition for London's most violent bus route hots up

It's been a fabulous week for London news and it's only Wednesday.

Yesterday the Evening Standard published a list of London's most dangerous bus routes. Highlights included …

Route: 9 - Violent Incidents: 4 / 16 - 7 / 18 - 13 / 25 - 23 / 28 - 3 / 29 - 37 / 32 - 11 / 38 - 20 / 53 - 14 / 57 - 19 / 82 - 13 / 86 - 13 / 109 - 16 / 137 - 12 / 149 - 18 / 159 - 16 / 168 - 8 / 185 - 7 / 207 - 50 / 253 - 18 / 279 - 18 / 436 - 13
The figures are for reported violent incidents over a one month period at the end of last year. It's a strong showing for North East London where particularly over-enthusiastic locals appear to have taken to assaulting visitors before they even arrive. Sadly, my own local routes, such as the 159 and 436, are not amongst the highest scorers but, credit where credit is due, Tottenham is a worse cr*p hole than Lambeth.

Apparently, much of the trouble on the 436 is caused by the fact that the route is served by the new bendy buses. I am on record as not being a fan of the new style bus. They are so unfeasibly long they can't manoeuvre properly in crowded London streets and the driver does not collect payment or check tickets. In theory you are supposed to buy a ticket before boarding the bus. If you buy bus tickets from a local newsagent that don't have a date on, rather than from a machine, you can pretty much use them forever on 436's, Willy Wonka style. I'm thinking about getting my one laminated. Some people don’t even bother to buy one of the magic everlasting tickets, as indicated in the Evening Standard yesterday …

One of the five ticket inspectors suspended for refusing to work on the "bendy buses", saying they are too dangerous, spoke out today. The inspector, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We are frightened to get on the buses to check tickets. I have been punched and assaulted - we all have. "You get an army of people who just refuse to pay. You ask them for their ticket and they just look at you and say 'f*** off, it's a free bus". Transport for London suspended the five for disobeying "reasonable management instruction" to work in pairs after previously working in groups or five or six, sometimes backed by police.

Hands up anyone who knows of any other city in the world where bus ticket inspectors operate in platoon-sized units supported by police wearing body armour. Maybe they should go the whole hog and soften up the passengers with preliminary artillery and air strikes.

But the good news didn’t stop there. Metropolitan Police figures released this week show a jump in violent offences from 180,000 to 200,000 from 2003 to 2004. An 11% rise. The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner was quoted as saying 'There is a problem and it looks like it is getting worse' but then wrote-off most of the rises being 'due to improved recording procedures'. Strangely, he did not dismiss the fall in some non-violent categories of crime over the same period as being due to 'worsened recording procedures'.

But wait, there's more. Yesterday, the Mayor's transport chief Bob Kiley today unveiled a proposal to extend the congestion charging scheme from central areas out to the London suburbs. Yes, pay a fiver every time you use a car or get on the bus and receive a complimentary kicking instead.

But, hey, there's always the Tube isn’t there? But, wait, Ken Livingstone today announced he would raise tube and bus fares for the second time this year, in the Summer, if he wasn't allowed to raise money for pet projects through an above inflation rise in local property taxes.

Like I said, it's only Wednesday. I wonder what wonderful London-based news tomorrow will bring?
PS My mate Ian sent me an email this morning about buses and an adventure he had last night on the way home …

Since I had some shopping with me I thought it might be quite nice to get the bus home for a change, which I did, so I chose my usual nutter/ dangerous gang of teenagers escape seat right next to the door, which was good since a violent maniac got on the bus halfway down King’s Road, was quiet to start off with and eventually started saying things like ‘I’ll smash the lot of yers’ and ‘I’ll rip you apart like there’s no tomorrow, I’m from Battersea, that’s my f**cking manor’. Loads of people got off fairly quickly, then he said ‘ I’m getting off at the next stop, anyone who gets off at the next stop I’m going to f**cking smash you on the pavement’, so no-one got off at the next stop (the first stop south of the Bridge, where tons of people always get off). He then said ‘No-one got off then, I wonder why’ and finally, ‘This is Battersea. Trust me. I’m not stupid’.



Anonymous said...

Yes I concur. London buses are appalling, save for two saving graces

1) Routemasters – hop on hop off, watch people miss and smash into the road, surf the rear platform, unobstructed view out the back, panoramic view out the top, comedy sized seats (and I’m only 5’10), iconic, truly wondrous!
2) You can carry on eating or drinking. Brilliant!

I got a shock upon return to NZ and found

1) Spotless buses.
2) Modern buses.
3) English speaking drivers.
4) No Perspex bus drivers cubical.
5) Drivers that wait till you’re seated before pulling out.
6) All passengers say ‘Thank-you’ as they leave the bus.

David said...

Wow, that picture shows what I've noticed for some time, London is becoming like the third world. If I didn't know, I'd have sworn that was Nairobi or Calcutta/Kolkata/Katlita and it was actually good old blighty. And Tottenham? An area with no saving graces if ever I knew one beyond a reasonably entertaining football ground, if paint could be slum-coloured I'd say the place had been painted from end to end with it. Well worth avoiding by all, including its residents.

Stef said...

Tottenham is already slum-coloured and probably doesn't need a paint job.

I never considered the plus side of using London Buses before. Yes, being able to carry on eating and drinking is a boon and a fantastic idea but, sorry, you're out of date re. the Routemasters. They're being phased out almost entirely. We're told that's because they're old but it's actually because London Buses has been forking out millions in bullshit compensation claims and it's no longer cost-effective to operate open-backed buses for that reason.

I remember the days (Sigh!) when as school children we would attach metal 'Blakey' heel protectors to our shoes and go South London waterskiing - holding onto the back of Routemasters and dragging one heel along the road a 30mph with huge shower of sparks following behind us ...

I'm really am beginning to sound like my grand-dad ...