March 07, 2004
Billion Dollars on Failures

Some time in the 1980s the then UK premier Margaret Thatcher said:

“a man who finds himself on a bus after the age of 30 can count himself a failure in life.”


Margaret Thatcher has long since gone. But London’s buses are going from strength to strength! Strange how just over 20 years later it’s positively fashionable to be riding the buses again. And surprisingly, it’s the A and B socio-economic groups that are accounting for the largest growth in bus usage over the last year. Thanks in no small part to the Mayor of London Ken Livingston - a man whose political career has unsurprisingly long outlasted Margaret Thatcher’s despite being at the centre of her wrath for quite some time during her reign. Despite the protest in some corners for his programme of changes that would render classic international symbols like the famous Routmaster bus obsolete by the end of this year - our Mayor Ken LOVES buses. A love that’s worth over a billion dollars. For this represents the level of subsidy afforded to London’s buses this year- and there appear to be every sign that this will increase to DOUBLE that in the next five years!

A Route 79 bus stop in my neighbourhood.

A recent edition of Harpers & Queen magazine voted London’s buses as one of 2004’s “hottest trends”. Even the opposition Mayoral candidate Steven Norris once said that catching a bus meant you had to “put up with dreadful human beings sitting alongside you”, now travels to work from Streatham Hill on the Route 250.

A brief but fascinating article from The Times underlines the fact that it’s the buses that are getting London moving again.

Mayor Ken - Zindabad! Long Live London Buses!

Posted by jag at March 07, 2004 09:04 PM

MNass transportation is the only way to solve todays mass transportation problems, not using cars and other provate vehicles. In fact, I just love gettin around the city using buses, whatever hardships that I may face; whatever crowd there may be. (Chennai’s buses are so crowded that it would be difficult to get in, and if you do manage to get it in it will be too difficult to get out, atleast during peak hours).
Buses and suburban trains are the way to go

Posted by: sat on March 8, 2004 05:17 AM

Film producer Alexander Korda said he’d never used the Paris Metro. The first time he was there he was too poor and had to walk. The second time he was too rich.

Posted by: David on March 8, 2004 09:46 AM

The ‘london bus after the age of thirty’ sent shudders down my spine.…what a crass, snobbish thing to say.…buses are so much nicer a way to get around than the overcrowded tube - I just wish I could travel into work on a bus every day (I have to drop my daughter at nursery before work and the logistics forbid getting a bus). But when the central line was down for a long period a while ago, I caught the #55 bus every day from bakers arms into bloomsbury. The journey took an hour and five minutes exactly each time, which, yes, was a lot longer a journey than the tube, but it turned up at and took exactly the same time every day, so I always knew I’d get into work on time. And it was such a great journey, travelling through mare street in Hackney and the City Farm and Clerkenwell.…it was like viewing a cross section of london, a huge variety of people, of places, of buildings…hundreds of mini stories passing by the window in the space of an hour. And I was lucky enough to be travelling during a really sunny month.…that hour of early morning sunshine beat the tube hands down, for me.

Posted by: sue on March 8, 2004 06:19 PM

Sat: Couldn’t agree with you more. In London the suburban trains and tubes are overcrowded during the peak hours - and they are far more expensive than the buses. Now that London has many more buses than it used to - and they are increasing - they are establishing a much more viable method for mass transit than cars. Which, as you point out, means much less congestion on the roads. For me (like Sue in her comment) the buses are a much more interesting way to travel too!

David: interesting situation re Korda! Perhaps he ought to try the buses - they provide a wealth of inspiration for stories that could be picturised into film I’m sure!

Sue: 100% spot on! Buses beat all other forms of transport hands down for tickling the imagination!

Posted by: Jag on March 8, 2004 08:54 PM

Unless you have the snorting neanderthal from Bogsville behind you…

I concur - I haven’t been on a London bus for a year, but they are magnificent carriages compared with almost any other UK bus company’s boneshaking spinebreakers.

If Maggie hadn’t have taken away my free milk, my skeleton would probably be up to the jolting around au l’autobus…

Posted by: Vicky on March 8, 2004 09:10 PM

Maggie didn’t specify London buses.

Personally, I hate driving within the M25 - but public transport is frequently impractical outside it.

The tube often seems like the carriages should have been designed as Sardine tins - but there’s no quicker way in and out of central London (unless you own your own helicopter!)

Irritation about some buses - some companies are now using buses where the seats are crammed so close together that I can’t get my legs behind the seat in front. At under 5’8”, I’m not exactly a Harlem Globetrotter…

But is there another form of transport that compares with the view from the top of a doubledecker?

Posted by: Simon Jester on March 9, 2004 11:25 AM

Vicky: you know you’re absolutely right re provincial “boneshakers” - it seems that non-London buses simply don’t have suspension. I wonder why?

Simon: the newer London buses have more leg-room than Virgin Upper Class - trust me. It seems that Transport for London have really listened to complaints like yours. And the answer to your question is “no” - there is no other form of transport that is so pleasurable as the top of a double-decker. Even flying over London isn’t as good!

Posted by: Jag on March 9, 2004 09:32 PM

Buses are the only way to get to kingston (281). Especially before christmas (nothing beats the smug feeling one can get when looking at cars queueing for the car park). The only complaint is that somebody should tell the drivers that the new busses do have breaks that work so they really don’t need to jump on them with their lead boots to send passengers forward a couple of seats at every stop.

Posted by: stroppycow on March 9, 2004 10:34 PM

I suppose everybody shares the universal feeling for travelling in buses - if they are available.
Though there a set of bus laws that may apply here.
1. If there are 2 or more buses to your destination coming to your stop, the one which you take arrives the last at the destination.
2. The bus you wait for comes in high frequency, in the opposite direction.
3. The bus you wait for never comes; All other route buses come at high frequency.
These are some of the idiosyncracies that I have noticed while travelling so many times in buses

Posted by: sat on March 10, 2004 05:03 AM

Hi Stroppycow: your comment reminded me of something someone called “Artur” when he left a long comment in one of my really early postings about “London Transport Hell”. You can see his comments towards the bottom of the following page:

The bit that had me cracking up was his reference to “Hey - are we potatoes” !!

Sat: You will find Artur’s comments very sympathetic and entertaining as well I am sure!

Posted by: Jag on March 10, 2004 01:35 PM

Thanks, LOL.

Posted by: stroppycow on March 10, 2004 10:09 PM
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