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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 April 2017

Reader's comment: public transport

Buses and buggies: a driver speaks

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

'Alfred Babcock', bus driver, London

Angry letters in free London newspaper Metro this January asserted the rights of bus passengers with baby buggies. Other irate letters demanded priority for wheelchair users. This cacophony echoed the real arguments I hear on the bus I drive.

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley originally went to court after he was refused entry to a Yorkshire FirstGroup bus in 2012 when a mother with a pushchair refused to move. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that bus drivers are responsible for pressuring other passengers to move if a wheelchair user can't get on.

Heated

A dispute between a wheelchair user and a person with a buggy can generally be resolved amicably - especially when passengers realise my bus isn't moving until it is. But when things get more heated you really need a quiet word with the people involved to calm things down and resolve the matter.

Ironically, the people who could do that - conductors - were phased out as low-floor, wheelchair-accessible buses came to London.

I'm not allowed to leave the cab and I've no powers of enforcement - so how am I expected to sort out a dispute five metres behind me which I may not even be able to see?

Once the argument's over, if I still can't fit the wheelchair, I have to call the controller before I leave the stop. This seldom elicits a rapid reply from the controller. But understandably, it does provoke rapid enquiries from passengers as to why the bus is not moving.

And at a later stage I'll get questions from the controllers about why my bus is late. Meanwhile, management forces us to drive busy buses in heavy traffic up to the legal maximum five and a half hours without a break.

It's time to look at the bigger picture. Workers and poor people who use public transport shouldn't have to squabble with each other. Wheelchair users, parents with buggies and bus drivers are not enemies.

What we need is a massive expansion of public transport so there's room for all. Public services should be taken away from the private profiteers.

We need a party that represents the 99% which can fight against budget cuts and for public ownership.

The lorry driver unloading cases of burgers outside McDonald's and blocking my bus stop is another example of unplanned capitalism blindly setting workers against each other. It's not the lorry driver's fault.

In a planned socialist society, pensioners wouldn't need to get on buses with big trolleys they can hardly lift. They wouldn't need to go miles to the nearest supermarket because local shops have been pushed out of business and the ones that are left cost the earth.

A socialist society could bring many workers a shorter working week with no loss of pay so people wouldn't have to rush about so much. Then passengers and transport workers wouldn't be constantly put in situations where they find themselves in conflict.

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In The Socialist 19 April 2017:


What we think

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Buses and buggies: a driver speaks

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