Stress, abuse and long hours for London bus drivers

Stress, abuse and longer hours for bus drivers trying to make ‘headway’

A London bus driver

Bus drivers in London are being made to suffer for a system that is not fit for purpose.

Until recently buses in London ran using a ‘time card’, the idea being that the bus would arrive at certain points along the route at the designated time.

The only force working against that happening was, of course, traffic. London is becoming the most congested city in the world and getting buses to run to a timetable takes a lot of juggling.

Recently Transport for London (TfL) has removed the time cards and buses now run using ‘headway’ meters.

Headway meters in the driver’s cab show the distance between their bus and the one in front. The idea is that each driver keeps the same distance from the bus in front. The only problem with this is our old friend ‘traffic’.

Now if a bus is held up, then every bus behind it has to slow down, sometimes to a complete stop to maintain headway. Passengers complain as they want to get to work but the bus is at a standstill, sometimes on an empty road or at a bus stop for up to five minutes.

This is paving the way for drivers to be abused and assaulted as more and more passengers are getting upset.

The headway system is also inaccurate and drivers could, according to the meter, be ten minutes behind the bus in front but turn a corner to find they are right behind it.

The radio in the cab then chirps into life with an irate controller threatening to put the driver on report for being too early.


Even with little traffic drivers are held back by controllers as the headway needs to be correct.

Hours are getting longer, lunch breaks are getting shorter and finish times getting later and later. Drivers are taking more and more verbal abuse by controllers for simply trying to do the job with a system that does not work.

Some garages are having meetings soon to discuss what we intend to do about it. We will no doubt put in grievances about the situation but some will be calling for industrial action.

If TfL and the bus companies do not want to listen then this will be the only course of action left open to us.