It's not easy being green
10th January 2010
... Comments

I’m a big fan of Kingston’s recycling programme and I’m pretty fastidious about sorting out my peelings from my paper. In fact it feels quite strange when I stay with my parents or friends who don’t recycle to the extent that we do.

However, there is one thing that scuppers my efforts to be environmentally responsible and that’s my car. And I’m afraid I do hold London United Busways and our buffoon of a mayor, Boris Johnson, responsible.

I just find the bus service so awful. Admittedly, it’s never been my favourite mode of public transport. All that jolting around and being packed like sardines is so off-putting. As is the waiting around at bus stops – especially at this time of year.

Destination lottery

One of the worst services is the 281 between Kingston and Tolworth.  There are times when I’ve made it back to Surbiton from central London in less time than I’ve waited for the 281 to complete my journey.  Unfortunately, it’s now the only bus from Surbiton to Tolworth since the 406 and 418 routes changed. 

My partner uses it regularly to and from work. He’s often frustrated because it frequently unexpectedly terminates between stops on Claremont Road in Surbiton.  So passengers catch the bus in Kingston expecting to go to Tolworth only to find themselves unceremoniously turffed off and having to wait for another bus on which there may or may not be room.

On one instance, the bus he was on was so crowded that people were standing upstairs as well as downstairs. That meant that some people wouldn’t be able to get on the next bus and would have had to wait goodness knows how long to continue their journey.

What made it worse was that the bus they had been thrown off sat for a further 20 minutes!  (which also gives an indication of how long they had to wait).

I witnessed it first hand on Saturday when we went into Kingston by bus. As we rounded the corner from Penrhyn Road into Surbiton Crescent, we got the announcement that the destination had changed and that the bus would terminate in Surbiton.

There was nothing to tell passengers what we should do next. There is such a thing as a transfer ticket which the driver hands to one person. The rest of the passengers are somehow supposed to know this. They’re also supposed know who the chosen one is so they can follow them on to the next bus. In other words, it’s chaos.

It’s not fair to the drivers as they have to take the flack for a decision that’s made by someone sitting in nice, warm, comfortable office.

Graham has phoned to complain about this phenomenon and has been told that it happens when there are too many buses going in one direction. However, on Saturday all that would have happened is that the bus we had to leave would have joined the traffic jam going back into Kingston caused by the burst water main outside Wilkinson’s.

The last time he complained was just before Christmas. That’s when the bus sat there empty for 20 minutes while the people who had previously been passengers, froze.

What incensed him on that occasion was that the driver admitted he’d known in Eden Walk that the bus was going to terminate. At that point, anyone going to Tolworth had the choice of two other buses!

He also admitted it was his first day and he didn’t know the procedures.  So why hasn’t London United trained him properly?  Not only does it inconvenience their customers, it puts their drivers in a difficult, and potentially, vulnerable situation.  And on that subject, what kind of customer service is that? 

Strange notion of customer service

Image how long your business would survive if you took money off people for a service, then withdrew it without warning before you delivered.  And left your customers without a clue as to what happened next. In the letter Graham received from London United’s staff manager, he was told that it’s done to make sure services run to scheduled time tables (yeah, right because that happens doesn’t it?!)

I had to snigger at the ridiculous use of language in the letter (sorry, can’t help myself) as the author attempted to sound official –

‘I realise how frustrating it can be when a bus fails to traverse to its full destination.’ Traverse? Why not ‘complete its journey/ route’? Or ‘travel to its destination’?   I know. Why use the correct word when you can shove in a wrong one and convince yourself it sounds slick?

But now I’ve traversed off my route. OK back with buses. 

The other thing that irks me is the ludicrous flat fare. It costs me as much to get into Surbiton from where I live as it does to get to Kingston. So it would cost me £4 for a round trip.

I quite often meet people for one-to-ones over coffee in Surbiton and I could walk there in 25 minutes. However, as I run my own business I don’t always have time (admittedly, it’s quicker than waiting for the 281).  Nor do I want to walk back with bags of heavy shopping.

I’m not proud of this but until the bus service is drastically improved, my green credentials will be wanting. But at least I’ll be on time for meetings.








About the Author

Elaine S

Member since: 7th November 2009

I'm a freelance copywriter and I help my clients communicate clearly and succinctly with their audiences. I choose the words, style and tone of voice that will engage their potential and existing clients,...

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