Let us, for one moment, discard the novelty Swinging London rose-tinted spectacles through which the Mayor of London has been urging us to view the latest model of open-platform omnibus. A rifle through the multitudinous volumes of Hansard reveals the realities of travel when such vehicles were commonplace in London:

One-man Buses (Accidents)

HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc267-8W 267W

Mr. Tom King

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether relevant statistics are yet available on the accident rate with one-man buses as opposed to those operated by a crew.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Indications are that casualties incurred while boarding or alighting are very much lower with one-man operated buses than with other buses. I am seeking information on collision accidents and will write to my hon. Friend.

London Buses
HC Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc755-62 755

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

… I am aware that some people still prefer to use the old Routemaster buses with their open platform entry, but buses with doors are much safer. The chances of a passenger having a serious accident getting on or off a bus are roughly 11 times greater on an open-platform bus.

HC Deb 19 May 1969 vol 784 cc157-80

Mr. Gresham Cooke

…I hope that the operation of the one-man operated buses will be extended, and that that will give London Transport a chance to prevent some of the fraud now going on. If I travel from Parliament Square to Victoria in the rush hour I could easily not pay my fare, because the conductor does not have time to go round to collect all the fares. I am certain that about 25 per cent. of the passengers on buses do not pay their fares for short distances in the rush hours.

London Buses: One-person Operation
HL Deb 21 February 1992 vol 535 cc1445-7

Lord Beloff

My Lords, is the Minister aware that as concerns passenger safety there is great merit in one-man operated buses? I have discovered this in both London and Brighton. The driver does not start until his passengers are safely accommodated. On the other hand, conductors have an appalling habit of ringing the bell before one has reached one’s seat. For an elderly and infirm person like myself this is a threat to life and limb.

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords. I believe that in my first Answer I said that the one-person operation has a better safety record. However, we should put that into context because all buses are a very safe form of transport and accidents are rare.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, does the Minister agree that to ask one man to operate a bus and collect fares is too much? If the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, were accepted it would add to the burden. Will the noble Viscount check with London Transport the suggestion that the accident rate has decreased since the introduction of one-man buses? It is my view that it has increased considerably.

Viscount Ullswater

No, my Lords. I tried to indicate that accidents on boarding and alighting have decreased. To answer the noble Lord’s other question, most passengers (70 per cent.) now use travel passes. To that extent, conductors would not make a great deal of difference on the speed of the majority of bus journeys. Most of the people getting on buses have passes, so the driver is only concerned with taking fares from the minority of passengers.

HC Deb 03 June 1946 vol 423 cc1766-84

Sir W. Wakefield

…Why cannot tickets be issued at the queues by machine or some other means in order to ease the work of conductors and conductresses at peak hours?…

Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

…I do ask the Minister to exercise a little imagination in dealing with this problem. For example, has he considered issuing books of tickets, say, 25 1½d. or 2d. tickets, to those who wish to travel regularly on buses, so that when they walk on to the bus the ticket collector can tear off a ticket and does not have to bother to collect fares and punch tickets? We are thinking not only of the comfort of the passengers, but of the comfort and the amenities of the ticket collector, and I understand that the reason why this Order is introduced is that the ticket collectors found it difficult to collect the fares and issue the tickets in a crowded bus. We are thinking of ways and means whereby the ticket collector’s job could be made a little less hard than perhaps it is in a crowded bus at the moment. Several points have been mentioned, such as automatic machines at the big queues, selling of tickets by inspectors, in order to relieve the conductors on the buses.

Ticket machines at bus stops? Pre-paid tickets? It’d never catch on…


6 Responses to The Open Platform – Lessons From History

  1. Tom says:

    “Mr. Eldon Griffiths”

    Was my first MP, as it happens. Known as ‘The Member for Orange County’ due to the length of time he spent a long way away from his constituency. Got his long service knighthood in the end.

  2. Where_art_thou_ken says:

    What would Viscount Ullswater and Lord Bottomley know about catching buses anyway? Surely that form of transport is for the working class.
    Still if it’s true and Lord Beloff really did catch buses – then it shows how far backwards politics has gone as I havne’t ever seen any modern MP or Mayor (except Ken) on any form of public transport except on opening day for a photo opportunity.

  3. Nigel says:

    I thought hopping on and off Routemasters not at a designated stopping place was contrary to by-laws. Was I wrong? If so, hy did so many conductors tell people off for doing it?

  4. Helen says:

    Nigel: you are correct, it was strictly against the rules. The conductors on the RM I got to and from secondary school always used to shout at us for doing so, not, so they told us because they cared about us getting injured, but because they’d have to fill in an accident report.

  5. Guano says:

    All open-platform buses would have a notice warning you not to get on and off except at stops. The conductors’ rule-book would tell him/her to discourage getting on and off between stops and to prevent it when possible, and this would be emphasised n training; you wouldn’t get your badge without knowng the rules. Perhaps Boris wants to get around this by not having an actual conductor who knows about this sort of thing!

  6. Helen says:

    I suspect the Borismaster will end up having its “shower curtain jobby” (as described by Boris at Mayor’s Question Time a few days ago) permanently shut. Why design a vehicle which has a feature so dangerous that it requires a supervisor to be permanently present to ensure safe operation?

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