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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

It's snow time!

You’ll have noticed how bad the weather has been and how badly transport has been disrupted. The calling-off by British Airways cabin staff of their strike disappeared from the news as troubles at Eurostar and other disruptions took over.

Our staff did a tremendous job in keeping things going where we could and where it was safe to do so. By Monday it was London’s turn to really get a dose and services were widely disrupted that evening.

There is always lots of media coverage at this time – stories of people stranded, those who failed to get home and those ‘special treats’ missed. The key always is information and this is a big task, especially for bus passengers where they are spread out across thousands of stops, not gathered at stations.

Sometimes the trouble is invisible: passengers waiting on what seem to be perfectly open roads can’t understand why there is no service. Of course there is a major disruption up the line somewhere else. Countdown in London (and other forms of Real Time Information elsewhere) is always a help on those stops which are fitted and increasingly we find people check the internet for up-to-date news.

We are working hard now to make sure very up-to-date information is posted on our websites. The advent of smartphones now places internet access in the hands of many individuals in the street as well as at home or office.

Quite a lot is written in the press about keeping services running during really bad weather conditions. Last year TfL and the Mayor were hounded by the press when services were stopped (under such headlines about how even Hitler didn’t halt the bus service!).

Let’s be clear about this – if it is not safe to run we can’t do so. (Also modern buses have 60% of the weight at the back and they rely much more on electrics than the old ones did). And whilst there is some merit in ‘pressing on’ through thick and thin, at snail’s pace, and ‘getting through’, the truth is that your passengers have largely disappeared – preferring not to stay out in the awful conditions. If you are not careful, you end up with the fleet damaged and suffering from the effects of freezing up and the staff exhausted. When the thaw comes and everyone wants to get back on your services to go to work or shopping, you are on your knees with too few serviceable buses and not enough staff.

So – no heroics but we'll will do what we can. And we should be ready for when the public is demanding a full service again (which can of course be the next day!).

Meantime well done to everyone who did get people to the end of their journeys safely this week and let’s hope for calmer conditions across the holidays!

More to come? A snowy scene at Hengrove depot, Bristol from last February.


1 comment:

  1. I have every sympathy with bus operators at the best of times, and even more so when there are additional challenges, such as extreme traffic and weather. Against that, I also have a lot of sympathy with those who criticised the mayor and his advisors last year. Clearly there were roads and even whole areas which were too dangerous to serve. There were also garages which were inaccessible, and staff who could not make it in, but, and this is a big but, a 100% pullout was felt my many to be a severe over-reaction; health and safety culture gone mad and the like. They point to the numerous main roads which were perfectly passable, garages which are on main roads, and good numbers of staff who made it in. The feeling that surely some services could have been operated safely, even if over only part of the normal route, is one I can easily understand.

    Passengers, even if there are fewer of them, do applaud and reward those who at least try to overcome the obstacles.

    I hope this enjoyable blog also has room for alternate views. Please do keep it up, and best wishes of the season.