16 December 2005

He Just Doesn't Understand

The normally very sensible Wesley launches an uncharitable and unwarranted attack on the much-loved Routemaster bus, which, as of last week, is essentially defunct.

The Routemaster, which almost anyone who's ever seen a British film or TV show would instantly identify as the "classic" London double-decker, was killed off by a combination of bureaucracy (I believe European Union rules had something to do with it, but we generally suspect that about any insalutary development, including a band of rain showers moving in from the general direction of France) and misguided PC zeal.

The absolutely brilliant thing about the Routemaster was that you could hop on and off as needed, rather than wait for officially designated bus stops. This did lead to the occasional injury when someone overestimated his or her athletic ability or underestimated the speed of the bus, but for the most part, it was a thoroughly sensible arrangement. Now, on the new "improved" buses, you can be caught in a traffic jam in Oxford Street and wait 10 or 20 minutes for the bus to crawl along to the next bus stop, which might be all of 50 feet away.

Also, the Routemaster system, where the driver concentrates on one thing only, driving, and leaves the conductor to collect fares and sell tickets, saved a great deal of time for passengers. Now drivers are forever having to sit there waiting for some lummox trying to find something smaller than a £20 note or explaining to some irate tourist that, "No, we don't accept euros. Yes, I know the United Kingdom is technically part of Europe. But no, we don't accept euros."

The PC bit? Well, you see, the Routemasters weren't accessible to the disabled. Never mind that on average you see one wheelchair rider every week or two on London buses, that the majority of London buses are totally accessible, or that it would be cheaper and more efficient to run a door-to-door van service for the disabled than to totally refit the entire transport system.

Anyway, the Routemasters are gone, except as a tourist attraction on a couple "Heritage Routes," and London is a poorer place for it. On the other hand, if that's the worst indignity we have to suffer this year at the hands of London Transport (excuse me, forgot it's been "rebranded," at God knows what expense, as Transport For London), it's safe to say we could have done a lot worse.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

Wow, that may be the first time anyone has ever called me "normally very sensible". :-)