Monday 1 February 2010 1.39pm
At my nearest bus stop, I have the choice of a 1 or 188 to take me into town. I always hope the 1 comes first, because the 188 does my head in. Clearly drivers are under strictest orders to obey their timetable because on no other route do they drive quite as slowly if they're ahead of time or allow the bus to stand stationary at bus stops for quite as long, 'in order to help regulate the service' (in the words of the robot-woman announcer, which by the way, is another subject for another day).
On Saturday, I boarded the 188 at Bricklayer's Arms. At the next stop (mystifying called Tower Bridge Road
, despite being on New Kent Road
), the driver announced that the bus would need to be held for at least seven minutes - but passengers wishing to move off quicker could disembark and get on another 188 that was right behind us. Half the bus's passengers disembarked and waited at the bus stop. A few seconds later, the second 188 sailed past the bus stop without even stopping, ignoring the outstetched arms flagging it down. The disgruntled passengers got back on the original 188 and waited. Once the bus driver eventually resumed the journey it was only two stops before, quelle surprise, the bus was delayed again at E&C while they changed driver.
And that's my biggest bugbear of all. Is the 188 the only bus where they change driver midway through the route? I take many other buses on many different routes, and haven't noticed it anywhere else. I would say that fifty per cent of the time I take the 188 northbound to E&C, it happens. It usually involves the bus being held for at least five minutes - which may not sound much but is annoying if you're in a hurry.
Sometimes the replacement driver is late or doesn't show up at all, so the bus waits... and waits... or just terminates early. How many times have I been on another bus that services New Kent Road
and witnessed it overtaking a 188 that is temporarily grounded while drivers swap shifts, or grounded full-stop after a no-show? Too many times to mention.
On one occasion, the replacement driver was there, ready to take over, but spent literally five minutes adjusting the wing mirror. Sitting down, deciding it wasn't right, getting up again to twist it slightly, and repeating the whole exercise at least ten times until I lost patience and got off the wretched bus.
Even when there is no change of driver at E&C, someone with a flourescent jacket and clipboard will always board the bus and have a chat with the driver, whilst passengers sit and quietly fume "get on with it!".
I'd like the 188 to stop drivers starting and ending their shifts at E&C. It might be convenient for staff, but too often it leads to inconvenience for passengers, whose needs should come first. And I'd like more research done into whether passengers prefer buses to be held in order to even out gaps in the service or whether, once they're on the bus, they just want the thing to get to its destination as quickly as possible.