The Hot and Cold of Customer Service


Richmond – Waterloo – Brixton – Return

I love the summer. Warm weather really suits me, and apparently suits the chair too because it seems to run faster, smoother and the battery lasts longer. Hot weather on public transport is miserable though. Big windows magnifying the suns heat, but too few of them open to create air movement. But needs must, when you’ve got to travel, you’ve got to travel.

The first bus, as it so often does, had a buggy in the wheelchair space. After a brief negotiation the mother took the buggy off the bus so I could get on. As she came back on the driver began to object. It’s his bus so of course what he says goes, but by the time he’d finished objecting I was settled and the buggy was tucked in behind me, out of the way. Reluctantly he caved in, “Just this once” were his exact words. This kind of uncompromising approach really doesn’t help the cause in the wheelchair/buggy battle.

The train to Waterloo was a delightful oasis of air conditioning. In fact it was a little too cold. Shame I couldn’t store the extra chill for use on the bus later!

The bus to Brixton from Waterloo is usually a simple, direct if rather full affair. Unfortunately there are major roadworks around Kennington and these, combined with more traffic than usual (if such a thing is possible) meant that the great bus god on high decided to terminate this bus early and turn it round. Consequently we were all disgorged onto the pavement just past the Oval cricket ground.

I love The Oval, but being dumped in an unfamiliar part of London is never fun, and in this case it was particularly challenging. The bus had pulled up short of the stop, and once I looked round I realised why. The pavement at the stop was built up more than a foot above the road. So I was at a stop not knowing which bus to catch to get to my destination, and no bus was going to be able to put the ramp out anyway.

Fortunately I was spotted and rescued by a driver obviously waiting to change shift. After commenting, unfavourably, on the behaviour of her colleague (I’ll leave you to work out what that euphemism really means, but remember the south London accent!) She sorted out where I was heading and then practically stepped out in front of the next appropriate bus to flag it down and make sure it pulled up short at a suitably low piece of pavement.

Unfortunately, the driver of the new bus didn’t know the stops on the route. This wouldn’t have been an issue except that an advertising banner on the outside of the bus blocked my view out of the window. This meant I had little idea where we were so was reliant entirely on the iBus display. With some concentration and a little luck I did manage to get off at the right stop.

I celebrated getting to my destination with an ice cream. I thought I deserved it.

Fortunately the trip back was both cooler and uneventful.

There are some people working on public transport who really understand customer service and go above and beyond to make sure it works for travellers. Then there are others who don’t!


About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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