Strike!

9/7/15

Chelsea – Waterloo – Richmond

There’s been quite a bit of commentary on the subject of how a walkout on the tube gives the general public an insight into what public transport is like for disabled and older travellers, things like not being able to access the tube and not being able to get onto full buses. This is true up to a point, but then when everyone is having a bad travel day somehow, unbelievably I manage to trump it.

Obviously, with no tubes, the roads in Chelsea were even busier than usual, which you wouldn’t believe was possible unless you’d seen it with your own eyes. I actually spoke with a woman who was 8 months pregnant, but who’d found it quicker and easier to take the 30 minute walk from Victoria than try to catch a bus or taxi. She admitted to taking two breaks to buy and drink a bottle of water, like this was a sign of weakness!

Anyway, I digress. I wasn’t so heroic. I waited, in the sun, for a bus which came after about 15 minutes. It pulled up short from the stop, positioned perfectly to prevent the ramp deploying, and deposited half a dozen over heated, stressed passengers. There was a brief dash down the pavement so people could fill the now vacated space and I stood in the drivers line of sight indicating, to the best of my ability, that I’d like the ramp. He closed the doors, as expected, to pull up a bit to where he could pop the ramp out. However, not as expected, he simply pulled away into an unusually flowing stream of traffic. Unfortunately, for him at least, I did manage to get the bus id number as he disappeared into the distance, but not the registration number.

I stood at the bus stop for a few minutes steaming and trying to decide what to do next, which really meant whether to wait or make another plan. The decision was rendered null when the next bus arrived before I’d come to a conclusion. Amazingly this bus was nearly empty, clearly a result of following so close to it’s sister. So although the trip to Waterloo took nearly an hour rather than the usual 30 minutes, I did at least have the pleasure of being on what must have been the only bus in London with free seats.

When we got to Waterloo fortune briefly glanced in my direction and pointed out the errant bus that had left me stranded, waiting at the stop to depart. I noted the rest of it’s details to make my complaint to TfL complete.

Waterloo was amazingly quiet and presented no problems getting the help I needed. I was even met efficiently at Richmond.

My day wasn’t quite over though. When my final bus came to deploy it’s ramp there was a certain Hokey Cokey functionality. Although the ramp was over the pavement, the last 6 inches kept appearing and disappearing. This presented a dilemma. The correct thing to do would be wait for the next bus, but after a long, hot journey the temptation was simply to take a run at it and hope. Have you ever been on the Cake Walk at the fair, the ride where you walk round as the floor moves, shifts and gyrates underneath you? I used to love that and I’ve not been on one for years. My choice was clear. I performed a rapid Health & Safety Assessment (Conclusion: What the hell.. Geronimo) and went for it, and disappointingly quickly found myself seated on the bus.

There was a similar adventure, but again with no real incident, when it came time to get off. I went to point out the broken ramp to the driver, but he made it clear he was already aware. I suspect he’d turned a blind eye to me boarding. Who says Health & Safety runs amok?

So you see, a Tube Strike might give people an inkling into the restrictions of accessible travel, but the truly weird and wonderful possibilities for cock-up mean the true experience will only ever be one you can understand through experience.

.. or reading this blog!

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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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