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"My friend lives in London, and all I got was this lousy bus article"
Buses in general
Member Name: spacelamb
Buses in general
Date: 18/07/01, updated on 18/07/01 (140 review reads)
Advantages: cheap, get to know the city
Disadvantages: not always spotless, late-running services
You might have noticed that Londoners love to moan about their public transport (and everything else, for that matter), but I think our buses kick ass. And before the accusations come flying, I’m not a bus-spotter and I don’t go out in I LOVE BUSES tee-shirts. I do however belong to one of those fantastic charities that let you sponsor a disused bus from as little as £2 per week, and I wait by the letterbox every morning to see if I have received a new photo of my bus, or a letter from my bus telling me how its dull existence has been brightened by my couple of quid (family pack of Maltesers last week, the cheeky blighter, I am thinking of cancelling my subscription).
Of course, that was all lies. I’m just saying that amongst the general chaos of London Transport, buses can actually be quite a pleasant (and inexpensive) way to get around.
These bullet points are not terribly interesting, but uncommonly useful. I don’t mind if you skip them.
* London has four bus zones. Central London is zone 1, and then the others go outwards in concentric circles (well blobs) with zone 4 being the outside lane.
* A one-day, all zone-bus pass costs £2. A one-week, all-zone bus pass costs £9.50.
* A ‘travelcard’ allows you to use buses, tubes and trains and costs £4 per day (zones 1-2).
* Single journeys in or through zone 1 cost £1. In zones 2-4 they cost 70p.
* Single journeys on a night bus are £1.50 in zone 1, and £1 outside. Night bus routes run approximately every half an hour, but it generally seems much longer because you’re freezing your ass off and you’ve forgotten your mittens etc.
* www.londontransport.co.uk/buses is a well designed and genuinely useful website with loads of information on fares, timetables and so on.
Here endeth the bullet points.
WHY BUSES ARE BETTER THAN A WARM CROISSANT
1. You can’t take a croissant to work. Well you can, o
f course, but they don’t keep out the rain nearly so well. But then buses with jam aren’t very tasty. One-all then.
2. Buses are the best way of getting to know London. If you become reliant on the tube you never get to see how the places fit together, or realise how small the city actually is (honest).
3. The childhood thrill of sitting upstairs on the front seat / ringing the bell never really goes away.
4. It’s much cheaper than any other form of transport in the city (apart from walking and cycling of course, but you take your life in your hands doing either).
5. When you’ve been waiting in the cold for half an hour, a bus is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. The relief when you get on board is even better than finally going for a wee when you’ve been waiting for ages, if you see what I mean.
WHEN BUSES GO BAD (TONIGHT, CHANNEL 5, 10PM)
1. That old ‘joke’ about buses, where you wait forever for one and then three come along at once, is absolutely true. Especially when you’re running late. I don’t know why this should be.
2. That old ‘joke’ about buses being full of weirdos is also absolutely true. You can easily find yourself sitting next to a Maker of Strange Noises or Carrier of Bizarre and Smelly Objects.
3. Occasionally they can be kind of grimy, but they carry hundreds of thousands of people every day, so give them a break.
4. The congestion in zone 1 is so great that, even with bus lanes provided, it can take you the best part of an hour to cross the city. A similar tube journey would probably take about 20 minutes.
5. Someone invariably spews in the aisle of the night bus.
HOP ON, HOP OFF
There are two types of London bus these days. In bygone days, we only had the ‘hop on, hop off’ buses with the platforms at the back. These are all double-deckers, and a conductor comes round to check your passes or s
ell you a ticket from one of those old winding and whirring machines. The beauty of these is that you don’t have to wait for a bus stop, you can just leap out into the road when the bus comes to a standstill, which makes you feel very cool indeed. The conductor quite often shouts or gives you a parental, despairing look through the window, but it’s worth it. They are trying to phase these old style buses out on the grounds that they’re not terribly safe, which I think is a great loss indeed. On the new buses you have to show your pass to the driver as you board, and wait to be let off at a designated stop. Zzzzzzz. You can shove safety up your ass. I want danger. I want elderly ladies to tut-tut as I hurl myself from a not-quite-stationary bus and survive.
MY FAVOURITE BUS ROUTE
This is not, strictly speaking, my favourite bus route (although I am quite fond of it), but the one that I would recommend to any visitors to the city. Route number 12 shows a really interesting cross-section of London, while taking in a lot of the big tourist sights. It starts in Peckham, which is considered a ghetto and is one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden parts of London. It has a fabulous Salvation Army shop though (if you like that kind of thing) and is definitely worth visiting, if only for the contrast between that and your final destination – Notting Hill Gate. This is the home of most of London’s rich and famous, as well as the excellent Portobello market and Notting Hill Arts Club (one of London’s nicest – in my opinion – venues). In between you pass through Westminster, right past Big Ben, through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and along Oxford Street. What more do you want? Blood?
I would of course be delighted to hear other readers’ favourite bus routes (and reasons why). The best answer will win a ‘Drivers do it on buses’ keyring. I thank you.