Socialist Worker

Little Platform, Big Stage: A glimpse of working life on the buses

by Amanda Logan, London bus worker
Issue No. 2110

All aboard

All aboard

BBC4 is showing this Arena documentary about life as a London bus conductor as part of its London Transport season.

Bus conductors have been phased out in recent years, along with the iconic Routemaster buses. The documentary focuses on the different lives of about a dozen conductors.

Interviewees range from West Indians who arrived in the 1960s to young men and women who took up the job in the early 1990s.

Some of the West Indian conductors talk about the racism that they faced while doing the job. There were even cases where conductors were assaulted.

Bus drivers today still have to deal with racist comments and abuse from a small minority of passengers. I would have liked to have heard more about how such issues were dealt with.

Those who arrived in London from the Caribbean spoke of their surprise at being in a big city, and at being in the front line of a service used by so many people.

The overall impression I got was that they loved their job, although at times it could be stressful.

I would say this is still the case today – although there isn’t as much interaction with the public any more as all buses in London are now driver-only. These were introduced in 1970 and many conductors re-trained as drivers.

I found the Arena film to be very honest in its approach. It was refreshing to see time being taken to interview people who are vital to the functioning of a global city such as London.

Arena – Little Platform, Big Stage
directed by Zimena Percival
7pm, Saturday 19 July, BBC4

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Article information

Wed 16 Jul 2008, 18:58 BST
Issue No. 2110
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