I recently helped out at an evening event at the museum I volunteer for and by the time I finished, it was after nine o’clock when I left to catch my bus home.
As is usual at that time, the bus was packed and I was very lucky as I managed to get a seat at the front, and that was only because no-one else wanted to ask the person sitting on the outside seat to move!
My journey takes me down the Old Kent Road, oh how I remember spending many a Friday night in pubs with my friend, until eventually, we had lost our sober status by the end of the night. And I don’t want to think of how many times we walked back to my bedsit in New Cross Gate pissed out of our heads in the early hours of Saturday morning!
Anyway, back to this journey…
The bus stopped part way down the Old Kent Road to let more people on including a young woman, (probably in her late teens or early 20’s) who tried to pay for her fare with a £5 note. For whatever reason, the driver could not or would not take her fare; perhaps he had no change, I don’t know. This caused the girl to start shouting at the driver about how dare he refuse to let a young lone female travelling home late in the evening, get on his bus and that she could be attacked if made to walk home, that it was only a fiver and that he should have change, etc…
Which prompted another young woman, travelling with her toddler son to wade into the argument and also start shouting at the driver to let the first woman on and to get on with it as she needed to get her son home to bed. Of course, this had the opposite effect on the driver, who promptly switched off the engine.
The ‘exchange’ between with the women and the driver went on for about another five minutes and in the end he let the girl get on the bus. I don’t know if he took her money and managed to find change or if someone else paid for her, or he let her on for free, doesn’t matter, it got the bus moving again.
However, it got me thinking about travelling alone on public transport in the late evening. Was the driver responsible for ensuring that this young woman got to her stop safely if she neither had the money to pay for her fare or a valid Oyster Card (OC)? Should he have let her on for free? I would assume that he has a certain responsiblity to the passengers for their safety once they are on the bus, but how responsible is he for situations such as this? If he had refused to allow her to get on the bus and she subsequently got attacked, would any liability have gone his (or more likely the bus company’s) way if it could have been proven that he refused her entry on the bus? What would he have done if she had run onto his bus screaming that she had been attacked?
Then I wondered why she had not made sure that she had the correct change or a valid OC. As a regular bus traveller, I know that in central London, practically all the buses do not take cash fares and outside this zone, few buses like cash, especially notes and I have seen many a potential passenger be refused travel when this happens!
The women in my tale may have forgotten to load more money onto her OC or get change for her fiver but was it not her responsibility to ensure that she had the means to get home and not allow herself to get into this position especially at this time? We all forget things and I am no stranger to that, and I am lucky as I get an interest free loan for travel from my organisation. But if I didn’t have that loan, then making sure that I can get home by public transport at any time of the day or night is a number one priority for me.
Have any of you, especially the women, had similar experiences, and what happened? I would be interested to hear your comments.