35. 9.30am. Crammed in by the door.
‘This bus is going NOWHERE!’
It was actually the sirens that first alerted me to the problem. As I came round the corner towards the Camberwell Green bus stop, I heard before I saw the police cars arriving in their droves. Feeling a little uneasy I approached the bus stop, where three 35s had pulled up. This made me roll my eyes (you wait for ages and then three come along at once, etc.) until I realised the gravity of the situation.
Along the flanks of the buses was a horde of striking bus drivers in hi-vis yellow jackets, waving massive red UNITE flags and shouting slogans. The buses were stationary, and each filled to capacity with angry, frightened passengers. The reason they were stationary quickly became clear: the striking drivers had actually begun to sabotage them – turning the rearview mirrors, opening all the doors and even yanking open the engine covers at the back, preventing the buses from leaving the stop. I squeezed on to one of the 35s, next to a young man capturing the whole scene on his iPhone, and looked out. The striking drivers were amassed in the eye-line of our non-striking drivier, taunting him and waving their flags aggressively. That’s when one shouted, ‘This bus is going NOWHERE!’
I don’t know how he did it but our driver got us away from the stop and safely to the next one, where he got out and readjusted his mirrors and closed all the doors. He didn’t complain or even break a sweat. The man was a real hero of the morning.
I support workers’ right to protest if they feel wronged, but actual sabotage and intimidation is too far. Those UNITE drivers at Camberwell Green should be ashamed.
At the other end of the day, I found myself at Elephant & Castle waiting with an ever-growing crowd of people for one of the few buses that were in operation. When the 12 finally came along, it was as if, rather than being Londoners on our way home from work or play, we were refugees fighting to get on the last bus out of a warzone. People shoved each other, swore, streamed on to the bus through the back doors, ignoring the driver’s pleas to behave in an orderly fashion. It reminded me that it really doesn’t take much for civilised people to become a mob.
Not an edifying day.