By LDRS Reporter Jessie Mathewson
Payments on London buses will be phased back in from Saturday, under the terms of the Transport for London (TfL) bailout agreed last week.
The transport authority banned bus passengers from entering through the front door on most buses to protect drivers – and scrapped fares at the same time.
Oyster readers on many London buses are near the driver cabin, and the area has been roped off to keep staff safe from infection.
But TfL must now reintroduce payments, as a condition of the £1.6 billion bailout agreed with the Government late last Thursday (May 14).
From May 23, fares will be reintroduced on more than 1,200 buses serving 85 routes.
Single decker buses with only one door will now require passengers to tap in – previously they had been free to ride.
On the new Routemaster – the so-called “Boris bus” – passengers will still board from the middle door, but will have to tap in when they do.
But most double decker buses have just one Oyster reader next to the driver’s cabin – and that area remains roped off to the public. These buses will still be free to ride.
TfL said middle door boarding and scrapping fares were “temporary measures” during the pandemic, and more buses will be taking payments in weeks to come.
All buses will be fitted with a protective film to block off gaps in the driver cabin, including the gap where cash used to be passed from passenger to driver.
This is on top of a vinyl screen already fitted on all buses to cover breathing holes in the cabin.
Once this is complete, buses will return to normal front-door entry and compulsory payment, TfL said.
Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander said she was pleased that the changes would continue to protect “heroic” bus workers.
“To keep us all safe, it’s imperative that Londoners who have to travel on our network wear a non-medical face covering, follow the signage and avoid the busiest times,” she said.
Ms Alexander said public transport is a “precious resource” and urged Londoners to walk or cycle if possible.
But drivers, who asked the Local Democracy Service not to report their names, warned the changes could put profit above safety, and payment would be hard to enforce.
“Drivers are still dying, infections are still high, and we’re talking about collecting revenue – it just doesn’t make sense,” said one.
“There needs to be a greater understanding of how the virus is transmitted on buses,” he added.
A second driver said Oyster readers should be moved from near drivers to the back of buses, but claimed “no one wants to foot the bill”.
And a third driver warned enforcing payment would be impossible during a pandemic.
He asked “With the revenue inspectors all furloughed, who’s going to police this?
“The usual suspects will still get on and not pay, with or without the revenue inspectors working.”