Sunday 21 July 2013

London, Saturday July 6th : "Cool" or "Hot"? [7]

fbb rode from Hampstead Heath (South End Green) on the top deck of thr Borismaster at the very front on the right.
And cool it wasn't. The Daily Mail is not renowned for its low key even-handed journalism, but ...

Nursery nurse Lucyanna Hiscock, 25, from Pimlico, said: 'Everyone I know hates the buses. They look nice but there are no windows (she means no opening windows) and the air conditioning doesn't work. And at night they close the back doors so you're completely shut in. It was so hot the other day I thought I was going to faint.'

Passengers went on Twitter to express their fury. One described the conditions as 'hotter than magma'. Another dubbed the buses 'moving saunas'. Others called on TfL to hand out water to passengers.

The problem led to the buses being branded 'cauldrons on wheels' after windows were omitted by their designer Thomas Heatherwick  (they mean opening windows); best known for his Olympic cauldron. He feared that they would 'ruin the efficiency' of the on-board cooling units.

Temperatures recorded at 1pm yesterday on the upper deck of a No 24 bus reached 30.4C, more than 7C hotter than outside. Humidity hit 77 per cent, almost double that on the Tube and 15 points higher than Asian countries such as Malaysia. Heat levels on some of the buses were found to have exceeded the maximum allowed for transporting farm animals across Europe.

fbb's steed was, for London, lightly loaded with no more than 20 passengers maximum at any point in the hour-long journey, and it was most definitely NOT cool. What was particularly worrying was that one (regular) passenger confided in her travelling companion that it was nice to be on "one of these buses" with the air conditioning working. fbb dreads to think what it would have been like if it wasn't working.

it ain't half hot, mum!

A church chum who used to design and sell air conditioning for trains has told fbb that the units fitted in UK rolling stock are barely adequate for a "normal" warm summer and hopelessly inadequate for a heat wave. That's why they break down. Has this policy of "ecomomy" made the Borismaster into an omnibological sweatshop?

So on his return run from Pimlico, fbb sat downstairs, at the back and watched the "conductor" at work. It wasn't much cooler despite the open platform.
This feature is one of the really controversial bits of the New Bus. Boris wanted a back platform and a pole so he could leap on and off and get mown down by passing traffic. And a few brave souls did just that. (Poor sentence construction; they leapt on and off but didn't get mown down!).
So what, exactly, does this man do. Firstly he has nothing to do with fares or tickets, although he may encourage passengers to "touch in" with their Oyster Card. Both "conductors" on fbb's journeys made no real attempt to examine the one day Travelcard. fbb suspects that any rail ticket (valid or invalid) would have been treated with equal disdain!

But look at the position of chummy's right hand. What is he doing?

Answer, he's ringing the bell!! Ting ting and away! Sadly, for the nostalgia lovers amongst us, the bell is completely silent ...
... although there might be a flashing light for the driver. Mostly fbb's "conductors" stood on the platform, hanging on to the pole, in a valiant attempt to lower their body temperature to less than boiling.

So what should the "conductor" be doing.

Here is a summary from GoAhead's advert for staff to "conduct" on route 11 when that goes "Boris" in September.
The primary role of the Passenger Assistant is to travel the length of the route (so no nipping off for an ice cream at Camden, then?) and ensure that passengers board and alight the bus safely. You will also be required to signal to the driver when it’s safe to depart a bus stop. As part of the role it’s your responsibility to be visible to passengers (difficult to be invisible, but if you are, then don't apply) by patrolling both the lower and upper deck and be proactive in assisting with general enquiries, monitoring the wheelchair space and asking people to clear the area if a wheelchair user wishes to board. You will also be responsible for encouraging ...

... passengers to touch in with their oyster/contactless payment cards and ensuring that any litter is removed at the end of each trip.

If the automatic wheelchair ramp fails you will be required to deploy the ramp manually. (A big challenge, there!)

Candidate is required to have a positive attitude and remain resilient at all times. (especially resilient when being crushed by peak hour loadings)
 Deal with passengers in a friendly and courteous manor.(
sic! or perhaps in a castle, or a country cottage! Perhaps be better at spelling than GoAhead management?)
 Excellent communication skills with the ability to interact with large groups of people, good spoken English essential. (
especially when dealing with foreign tourists; just shout louder and they will understand)
 You must have exceptional customer service skills with a natural flair of providing clear and concise instructions and for going ‘the extra mile’. (
I'm a bit tired, conductor, can you and your mate run me over Chelsea Bridge to get to my mam's flat.)
 Ability to use a PDA/SMART device for providing up to date passenger information. (
don't bother to ask if you don't know what one of these is because we don't either; that's why we use meaningless initials)

FOUR PAGES of this; for a bus conductor's job. Really?
The Mail (predictably) thinks this is tosh.
The Plain English Campaign thinks this is tosh. They said that the advert was "gobbledegook."

And candidates are told not to think of applying without a CV. "I have been doing a lot of standing at the dole office. And I have patrolled all the local factories to try and get a job. So I have become very resilient. So please ...
... Gissa job! I can do that. I can be a bus conductor. I've got my badge."
fbb predicts that customer assistants conductors and open back platforms will be a short lived phenomenon as harsh economic conditions mean that savings have to be made. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

Oh, yes. What is this that fbb espied from his back seat?
Look closely. It's an old new bus for London, complete with driver and customer assistant on the open back platform. And, in a design revolution un-considered by Heatherwick Consultants**, it has opening windows.
Now what a good idea.

**Heatherwick Consultants - designers of the Borismaster.

 Next Bus Blog : Monday 22nd July 

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