Boris! Where are our buses? And where are you?

Get stuck in the snow this afternoon? Luckily my woes were minor. My thighs are feeling the benefit of a two-mile walk from Greenwich town centre to Charlton in thick sludge, but I’m annoyed that I’ve had to knock on the head plans to go for a festive drink with an old colleague I haven’t seen in ages. Oh, I’m also kicking myself that I decided not to take my camera out this afternoon, since it was drizzling when I left home…

From 4pm, this bit of south-east London has been murder to get around. I had to abandon a 386 bus on Vanburgh Hill, Blackheath, after two cars collided in front of us when the snow was fresh on the ground. By the time I got into Greenwich, the streets were covered in filthy slush.

When I left at 5.40, the whole place had come to a standstill, with traffic not budging in both directions. Passing the top of Westcombe Hill, a 108 bus was parked up, the driver clearly not going to risk the hill. Through the subway, and three 380s had been parked up on Eastcombe Avenue, Charlton, blocking the road (pictured right). This wasn’t going to be Transport for London’s finest hour.

Back home, and what words of wisdom did Transport for London chairman and mayor Boris Johnson have to say on the issue? Er, nothing. Except…

Right, Boris. But what about the buses? With the mainline network totally up the spout, would it be worth me taking the bus to North Greenwich to catch the Tube? Had they all been taken off the road? It was looking like it… but there was nothing on Transport for London’s website at all. Hunting around to see what had happened to the 380, there was just this message which didn’t appear until 7.20pm.

And what about the 486, which would take me to North Greenwich? Was it trying to navigate the steep hill of Charlton Church Lane? No luck with TfL…

The words “piss up” and “brewery” inevitably sprang to mind. I ended up gathering through Twitter that it really wasn’t worth venturing out, thanks to Political Animal, who came home by boat to North Greenwich but found himself having to walk it.

Twitter 1, TfL 0.

Only a fool would blame the mayor for the snow, but it takes a fool to be in charge of a transport operation which is incapable of telling people that there’s serious disruption because of snow and it’d be easier not to bother. So why the silence? We all know the stick Boris got last time, and his reaction to it

Is TfL scared of the reaction if it publicly announces the bus network is up the spout? Ignore the fact that there’s empty buses sat all over south London at the moment and hope it’ll all go away? Or is it just incompetent? Whatever, it’s dropped a serious, serious clanger tonight. Yes, sometimes the weather can deliver some nasty surprises. But it’s criminal not to tell people about it, especially when most are on their way home. I’ve a feeling that, for many people, the scales might have fallen from their eyes tonight.

Is Boris a coward or just inept? Perhaps he might tell us some day. When he’s done his recycling.

11.10PM UPDATE: It’s good to know Boris got home alright… and finally TfL got its arse into gear, several hours late. Although without mentioning several routes have been effectively suspended.

It also probably wasn’t the best week to have shifted London Travel Information to a premium rate number.

(See also: Boris Watch)


  1. I waited at North Greenwich for an hour tonight – two 472’s went past with ‘out of service’, two 108’s and two 188’s and each one couldn’t set off due to the amount of people trying to get on. It was very very grim. Ended up walking home in the slush.
    Not looking forward to the battle in tomorrow!

  2. From Boris’s 2008 election manifesto: “Therefore, I will introduce live bus mapping to coincide with the introduction of iBus. There will be an interactive map on the TfL website which will allow users to
    access a map of their local area, and see where their bus is in real time. This will enable people to know about any delays immediately, and change their
    plans accordingly. I believe that opening access to information like this will be an extra tool for the
    commuter to make their lives easier.”

    Every London bus has had iBus fitted since April 2009 – the interactive map would’ve been exactly what was needed to keep commuters informed today.

  3. I doubt BJ will tell us anything. Does he ever reply to any of his tweets? I’ve sent him a few replies and never had a response (except for when his Kelly Brook tweet mysteriously disappeared…)

    The bloke is a muppet. As those of us with sense knew *before* he was elected.

  4. I caught some of Mayor’s Question Time last week – during which, it started to snow. Just as things were wrapping up, someone shouted to Boris from the public gallery to ask if TfL were going to cope with it. His instant response was: “TfL are staring at the heavens – TfL are poised!”

    Maybe not so much?

    (I’m not in London at the moment, but my girlfriend texted to say that there’d been about an hour of sleet which caused everything to grind to a halt.)

  5. You could’ve come and said hello to little old moi. I was a very sad kitty at the station today – I felt so helpless. 🙁

  6. I tried to head home by car just after 4pm eastwards over Shooters Hill, at that stage only sleet, but it turned to thick snow quickly. Absolute car hell both ways, slipping and sliding. Bus diagonal against pavement down hill. Managed to park my car against pavement and walked back to Blackheath. Later that night walked back – no alternative – to rescue car as snow had turned to slush, so driveable. Buses seemed to have effectively stopped, met people walking from New Cross, Lewisham to get home to Welling, Bexley. Still almost gridlock eastwards over hill at 10 pm plus. TfL no help to people.

  7. I left the office early at 4.30 only to get home at 7.15. I didn’t even bother with the buses but I understand that at 8ish they were still not worth bothering with. Thanks to TFL and Southeastern (who are, incidentially, running a Saturday service today) I stood at Charing X for an hour waiting for a train that was delayed by the snow, a broken down train and points failures at all three major London train stations. Then for half an hour the only trains running went to Orpington and Tunbridge Wells. All in all miserable and wholly predictable. The lack of information on any mode of transport was shocking. Wish I had the good sense to get the boat now!

  8. “His instant response was: “TfL are staring at the heavens – TfL are poised!””

    This is it – we don’t mind the quips and witticisms, quite the opposite, but it’s the habit of Boris thinking that that’s all that matters that grates somewhat.

  9. Luckily had yesterday off work so avoided the chaos, but with people I know trying to get home I was checking for updates on the net – absolutely useless from tfl and southeastern. I too relied on twitter, and it was far more up-to-date, reliable and realistic in its reporting. Tfl and the mainstream news could harness twitter so much better, yet instead we are left in the dark.

  10. “What a nightmare, I left work at 4.30 to get to Greenwich by 6 to pick up my 2year old daughter. I got to North Greenwich and not a single bus, member of staff or explanation was to be seen. I ended up walking through the slush, under the car park of the A2 and down the gridlocked Tunnel Approach. I am 7 months pregnant and was furious at the lack of information, gritting, attempt at resolving the dire situation that had unfolded. Many hours later nothing had changed and it took my husband two hours to make the same 15min journey!
    What is going on in Greenwich – the buses,tubes,roadworks and general traffic are beyond belief and seem to perpetually get worse. How Seb Coe thinks we will successfully host the equestrian events of 2012 I really don’t know. I might open a shop selling good walking shoes and maps.

  11. Yes, Twitter was the only place where you could find out what was happening. I think all the Southeastern stations should set up accounts to exchange info 🙂

    I was trying to get a train towards Kent from Maze Hill at ~17.15 yesterday. The staff member (at least there was one I suppose) couldn’t tell us anything – she got through to her boss on the phone eventually who also couldn’t get through to anyone and had no train info. At one point every single Kent-bound train on the screen read ‘delayed’ with no ETA, and trains listed went back to 14.00 hours or so!

    By the time I reached Dartford they’d turned off the platform signs and were announcing trains over the tannoy, which made much more sense. Unfortunately at Crayford (~7pm) they were doing the same but I think the last member of staff was heading home for the evening, leaving no info for later travellers at all.

    Really can’t understand why sharing information is so difficult for them with all the technology available to them (or why the trains are so badly disrupted by this weather, but that’s another story…)

  12. I was using twitter yesterday to get cabbies to come round to the rank at North Greenwich Station, especially as the Jubilee line cocked up later on into the night once the crowds from the O2 started emerging. Twitter was my saving grace! So many people were coming to us from London Bridge thinking they could get buses, but I had to turn them away. Luckily, some people I could help by shifting them onto the DLR at Canning Town for Woolwich Arsenal, but apart from that, anybody trying to get into Kent was buggered. I think it’s appalling the whole of the SE was practically cut off, starting with the buses (I don’t know what ‘Severe delays’ is on the buses, but if getting one 472 in the course of 2 hours is anything to go by, I might has well have put ‘Suspended’ on the boards) and then South Eastern. Then London Bridge Station had the audacity to call us up and say, “We’re not closed as everybody keeps saying – we just haven’t got any overhead trains coming or going.” That sounds like CLOSED to me!

  13. TfL clearly dropped a clanger by not sharing the information that lots of services were disrupted. The fact that so many bus services were compromised wasn’t TfL’s fault. That dishonour goes to all the local councils who yet again sat on their fat chuffs, saving our money by not despatching the gritters in time, and many cases, at all. The weather was long expected, the temperature stayed around freezing for days and yet virtually no gritting. When the orders came to grit it was many hours too late the damage was done. The same is true on London’s outskirts; Dartford, Reigate to name just 2. I have been out & about between SELondon, Kent & Surrey non-stop since Thursday morning. THere was some evidence of salting bus routes Thursday morning before it snowed but I’ve seen just 1 grit lorry since, anywhere. The whole area compromised by 3 inches of snow! It is inexcusable and the blame lies squarely in each town hall. It was the same in February. Boris is a chump and his team didn’t tell us what they knew we needed to know but he didn’t make it snow and he ain’t responsible for not sending out the gritters.

  14. An honest cabbie told me he would gladly take me to pick up my daughter from nursery (noticing my large baby bump) but then also honestly said that once he got out of North Greenwich rank we would likely just sit in traffic and he would effectively be robbing me. So I walked! No grit/salt on paths or roads!

  15. […] he could bring himself round to parking. Then of course we got the message we were all waiting for: London Buses were running with ‘Severe delays’ on all routes through the South East and we had ticket acceptance on London Underground. They might as well have said they were […]

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