A group of churchgoers staged a spontaneous sit-in when their
bus driver flatly refused to literally go the extra mile. Sarah
Harrison reports on a rare case of passenger power
PASSENGERS who campaigned for a bus route to be extended were
forced to stage a sit-in after a driver refused to go the extra
They were left seething when the Metroline driver ordered them
off two stops before the 234 bus had reached its new destination.
When he tried to throw them out at the old route ending at East
Finchley Tube station, three women friends returning home from
church dug their heels in.
“The driver wanted them to get off but they said, ‘Oh no you
don’t,’ and stuck to their guns,” said Eric Dalton, whose wife Joy
was one of the passengers. “The grumpy driver finally relented and
took them the next two stops.
“I don’t think he knew what had hit him when they refused to get
off,” Mr Dalton added. “They were well within their rights and
eventually persuaded him that it made perfect sense.”
The protest was among several teething problems to affect the
newly extended route, which ends at Sussex Gardens in Highgate.
Following the difficulties, a spokesman for the bus company said
all drivers on the 234 service had been firmly told about the route
change and he did not “anticipate any more problems”.
Last month, Transport for London (TfL) ordered drivers to extend
the route after years of campaigning by commuters.
Mr Dalton, who is secretary of Sussex Gardens Residents’
Association and spearheaded the campaign, said that it was
“ludicrous” to be stranded at the Tube station watching empty buses
continue up Great North Road – straight past Sussex Gardens.
“To watch the empty buses whiz past in the exact direction we
wanted to go in was just a complete waste.
“They needed to carry on up the road in order to turn the bus
around at Bakers Lane to start the route again,” he said.
“It was always common sense to keep the passengers on, but it
was very hard work in convincing the bus company.”
Mr Dalton and friends succeeded in persuading Metroline to
extend the route, which travels from the Spires Shopping Centre in
Barnet through Muswell Hill, when his neighbour Sheila Elkin wrote a
series of “pushy” letters to TfL and the group enlisted the help of
the commuters’ watchdog Buswatch: West Haringey.
“It has been a true David and Goliath fight,” he said.
“But it means that residents in Highgate will be able to travel
directly on a bus to Muswell Hill. That means we can shop in Muswell
Hill Broadway and be back at home within 15 minutes – without having
to worry about carrying heavy bags.”
Lib Dem leader Lynne Featherstone, who has campaigned alongside
residents for the route extension, said: “After a slightly bumpy
start, I’m sure the new route will prove a success.
“It will serve to join up local bus services, and really should
have been introduced years ago.
“The residents and members of Buswatch deserve huge credit for
their campaign to make this happen,” she added.