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The bus passengers forced to take route

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 mile.

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.



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