Search

‘We have a duty of care to all our passengers’: A day in the life of a night bus driver

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 November 2017

Night bus drivers Basil Blake and Stephen Lwere at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking. Picture: Paul Bennett

Night bus drivers Basil Blake and Stephen Lwere at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking. Picture: Paul Bennett

Archant

“You get two types of people who travel on the bus at night, drunks and people who need to get home to sleep.”

Night bus drivers Stephen Lwere and Basil Blake at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking, Night bus drivers Stephen Lwere and Basil Blake at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking,

Welcome to the life of a night bus driver, ferrying passengers around London under the cover of darkness.

Revellers, rough sleepers and overnight workers call your double decker home, some refusing to leave at the end of the route.

I’ve got many night buses over my years living in the capital, always wondering what the men and women sitting calmly on the other side of the glass see from behind the wheel on a Saturday night.

From the outside it seems like a thankless task, dealing with inebriated party-goers spilling food and drink onto the seats.

Driver Basil Blake at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking, Driver Basil Blake at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking,

But drivers tell me the roads are quiet and no night is the same.

I head down to Go Ahead’s garage, in River Road, Barking, to meet two drivers whose routes cover Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering and Newham.

“I became a night bus driver three years ago,” Basil Blake tells me.

“I was on a bus and I couldn’t understand what the driver was saying.

Driver Stephen Lwere at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking, Driver Stephen Lwere at Go Ahead London Blue Triangle Bus Garage, in Barking,

“I thought I want to know what he’s saying, so I decided to become a driver.”

Basil, 40, of Herne Hill, in south London, is a “spare”, meaning he picks up any routes on the night that need covering.

“I get so bored doing only one route,” he explains.

Stephen Lwere drives the same route every night, the EL1 from Barking to Ilford.

The 50-year-old from Forest Gate started the job six years ago, inspired by his wife Mildred, who is also a driver.

“After she started doing it, I started feeling her love for it,” he says.

“And it’s a good job, it pays well.”

The company gives Stephen and Mildred the same days off and holidays, and allows them to work different shifts so one can look after their five children.

“I’ve been told there are a few other couples working at the garage, although I have not met them,” he adds.

So why the night bus I ask?

“Quiet roads,” says Basil.

“It’s less stressful, but more risky,” Stephen explains.

“You are expecting drunk drivers, people who are driving tired, you have to look out for these things.”

It seems other drivers are more dangerous than inebriated passengers, however the pair have a few stories about those as well.

“Everyone gets sleepers every now and then,” Stephen says, talking about napping drunks who don’t wake up at the end of a route.

“I had one the other day in Romford, it was 4am and I told him he had to get on the next bus and he refused, he refused to leave the bus.

“I explained it wasn’t going anywhere, but he still refused to get off, even when I said I would call the police.

“Eventually officers came and forced him to leave.”

The drivers have a direct radio to the police, and hearing this usually puts off trouble makers, however Basil has been spat at by a passenger refusing to pay.

There are also homeless people who sleep on the night buses.

The pair explain this has got more common since the Boris buses were introduced, with entrances on the side and rear.

“They just go up and down the back stairs, and use the bus as a place to sleep. I just leave them to it,” Stephen says.

“There’s a guy who knows every bus route, which one is going to be the last bus running,” Basil adds.

“He will wake up the end of the route and get off immediately, you don’t have to say anything.

“He knows all of the drivers as well, he pays using a bus pass. I just leave them be.”

“We have got a duty of care to all of our passengers,” Stephen explains.

So next time you’re travelling home late at night, remember your bus driver will be keeping a watchful eye out.

Latest Romford News Stories

It’s the time of the year that every teenager - and their parents - dread: GCSE exams.

Yesterday, 17:00

Police have introduced new technology including scrambler bikes and handheld stinger devices to try and tackle moped crime in the borough.

Yesterday, 15:31

Harrow Lodge Primary School in Hornchurch celebrated the royal wedding in true Great British style as children and staff took part in a prince and princesses party.

Yesterday, 15:00

The new leader of Havering Council will be elected at the council meeting tonight.

Yesterday, 14:22

On the eve of the wedding of the year, Saint Francis Hospice staff and volunteers celebrated with a Royal fundraising breakfast.

Yesterday, 13:00

An academy has been rated inadequate following an Ofsted inspection earlier this year.

Yesterday, 11:47

A 65-year-old Romford man accused of beating 85-year-old Rosina (Rose) Coleman to death with a hammer appeared for a pre-trial hearing at The Old Bailey today (May 23).

Yesterday, 11:06

Celebrations for the royal wedding started early at a Harold Wood hair salon as Harry and Meghan even stopped by to enjoy a cream tea with customers…..well sort of!

PROMOTED CONTENT

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

There are many reasons people decide to join a gym. Some want to pack on muscle for strength, train for endurance, or lose weight. But did you know it also does wonders for your mental health? Two members at Romford’s Better Gym in the Market Place talk about their personal fitness journey and the importance of replacing bad habits with good ones.

Sean Watson, director at the family-run St Michaels Homes which runs Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, answers the common questions people have about care homes.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now