What happens when you complain to TFL about London Bus drivers?

..in short, the answer is a belated but appreciated personal reply, but tangibly, precious little.

Many London bus drivers, employed by private companies operating in conjunction with TFL, are at best aloof and at worst down right rude.

Many London bus drivers, employed by private companies operating in conjunction with TFL, are at best aloof and at worst down right rude.

Credit to this article on public transport customer service, for the photo>

My main complaints were:

  • That I had a specific bad experience with a bus driver
  • That this is not unique
  • That many people I know (including other bus drivers I have spoken to) AGREE that rude, uncommunicative, unfriendly bus drivers are endemic in the industry

My complaint, and subsequent reply, are published below in full, for those who care.

My email sent on the 3rd December 2012:

Sent: 03.12.12 12:10:19
Subject: Formal Complaint

Dear Sir / Madam

Bus REF: DLA20S,
Registration: W404VGJ,
Route: 243 from Waterloo, @ 10:47 am on Monday 3rd December 2012

Can someone explain to me why TFL find it acceptable that on repeated occasions your bus drivers are permitted, seemingly encouraged, to treat passengers with such contempt?

The bus reference and time above refers to just one occasion where, after I ran to the bus stop and bus door, the driver closes the doors as I arrive, sees me, looks at me, and despite it being obvious I wish to board chooses instead to drive off.

There was no traffic which caused his need to depart so speedily as Waterloo bus station is not on the highway.

The hall mark of a successful business in this day and age is good customer service. While a minority of bus drivers still seem to embody this (and what I would hope remains a British tradition of politeness and good will) a vast majority do not.

I have too often experienced an arrogance from drivers, or at best ambivalence. Aside from driving off, many:

– Don’t respond when said “good morning” to or “good afternoon”
– Some accents are so thick that if they do reply they either mutter or sometimes one can’t understand their response
– Some don’t speak or respond when asked questions, at all!

I’m paying for a service and they are being paid by the custom I provide. Moreover, they are representing my (and presumably their) country and London, to everyone single passenger that boards a London bus.

I’m fed up with feeling like an unwelcome guest aboard my own bus service.

In summary then I would like a proper response (and action taken) around two points:

1) Regarding my specific experience:-

A) why the driver felt it appropriate to drive off

B) what has been done to ensure he pays more care and attention in future

2) In general why so many TFL bus drivers:-

A) seem to feel empowered not to put the passenger first

B) are rude, unresponsive and uncommunicative (if you don’t want to speak to the general public all day, don’t be a bus driver)

C) ..and what is going to change in TFL’s training and employment policies to ensure the points A/B change to substantially improve the customer service and friendliness of London bus drivers, to have an impact on tens of thousands of peoples lives every day who use London buses.

Perhaps TFL’s senior leadership can view it as a revolutionary new approach to their people, to go along with their revolutionary (and very good) new London busses.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Scott

NB: To ensure a considered response from you, this letter will be published on line, on my personal blog, to my 3,600 twitter followers, publicly on Facebook, and sent to the Evening Standard newspaper.

The reply I received, 23 days later:

Our Ref:         1011585328/ABB

Date:              27.12.2012

 Dear Mr Scott

 Thank you for your message. I was very sorry to hear that a bus driver on route 243 (registration W404VGJ) did not allow you to board his bus when departing from Waterloo on the morning of 3 December 2012.

 Arriva London, who operate route 243 on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) have asked me to pass on their apologies to you. The driver could have allowed you to board and the incident is being followed up with the aim of minimising the possibility of similar errors on his part in the future.

 I am also sorry to hear of your many experiences when bus drivers in London have not exhibited the expected level of customer service. Transport for London (TfL) certainly does not encourage the sort the sort of behaviour you described and we engage with the private bus operating companies, who employ the bus drivers and manage the day-to-day running of the routes, to ensure that standards are as high as possible.

 All bus drivers in London are formally assessed by a Driving Standards Agency (DSA) Approved Assessor and must pass an additional test for Passenger Carrying Vehicle’s (PCV) as assessed by the DSA (which includes a focus on customer service). In addition, we work very closely with all our bus operators to improve the quality of our services, highlighting the need for attention to proper standards of service and driver conduct. We also strongly emphasise staff training and liaise with all bus companies to ensure we continue to achieve improvements across London. Whenever we receive complaints about poor standards, we follow them up with the bus company concerned. Assuming the complaint is upheld and it is not of a nature that could lead to dismal or suspension, the driver will undertake a variety of follow-up actions aimed at improving their standard of service.

 We would hope that the majority of bus drivers are not rude, unresponsive or uncommunicative and that they do try to the put their passengers first. The evidence we collect from our various monitoring exercises suggest that most of London’s 21,500 bus drivers carry out their jobs in the manner expected of them and customers find many to be helpful and professional in general. It is regrettable that isolated drivers cause this perception to be called into disrepute. Therefore we greatly appreciate you highlighting this incident to us, as it allows the bus operator to take action aimed at continuing to improve the level of service provided to our customers.

Once again, please accept our apologies for the delay and upset caused by the driver’s behaviour on 3 December. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Please don’t hesitate to contact me again should you require any further information or assistance.

Yours sincerely

 David Gwynn

Transport for London – Customer Experience


31 thoughts on “What happens when you complain to TFL about London Bus drivers?

  1. I too nasty behaviour today on bus 21. I have logged a complained with TFL, lets hope the driver don’t repeat again with anyone else.

    • Just came from Hosp in wheelchair i had to climb out of chair to get on bus, as i was alone and it was the hardest thing EVER! But driver would not open double doors because..he said “no one was in the wheelchair!! So i got on bus his side but again refused me by say get on thru double doors!!! BUT YOU WONT OPEN THEM!!! Then he got in my face..(prob because iam disabled and knew he could bully me)

  2. Well, nowadays, buses are on strict time restrictions and abide to time lines for every stage of their journey. As generic to the underground industry! Would a passenger arriving just as the doors close on a train screen and shout to the train driver to open the doors? NO, I don’t think so! So why would one do so for a bus driver? Again, a bus driver is a professional driver, delivering a timely service within a professional transport company.

    Please keep that in mind.

    • The clear distinction is that trains are more or less automated with clear departure times. There is no interaction with drivers. Buses are much more irregular and drivers can clearly wait a few seconds for a passenger. Some do. Others are sadistic idiots who delight in leaving passengers behind.

  3. Hello There,

    Shanon Centre / Beverly Way
    Bus Number: 152 towards Pollards Hill.
    Complaint Ref No. 3948027 / recorded with Mr. Ola
    Number called: 0343 222 1234 @ 07:50-pm Thursday 31st October 2013

    I was nearly killed today, whilst I was getting 2 passengers enter in the bus first standing on the stop before i. when I tried to enter driver was looking at the right hand side mirror, i was half in when he closed the door. I got my muscled pushed and I was really scared that I stepped out. He closed the door and was about to move when I knocked on the door, he looked at me and left. He looked so cold and had no respect.

    I called and recorded my complaint and was given a reference number, I had to stand in cold weather and wait for the next bus for several minutes and call the number and the stress I had gone through. My right shoulder is still hurting.

    It’s really cruel and inhuman act.

    Very sad & upset customer left in pain.


  4. I have had cause to complain twice recently to TFL…..The first time about two weeks ago when I failed to ring the bell coming up to Selfridges in central London (a non request stop) the driver drove past the stop despite cries from a number of passengers including an elderly lady and myself carrying heavy supermarket shopping. I explained to the driver that he was required to stop at all non request central London bus stops. He just argued with me and refused to let us off the bus.
    The second time after waiting 20 minuets for a number 28 bus in West Kensington the bus pulled up, the driver saw me standing by the door and drove off….I banged on the door but he still drove off. I had not again put my hand out as it was not a request stop. I assume the responses from Mark and ‘Jack the Smack’ are from bus drivers? Perhaps some passengers are rude and dismissive but that is no excuse to treat the rest of us with rudeness and contempt. It is obviously a difficult and responsible job but as far as I can tell quite well paid. I think it may be a case of bad training and or a dissatisfaction with their job?
    In any case we are customers and deserve to be treated accordingly and passengers should also treat the staff with respect even if not friendliness I guess that is too much to ask these days….Sad eh!

  5. Just yesterday I had a most strange experience involving a bus driver. I waited for a bus in my local town to take me to the railway station. I joined a queue. The bus arrived, however another bus, but different number, appeared immediately behind it. I decided to skip the queue and go on the bus behind. The bus driver, although stopped with the doors open to let people off however failed to open the door at the front to let me on. I was left standing like a wally waiting and wondering why he hadn’t opened the door. Eventually he did, and then amazed me by having a go at me saying, ‘why am I getting on his bus when the bus in front is going to the same place’! To be fair (to me) the first bus, although going to the railway station was also going many miles further on, however the bus I decided to board terminated at the railway station so had this termination spot written up on the bus. If I had been unfamiliar with the bus routes in my area I probably would have gone for the bus behind anyway to be sure I was going to get to the station. I just couldn’t believe his rudeness to me for having the ‘cheek’ to want to board his bus!!! I decided to challenge him about this when we got to the station and everyone else had got off the bus. Unfortunately this just wound me up even more as he stuck to his reasons for having a go at me as, in his obvious knowledge; the bus in front of his was going to the same place, and so I should have waited in the queue and got on that one. He certainly had no intention of apologising for having a go at me. I said I was going to report him, which he didn’t seemed bothered about, I also said that his actions were pathetic, he agreed and said yes absolutely pathetic, I know by that he was meaning that my actions were pathetic. Anyway rant over. I’ll admit I come across more rude and obnoxious drivers than pleasant ones generally but this guy was something else. I just wondered if anyone else had had any similar experiences

  6. I admire the bus drivers for their patience in London traffic all day, driving sometimes very difficult routes. I do not blame them for not always having a cheerful disposition. What infuriates me is the London PUBLIC…. how rude ill-mannered and ungrateful they can be to the drivers and to fellow passengers.
    Very rarely do I hear a passenger thanking the driver for his service. Spoilt nation we live in.

    • I am a bus driver for over 25 years off and on, love greeting each person , child and older ones alike , When driving a bus , if the bus don’t run on time a driver can have problems with management above . A to B and back on time means more to management also to most drives , than to wait and pick up people , again , most drivers would say a driver get paid to drive the bus on time than to wait to pick up and greet people with a smile .
      Time , Mileage plaseing management and the books comes before people in the game of buses .
      If you get picked up or not , sorry mileage comes first . not people . Get the point.

      • I am a bus driver for over 25 years off and on, love greeting each person , child and older ones alike , When driving a bus , if the bus don’t run on time a driver can have problems with management above . A to B and back on time means more to management also to most drives , than to wait and pick up people , again , most drivers would say a driver get paid to drive the bus on time than to wait to pick up and greet people with a smile .
        Time , Mileage plaseing management and the books comes before people in the game of buses .
        If you get picked up or not , sorry mileage comes first . not people . Get the point.

      • I understand and I am sure there are factors I don’t get, as I don’t do the job. That said, ultimately you’re in a service job, dealing with the general public. Most people don’t say hello, but if someone does, it costs nothing to reply. If you don’t want to work with people, one should not work in an environment where you come in to contact with customers, IMHO.

    • You need to pick one do you want your bus on time or do you want the driver to wait for everyone running for the bus because you cannot have both, i think we ask drivers for the impossible some times. There is someone on board who waited for his bus and boarded only to be late to his destination because someone is selfish enough to expect the whole bus to wait for them. Its hard to please everyone so please lets do our bit and leave the drivers to do theirs. Im not saying you wont find just rude drivers, you will but rude people are found in every proffession. And those should not be tolerated.

      • Waiting for everyone running for the bus is one thing and I agree that is not possible, especially when you are late but driving past people waiting at the bus stop with their arms out who clearly want to board the bus is wrong, even if late. The passenger just wants to board the bus and it is not their fault if the driver is late.

  7. 180 from lewisham at 14.30. the bus was sat at stop but hed closed doors. when i knocked i was ignored then after knocking again harder he opened doors to tell me thats he was pulling out, which he wasnt im not that stupid to try and get on a moving bus. he then went on to mumble something else which i did not hear as i had earphones in. i think its descusting that firstly we pay way to much for a service stuck in the dark ages. and the staff just make it worse.

    • Problem here is the public yes the public think they pay the bus drivers wages … Get it through your head that your £1.50 fare doesn’t

    • How is £1.50 (reduced to 0.75p by the hopper fare) to travel up to 9-10 miles way too much? How far would a taxi get you for 0.75p???

  8. Well done, although did they ever inform you on the followup and what was the driver’s reaction to this?
    A driver refused to allow me on the bus because I have a dog – and I have been commuting with him on a daily basis, with other dogs on the bus too!!I am absolutely furius!such an antisocial behaviour! 😦
    Would you mind sending me the email address where you sent the complaint? Thanks!

  9. Be it known that operators look into all complaints seriously and interview the driver and view cctv footage. If the manager feels it neccessary a formal disciplinary hearing is heard. If not the matter will be dealt with with advice and the complaint put on drivers record. If more complaints are forthcoming then the driver will be dealt with and are dealt with.
    No complaint is dealt with lightly but the passenger who complains will never be informed of the outcome of and disciplinary as this os confidential.

  10. I was hit by a 152 bus on 6/6/2015 at Mitcham Eastfields Station crossings ,
    Registration Yy64 yjn(I think) its was an olive skinned man and his exquse was that he could not stop , I have one witness but I need to know how to make this an official complaint ?

  11. In my local area the drivers are either brilliant or terrible. I’m a wheelchair user and most of my local drivers recognise me and will even say hi if they see me on the street. I was once in an incident where I couldn’t get home (it was 3am and winter) but the driver got me an escort so that I was safe. He knew my boyfriend was on another bus so he contacted the driver and made sure that my boyfriend knew I was safe.

    Sadly the bad drivers are terrible. I had a driver once who told my mum to get off the bus so that he could lower the ramp. Instead of doing so, he drove away and I didn’t get off the bus until I was on the top of a hill. I asked why he did this and he started shouting at me. His tone and body language was actually scaring me. I got home and was in tears as I have agoraphobia so I’m afraid to be alone outside already. The next few days, multiple drivers drove straight past me. I knew that something was going on when a driver let other passengers on, my boyfriend then asked for the ramp, and the driver smiled at us in a smug fashion and drove off. We reported it right away and I was told that the identified drivers would be dealt with and there would be a meeting held for me. The original driver still works there but I haven’t seen him on my regular bus since.

    • You deserve what you get from the drivers. Why don’t you get a real job and don’t penalise the drivers..

  12. Bad behaviour is not acceptable.
    Am on the 136 bus towards elephant and castle, got on the bus from Lewisham market. The bus was at a distance corner before the bus stop, so we waited I and a lady with her buggy.. two buses were ahead of him and we stood in the right place to get on when it moved, and because of past driver refusing to open door, we stood and waited… when the two bus left the driver was about to move sideways with the leaving buses but he saw us.. and his face was full anger! Anyways he stopped and let us in and we thanked him.. so the lady with her baby in the buggy went first and I followed…. through drive immediately drove and speed up toward a shortest distance to a red traffic light, but then both mother, baby and myself were thrown around like toys due to what he did. I looked at the lady and baby to see if their were OK and then looked over to the drive who had a smile on his face. Was he happy the he hurt two black women ?? I hope something is done about this driver before he kills someone. ( LX55EPO) is the complaint no. On the bus. Please help!

  13. I would like to make a complaint about a female bus driver of the 51 bus on the 24th August 2016 at 7.30am at Woolwich High Street. She drove past me and another guy, we both had our arms out. She smiled as she drove by. Is that a good service and why is she even a driver with an attitude like that? It is the first stop of the route so the bus was empty.

  14. I have complains to make ,I saw a bus in Victoria Street drag and old lady for the back door cause the driver disn’t see her ,more than once …also they don’t stop at bus stop if they think they go to fast (looks like they drive for pleasure instead for work!)
    One bua driver told me off 5 minuts cause I was varnishing my nails ,theres no banned sign on the bus,why should I stop? I had to tell him that was enough as he had already told me to stop and I did stop …and more that I don’t remember now

  15. Bus driver 203 ID YJ1 EHV towards staines the 8 .15 am was soo Rude. In spite of the bus being soo over crowded he wouldn’t let me out of the front door with my 2 little children who were going to school and we were right in the front.. The driver very rudely tells me to get out of the back door.
    If we are not allowed to get out of the front door then how come other bus drivers let some people out when the bus is over crowed. This bus drivers needs to learn how to be nice to people. Very upset with the driver. After all we aren’t getting a free ride on the bus. We are paying for the journey.

  16. I was in my car behind the bus and thought the bus was at its stop so i was going across the road to carry on my journey but then i realised the bus wasnt at its bus stop so all of a sudden the bus driver puts out his hand out of the window and he gives me sign that is very disrespectful . Really unhappy with the situation. The bus was W3 bus at the time 3:30pm and his registration number was LJ6I CF0 at White hart lane Rd

  17. Very bad experience with a no.19 bus a few minutes ago the driver shut the door on me and said he was in charge olso he was not opening the door for some passengers!!! I told him that he should have some manners he shouldn’t be driving a bus 🚌

  18. You thing the bus drivers are easy target why don’t you be on the bus driver position and see if the job is easy or harder please show some respects to the bus drivers with out the bus drivers you would probably walk from A to B all day long. I am a bus driver and I don’t like passengers and the management team, when you complained to the bus company do you get anything from the bus company for example like free travel or even get paid for your complaint you dont even get a penny.Basically manager are always on passenger side not the drivers sides the drivers are always get the blame even if it’s not their fault. I work in Willesden Junction Depot and I drive 18 bus route if you want to complain about me please feel free to waste your time because you don’t get anything from the bus company not free travel and not even a penny.

  19. Hi dear sir madam on 18 June 2017 at 17:50 I was diving on shorditch high street I was stand behind a car a bus drivers he gave me a horn and come next to my car waiving he’s hand telling me move away when I drive he bang to my car window I stopped and come out of the car I told him why he was very aggressive and told me move away from road I told him sharap I went back to my car and drive of he gaivme another horn and he’s butt he’s finger up f wardat at next traffic I come out of my car and I took a picture of hem and a bus number plate the number plate is LTZ1576

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