Once again, thanks to our hosts Arriva, we were able to offer members the chance to try their hand at driving a London bus. This very popular event has now become a fixture on the Women in Transport events calendar and we can safely predict all places being snapped up in twenty minutes.
On a sunny summer morning our small group was met at Tottenham Hale, by Nisha Ladkea, the Arriva instructor, who drove us in the double decker training bus to Edmonton Bus depot where it was the turn of members to get behind the wheel.
Nisha kicked off the training with a briefing on the bus controls and showed how it should be done with an expert lap of the depot parking area. Although the considerable number of buses parked in the garage made this quite an exacting task, the restricted space provided plenty of opportunity to demonstrate the manoeuvrability of the bus.
One by one, our novice drivers climbed into the driving seat and under the patient guidance of Nisha started the engine, gripped the huge steering wheel and somewhat apprehensively got the double decker moving forward. With Nisha's patient guidance and encouragement they quickly relaxed and were soon confidently turning and reversing the bus with apparent ease.
Nisha, who has been driving buses for about fifteen years, was a reassuring combination of experience and calm, skilled at making pupils feel at ease and inspiring confidence – even if the ride did sometimes get a bit bumpy. She also added a really interesting dimension to the morning, telling us about her job and answering our endless questions about a typical day in the life of a London bus driver.
Although everyone commented on how surprisingly light the bus was to handle, it wasn't without its challenges. With wheels positioned behind the driver, the huge steering wheel needs to be turned much later than one would expect. Judging distances is no easy task either and everyone said the exercise had increased their respect for bus drivers enormously. The familiar sight of London buses edging alongside other vehicles with just inches to spare clearly takes a lot of skill and practice, as does accurately reversing such a long vehicle. If cruising around the car park was exacting, what would it be like navigating through heavy London traffic while dealing with passengers and watching out for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians?
When members weren’t behind the wheel, there was plenty of time for networking and chatting about each other's roles in transport. The whole experience engendered a great sense of camaraderie and support – with every drive getting a well-earned round of applause. Judging by the smiling photographs, everyone had a good time and said they wouldn't have missed it for the world. Here are a few of their comments:
“Our instructor, Nisha, was very friendly and willing to answer all of our questions as well as being a great instructor.”
“I really enjoyed being able to drive the bus and having the opportunity to meet some very interesting women during the day.”
“The trainer was excellent! She took the time to explain everything and was so calm.”
“What an amazing opportunity!”
“It was great to meet up with other women in the transport industry.”
“It was interesting finding out the 'behind the scenes' of the bus driver's world - timetables, how they are trained, how shifts work, that they drive one route etc.”
“Really interesting to hear personal stories from a bus driver.”
We would like to thank Jayne Steer the Training Manager at Arriva Buses and our instructor, Nisha Ladkea, for providing our members with a unique and fascinating insight into the world of bus drivers and the challenges they face in keeping London moving.
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