London ~~Transport wins

trainA lesson for N.Z. — How public transport can transform a city

By Alan Tristram
  Much improved trains

When I worked in London in the 1970’s and 80’s, public transport was a necessary, but often agonising, experience. Dirty stations, spasmodic service on some lines such as the Northern ‘agony’ line, and constant delays.

But now this city is a tourists’ paradise. The Underground has been modernised and transformed. It’s cleaner than a doctor’s waiting room. Services are frequent, fast and pre-announced by electronic noticeboards. Staff are abundant and helpful.

Great bus services

Backing up this magnificent underground network, is a refurbished bus system with, it seems, buses guaranteed  and the schedule is electronically displayed  every few minutes.  Bus lanes complete the picture, ensuring priority on all roads.

And the ubiquitous double-decker bus has been saved by the provision of new buses with front entry, electronic ticketing and just a driver. Our bus  to Marble Arch today was expertly manoeuvred through a mass of traffic by a young woman driver.


Some suggestions if you’re  visiting London

If you’re coming over, buy an ‘Oyster’ card, preloaded with, say, £25 worth of travel. Then  use it to get quick access to trains and buses. No queuing — and you can recharge the card at booths in the stations.

And don’t forget the black cabs if you’re stuck. We found the drivers, as always, expert navigators and surprisingly pleasant for such a huge city.

If you have huge suitcases, like us, their vast passenger compartment can accommodate them, as well as you.

The cabs can turn on a pin head (well nearly) so don’t hesitate to hail one going the other way. And , if you choose carefully, you needn’t pay the earth to get from a. to b.

We paid £10 to get two of us, and two huge cases, plus rucksacks, from Victoria Station to my brother’s flat in Kensington. This saved us from an agonising period of haulage up and down tube stairs and escalators in the usual throngs.

Coming home!

But now we leave all this behind, to board a super jumbo for the long flight home. Back soon….