Lothian Bus Ride Of Doom

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 20:16 | Filed in Life, Technology, The Pickards

As regular readers will be aware, I was away in Edinburgh t’other week, and indeed mentioned my trip to the zoo (although I’ve still not got round to sorting out the photos). We also went on one of the Edinburgh bus tours from Lothian buses, which wasn’t one of the best experiences of my life, and led to me putting in a formal complaint to the bus company.

I hadn’t been going to write about this, because I thought if they resolved my complaint in a reasonable manner, there would be no need for me to tell the world about my experience, but as I lodged my complaint with them on the 7th October, and they’ve not got back to me yet, I think I’m perfectly justified in doing so.

To set the scene, therefore. My wife and I, and our two children, aged almost 3 and just gone 1 are in Edinburgh. The not-quite three year old loves buses, and has been wanting to go on one of the “funny buses without a roof on” (i.e. the open-topped tour buses) ever since we told him about them.

So, we choose a bus and get on. I’m a little gobsmacked by the fact that it’s £9 each for my wife and myself to be driven round Edinburgh for a little over half an hour (Edinburgh Zoo being only a pound more expensive per person, and we were there six hours), even though the kids are free, but driven by the knowledge that my three year old has been desperate to go on the bus, I cough up the cash to someone stood at the front of the bus issuing tickets, who tells me to fold up the double pushchair and put it in the luggage rack.

It becomes painfully obvious that the luggage rack is too small to hold the double pushchair, and I’m told I’m going to have to take it upstairs with me, which is fair enough. I wasn’t offered any help with it, which would have been nice, but again, that’s fair enough: this guy’s job is to stand at the front of the bus and take the money, not help passengers on and off with their luggage.

So, I struggle up to the top deck with the folded double buggy and our bags, and my wife climbs up with our two children, and then we become aware that you need ear plugs in order to hear the pre-recorded tour information. Only no-one at any point has told us we needed earplugs, or told us where we can find them, so we’ve paid £18 for what amounts to a half hour bus journey in the open air.

Never mind, we attempt to make the best of it, and I’m looking round at various bits of scenery wondering what they are, while pointing out other buses, trees, police boxes, statues and so on to the three year old, who’s spending most of his time shouting “hello people” at passers-by, and occasionally leaning back to pull his little brother’s hood down over his face.

Entertaining, yes, but it would have been nice to be able to have what was going on explained to us, particularly since we’d paid eighteen bloody quid for a trip round the city — we could probably have managed the same, only cheaper with a one day travelpass.

But, while that’s not ideal, that was something I could live with. The little ‘un had wanted to go on an open-topped bus tour, and we’d been on one, even though it was more expensive than I would have liked and we didn’t get to hear the commentary. At least he was happy — which believe me, with an almost-three-year old, is something you really appreciate.

No, the bit I complained about was the bit that happened after the tour.

What happened? Well, the bus reached the terminus on Waverley Bridge and stopped, and everyone started to get off. All well and good so far. So I bundled up the folded pushchair and our bags and my wife took a child in each arm and we proceeded to make our way down the stairs.

At which point the bus lurched forward, knocking my wife off her feet and sending her and the children crashing to the foot of the stairs.

I just about managed to prevent myself and the buggy from landing on top of them, and then quickly climbed down to find out what (possibly “in the name of blue blazes”) was going on.

My wife was lying on the ground, starting to pick herself and the children up — who had both landed on their heads and were obviously screaming blue murder. The driver meanwhile had continued to sit in his cab, not even so much as jumping out to check that everyone was all right.

So I went along to the front of the bus to remonstrate with him and asked:

What the hell did you think you were doing?

Note that this is precisely the language used. I did not, at any point swear (apart from one use of the word “bloody”, which I’ll come to in due course), which I consider was remarkably restrained, given the circumstances.

He replied that we should not have been coming down the stairs when the bus was moving, and that he’d closed the bus doors to indicate he was about to move forwards. So basically, he’s saying it’s my wife’s fault.

Myself — and another passenger — pointed out to him that you can’t actually see the bus doors unless you’re downstairs already; and that the bus hadn’t been moving when we’d started going down the stairs.

The other passenger was equally concerned with the drivers attitude and seeming lack of concern, pointing out that the driver hadn’t so much as asked if everyone was all right.

The driver then asked if everyone was all right, to which I replied:

Of course they aren’t bloody all right, they’re screaming their heads off.

See, I told you I’d said “bloody” at one point.

However, the drivers extensive medical knowledge kicked in at this point, and without even turning round or looking out of his cab to see my small children screaming in pain and fright, was able to pronounce:

of course he’s all right, he’s only two

As you can imagine, I wasn’t best impressed by that. He might well have been all right and simply crying because of the shock — and the fact that falling down the stairs would hurt — or maybe he was crying because he was in pain from a fractured skull, a broken collarbone or some other injury, and I hardly think a pronouncement of that sort without so much as turning round to look is the best way to make an accurate medical diagnosis.

While I was busy opening and closing my mouth like a fish in order to try and work out what exactly to say in response to that, the other passenger demanded that the driver tell us where we could go and make a complaint, which he duly did. Not that the driver really deserves much credit for this — otherwise we were just going to stay on his bus kicking up a fuss if he didn’t, weren’t we?

It’s perhaps worth pointing out that at no stage did the driver get out of his seat; at no point did he acknowledge that he had done anything wrong, and at no point did he offer any form of apology.

I’ve deliberately not mentioned the driver by name as I’ve not been particularly polite about him, but I don’t know his side of the story — and I had been presuming Lothian Buses would be taking their own disciplinary action, so I thought we could keep his name out of this.

The person I will name however is Arthur Johnson, also of Lothian Buses who was in the office when we made our complaint. He was very helpful and friendly, took down all the details, including the name and address of the witnesses who kindly came to the office to back up our side of the story, and said while he obviously couldn’t say how the incident would be resolved, he imagined Lothian Buses would take it seriously and his boss would probably phone me in the next couple of days. He also refunded the £18 we’d originally paid for the bus. In short, Arthur Johnson was an absolute credit to Lothian Buses.

While I’d suggest the driver demonstrated precisely what not to do, I think Arthur deserves a commendation for the calm and efficient manner in which he handled our complaint. Unfortunately, my opinion of Lothian Buses as a whole is more like my opinion of the driver.

Despite placing the complaint on Saturday 7th October, the only contact I’ve had with Lothian Buses since was when I phoned them up again yesterday morning to find out what was going on. As it happened, I spoke to Arthur again — who expressed surprise that no-one had been in touch and assured me he’d look into it personally.

Arthur was his usual excellent self; he recognised my voice before I’d even reminded him who I was, immediately asked how everyone was (as it happens, my wife pulled a muscle in her shoulder trying to hold on to the children as she fell down the stairs, and also hurt her side, my youngest had a big bruise over his eye but no-one appears to have suffered any permanent injury — but how exactly do you tell with a 1 year old?)

Again, Arthur Johnson stands out as a credit to Lothian Buses in terms of customer service, and despite the fact I’m not happy with the driver or with the way Lothian Buses have handled my complaint (so far as I can tell, they’ve just sat on it and done absolutely bugger-all or if they have done something, then they’ve not bothered to tell me about it), Arthur’s customer service has been excellent. Well done Arthur. If only the rest of the company was like you.

As for the rest of Lothian Buses, despite the fact I phoned them yesterday morning to chase them up, it’s now ten days after the incident and I’ve still heard nothing.

I can only therefore presume that Lothian Buses believe it to be perfectly acceptable for their drivers to drive forward suddenly when people are on the stairs, sending passengers flying down the stairs, and not apologise, get out of their seat or make any real attempt to check whether or not the passengers are all right, as I can only presume that they’ve taken no action over the complaint, because despite giving them ten days to do something themselves, and then phoning them to chase it up, they have still not got back to me. Certainly they don’t appear to be demonstrating that they believe my complaint is worth looking at — I’ve not even so much as had a courtesy “we’re looking into it”. I am left to presume that despite the fact a witness came forward to back up my story, they have rejected my complaint out of hand, and haven’t even had the courtesy to tell me.

In some respects perhaps they were lucky it was a two year old — I imagine an ninety year old thrown down the steps in such a manner would certainly have been at quite some risk of sustaining severe injuries — but then again, I just don’t know. Maybe Lothian Buses would have treated it seriously if it had been an ninety year old, rather than my wife and my two small children — but I’m certainly far from happy that they don’t appear to have taken this seriously at all, and, like I said before, other than the photocopy of the complaint which Arthur kindly made for me when I requested it, I’ve not so much as received a formal acknowledgement from Lothian Buses that they’ve received my complaint. I can see where their driver gets his attitude to customer service from.

Alexa statistics showing Lothian's site as the 292,000th most popular internet site, and ThePickards as the 183,000th most popular site

Now, it may be that Lothian Buses don’t feel that they need to worry about one individual’s blog, but Alexa’s online statistics would seem to suggest that more people have been reading my site than have been reading theirs, as I am more than one hundred thousand sites more popular than them so maybe my lone voice isn’t that quiet, after all.

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38 Comments to Lothian Bus Ride Of Doom

  1. JackP says:

    October 17th, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve contacted Lothian Buses to let them know I’ve decided to put my side of the story across on the internet, as they seem unwilling to deal with my complaint.

    I put what I deemed to be a serious complaint in on Saturday October the 7th. So far no-one has had the decency to even to me the courtesy of acknowleding it. I’ve therefore published MY side of the story on my internet site. You are of course welcome to a right of reply, and I really would appreciate it if you would consider following up my complaint soon.JackP

    Oops – I forgot to give you the web site!

    Hopefully they’ll take an interest now!

  2. JackP says:

    October 18th, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Well, I’ve received an acknowledgement from Lothian buses in the post today. The letter was dated the 13th October, but the postmark was the 16th October, so it’s still taken them over a week to as much as acknowledge it. Interestingly enough, it appears to have been postmarked the same day I phoned them to chase up the complaint. Coincidence?

    Here’s what they had to say:

    Dear Mr Pichard

    I have received a note of your personal call to this office on 7 October 2006. I was sorry to hear that your wife and son sustained an injury on board a City Sightseeing tour bus on that day.

    I was most concerned by the event as you describe and have taken up the matter with the driver involved who submitted a full accident report on his return to the depot that afternoon.

    Edinburgh Bus Tours, as operators of Edinburgh City Sightseeing, demands that our driving staff maintain the highest standard of driving and customer care.

    Please be assured that this Company acts strongly against drivers who fail to carry out their responsibilities towards the health and safety of their passengers as this driver is well aware.

    I hope that your family has now fully recovered from this unfortunate incident.

    Thank you for taking the time to bring the matter to our attention.

    Yours sincerely

    Kenny Campbell, Tour Operations Manager

    Well, at least they’ve acknowledged it. Unfortunately, despite managing to ascertain that I’m “Mr Pickard” sufficiently to include it in my address, he then goes on to refer to me as “Mr Pichard”. Yes, it’s a spelling mistake and/or typo. However, I would have imagined you’d double check a letter you’re sending out to an aggrevied customer just to make sure you’re not going to aggrieve them further — by spelling their name wrong, for example.

    Also, despite insisting that “this Company acts strongly against drivers who fail to carry out their responsibilities towards the health and safety of their passengers” there is no indication that the driver has been disciplined, is going to be disciplined, or even that the matter is going to be investigated further.

    I can happily understand that for legal reasons they may not wish to admit culpability at that moment, but the lack of any mention of any investigation into the accident — or anything beyond “taking the matter up with the driver” for which it appears he has been asked to submit an accident report, seems suggestive that this is it as far as they are concerned.

    Well, bugger that. I want an apology for the incident, I want an apology for the way my complaint has been handled and I want to know what, if any, disciplinary action is to be taken against the driver (and if none, why not).

  3. Tony says:

    November 22nd, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    I can assure you – the driver will get the sack for this. My pal is a bus driver for Lothian Buses and he tells me that any driver who severely upsets the public is dismissed, no second chances with Lothian Buses – that’s why they are always recruiting. Hope this makes you happy. Perhaps other industries should make a similar stance. I am fed up with my poor broadband service – sack the IT man responsible – it didn’t happen; I have been verbally abused by youths in my area and have informed the police – this was several months ago – and the police have failed to attend – sack the police officer responsible – it didn’t happen; my banks poor service led me to 3 weeks without internet banking – sack the telephone operator that told me it would be dealt with in a few days – it didn’t happen. Put it another way – Mr Pickard – ask yourself this – in an honest way – have you ever made a mistake? If so – do you think you deserve to lose your job (and pension) over it? Or perhaps you were forgiven and allowed to keep your job? As I have already said – the driver that caused your upset will now have been sacked. Just in time for Christmas – no Xmas fun for his family – all for a silly mistake – which I am sure you have done – but didn’t expect the sack for. Have a nice Christmas – no doubt you will not allow this on your blog.

  4. JackP says:

    November 22nd, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    I’ve got nothing against people making mistakes – everyone does. What I object to is people making mistakes, refusing to admit culpability, and then having the cheek to blame someone else for their mistakes.

    However where people make mistakes consistently, or they are not capable of doing their job properly, then I see nothing wrong with removing them from that position. Anyone can make a mistake: but people who keep making ‘em shouldn’t be doing that job…

    If the driver had said sorry — or frankly shown any sign of concern about my child at all — then as far as I was concerned that would have been the end of the matter. He didn’t, so I took the matter further. And I’m not going to feel guilty about that when a simple apology at the time would have sufficed.

    And of course I will allow this on my blog. I’m not that frightened of criticism! Also I understand your point too; I hadn’t wanted the guy to lose his job over it either — if he did then it is a bit harsh if that was the only thing he’d ever done wrong. Frankly I would have expected a bit of a dressing-down, with maybe a touch of customer service retraining, if it had been the first thing he’d ever done wrong.

  5. Tony says:

    November 23rd, 2007 at 10:25 am

    There are no second chances with that company. My pal has since confirmed the driver concerned lost his job over the incident, and according to my pal, this was his first mistake.

  6. lothian bus driver says:

    November 29th, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    lothian buses will look into this..they always do.when all the info is in then they will contact you.
    hope your wife/kids r ok.
    and please come back 2 edinburgh..

  7. JackP says:

    November 29th, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Don’t worry – they did, at least according to Tony! I’ve got to say — assuming what Tony says is correct — that that isn’t what I wanted to happen, but equally I’m not going to feel any guilt over it, as if the guy had apologised there and then (which wouldn’t have been that hard) I would never have felt the need to complain in the first place…

    But it hasn’t put me off Edinburgh: we’ve not been back since but that’s just coincidence; I love the Scots (as I think us Geordies have quite a lot in common with ‘em), love the city … plus the kids love the zoo!

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    Why did you let your wife carry two kids at the same time while negotiating narrow bus steps? Next time take the buggy down first, set it up and go back up for one of the kids to help your wife. That way the bus driver knows you’re coming and will wait without moving off.

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