73 Still Free

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 122 months ago
73 Still Free
Bus passing Nelson's Column

The bendy bus comes in for regular bashings, and the articulated eyesore is one of the hot topics in the Mayoral election, with Boris Johnson threatening to scrap it altogether in favour of a remixed Routemaster. Now a new report comes along that suggests the bendy's popularity with fare-dodgers is bigger than ever.

According to a Liberal Democrat study, fare evasion has almost doubled from 2.2% in 2003 to 3.9% last year. This coincides with the retirement of the final Routemasters and an increase in the number of bendy buses on the road. The Lib Dems claim that this has resulted in a £6.4 million loss of revenue in 2007, a figure TfL disputes.

Despite teams of ticket inspectors roaming the streets, pouncing on buses and prompting the hasty disappearance of half the passengers when they do so, little headway is being made in enticing truculent travellers to pay their way. Of 58 million fare evasions for the 2006/2007 period, some 7.2 million took place on the bendy bus.

Brian Paddick, casting about desperately for any kind of vehicle to gatecrash the Johnson - Livingstone tango, seized upon the news, saying:

Only the other day I overheard a Londoner describing a bendy bus to a tourist as the 'free bus'. No wonder nobody pays.

Actually, we think this is something to be proud of. Londoners were just voted the third friendliest locals in Europe, and Londonist for one is happy that our fellow residents are doling out insider tips for tourists to ensure they get maximum value from their vacation.

Bendy bus and Nelson picture from boothj5's Flickrstream

Last Updated 13 March 2008


Once you've seen the Revenue Protection Officers in action, though, you'll think twice about fare dodging. They're monumentally scary and take no bullsh*t. Scared the bejesus out of me and I had a valid travelcard.


The ones I see usually have the real police right behind them.


They are intimidating, and indeed are often accompanied by police backup... but how often do you see them? I travel on the 73 and 149 buses almost every day, and see them maybe once every two or three months, if that.


I used to work in Mornington Crescent and there were always big groups of people being hauled off the bendy buses that stop there (73? 29?).

Personally, I'd like all public transport to be free...


It doesn't help that the stupid bus stop machines are often out of order, and then when you try to pay on board, the staff are usually unequipped or unwilling to take your money (or sometimes they're just too nice). That's kinda like enforced free-ness.


...and don't try the old 'i'll have a pay as you go card ready just in case, and tap it on the reader if i see an inspector' routine.

the driver switches all machines off just as the inspectors come into view, thus trapping his sardine catch for the day, with nowhere but the waiting clipboard and arms of the inspectors to leap into when the doors open.