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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Across London without the Tube
Queues at Shepherd's Bush bus stops
A lot of patience was required in the long bus queues

The 24-hour tube stoppage has left millions of people across London having to find new ways to get to their destination.

And I'm one of them.

My destination is Oxford Circus and, although the actual journey is a test run, I've tried setting myself a target.

I leave the office at Shepherd's Bush at 0845 BST, thinking I'll try to reach central London by 1000 BST.

Two hours late

An hour-and-a-half later I've yet to step foot on a bus and am only a couple of miles down the road, nearing Notting Hill.

Still, I've got lots of company.

Victoria Piper, a 32-year-old sales director, is one of several vainly trying to board a bus at Shepherd's Bush.

Londoner Victoria Piper, hoping to get to a conference
No sign of a bus yet

She's trying to get to Paddington for a conference and had set off two hours earlier from Richmond.

"It's a real inconvenience to me," she says.

"I don't know what to do. I've already had to move from one bus stop and try a different route."

Ms Piper says she originally set out by car but had to turn back because of traffic.

"I'm going to be really late."

Asking my way at the array of bus stops I find the right queue for the bus - the No 94 - which, with about 30 people waiting, appears to be the most popular around.


People see buses coming up and walk straight into the road to catch them

Sgt Chris Conrad

Patrick, 35, who needs the 94 to get him to an interview at Tower Hill, says his sympathy for the strikers is diminishing.

"I don't understand it. Millions are paying 2 to go on a journey where they have to stand, and yet all that money doesn't seem to be sufficient to pay enough wages.

"Something's not quite right with the system."

The one-day stoppage is one of two called by the RMT and Aslef unions, the second to follow next week.

Walking shoes

The action is undoubtedly causing a massive travel headache for some three million commuters.

Police officers drafted in for traffic duties monitor the crowds at bus stops.

Police marshalling bus queues at Shepherd's Bush
Police were helping to keep passengers out of the road

Sergeant Chris Conrad says police are working with London Transport inspectors to ensure travel remains orderly.

"It's maintaining safety really. People see buses coming up and walk straight into the road to catch them."

A quick word with the bus inspectors at the queue tells me walking is my best bet.


None of the buses were stopping - I thought it was easier to walk

Commuter

Unfortunately my knowledge of London is scant and I'm not wearing walking shoes.

But there are plenty more like me.

The number on bicycles shows that many have chosen two wheels to get across the capital - some have even packed rollerblades.

Buses 'not stopping'

It's now 1145, three hours after I started from work, and I'm just approaching Oxford Circus - with very achy feet.

The walk from Notting Hill to Oxford Street has had many recurring themes.

Bus stops all look the same, each with dozens of disgruntled would-be passengers standing at them.

As I continue past Marble Arch I meet 19-year-old Sheba Nagudi - whom I last met two-and-a-half hours earlier, at a bus stop in Shepherd's Bush.

She was supposed to be attending a computer course from 9am.

"None of the buses were stopping, and I thought it was easier to walk," she says.

Notting Hill Tube Station with shutters down
Tube stations had closed their doors for the day

She's not wrong - each time I see a bus it sails straight past the stop.

Three times I try to get on - once I'm told it is full, the others infuriatingly stopped to disgorge passengers, then carry on.

One conductor tells me the bus is not going any further but another will be along shortly. Some hope.

I meet many people standing frustrated at bus stops, some with further connections to make.

Fortunately, my return journey is somewhat less strenuous.

I finally get to step on board a bus on the way back to the office - with a seat all the way, no less.

But it does seem that even with the best will in the world, getting across London on a Tube strike day cannot be done without careful planning hours in advance, and a lot of luck.

That, or use a helicopter.


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See also:

25 Sep 02 | England
03 Sep 02 | England
12 Aug 02 | England
06 Aug 02 | England
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