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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Charm school for bus drivers
London buses
Each weekday 6,500 London buses carry 5.1 million passengers
New recruits to London's expanding bus service will have to take a six-month course which tests their manners as well as their road skills.

After an initial intensive driving course, drivers will take part in a new Btec course aimed at improving safety, driving and communication skills.

Training includes practical courses and classroom-based exercises such as a video on how best to deal with irate passengers.

Courtesy will be a big part of the new qualification which is being announced by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone on Tuesday.

Andrew Thompson of Transport for London (TfL) said: "Being a bus driver is all about courtesy, making sure people get on and know where they are going.

"But it is also about giving a smooth ride, being aware of the needs of all passengers, allowing people time to get to their seats and generally being aware of people's needs.

Btec trainer Eric Dale
Most drivers feel that some of the customers are a bit rude to them, so why should they go out of their way to be polite?
Trainer Eric Dale

"Courtesy and good customer service runs right through the whole course."

Driver John Lindo, who has just finished the course, said it was all a question of attitude.

He added: "If you can meet the passengers coming on the bus with a 'hello', a smile and a 'thank you', you will get that response back because good behaviour breeds good behaviour."

London's growing bus network is an important part of Mr Livingstone's transport strategy to get more people out of their cars and into public transport.

He has been spending millions on the buses to provide an extra 11,000 spaces at rush hour, to make room for drivers who giving up their cars because of the congestion charge.

TfL has reported a 6% increase in bus use over the past year and drivers are expected to rise to the challenge.

But trainer Eric Dale said it could be difficult to persuade drivers to be polite at all times.

He said: "Most drivers feel that some of the customers get on the bus and are a bit rude and abrupt to them, so why should they go out of their way to be polite?

"But we are trying to create a new ethos and make them realise we are providing a good service for the customers with a professional image...and they should not let people detract from their professionalism."

BBC London's Yasmin Khan
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