Wednesday 24 August 2022

Will the London Assembly Transport Committee Make Time for Bus Driver Toilet Dignity? Guest post by Lorraine Robertson

Guest post by retired London bus driver Lorraine Robertson first published on 'The Bus Stops Here: Safer Oxford Street for Everyone' blogspot. Thank you to Lorraine and Tom Kearney for permission to reproduce this post on Wembley Matters.

Siân Berry, Chair
Transport Committee
The London Assembly
City Hall 
The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA
20 August 2022

cc: Transport Committee Members

RE: Will the London Assembly Transport Committee Make Time for Bus Driver Toilet Dignity?

Dear Siân Berry,

You may recall that we had a chance to meet on 14 December 2021 when I gave evidence for the Transport Committee’s Investigation of the Mayor’s Vision Zero Programme led by Caroline Pidgeon AM.  

Given the good quality of your questioning of me in December 2021, I was looking forward to your leadership of the Transport Committee’s Investigation of London’s Bus Network in the hope that you’d use your leadership position to scrutinise more closely the poor working conditions and practices that make TfL’s contracted Surface Transport Operation—in the apt words of former TfL Board Director and Safety Panel Chair Michael Liebreich “Institutionally Unsafe”.  But—since at the 24 May and 29 June sessions (a) the safety critical issue of Toilet Dignity was pushed to the very end of the discussions and (b) you cut short further discussion about the issue at both public meetings—I was extremely disappointed. So that you might consider putting London's scandal of Lack of Bus Driver Toilet Dignity back on the Transport Committee’s radar screen, I'm going to provide with two specific examples of what the Mayor’s and TfL’s failure to provide adequate toilets on over a quarter of London’s Bus Routes really means for Bus Drivers. 

Example 1. TfL is Gaslighting the Assembly about Toilet Availability, because even the toilets TfL says are available to Bus Drivers aren’t guaranteed. 

Stockwell tube station has a Toilet a Bus Driver can use, but the tube station hours are 0630-2330 on weekdays and 0700-2300 on Sundays.  And the first bus down to Stockwell is 0430 and the last is 0130, so that’s at least 4 hours where we don’t have access to a toilet TfL tells the public is there for us when it’s not.  In Croydon, Bus Drivers are permitted to use the Council offices after 1800, but whether we’re allowed to depends entirely upon the willingness of security personnel to let us in.  There is also a public toilet up the road which costs 20p (if you remember to have your purse on you!), but these toilets have a bench outside which—in the evening—attracts local addicts waiting for the food truck to arrive: so, frankly, it’s unsafe for us drivers. There is also a toilet that can be used at Fairfield's Hall (a theatre in Croydon), but—again—it's up to security if we are allowed in and this venue is only open from about 0900 to 2300.  

Example 2. Lack of Toilet Dignity Disproportionally Discriminates against Women Bus Drivers [TRIGGER WARNING: This narrative contains graphic descriptions that might make more sensitive readers uncomfortable—Tough! Welcome to a woman TfL bus driver’s world!]

I suffer from endometriosis and fibroids: let me tell you about my experience driving a route from Croydon to Stockwell. On this shift I was having my period and, due to the nature of my condition, I had to use tenner lady's and pads together, but this time I guess it was my night from hell: I flooded myself and the cab with my menstrual blood. At the time, I was not aware of the ‘accident’ because I didn’t have any access to a toilet and had been driving for four hours straight on the second half of my shift.  That night, I consider myself lucky because I was told to run the bus light [i.e., empty of passengers] back to the garage and I had a chance to explain to the cleaner what had happened.  The cleaner was also a lady (so she understood and sympathised), but I offered to clean it myself after I sorted myself out. I then spent an hour in the garage loo cleaning myself up and bagging up my soiled cloths—luck would have it I always have a spare pair of trousers in my locker, but the downside was that I had to wait for another female driver to come in the garage so she could get my trousers out of the locker and hand them to me in the loo. As promised, I then went back to the bus to help clean up my mess but was then told the whole seat was ripped out and put it in the skip. 

I’m afraid that this kind of indignity is a regular occurrence for us women TfL bus drivers. In the end, I begged the hospital to give me a hysterectomy because otherwise I would have to give up my job: I could not keep working as a London bus driver knowing future humiliations were in store for me just because TfL chose to deny us any Toilet Dignity. 

And this is just not my story: I reckon most lady bus drivers have similar or worse tales: I know of at least one lady bus driver who had a miscarriage on the bus, but I will save that one for the Transport Committee should you deem the Lack of Toilet Dignity worth the Committee's further public scrutiny.  If asked, I will pleased to provide evidence.

Kindly note that I have requested Bus Safety Campaigner and Businessman Tom Kearney to post this email as Open Letter on his blog:

Will the London Assembly Transport Committee Make Time for Bus Driver Toilet Dignity? 
An Open Letter from London Bus Driver Lorraine Robertson

Yours sincerely,

Lorraine Robertson
London Bus Driver (Retired)

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