Arriva and Metroline, the hooligans on our roads

Morgan Penn lives on Tollington Road, one of the few streets in Islington where the Borough’s 30kph limit does not apply because it is managed by Transport For London.

It is one way and it has four lanes. It has the feel of a motorway; almost all drivers put their foot down, including bus drivers.

One day earlier this year, Morgan, fed up with watching near misses every day, attached a sign and a bunch flowers.

Vision Zero - Morgan Penn, first sign

It didn’t make much difference, so Morgan prepared a bigger sign and decided to spend an hour a day flashing his sign to speeding drivers and recording the most egregious incidents.

His persistence has triggered a response from Transport for London, which is supposed to regulate the bus companies. Stuart Reid, the head of the Vision Zero, brought a couple of colleagues to examine the site; in a surreal exchange, as buses were hurtling down the road, just a few centimetres from him, he refused to take urgent measures to mitigate this clear and present danger. He had a different plan: do nothing for three-four years and wait for the Camden-Walthamstow route to go through its slow process of modelling, consultation, Sadiq Khan’s prevarications, and eventual installation.

TfL does have a programme to introduce 30kph on all his roads, but it is now focusing on Central London. When pressed as to why he wouldn’t bring Tollington Road to the speed limit of all the nearby streets (including Holloway Road an even wider road, which it intersects), Reid replied “Drivers would not respect it”. “Have you not considered speed cameras, in that case?” “We can’t do that”


Morgan Penn with Stuart “Do Nothing” Reid, head of Vision Zero (or is it #ZeroVision?) at TfL

Morgan has written to all the bus companies involved in this “small children with big toys circus”. Only one company responded, GoAhead, the only company whose driving record is very good here. They have issued posters in their depots, and through their telematics, they are monitoring the speed on this stretch of road. The drivers know it and they drive responsibly.

The worst offenders are bus drivers working for Arriva and Metroline. The two companies  have a far higher injury rate in London than Go Ahead. The figures below, show the average number of injuries per bus for each company. Metroline and Arriva are considerably more dangerous than Go Ahead. So far they have refused to meet Morgan, to explain why their drivers behave in such an antisocial way.


At a subsequent site meeting Jon Pike, HSE Senior Manager at TfL has promised to put pressure on Arriva and Metroline to respond. He has also given an update on the Intelligent Speed Adaptation system, announced three years ago, but still being tested.

TfL is committed to rolling out Intelligent Speed Adaptation on buses and we are up to over 500 buses (Volvo specific) with this technology and hope to have at least 1,000 such buses with ISA by the year end. This retro-fit will mean that buses will have to drive up the speed limit and will not be able to speed. Such technology is being developed across other bus types; as you will see on your road there are many manufacturers. In other words, ISA is not an immediate solution.

Exactly. We need an immediate solution. There is one: TfL must instruct the operators which it is supposed to regulate, to run the buses at 30kph. This can be implemented in a few weeks and dramatically improve the safety of the street. This is Vision Zero thinking.


I leave you with an incident witnessed by Morgan and Pike, which I hope will stick to the latter’s mind until the right action is carried out:

While discussing the near misses at the crossing, we all witnessed that poor old lady who couldn’t get across the road in time, and the two buses moved forward towards her when the lights turned green, and then instead of patiently waiting, just belligerently jostled around her in a pack. It was lucky nothing more serious happened as they loomed over her. These near misses happen every day here, and this incident just highlighted the danger.

Waiting for someone to be killed is NOT Vision Zero.

Artwork by Morgan Penn

One comment

  1. TfL’s prevarication on speed limiters us ridiculous – over a decade ago Richards (Epsom Coaches/Quality Line) introduced new buses on a route entirely within a 30mph (50Kph) limit. This used the Euro (4?) engine management system to limit the speed to 29.7mph +/-1%.

    The results – reported by MD Steve Whiteway were reductions in
    – driver stress : if you’re late you’re late & no option to race to make-up time
    – fuel consumption – maximum speed = 30 mph just drive appropriately
    – minor crash damage – again without the facility to race around driving style calmed down

    Systems are widely in use now, using beacons (more reliable than GPS) to cap vehicle speeds -eg school buses capped to 10mph as they approach on-site boarding areas – refuse trucks capped at 15mph when they pass though the cordon at a waste processing site – many vehicles with a 5mph cap in reverse gear (which ensures that the linked obstruction detection system will stop the vehicle before it hits something).

    As an immediate action TfL could require that all buses operating in 30mph zones have their speed capped at 30mph by such a system, with the latent facility to add a switched 20, 10 and 5mph speed cap system (20mph zones, 10mph bus stations, 5mph bus depots and some bus stations.

    Meantime I’m happy to continue review of bus crashes, if the information keeps coming in. I’d note that buses still have the highest recorded pedestrian hit rates per vehicle per year (perhaps excluding the under reported collisions with Class 3 mobility scooters) but a kill rate 4 times less than HGV per pedestrian impact.

    There are perhaps 2 ‘fatality’ scenarios
    1) street is effectively operating like a bus station, but without a safe operating plan (HSAW requirement to meet duty of care for a bus station) so 30-40mph speed limits and random pedestrian crossing of the carriageway, vice 10mph with close management of how pedestrians & buses mix on the bus operating apron.
    2) bus driver making full lock turns, usually turning right into bus station/garage or ‘minor’ road. The victim is usually hit by the nearside front corner and either propelled into a hard edged piece of street furniture or goes down under the bus crushed under the 8-9T axles or dragged along pressed into the carriageway.

    A further detail is where the presence of a bus or bus lane masks the view of the victim for another driver (Bloomsbury Sq Holborn – Baldassa : Pratt Street Camden – : Camberwell – Hartsilver).

    Additionally there are Busways & Bus Stations which ‘should’ be managed as ‘premises’ under Health & Safety legislation, with hazards identified and action taken to deliver a safe operating plan, as the duty of care encumbent on the site owners and managers. Until 2006 guided busways were regulated by the same regulator as railways, but now have seemed to be cast into a void where they are neither treated as highways by the roads authority or ‘premises’ by HSE, although signs of change are appearing, with HSE taking over the investigation of a fatality on the Cambridge Busway in September 2018 (but as yet no report), and prosecuting one of at least 8 ‘derailments’ where a bus driver, overspeeding, caused the bus to make an excursion from the track, all presaging the Croydon tram driver doing exactly the same thing, with fatal results. We have bus stations with very visible hazard management and those at which an incident can happen – anytime, and has (Euston, Sheffield…) with no visible delivery of a danger reduction measures


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