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Using London Buses

London busLondon’s red double-decker buses are world-famous, and for those who are exploring the city on a budget, they offer a comprehensive, cheap way of getting around the city, and many of them run long into the night. They run to all corners of the city, and, although the process is not immediately obvious, once you understand the system, they offer a way of getting to places that the tube network does not come close to.


Buses have run on the streets ofLondon, ever since George Shillibeer set up his omnibus service (literally meaning “for everyone”) in 1829. These buses ran from Paddington into the City, and were drawn by horses. By 1855 the London General Omnibus Company was created to amalgamate, co-ordinate and rationalise all of the existing omnibus services, which ran all across the capital. Motor omnibuses were introduced in 1902, and from 1909 the LGOC began producing them themselves. In 1912 the LGOC was taken over by the Underground Group, who ran most of the underground trains, and this led to closer integration of the rail and road networks.


Unlike buses in the rest of the country, the buses in London were only part-privatised in the 1980s. The public company London Buses was set up in order to regulate both fares and services, although with the remit to contract out the services to private companies. In 2000, London Buses moved under the remit of Transport forLondon, under the aegis of the Mayors office, where it remains to this day.


If you have an Oyster card then getting buses is very simple. You simply swipe the card against one of the yellow Oyster card pads when you get onto the bus, wait for the beep to make sure it has registered and do it again as you get off the bus. The pads are in various places around the bus, but there should be one near every door. There will be one in front of the driver, and in coaches and double-decker buses there will be a pad near the doors that open about half way down the bus. On a bendy bus the pads are attached to the floor-to-ceiling poles near each of the doors.


A day Travelcard will also cover all bus travel. If you have one of these you can get on near the driver and simply show them the Travelcard. Do not try to swipe it over an Oystercard reader as the paper ticket will not register, and the driver may ask you to show them your ticket.


If you need to purchase a ticket then, at central Londonstops there are ticket machines, each of which will dispense a ticket for your journey if you have cash. Be aware, however, that many of the machines are often out of change, so you should try to have the exact money if you wish to use the machine. Alternatively, you can purchase a ticket from the driver on the bus, although you can expect a certain amount of impatience from the rest of the passengers if you have complicated journey to make, and do not have the correct change. Although Londoners are generally very friendly, they become less so when their buses are held up.

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