Page last updated 28 October 2016
With thanks to former LT staff (including A.N. Inspector), we
try to unravel some of the mysteries of scheduling buses and
crews. London bus travel, if you are at the right place at
the right time, features the slight delay of a 'crew
change'. The buses keep going but the crews get breaks - so
the two schedules are different.
On the previous pages, we looked at
bus running numbers and schedules. This section merely
scratches the surface of this subject; comment and contributions
For obvious reasons, there were more crews than buses working a
route. Crew duties had to fit within the rules agreed with
the union, as well as driver hours restrictions. Although the
drivers' hours regulations didn’t apply to conductors, LT had a
fleet wide agreement with the T&G that the hours rules would
also apply to conductors as well as drivers. The creation of
both time schedules (for the bus) and crew duty schedules
to fit the rules and the desired service in the most economic way
possible tested the skills of the scheduler. In many
cases, these schedules continued with only minor alterations for
decades, being adjusted as the working week changed and with
significant change as routes went OMO. It is sobering to
think how much work was involved in the wholesale change brought
about by the Reshaping Plan.
The duty list (the rota) posted in the 'output' (the
operations room at the garage) would instruct crews which bus (or
buses) they were to work and for what times. As an example,
there were 35 crew duties from Clapton (CT) on
route 22, numbered 1/22 to 35/22. Duty 1 was the first to
sign on and duty 35 was the last to sign on, but this didn’t mean
that, for example, duty 5/22 would be the 5th duty to finish
because some of the duties were spreadovers. These might
finish around 18.00 to 19.00 that evening whilst, say, duty 8/22
could be an early turn finishing around 14.30. Neither did it
mean that the last duty to finish would be 35/22. Note
that the crew duty number was different from the bus running
number, although there were occasional coincidences - at Muswell
Hill, duty no 30 on the 43 was a spreadover and was unique in
working MH30 for both halves.
In most cases, the first and second halves of a duty would
each involve a single bus (unlike the Country Area, where crews
might work on several buses during a duty), usually a different bus
before and after the break, and sometimes on two different
routes. These latter cases were known as jointly-compiled
duty schedules. A small minority of duties involved two
pieces of work on separate buses with a short break on one side of
the meal break; these were known as "three bus jobs".
These latter were, says Stuart Perry, pretty
unpopular. For example, on the 43, most duties were three
journeys to London Bridge, sometimes two then one with the
meal relief between, sometimes one then two. The "three bus jobs"
were still three trips to London Bridge but with three different
buses with a short break and a long break for the meal
relief. The short break would be about 20 minutes. Even
worse were spreadovers with three buses. For example duty
13/134 was a spreadover. You took MH13 from the garage to Pimlico
and back, then relieved the crew on MH4 for a trip to Victoria and
back. Then you had a 4 hour break then MH21 in the evening peak to
Pimlico and back.
At the end of each half of the duty, the crew
would hand the bus over to the next crew. When the route
passed near (or terminated at) the garage, the crew change took
place there. Otherwise, the change was at a point
where a bus could be caught to the garage at the end of the duty
and usually somewhere where the meal break ('meal relief') could be
taken. There was a standard allowance of time for the journey
there and/or back included in the duty time.
For example, the changeover point for MH crews
on the 210 was Archway and for the 212 and 244 at Muswell Hill
Broadway. Meal relief was at Archway canteen for the 210 and
the canteen on the Muswell Hill Bdy stand for the 212 and
244. At the end of the duty, crews returned by 43 or 134
to the garage, 10 mins being allowed from the Broadway and 20
minutes from Archway.
The rota, and overtime
Individual crews rotated on the duty schedule, moving to the
next duty on a weekly basis* (the rota). Duties fell
into three types, early, middle or spreadover, and late.
The usual sign-on times were:
05.00-11.00 early turn
11.00-13.00 middle turn
13.00-18.00 late turn.
Early sign-on and late sign-off times could be earlier or later
depending on the garage and routes operated and local T&G
agreements at that garage.
* the Country Area was different - a different duty was
worked each day.
Spreadover duties (S/O) started 07.00 to 08.00 and finished by
18.00 to 19.00. These duties would involve working both peak
periods, with around 3 to 5 hours break between the 1st and 2nd
half and were paid all through (despite this, they were unpopular
with some crews).
Stuart Perry provides details of how the rota worked: The
duty rota was based on what was known as the eleven-day
fortnight. The rota began on a Sunday over a six-week cycle
and the rest day allocation was as follows:
Week 2 Sunday,
Weeks 3-4 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Thus over a six-week period there were three Sundays off,
to correspond with the fact that garages put out about one-third
the number of buses on that day compared with Mon-Sat. Your
duties corresponding with your staff number were set out on the
duty board in the output room so you knew weeks ahead what duties
you were allocated and your rest days. Note that there was
one weekend off, the Saturday at the end of week 6 and the Sunday
at the start of week 1.
During my time staff shortages were extreme and there was ample
opportunity for overtime. There were three types of overtime.
You could volunteer to work any of your rest days (WRD) You would
just write WRD in the overtime book against your staff number for
the day or days you wanted to work. Going back to the overtime book
48 hours later you would see the duty you had been allocated, not
necessarily on your own route, it could be anything.
Secondly there was spot overtime on an ad hoc basis. This was
being offered work either before or after your own duty for the
day. This would just be a short piece bearing in mind regulation
hours and the fact you were already working a full duty on that
It was a fact that a high proportion of crews were unmarried.
The anti social hours of the job didn't sit well with family life.
Most of the unmarried staff, me included, lived in bedsits near the
garage. As a result the garage, not your home, became the
focal point of your life. You would eat all your meals at
subsidised prices in the canteen, only going home for
sleep. So there were always staff idling their time away in
the canteen gossiping or playing cards, so it was easy for the duty
allocator to get on the tannoy and offer work to them.
The third method of earning overtime pay was to work the late
night or early morning staff bus, but (at
MH at least) not both as driving hours prohibited that.
Meal relief times were sacrosanct and could not be varied
without the agreement of the crew - the crew must have an absolute
minimum of 40 minutes break between the 1st and 2nd halves.
The spreadover duty working time could not exceed the usual normal
working duty time. Making the S/O crew work a bus for 12
hours even though they were paid for 12 hours was not allowed,
except on the buses allocated to their duty and paid at double time
in addition to the 12 hours and with the crews agreement, known as
a ‘Double Docket’ payment. This was introduced to aid the officials
when crews were coming off late on their first buses and had a long
break so as to get the crew to take over their 2nd bus on time.
For example, take 6/22, a S/O duty on CT6 from 07.30
to 10.00, then a break, then on CT2 from 15.00 to 18.30. CT6
comes off at 10.35 due to late running. The crew are
perfectly in their right to take over their 2nd bus CT2 at 15.35
and be turned short of the destination, in this case Putney Common,
otherwise the official will be forcing the crew to finish their
duty late and potentially, more importantly from LT’s point of
view, be breaking drivers' hours rules. So to get around this
problem and get CT2 back on time, both the driver and conductor
could be asked to agree to give up 35 mins of their break and
receive a double docket in recompense. The catch from the
official's point of view was that he/she had to ask the crew and
issue the docket when they came off late from their first bus
CT6. If he/she failed to do this then the crew couldn’t
subsequently be asked, even if both had decided to take their break
at the garage and were on hand.
Alan Bond contributes some notes regarding travelling time to
remote changeover points.
'When I worked for LT there was a standard formula for working
this out and it was twice the headway of the route (all available
services) used for travel plus the journey time. Therefore if the
journey time was, say, eleven minutes and the service headway was
six minutes, the calculation for travelling time would be 23
minutes and sometimes this would occur both before and after the
meal relief. This also accounts for the difference on Sundays
(and sometimes on Saturdays) where longer headways were the norm.
One driver at Edgware, an old hand who should have known
better, insisted that you were allowed walking time but I'd like to
meet anyone who could walk from Edgware Garage to Burnt Oak, Bald
Faced Stag in eighteen minutes and if they could, why would it take
longer on a Sunday?
Apparently, the agreement regarding travelling time was
different where crews used the Underground and the travelling time
in this instance was eleven minutes on the first available train
with an allowance for the waiting time. It seems that the
reliability of the UndergrounD was such that it could be relied on
to perform satisfactorily at all times barring the unforeseen.
See also his comments on route
See also the next page under
Inspectors for more on timekeeping.