‘We’re not going to hell, we’re going to Ilford.’ If it helps to have a sense of humour to work at TfL, it’s probably essential when you’re driving a London night bus. Carrying more than 100,000 people every night (a threefold increase since 2000), the ever-expanding night bus network has become essential to the smooth(ish) running of the city.
Episode two of this amiable docusoap presents incidents that won’t surprised too many scarred veterans of the post-midnight Trafalgar Square ruck – all human life is here and generally misbehaving – but ‘The Route Masters’ does underline the nightmarish job of the driver. There’s obviously the piss, vomit and general abuse. But then there’s a moment of physical intimidation, when a gang storms a bus without paying, that meets with a response rather more measured than most of us would manage (albeit one exposing a couple of unfortunate racial faultlines).
Other associated characters, including those at nerve centre CentreComm and a homeless man who rides the buses to keep warm, prove just as mildly diverting. Hectic and enjoyable, if inessential – the ska soundtrack, needless to say, comes as standard.