Crew duties

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 welcome.  


Crew duties

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.


Crew changes

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 1         Sunday

Week 2         Sunday, Monday

Weeks 3-4   Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Week 5         Friday

Week 6         Sunday, Saturday


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 day.


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.


Travelling time

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 225.



See also the next page under Inspectors for more on timekeeping.