The Battersea bus driver who can’t wait to get back on the roads

Since the coronavirus outbreak last year, the instruction has been to stay at home, but what has it been like for the city’s bus drivers who are out in the danger zone every day?

A UCL report commissioned by TfL last year found that bus drivers have been especially vulnerable during the pandemic, being three times more likely to die from the virus than the average person.

Despite the risks, however, one driver is anxious to get back to work after a month of shielding at home for the second time.

Germachew Mulugeta, 48, joined Battersea bus garage as a driver in 2001 with little to no knowledge of what to expect.

Mulugeta said: “It was all so new to me: driving a double decker bus, meeting so many people, socialising.

“But Battersea is unlike any other garage, it’s special. There’s a sense of community, and it’s like a family to me.”

Mulugeta was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago and was urged again in March to stay at home due to the high number of Covid cases. 

TfL has faced much criticism over its handling of the pandemic and doubts have been raised over the level of protection given to its workers.

However, Mulugeta said that they have gone to great efforts to keep them safe.

He added: “Everything was so new to everyone, so of course they didn’t know what to do. No one did. But as time went on they took the necessary steps. They gave us masks, gloves, sanitisers, and things improved enormously.

“A lot of my colleagues have caught the virus, including close friends of mine who have sadly passed away. Friends I would see every single day, joke with, and get coffee with. It’s terrible.

“But you can’t blame anyone for this. It’s impossible to guarantee anyone’s safety. To be risk-free, you have to avoid people completely. And in this job, you can’t do that.

“You’re picking up passengers all the time so there’s bound to be a risk, no matter how many barriers you put up.”

For Mulugeta, these risks are ones he’s willing to take for the job he loves.

He especially highlighted the perks of witnessing the capital’s changing skyline over time.

He said: “What I love about it is that you’re out there in the open. You see so many different people every single day. Different faces, different smiles, different looks and styles.

“You see the seasons change. In summer, the sun is shining and the beauty of London really comes out, and in winter, you see all the umbrellas.

“When you know your routes inside out, you see the city change over time. One building will be demolished, another one will replace it and l’ll say to myself: ‘Hmm, this wasn’t here before, and that over there is new.’ It takes me by surprise, and always keeps me on the lookout.

“It makes me feel happy to be on the buses.”

Featured image credit: CK Travels via Shutterstock

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