Sunday, 10 June 2012


A bus driver refused to let a woman travel as she was short of £0.20p of the fare amount. That was the last bus home and so the woman who decided to walk back was attacked and raped. This article reports that the student was pleading with the driver for about eight minutes but still the driver had "turfed her off". Also the article indicates that none of the passengers who boarded the bus offered to make up the fare.

It looks like this news got a bit sensationalized because of that 20p. The drivers action and the fellow passengers inaction became a debatable topic. According to the above article, the bus company has also dealt with the driver through their disciplinary procedure.

It surprises me how this 20p has become the highlight here. What if the person had only 20p and the driver had refused him or her to travel and something similar deplorable incident had happened? Would it have evoked a similar response criticizing the driver or the fellow passengers for not letting a commuter to travel with just 20p?

Similarly how much is the driver's or fellow passengers act is consequential to the incident followed? Should they be the one to be blamed or punished in this case? Instead of becoming a victim, if the person had been lucky and got some fortune while walking back home, should he or she be expected to share it with the passengers and the driver for letting him/her walk?

Unless the driver had violated the company policy to be followed in situations like this, I don't think the driver is the one to be blamed. Talking about rest of the passengers inaction, it is a case study to understand human nature. Aren't people helpful by nature? Don't normal people rush to help others?

The "helping experiment" conducted by Richard Nisbett and his student Eugene Borgida has surprising results. The experiment shows that individuals feel relieved of responsibility when they know that others have heard the same request for help*. The original experiment was conducted with a seizure victim, but I think parallels can be drawn with the way how we react in situations like this.

I don't see much point in trying to find someone to blame for. For me one the of the key lessons to be learnt from this incident is to improve the ticket purchasing options in buses in general. A better system would reduce the amount of passengers left stranded off due to incorrect fare or shortage of fare.

Some bus operators accept only exact fare. They do not provide you the remaining change as the ticket fares are dropped directly into a box. Bus companies like Cardiff Bus provides a voucher for the balance amount, which can be exchanged at the customer service center. But still, the current buying options affects the commuters and also the tourists.

A better way is to start accepting card payments within buses. With the way the cash cards have evolved, especially in the developed countries, the usage of actual currency is getting reduced day by day. Lots of shops accept card payments for purchases even less than a pound,  but still its a surprise to see why the bus companies have not followed this. And now with contactless debit cards coming into the market, its not even required to chip and pin like a standard debit or credit cards.

Bus companies should start working towards providing better buying options for its customers. Improving the ticket purchasing system will help the commuters a lot and might avoid embarrassment and incidents like this.

* Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman, Penguin Books, P170

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