The Chilean who drives double-decker buses in London

Alfredo Ruz has been behind the wheel of public transport buses in the English capital for more than a decade. His connection to the industry began some time before, when he was growing up among the buses and buses of Valparaíso. Here, the Chilean tells his story at La Tercera.

“What if we brought the classics to Santiago the buses of London ?”

It is in this context that the Ministry of Transport announced in mid-August the arrival of ten double-decker electric buses which will be part of Santiago’s public transport fleet. They will be operated by Metbus and are expected to be integrated into the system in October.

Anyone who knows vehicles very similar to these like the back of their hand, and actually plying the streets of London, is the Chilean Alfredo Ruz (42) . Originally from Valparaíso, Alfredo has been driving traditional public transport buses in the English capital for 14 years.

But it’s a passion that was born to him long before: driving buses and buses are a family affair. If in his childhood he had been surrounded by these vehicles, in his adolescence it only intensified even more.

“I have it in my blood, it’s something that comes from a child” count up The third .

Learn to drive buses in Valparaíso

Alfredo says his family’s connection to transportation begins with his grandfather, who founded the transportation company. Bus Agda in Limache and which is still active. His father and uncle have also been in the business for years.

This isn’t just something that was driven by family. Neighbors and friends in Valparaíso also had buses, so I had nowhere to start. “I learned to drive buses around the age of 16, my friends taught me and lent them to me. Another thing I loved was serving the public.

Alfredo Ruz learned to drive buses when he was a teenager. Photo: Supplied.

He still remembers that as soon as he left high school, he got on the bus of a friend named Pedro and together they began to travel the streets of the port. Pedro drove and Alfredo, who was still a teenager at the time, helped him call out to the audience, acting as the “grill man.” “We worked nights, usually on weekends and in the summer. “I loved it all,” he says. When they had more confidence in him, they also asked him to take care of storing the buses in the parking lot.

Now, every time he returns to his hometown and sees the buses go by, he is filled with memories of those times.

It was in 2002 that he set foot on English soil for the first time. His mother, who worked as a nanny in London, invited him to take English lessons for a year.

Alfredo had never left the country until that moment. He still remembers that leaving Valparaíso was a little difficult at first. “My world was very small, I didn’t have this desire to travel, to know other cultures and other countries. Arriving in London was like coming out of a bubble,” he says.

Although he wanted to return, he quickly fell in love with his now-wife, got married and had a daughter, and living in this country became a reality. He worked in cleaning offices, washed dishes in a hotel, as a janitor, then as a garbage truck driver.

Until 2009, he wanted to realize a dream: driving London public transport buses. He took the exams and passed them.

“I felt it was a little easier for me because I had a school, I had already done it in Chile. In London you have to drive a lot slower and with a lot of respect, so it came easily to me. There, people complain, they say it’s a jungle and I tell them ‘go drive to Chile, it’s different there’,” he says.

The Chilean started driving London Public Transport buses more than ten years ago.

“I’m going to sit here and drive like I’ve been doing it my whole life.” That’s the sentence he said to himself the first time he sat in the driver’s seat. He was confident he could do it, with an instructor watching him alongside him.

In those early days, he admits that what was complex for him was that the driver enters a cabin, and when he closes the door, a reflection is generated on the other side of the street. But then, he said, he got used to it.

“I also happened to walk very quickly. “Everything that was Valparaíso fell on me” Explain.

What’s it like to be a public transport driver in London

Alfredo’s first routes were direct to the central London area, a practice which allows new drivers to learn quickly. Today, after more than a decade behind the wheel and being considered “one of the old guys,” the Chilean no longer makes as many trips to the center.

“Other older drivers don’t really like going there because there are a lot of taxis, cyclists and traffic in general. It’s crazy in central London, just getting back can take three and a half hours. On the other hand, a round trip on other routes takes an hour and a half, two hours maximum. This is why they send the new drivers to the center of London, to the lions as they say,” he says.

Added to this is that the audience is also very different. Towards the center, drivers receive many tourists, while towards the city limits, it is mainly locals.

Despite this, he enjoys driving downtown from time to time. “I have a Chilean flag in my backpack and I leave it visible in my cabin. This is not always the case, but sometimes Chileans show up. If I see they are wearing football team jerseys, I call them and we talk,” he says.

Alfredo’s first routes were directly to the central London area.

Nowadays it is common to travel one of the 8 routes that cross the southeast of the city. He works five days a week, although he usually works an extra day. The shift he likes the most is the one that starts at five in the morning and ends at one in the afternoon, because then he has the rest of the day free to do whatever he wants.

“I drive about three hours in the morning, then I have an hour off and I drive another three or four hours, which is the last thing,” he says.

The models he currently drives are electric buses made by BYD, the same company that arrived in Chile. . However, he adds that as they are in a transition phase, they also continue to occupy the Enviro 200 buses. “The BYDs that have arrived do not have rear-view mirrors, but cameras inside the cabins. At first we were very skeptical, but you get used to it and get used to it. The visibility is spectacular.

Alfredo, however, doesn’t like being a passenger on buses for very long journeys: he gets dizzy. For the same reason, every time for work they have to carry out special services outside the city with other drivers and they have to do route reconnaissance, he asks to drive the bus that transports them all. “They always accept me, because the other colleagues are a little uncomfortable driving if they are companions. They feel like they might be judged.

On a shelf he has inside his house, the Buenos Aires man keeps a collection that has a very special meaning in his life. They are miniature London Public Transport buses, but only the ones he drove during his career.

Alfredo’s miniature bus collection. Photo: Supplied.

Cultural differences

For the Chilean, the most complex part of living almost two decades outside the country is continuing to miss certain members of his family in Valparaíso. He also misses the way we live in the countryside, especially in Longaví, where his wife is from.

You also can’t forget Chilean seafood when you’re in England. “The flavor of our seafood is unlike any other place” said.

Regarding the cultural differences he sees most between Chile and England, he says the most obvious thing is that the English “don’t invite guests to their house.” “If they want to eat with you, they invite you to a restaurant or somewhere else, but they are not like us who invite you to the house to share a barbecue or have a drink. “It seemed strange to me.”

Another of the differences that you feel the most is the respect that people have between people, even if they don’t know each other. “I wish it was like that in Chile. Since I work in transportation, I would like people to come up and say hello… Now I notice it more than when I lived in Valparaíso” said.

And would you return to Chile at some point? Alfredo suggests that one possibility he has considered for several years is to live six months in his native country and another six in England, since his job would allow it. He assures that if he succeeded, he would not go to the city, but to the countryside.

“It’s quiet there” he concludes.

Source: Latercera

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