Never again stuffed into a packed bus 12

Overcrowded buses have been running from Central Station to Utrecht Science Park since 1969 to bring students, teaching staff and hospital visitors to their destination. The packed bus line 12, one of the busiest lines in Europe, is also popularly known as the "sardine line". Today, this era is coming to an end. From Monday, December 16, the highly anticipated and expensive tram 22 will take over the work from line 12.

In order to say goodbye to the double articulated bus, DUB asked travellers to share their memorable experiences. Bus romances, notable drivers, and quarrels with strangers reached the editorial inbox. The story of former biology student Ragna (35) stood out. Twelve years ago, she, as a student, experienced a unique ride that was not without risks.

A unique ride from a loyal passenger
Ragna bij de bushalte, die vandaag voor het laatst in gebruik is.

"In 2007, I took the bus to my spacebox in De Uithof on a late weekday evening. I had a nice chat with the driver and forgot to get out at my stop. The driver exclaimed "Well, I will turn around at the WKZ soon anyway. Would you like to drive?" I thought he was joking, but he stopped the bus and got out of his seat. I didn't want to let that opportunity pass me by! I received a brief explanation and with careful pressure on the gas pedal we drove away at 20 kilometres per hour. He said: "This is going really slow". But I found it fast enough without a suitable driver's license. He helped steer at the bends. I found it super cool and super exciting. The best part was yet to come: after turning at the WKZ, a woman was waiting at the UMC stop. I waited for her to get in, but the door did not open. The driver said dryly: "You have to press the button for that.''

The woman seemed to have little faith in the situation when she saw my elated but tense face. She had her bus card stamped anyway and hid further on in the bus. I crossed the big intersection one more time and then I was at the Heidelberglaan stop again. The driver sat down again, I thanked him and got out. After that I never saw him again."

A day later, Ragna immediately informed her friends. “They thought it was really cool, but just like me, they were wondering what actually got into the driver. I only told my family years later, extremely embarrassed.” Ragna is wondering how the driver looks back on it. “Although I had not been drinking, a breath test did not precede it. He didn’t even know if I could drive a car at all."

Driving the bus was the highlight of the many hours she spent in line 12 during her student days. "Especially when my bike was stolen, I regularly took it." She remembers from that time that the line was mostly "very, very crowded". "At one point you even had public transport employees at Utrecht Central Station in the morning who indicated with flapping arms when the bus was full, so that at least the doors could close." Despite that, she looks back on those journeys with some nostalgia. “It's a bus that takes you from A to B, so I don't have any warm memories. However, line 12 is irrevocably linked to my pleasant student days, so it is strange that it is now disappearing. Just like when bus 11 changed to bus 28.” In a practical sense, she will also miss the bus. “These days I live in Sterrenwijk and I mainly travel by bike. The bus is a solution if I have to take my suitcase to the station. I don't really know which bus I should take in the future."

A new line is essential

A bus driver on line 12 who likes to remain anonymous, declares, after hearing Ragna's story, that he is doubtful that this has happened for real. It would be a reckless action from his colleague. “You wouldn’t put a random passenger on a bus without a valid driver's license, would you? Can you imagine if an accident would happen? Then the driver is responsible! I don't believe it." The driver, just like Ragna, is unhappy about the scenes that usually take place in bus 12. "You could just as well call it cattle transport. A new line is urgently needed, sometimes it really went too far. Elderly or sick people who went to the WKZ or UMC often couldn't sit. As a driver you can't do anything about it." He looks doubtful. "On the other hand, that bus leaves every few minutes, so getting on a later bus is no tragedy. However, they don't do that... "

He is moderately enthusiastic about the arrival of the tram line. "To begin with, I don't understand why on earth it took so long. That said, I don't think the problem will be solved. About 250 people fit in one tram set and I think it will still be packed at peak times. "

Just keep cycling
Ron van Dopperen, communications consultant for the Province of Utrecht, expects much more from the new Uithoflijn. "There is room for 450 travellers per connected tram. We therefore have more capacity to offer than bus 12." With a little luck, as a traveller you will be in the tram from Utrecht Central Station to De Uithof for 19 minutes. With a limited number of seats, only half of the passengers are able to sit down in the linked tram.

In the past, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht University and public transport services made various attempts to reduce the pressure. Since 2017, many classes from the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences start at half past eight. In turn, Utrecht University encouraged students to come by bike. Is that still necessary in the future? "With this tram line, substantially more travellers are accommodated than with previous measures. There is a tram every ten minutes, but we are taking into account passenger growth and we will gradually increase the number of trams by 2020." Van Dopperen adds: "It is good that public transport is being enhanced by the tram, but please, just continue to keep cycling to Utrecht Science Park as well."

Do you want to say goodbye to line 12 in style? Join other people tonight with the last drive! 631 people are interested in the Facebook-event, so it will probably be a busy ride again!