Twitter saves the day for Boris Johnson and Transport for London

London Mayor Boris Johnson has won plaudits from PR professionals for apparently ­using Twitter to deal with 'roasting' hot buses last week.

Twitter: alerts Boris Johnson to bus problem
Twitter: alerts Boris Johnson to bus problem

The Mayor was inundated with tweets from disgruntled Londoners, after it emerged that many buses had their heaters turned up in the middle of the heatwave.

Drivers are said to have told passengers they could not turn off the heating during the summer, meaning temperatures soared to 45°C on some buses.

One typical tweet sent to the Mayor read: ‘Please make the drivers turn their bus heating off. We’re roasting!’

After a number of days of tweets and re-tweets, the Mayor’s transport adviser Kulveer Ranger was alerted to the ­issue. Ranger told PRWeek: ‘Boris stuck his head around the door and said: There’s a lot of stuff about hot buses on Twitter. What’s going on? … I immediately fired off a letter to Transport for London.’

TfL agreed to take action and a number of buses were found to have their heaters on, which they were able to turn off.
The Mayor then put a message out on his Twitter feed: ‘To those of you who tweeted about bus heaters being on. You guys are right. It’s hot enough! Have spoken to TFL. They’ve sorted the problem.’

Johnson’s message was gratefully received by his Twitter followers, some of whom posted replies such as ‘Twitter to the rescue’ and ‘I love seeing great uses for new technologies’.

PR professionals also said Johnson’s team had made good use of Twitter as a communications tool.

Stephanie Bonnet, head of Burson-Marsteller’s digital practice, said of the Mayor’s Twitter feed: ‘It may not be himself tweeting, but who­ever is doing it is using the right tone and providing a combination of information and personal information.’

Robin Wilson, director of digital PR at McCann Erickson Communications House, said the episode was ‘a great ­example of social media being used to create imme­diate ­action’.

Katy Howell, MD of Immediate Future, said: ‘I congratulate Boris Johnson for monitoring and responding. But I would urge a word of caution – if you open up this channel and treat it like a customer service, that could be difficult to manage.’


How I see it

David Hart
Head of corporate communications, Fleishman-Hillard

This is a fantastic example of how politics has moved with the times. But it is neither likely nor desirable that policy will be changed in this manner as a matter of course. Getting the heating turned off on a bus is one thing, but don’t expect every tweet to be met with such a swift response.

Robin Wilson
Director of digital PR, McCann Erickson Comms House

That TfL left the heating on in 30°C was stupid, but the fact that Johnson, or whoever was manning his Twitter profile, acted immediately was a good move. By responding publicly on Twitter, it showed people that he and TfL were listening and responding to requests.


900 Average tweets per week from Innocent Drinks

100% Hyatt Concierge’s engagement with followers

738 Number of people following Asda on Twitter

226 Number of Twitter updates by Boris Johnson

14m Total number of Twitter users

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