Distractions in a disruption: The soothing effect of the heritage bus ride during London Tube strikes

Tsang, Kevin KH. 2023. Distractions in a disruption: The soothing effect of the heritage bus ride during London Tube strikes. Urban Studies, 60(15), pp. 3078-3091. ISSN 0042-0980 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper explores the cultural significance of replacement bus services during three London Tube strikes in 2018. Strikes cause delays to journeys, and are often anticipated, framed, and reported as nuisances. Empirically informed by participant observation, the paper discusses how social interaction among passengers, triggered by a heritage bus journey, could redefine a disrupted commuter trip as a collective heritage journey, via its unusual materialities and sensations. Passengers notice the different material configuration of heritage buses, leading to the creation of an affective atmosphere, which then spreads among passengers as if by affective contagion. The resulting initiation of a temporary guide–audience relationship in this unexpected space enabled different forms of intercultural dialogue and knowledge exchange, which transformed an ordinary everyday experience into something extraordinary, in which heightened awareness of the bus environment and an increase in social interaction somewhat resembled a guided tour of the city combined with commuter transport. While the economic injustices at the heart of Tube strikes should not be neglected, I propose that the use of heritage buses as replacement transport contributes to the formation of affective atmosphere via the increase in social interactions triggered by their material configuration, and consequently to the sharing of everyday history.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



affective atmospheres, collective remembrance, heritage, London bus, sociality

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


17 August 2022Accepted
31 October 2022Published Online
November 2023Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2022 12:28

Last Modified:

01 Nov 2023 10:42

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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