A long, succesful drive indeed. Happy 75th birthday, No. 49 bus!

Chen Huizhi
Have you ever taken the No. 49 public transport bus in Shanghai? The latest buses on the line are new but the bus route is 75 years old now and one of the earliest in the city.
Chen Huizhi

Although the Metro has taken over as the major public transportation means in Shanghai, the heroic history of local public transport buses has not been forgotten.

The No. 49 bus, which runs from near the Bund to Shanghai Stadium through some of the most iconic sites of the city, celebrated its 75th anniversary on Tuesday. The occasion brought together many of its current and former workers who fondly recollected their stories of working for the bus line.

The first No. 49 bus set out from the Bund at Nanjing Road on November 30, 1946. Over the years, the bus line has been extended several times. Today, it passes through three downtown districts of Huangpu, Jing'an and Xuhui, with stops at People's Square and three major hospitals of the city – Zhongshan Hospital, Huashan Hospital and Shanghai Cancer Center.

As one of the earliest bus lines in downtown Shanghai, the No. 49 buses have always been among the first in the city to use new vehicles, and its team has a long-standing tradition of hard and excellent work by which the award-studded bus line is known to local residents.

In recent years, the drivers on its team have been mobilized to make sure to wait for passengers who are running to catch the bus, to assist physically challenged people to get on the bus and to always remind passengers to give seats to those in need.

From March this year, passengers who take the bus from its terminal at Shanghai Stadium but have no change or transportation cards can sponsor themselves from a machine which allows people to donate their change for others who can't pay the 2-yuan (31 US cents) fare. Those who take the bus from other stops and are not able to pay the fare can get a sponsor coupon from the driver and are encouraged to pay the fare later through a machine at the terminal.

The bus has had no conductor since August 2019. From 2017, all buses running on the line have been powered by electricity. The line, operating under the No. 2 Bus Company of Jiushi Bus Group, has a fleet of 21 buses and 65 workers.

Devoted workers

For Xu Jun, a Shanghai local, who was born in the 1980s, becoming a driver of the No. 49 bus in 2015 was a dream coming true.

Xu, who grew up in an old neighborhood at Fuzhou Road near People's Square, said he was fascinated with buses since very young and especially impressed by the No. 49 bus which passed the street where he lived every day.

"I found that No. 49 buses were upgraded most frequently and people who took the bus always had a smile on their face," he said. "It was after I grew older I realized that the successful operation of a bus line takes a lot of effort."

Xu said he was overjoyed to sit in No. 49 buses and serve others, and it was his colleagues who inspired him to serve passengers better.

After the conductors were gone, Xu proposed that the buses be equipped with an emergency kit containing heart attack relief pills, summer stroke relief balm, car sickness pills, band-aids, vomit bags, napkins and umbrellas to address the needs of passengers.

"Once when I was driving I heard someone asking to open the window so a passenger could throw up. I immediately advised the passengers near me to take the emergency kit to the ailing commuter," Xu recalled. "This way the person got help and there was not littering of the street."

A long, succesful drive indeed. Happy 75th birthday, No. 49 bus!
Chen Huizhi / SHINE

Workers clean a No. 49 bus way back in 1983.

Wang Chenxiao, president of the workers' union of the No. 49 bus squad, joined the team in 2010 as a conductor. She still remembers her initial days of work.

"I was told to arrive at the parking ground for our buses at 4:30am to clean the buses before the operation," she said. "I thought my job was just to wipe the windows and mop the floor on the bus, which shouldn't take so long."

But her job entitled much more than that. Her superior taught her to use a small brush dipped in washing powder to brush the entrance pedal to the bus and to use a toothbrush to clean the thin blinds of the air vent carefully. The floor had to be mopped wet first and then dried.

"It was summer, and I was totally soaked after finishing all the cleaning," she recalled. "That was when I understood what the slogan on the wall of our office at the terminal meant to the bus line staff."

The slogan said: "For our passengers, we're working hard every day."

Shanghai Daily ran into a 73-year-old man surnamed Li who lives in a residential complex on Zhaojiabang Road in Xuhui District on Tuesday. He was taking a No. 49 bus from Fuzhou Road to his home.

Li said he has been taking the bus since the 1950s when his family moved to this part of the city and was satisfied with the service.

"They had the first buses in the city imported from Czechoslovakia at the time, those with big noses," he said. "They have always had skilled drivers to make every ride for passengers smooth."

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