Friday, 30 December 2005

Taxi Rank or Bus Stop.


In an effort to improve the centre of Torquay the Town Hall recently carried out a lot of work in Union Street. Union Street is the main road through the centre of Torquay and is the main shopping area. If you come to Torquay on holiday and want to shop don't go up to the Willows, get a 12 to Castle Circus and walk down Union Street and Fleet Walk and on to the Strand. You will now be on the Harbour and you will have past almost all the shops in Torquay.

One of the problems was that the pavements were too narrow. So the pavements were widened. This meant that to road is now narrower than it was and there is not enough room for parking on both sides. Now there are parking and unloading restrictions at all times on the right hand side of the road ( could some one tell the driver of the black car parked on the right, NCP Parking Attendants carn't be every where). Parking bays for the disabled and for unloading were established on the left in part of what was once a taxi rank. So the taxi rank which once held 15 taxis now only holds 10. And this is the most lucrative rank in town, all those shoppers exhausted after all that shopping aren't going to catch a bus.

So you're a cab driver (been there, done that, got the T shirt), you drive in to Union Street and the rank is full. It wont be in a couple of minutes, you could drive round the block but it takes 10 minutes to drive round the block in this town and when you get back more cabs will have arrived and the rank will be full again. What would you do? I know; exactly what these 3 cabs in front of me have done. Park on the bus stop. How soon before it isn't three cabs but ten and the bus stop will be an extension of the cab rank and we will have to stop in the middle of the road temporarily bringing Torquay to a dead stop?

By the way the green bit in the road is a cycle lane, you would have to be both very brave and very, very insane to ride a bike down that cycle lane. Buses pulling out, cab drivers opening doors, pedestrians stepping out and buses swerving to avoid pedestrians who step off the right hand pavement without looking are the main hazards to watch out for.

Still it all looks very nice and I am sure it is very PC.

Thursday, 29 December 2005

A Footnote and a Warning

Yesterday I told a little story about how a driver seeing a number 12 in front of him picking up at a stop end up causing two people to end up waiting almost 45 mins for a bus that runs every 15 mins. Here is a footnote to that story. Like most large depots we have 2 or 3 spare drivers on duty during the working day. They are there in case a driver goes sick while on duty or if a driver rings in sick before starting duty. They get a Running Board thrust in to their hands and told to hit the road. Even if no one goes sick they have their uses. If a bus breaks down, God forbid, they can take a spare bus out of the garage to replace the broken down bus so the service isn't held up too much. If they aren't needed then they sit around for eight and a half doing nothing except get paid. Nice if you like that sort of thing but I find sitting round doing nothing all day just a tiny bit boring. With this in mind some one at management level decided that the spare drives should do some thing useful, like running extra buses between Torquay and Paignton.

This afternoon as I left Paignton Bus Station I noticed that there was a 12 in front of me and had no idea that it was one of these extra buses. I just decided that he was running late. As we went through the lights at Manor Road the bus in front indicated that it was stopping at the next stop so I pulled out to past so I could get to the next stop and help the driver out. As I drew level doing 25 mph a woman appeared from in front of the other bus waving franticly. There was nothing I could do but stop in the middle of the road and pick her up. The other bus drove away as soon as she boarded my bus leaving me in the middle of the road with no visible reason for being there with a police car approaching from the opposite direction and 20 cars behind playing Beethoven's 5th symphony on their car horns. "What," I enquired in the most polite voice I have ever used, "Was wrong with that bus?" Dogs 200 yards away put their paws over their ears, milk in fridges in the whole of Preston went sour and dolphins that had been swimming happily in the Bay headed for the South of France. "It's only going to the Harbour, it's no use to me I want to go a bit further."

I looked around for the hole, you know the one that swallows people but is never there when you need it. Well it wasn't there so I only had one option, to sell ticket and GO. " And where would you to got to my lovely?"
"Fleet Walk Please. Return."

An other mix up.

A little light reading first. During the day there are 25 buses running between Newton and Brixham on the 12/12A service. After 7 pm there are only 11 buses running on the 12/12A service. So between 6 and 7 pm 14 buses have to come off the road. Ten of them do this by arriving in Brixham or Newton and the driver changes the destination blind to read," Sorry you can't get on this bus",(1) and runs dead(2) back to the depot.

One of the other 4 buses leaves Brixham at 17 46 but only goes as far as the depot in Torquay. The depot is next to Focas DIY store on the Newton Road. Not much use if you want to go to Newton or even Torbay Hospital. Don't worry, there will be an other bus in 15 mins. Or will there?

A few days before Christmas I was one of the remaining buses due to come off the road. I was the 18:08 out of Newton which goes only as far as Paignton. The I run dead back to the depot. When I got there it was 18:05 and there was a couple and they had been there since 17:40 waiting for a bus to Brixham. The 17:45 came in but that only goes to the Harbour in Torquay, a long way short of Brixham. But not to worry, there is a bus to Brixham at 17:52. Unfortunatly it was running 6 mins late and the bus due out at 18:00 had arrived before it and pulled up on the stop. The 18:00 only goes to Torquay Harbour. No use if you are going to Brixham. The driver of the 17:52 saw the bus on the stop and dropped his passengers and set of for Brixham happy that any one waiting for a bus would be on the number 12 on the stop. He did not know that:-
a) the bus on the stop was only going to the Harbour and:-
b) there were two people waiting to go to Brixham.
All he saw was a number 12 on the back of the bus. There are no destination blinds on the back of our Deckers.
When I left at 18:08 for Paignton there were two not happy people. The next bus for Brixham does not run until 18:23. A total wait of 43 mins. For a bus that runs every 15 mins. Sorry about that.
I have suggested to management that a 12 not going to its normal destination of Brixham or Newton should be re numbered 12X. This would alert drivers behind (the 17:52 driver in this case) that the bus in front was not going all the way to Brixham and once passengers get used to the extra X, that the bus was going to stop short of the usual destination. I'll keep you posted if anything happens re the X.

Footnotes
(1) What it does say is, "Sorry, I'm not in Service." Much more polite.
(2) Dead, the opposite of Live. A Live bus is 'In Service' and picks up passengers, hopefully.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Business as Usual at The Half Moon

After closing for a few days with a sign on the wall stating that the then Landlord was fed up having to pay Torbay Coucil business rates of £335.00 per week the Half Moon now has a sign on the wall stating Business As Usual. The Half Moon has been hosting live music since I first moved in to the Bay 8 years ago and I have been entertained there on many occasions. There has been an article in the local paper The Herald Express that the music will go on. Cover bands from REM to the Beach Boys, Diana Ross to the Rolling Stones and lots of others have played here and the next gig will be on New Years Eve. Good news for live music in the Bay. Full story from the Herald Express below.


HALF MOON BACK WITH CHARITY GIG

The Half Moon pub in Paignton which recently closed it doors to the public is back open again for business. The new owner, Graham Moore and Enterprise Inns plc, which will host their first major event will take place on New Year's Eve.The fundraising night will be in aid of the three-year-old cancer victim Bobby Wright.Performing on the night will be Soul Funktion, a 10-piece band who will perform party favourites such as Blues Brothers and the Commitments.There will also be a disco during the evening which runs from 8pm until late.Tickets will cost £5 with limited availability. There is a chance of being able to pay on the door. All proceeds from the ticket sales will go direct to the Bobby Wright Cancer Appeal.To reserve tickets call 01803 551385.

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Sad Santa


Half way up Abbey Road in Torquay there is a pub called the Mouse Trap, we are in Agatha Christie land after all. This sad Santa is there waving at the passing drivers.

If you have spotted a sad Santa that is even sadder than this one please don't let me know, I'm depressed enough as it is.

Half Moon in Paignton


The half Moon is, or was a well known music venue in the Bay. After stating in the Herald Express that he was not closing the pub, the landlord closed the pub the next day. Then the poster appeared re the rates he has to pay to Torbay.

I wonder if he has only just found out he has to pay rates. The pub has re openned again and hopefully is being run by some one who can do a Cash Flow Projecting to include the rates.

Friday, 23 December 2005

Bus crash in Paignton Bus Station.


If you look carefully you might make out 3 cracks in the paint work next to the lights. Well OK, to call it a bus crash was a bit over the top. On the accident report form where it asked for Speed at Time of Accident I wrote half a mile an hour. Unfortunately what I hit was an other bus. Which came off slightly better than my bus did. Indeed the station controller told me that there had been no damage; but the light was poor on the bus station, when I got to Newton Abbot where the light was better I noticed the cracks. An other black mark on the record. I do have a defense but my lawyer says it will only hold water if I freeze the water first and that is cheating.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

LUCKY ESCAPE IN BUS ACCIDENT

An elderly man escaped with minor injuries after colliding with a Stagecoach bus on Falkland Road in Torquay yesterday. The 78-year-old local man was taken to Torbay Hospital for a check-up after the accident just off Avenue Road just before midday.

The 32 H bus was heading down Falkland Road towards Kings Drive when it was in collision with the pensioner.Insp Glen Mayhew said from the scene: "There was a collision between a bus doing its normal route and an elderly pedestrian at approximately 11.45am. Early indications are his injuries are not too serious. We expect him to be discharged soon."Subsequent inquiries revealed that man had suffered minor cuts only.

The above is taken from an item in the local paper, The Herald Express.

A collision between a pedestrian and a bus is one of those things that all bus drivers dread. I don't mean we wake up in the morning worrying if to day will be the day and need to take a few pills to calm our nerves down enough so we can go to work; but when the news came out over the radio the first thought was 'I wonder if the pedestrian is OK' followed at once by the same question about the driver.

I have been in this position of hitting a pedestrian, not while driving a bus but a taxi. Ask me what I did last Thursday and I would have to think about it quite hard but I can still remember every detail from the moment I realized I was going to hit some one to the time I had stopped and got out of the taxi and this was 39 years ago.

Following the advice about falling of a horse I drove the taxi the next day and our driver did the same thing. He was in work to day which I believe is the best thing for him to do.

I also hope the pedestrian is up and about some and puts the Green Cross Code on his must read list.

Bus Stops

You're driving along without a care in the world when suddenly a voice is heard to cry in desperation"You've gone past my stop." It happens now and then, you get distracted and forget the bell has been rung or you didn't hear the bell in the first place. Usually you pull up at the first reasonably safe place and let the passenger off the bus at the same time saying sorry about 17 times. Well I do, other drivers may have different ideas.

But in the last few months this has happened 5 times and not for the above reasons. Yesterday I was driving up the Grand Canyon heading for Brixham. There is a stop at the YMCA. I mean there was. It's not there now. Has the stop turned in to a triffid and up rooted and moved some where more interesting? Have a gang of drunken rugby players stolen it and are now using it for what ever dark purpose drunken rugby players do with stolen bus stops? Or have the council moved it and not told anyone. (Note bus stops are a council matter) My guess is the council.

No problem for my passenger, a little, dear sweet old lady. She ended up closer to home. However when I mentioned the changed site of the stop, one driver, new to the twelves said he had heard the bell and driven along looking for the stop and had ended up at Waterside, over 1/2 a mile down the road. His dear sweet little old lady was not best pleased, especially as it was raining cats and dogs at the time.

As well as this walking bus stop there have been 5 new bus stops put up and the only way I have found them is the a passenger saying, "You've gone past my stop." Or in one case a passenger jumping out in front of me with arm out streched. I mean when you have driven a route 2 or 3 times you do look out for bus stops but after 10 000 time along the same route you tend not to bother.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

More on the wood carvings

On Sunday evening I emailed Teignbridge District Council and Devon and Cornwall Police about the Wood Carvings. I wanted to find out if anything could be done in the interests of speeding up the flow of traffic to prevent the wood caver from displaying his wares at the side of the road. I received an email on Monday from the police who said it would be passed on to a local office and gave me a log number 415 12 12 05.
On Monday a message was left on my answer machine from an officer in Paignton Police Station who said that the carver had been carrying out his activities for the past 2/3 years with no great problems. ( Not true; every time he appears he delays the traffic.) He had spoken to Trading Standards who said it was not their problem and to Teignbridge District Council who said it was not their problem. He added that the only thing they (the Police) could take issue with was if he was causing an obstruction. He had added that this would be difficult to prove because of the normal congestion along that stretch of road.
At 10:40 on Wednesday morning I rang Paignton Police Station and spoke to SEO who said she would add my comments to the log.
At 10:50 an officer from Paignton Police Station rang back and listened to my comment about the increase to journey times and I told him about the photos and the times I had taken them. These photos showed that it had taken 19 mins to get from Scotts Bridge to Aller.( On Thursday at 17:30 in the middle of rush hour it had taken 5 mins to cover the same distance. )
I did suggest that if he wanted more comments about this problem he should nip over to Paignton Bus Station canteen and ask any 12 driver what they thought about the wood carvings. So far he hasn't been. He said that he would pass every thing over to the Road Safety Officer to have a look at the situation.
At 4:30 pm Teignbridge District Council replied to my email with the comment that my request had been handed to the Planning Office who would contact me in due course.

I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Bus Stop, not coach stop

This is the bus stop at Brixham Bank Lane. My bus is the one at the front. Then came the coach and the driver looked at the bus stop and decided that he too was driving a bus, not a coach. Then, as he was unloading his passengers for a days wander round the delights of Brixham an other 12 turned up. The driver of the coach got a bit upset that I had taken photos of his coach and wanted to know why. I told him I always take pictures of coaches illegally parked on bus stops. I didn't tell him that all I ever did with them was show them here. He even got on the bus and was shouting at me, silly man. I was tempted to shut the doors and drive away but an ambulance turned up and we had to move away in a hurry.
Coach firm was North Dorset, from Bournemouth, phone number 01203 311799

Monday, 12 December 2005

Delays on the A380, the road not the plane.


On Saturday and Sunday the main road between Torquay and Newton Abbot, the A380 slowed almost to a stop. Drivers who travel along this road were probably not surprised when they reached Scotts Bridge on their way out of Torquay to find traffic at a stand still. On going work by the local water board have been causing long delays on this road in recent weeks. Also this road, which has been the centre of a demand for a bypass over the last few years is accident prone, maybe at some point in their journey the motorists and their passengers would be treated to the sight of some poor sod being cut out of his wreaked car and carted away in an ambulance. After a mile and a half which took over 15 mins to cover they discovered what was causing the hold up.

Delays on the A380, the road not the plane. part 2


No, not a ten car pile up with the grisly remains of former motorists being carted away, not even a hole in the road with a couple of workmen leaning on their shovels looking board but these crude carvings at the side of the road. Those of us who have been driving along this road over the last 4 or 5 years have seen these lumps of wood in this spot at summer holiday time and just before Christmas. We don't slow down and go, "Oh look wood carvings. How wonderful." unfortunately lots of people do. And this is what is causing the delay.So OK the guy in the green shirt has to make a living selling these things but why is he allowed to do so in a manor that disrupts the traffic flow along what is one of the busiest roads in the South West. While he was displaying this crude waste of good fire wood tens of thousands of people had there journey time increased by 15 mins. Also everyone knows that slow moving cars projuce lots and lots of green house gas. The man is practicaly destroying the planet single handed.Most traders who wish to sell some thing like this go to Craft Fairs (he'd be thrown out for giving craft a bad name), or the rent a market stall, or they go on e-bay. Please Teignmouth Council, there must be some thing you can do. The man must be committing an offence, apart from ill treating wood that is.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Delays on the A380, the road not the plane. Part 3


Let's face it. Michelangelo has nothing to fear. And would you want this in your garden?

Well if your next door neighbour's cat digs holes in the lawn to bury its doings maybe this would persuade it to go else where; maybe it would persuade your neighbour to go else where as well.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Blue Badges


Now and then I have a go at Blue Badge holders who park their cars in places they shouldn't. In case you don't know holders of Blue Badges are disabled and are allowed to park their cars in places that would normally get non blue badge holders a FPN. The fixed penalty round here is £60.00. Lots of BBH's park on double yellow lines even though there is a handy car park and with no regard for the fact that the yellow lines are there either to keep the road clear for people to drive along or because it may be dangerous to park there. There are two main reasons why they do this. One is that they may be so disabled that even to walk a few yards may be difficult or impossible for them. Well if that is the case then good luck and best wishes to them. The other reason is, why pay to use a car park when you can park for 3 hours for free on double yellow lines. Stand about in Hyde Road in Paignton for a while and watch a BBH park his/her car on double yellow lines and walk of into the distance when it would be a shorter walk is they had gone in the car park. A dangerous place BBH's park is on the bend at the top of new road in Brixham and then walk past the car park on their way to go shopping.

As the picture shows not all BBH's fall into this second category. The anxious looking gentleman in the picture is the driver of the car shown with his Blue Badge. He had taken the trouble to go into the car park and pay his fee only to find that all the Disabled Bays had been filled by non blue badge holders.

Over the years the number of Blue Badges has grown and the rules need looking at to reflect this change. More disabled bays and free parking for BBH's in car parks is one step to encourage BBH's to make greater use of the car parks and less use of valuable road space. Also the rule re free parking on any yellow line should be restricted in those places where it is a serious danger or does hold up traffic as it does in Hyde Road. Torbay rules and regulations that all BBH's get do ask BBH's not to park on yellow line when there is a car park handy. But a request has no force in Law. Please Torbay send some one out on a bus one day and have a look at this problem from the point of view of some one who has to drive through the Bay lots of times every day.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Odd things that happened to day

First we had the Grand opening of the new, rebuilt Lydl store on Newton Rd. For weeks we have had minor problems down by the store as the car park has been reduced in size while the rebuilding was going on but to day was chaos. The main road there has Yellow lines either side and normally is clear of traffic. To day, even though NCP Parking Attendants were patrolling, both sides of the road were full of parked cars. Not one parking ticket was issued. Why not I hear you ask? All the blue badge holders in Torbay had turned up and they can park just about any where they want. And they do.
It doesn't say much for the Bay when the main attraction for all the disabled people here is the reopening of a food store. I had some Lydl baked beans once, 4p a tin and they tasted just like 4p. As well as this lot there were people who had come from yards away for this grand re-opening and were lined up in the middle of the road trying to get in to a clearly full car pak from both directions will a grim determination to get in and sample what ever cheap samples were going and never mind if they blocked the road. Please Mr Lydl, next time you re open your store hire a couple of police persons to direct traffic.

Then on the Post Office roundabout some idiot parked his 20 tonne van and blocked the road while he wandered off some where, Torquay came to a sudden stop for ten minutes before he came back and drove away without a care in the world.

Then in to Paignton where we have a diversion due to road works. This diversion means we have to turn from Hyde Rd into Torbay Rd, a very tight turn at best of times. Yesterday I spoke to someone fron the Town Hall about the fact that Blue Badge holders were parking on this corner making it very difficult for us to get round with the buses. He said he would get on to the police and get them to put some No Parking Cones down. With all the blue badge holders down at Lydls I didn't expect to find any there to day. There were. Some people are determined to cause chaos and when you have a go at them they just smile, point to their badges and say, "I can park where I like." And then walk down to the sea front 300 yards away.
Oh yes, there were no cones any where to be seen.

Then came the news over the bus radio that the end of Shipey Lane was close by the junction of Newton Rd. There is a railway bridge just round the corner and a body had been seen on the railway line. Shipey Lane was closed for 3 hours.

Then as I was driving up Abbey Rd I noticed that 4 or 5 young men (in their twenties) were pushing an other man about. He saw the bus coming and ran up to the bus in some distress, he even tried to press the emergency entrance button to get on the bus. I opened the door and let him on and closed it before anyone else could get on. On of the other men shouted some thing not nice but then walked away and I drove of up the road. The men who had boarded the bus was very grateful, promised me a pint, he also had a ticket which I punched.

Just an other day at work.

Oh yes, I handed my NVQ folder in a few days ago and I got it back to day, marked. I haven't had a look yet, too scared.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

To day at work I heard a story that may or may not be true. It concerned a bus company situated at the Liverpool end of the East Lancs Road with a name not greatly different from a John Ford movie staring John Wayne. The story suggested that about 84 drivers and the bus company had parted in lest than amicable circumstances.

Any one out there add anything that may throw more light on this event?

Friday, 2 December 2005

DVD Recorder and Internet Shopping.

Last December that nice Mr Blair sent me £200.00 so I would vote for him; sorry so I could keep warm. We decided the best way to keep warm was not to move from in front of the TV all winter. With so many repeats on the these days (as a TV watcher since 1953 I can affirm that nothing has changed in that department) we decided to spend the heating allowance on a DVD recorder so at least the choice of repeats would be our own. Switch on computer and ask Empire Direct to send us a DVD in return for heating allowance. Please don't tell DWP or they may want the £200 back. DVD arrived complete with Instruction Manual which I now know was first written in Japanese, translated into Apatche then into Latin, into French, into Urdu, into Spanish,into Glaswegian and finally into English. It wasn't all these translations that made impossiblele to follow; it was the fact that the person who wrote it in the first place had never even seen a DVD recorder. He worked as a chicken farmer in Kamogawa.
The arrival of the second DVD recorder meant we had to set it up once again. After looking at the instructions for several hours we decided that this time it might be better if we threw the book out the window and not the recorder. Any way the recorder works fine now and have just watched the 2nd episode of Big Red Bus which I missed on Thursday as I was working.

PS this years heating allowance has been put toward air fare to Australia; dont need too much heat there. Again please don't tell the DWP.

Windy and Wet



When it is dull in Torquay it is dull. After a few days of dry cold weather to day we had wet windy weather. First a sign at the bus station got the wind treatment. Fortunately a keen eyed member of staff spotted the sign and was able to quickly secure it before any damage was done. Then down the road at Livermead a drain got blocked and a poor council workman had to clear the blockage without being washed away by the tidal wave created by passing buses.

Then two passengers who had come down to Torquay for a long weekend got on the bus and asked if it was going to get any better. I told them it was but if you click here you can see I was stretching the true a little. Well a lot really.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

The Big Red Bus

This is aBBC Tv program that is a mix of experienced bus drivers as they go about their duties and the class room where new bus drivers go about theit training. Last week the new drivers were in the class room learning the rules and passing their Theory Test. The experienced driver was on a school run. I hope not of those children were related to you. This week's program (Thursday 7:00 pm BBC 1) follows the trials and tribulations of London bus drivers. The only Apache bus driver in south London gives the cowboys a run for their money. Rookie drivers Mya and Sebastien discover that the bus lane to driving success is littered with tears and squashed cones.

Been there, done that, give it a watch.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

No guns, just the usual day to day incidents.

While my colleague was out there dealing with a nutter with a gun (imitation) I was dealing with the following low grade, every day incidents that from time to time turn up all in one day.

First I was heading into Torquay through Kingskerswell (of the "we need a by pass now," fame) when I spotted 4 people at the bus stop. None of them gave any indication that they wanted a bus but as part of my job is to mind read I decided that they were all too shy to put out an arm and pulled into the stop. My mind reading abitlities had let me down once again, they were just having a chat and just happened to be standing at the bus stop. After what seemed like for ever (15 sec) I managed to rejoin the flow of traffic wondering why one of these nice ladies could not have either waved me on or shook their head to save me stopping. I also knew that for the rest of the day any one just standing at a bus stop and not showing any interest in my approaching bus would watch my bus disappear into the distance.

At the Harbour a male passenger boarded the bus and demanded a single to Paignton. I pressed the right keys on the ticket machine and it gave me the fare, £1.85 and the passenger his ticket. He them removed from is pocket a yellow county wide pass and announced that he had a pass. This means that his fare should have been 92p and that I would have to annul the ticket I had given him and produce an other. Some one in the office has to check all these annuled tickets just to make sure some one isn't making a little extra on the side. I asked the passenger if in future he could announce in advance of his demand that he had a pass and if it wasn't too much trouble to actually have the pass in his hand when he asked for his ticket. "Oh Yer," He bellowed, "I've been here 16 years and never been told that." 'Well you have now,' making a mental note to make him pay full fare next time he got on the bus and did not show his pass until I had issued his ticket. (I can too).

Three stops up the road by the Grand Hotel a young lady had her arm out in the universally recognized signal that you want the bus to stop. Yes I know that not all bus drivers recognize this sign but I do and I pulled in. Young lady placed a small bag on the platform and walked away saying that she was going the answer her phone. It took me about 1.735 seconds to get out of my seat, remove said bag, close doors, return to seat, check mirror, give pull out signal and pull out. I don't mind waiting while mum pushes baby buggy with a toddler in tow and a weeks shopping onto the bus or even Doris running for the bus but not while you answer your phone. Either you want to catch a bus or you want to answer phone.

Later on in the day I came round the roundabout in Lymington Road and standing 30 feet from the stop was a man with a phone held to his ear. I slowed down in case he wanted the bus but he gave no sign that he did so I continued on. There were parked cars just past the stop and I had to wait for on coming traffic, I was now blocking the road and he came running up, phone still pressed against his ear. Maybe he was frightened his ear would fall off if he moved his phone. He hammered on the door but I shook my head indicating that he could not get on the bus now. His chance had gone. I don't mind blocking the road to load passengers when I don't have a choice but once again either you want the bus or you want to answer your phone.

On my last trip, coming out of Paignton who was at the stop with his arm out? The gentleman who got on earlier at the Strand. A quick intake of breath ready to make him pay full fare for not showing of pass. A nice little end to the day. And what did he do? He got on the bus with his pass open in his hand and said, "A County Wide single to Shipey Lane please." He even had the right money ready in his hand. Damn.

Hero Bus Driver Foils Gun Plot

A double decker bus was stopped by police on Torquay seafront after a passenger was spotted carrying a gun.Units surrounded the No 12 Stagecoach on Torbay Road outside the Livermead Cliff Hotel after receiving a 999 call from the bus company which had been tipped off by the driver.
Officers spoke to a young man and seized his weapon which turned out to be a BB or ball bearing gun - an imitation firearm which it is illegal to carry in public under new legislation.
Stagecoach boss Chris Hilditch said today: "I've never come across anything like this after nearly 30 years in the bus business."He added: "We are grateful to the passenger for alerting our driver who did the right thing and kept her cool in difficult circumstances. The police also did well to respond so quickly."
Police pounced just after 9am yesterday when Stagecoach staff told them a driver had reported a passenger on the top of deck of his bus was armed with a gun.Two police units stopped the vehicle on the seafront and spoke to the 19-year-old passenger from Brixham who was about to leave the bus. The gun was in his bag.
A spokesman said he was given "strong advice" about carrying a BB gun in a public place. He was also briefed about recent legislation. He was not arrested. The banned weapon was seized for destruction.The bus was allowed to continue on its journey after a half-hour delay.It's understood the man spoken to by police was the only other passenger on the bus when the alarm was initially raised from the vehicle as it stopped at Wheatridge Lane, Livermead.
The police spokesman said: "This could have been quite a serious incident. Some people are still not aware of new legislation which bans these imitation guns from being carried in public."Stagecoach did well to raise the alarm in the way they did. Fortunately we did not have to deploy an armed response team on this occasion. The consequences of carrying such an item in public can be very serious and distressing for the person involved."


After the police had given this nutter his "strong advice," they then asked the driver if she would take him on to his destination, easier than arresting him. She told them to get s****d. Or words to that effect. She also carried on working in the true tradition of bus drivers every where, after all what's half and hour late round here.

Saturday, 26 November 2005

George Best


Two things I remember about George Best, one was his own quote"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."
The second was the fact that I was privileged to see him play over 100 times for Man U and he was simply the best.


Click here to see what The Times said about him.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Selling New Zealand

Disposal of New Zealand operations

21/11/2005
Further to its announcement of 18 November 2005, Stagecoach Group plc (“the Company”) is pleased to announce that it has now agreed unconditional terms for the divestment of all of its New Zealand operations (“Stagecoach NZ”) to Infratil Limited, a company listed on the New Zealand Exchange that is a specialist investor in infrastructure and utility assets. The divestment is expected to complete by 29 November 2005.
Stagecoach NZ operates bus services in the Wellington and Auckland areas of New Zealand, and ferry services in the Auckland area.
The enterprise value agreed for the disposal is NZ$250.5m, to be settled in cash.
The proceeds of the disposal will initially be used to reduce net debt, and the disposal is not expected to materially impact consolidated earnings per share.

Brian Souter, Stagecoach Group plc Chief Executive, commented: “The Group’s New Zealand operations have been tremendously successful under our ownership, delivering excellent financial returns. We received an approach about the possible sale of the business and, after assessing Infratil’s offer and the prospects for the New Zealand operations, we concluded that the disposal was in the best interests of our shareholders. We remain focused on our strategy of maximising shareholder value from the Group’s portfolio of bus and rail businesses through organic growth and we are continuing to explore the potential for complementary acquisitions in the UK and North American bus markets."

Just thought you would like to know. David

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

A Cold But Bright November Day


To day was one of those days that brighten up winter. Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind. The light was glorious, gentle pink on the white houses, and a vivid red sunset with Venus, the evening star appearing right on cue. Cold though, 6C but for such a beautiful day it was worth it.

There were a couple of incidents that crept in and tried to spoil it. The first has been going on for a few weeks now and really only became noticeable against the background of a perfect day.
In the buses we have two way radios. These may the job easier, control can contact us to change our running times if delays have made us late and drivers can contact other drivers with information and with offers of help. Unfortunately the is a driver out there who seems to think it is amusing to rapidly click his microphone button. This produces a serices of clicks from every one else's loud speaker and it gets very irritating after a while. The pillock then shouts "Wheeeeeeeee." into his microphone. I wonder if he realizes that he will be out of a job if we ever find out who it is?

The second was a teenager who got on the bus and started swearing. I at once told him to stop. "Sorry." he said but started again within 10 seconds. I pulled up at the next stop and suggested that it would be polite of him to leave the bus if he wished to continue using such language. And he was a polite young man. He immediately got of the bus, stood on the pavement and said that he would sooner f*****g walk anyway. Suits me fine. I shut the doors and drove away, a perfect day still.

For more photos Click here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Where were you when you heard the President had been shot?

One of the signs of getting old used to be that policemen looked so much younger. Now of course you hardly notice as the speed past in their patrol cars. An other sign is that so few people can now answer the question at the top of this post. In deed some people may even say,"What president?"

Well, since you asked I was on a bus.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Stagecoach named "Best Bus Operator in UK"

Stagecoach were recently named as the best bus operator in Britain.

Don't believe me? Click here and read

But please remember, I told you so.

OK. OK. It was only some Stagecoach depot in Scotland. Nothing to do with us down here in Devon

Saturday, 19 November 2005

A not nice note to a car driver.



Notes like this do the rounds from time to time.

I don't totally agree with the content; we actually don't want a*******s on our buses thank you very much.

Leapfrogging

In the bus industry leapfrogging happens when one bus on a route is running a little late and the bus behind catches up. The bus behind over takes and picks up passengers where he can. A slightly different version is when the late bus arrives at a bus stop just in front of the on time bus and drives past the stop and the on time bus picks up the passengers. Every one benefits here, the late bus picks up a bit of time and it makes no difference to the passengers which bus they get on, their journey time remains the same.

There are a couple of problems with this system. One is when the late bus just drives past the stop knowing that the on time bus is not far behind but is not in view. The passengers at the stop don't know the other bus is about to appear and feel a bit upset that a bus they may have been waiting 20 mins for has just driven past. So we shouldn't drive past unless both we, the driver, and the passengers waiting at the stop know, that is can see the next bus coming up to the stop. Common sense really.

The second problem is also common sense. You can not play leapfrog with a driver who is not going to the same place as you. For lots of years this wasn't a problem on the 12 route. There was no problem leaving people to catch the bus behind while you went on to the next stop. Both buses were 12s and going to the same place. But now we have two different services traveling along the same route for part of the time so now if you go past a stop there maybe some there who wanted your bus and not the bus behind. There maybe a bus at a stop picking passengers up, you can only go past if you are the same service. If he is a 12 and you are a 12A you have to at least slow right down and see if there is anyone at the stop who wants you. Not just drive past and leave people to wait 15 mins for the next 12A. Or have them guess that they should catch the 12 and change at Paignton. Why should they. If you are heading towards Brixham please remember the 12 and the 12a are two different routes. It's not the passengers fault that management didn't call the 12A the number 14 and make this fact clear to everybody. (Please note up there in Exeter).

P.S.
If you have left Paignton and are heading to Newton the the 12 and the 12A are going to the same place so play leapfrog to your hearts content. One last though; do not run early just so you can play leapfrog.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Lost Property


If you leave something on a bus it will end up in the Lost Property Department in Paignton (phone 01803 665600 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, Mon to Fri). After a resonable length of time, a few months, a list goes up in the payin room of all unclaimed lost property and the driver's name who handed it in. If your name is there you can go and claim what ever it is. If you don't go and claim I imagine what ever it is gets thrown away. I not certain about that but old scarfs, size 3 football boots (muddy) and lady's purses, usually empty I'm sorry to say don't have much appeal. Any way to day was my day to find my name on the list and I received the CD/MP3 player as shown in the photo.

If you lost this player on my bus could you please send me the instruction book as I am having some difficulty trying to work out how it works. Many thanks in advance.

Cherry Brook Drive


Three months ago we started the 12A. A new service which followed the 12 route from Newton to Paignton and then went to the new South Devon College via Roselands and then on to Brixham. One of the contentious places on the new route was the right turn out of Cherry Brook Drive onto the Dartmouth Road. Dartmouth Road is a fast busy duel carrigeway and all drivers (including me) were heard to say, "Accident waiting to happen there mate, just you wait and see." Well so far no accidents. Mainly because as we pulled out into the central reserves the back of the bus is left hanging out over the right hand lane. The traffic coming out of Brixham still had the left hand lane to use to avoid smashing into the back of the unsuspecting bus.

Over the last few weeks the council have been proceeding slowly with some road works. Now they have almost finished and it is plain to see that the left hand lane has been removed. Now when we make our right turn the back of the bus will block the road, a road that cars tend to travel along well above the 30mph speed limit in force on this road. Has some one in Town Hall heard our predictions re accident waiting and decided to make our dreams come true in a hurry?

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Life as a passenger.

Yesterday I had to go to Oldway Mansion in Paignton which is a 15 min bus ride on the 12/12A. The 12/12A runs every 7 or 8 mins during the day and the bus stop is only 3 mins from the house. So at most it should have taken no more than 28 mins even if I had just missed a bus. It took over 40 mins. 3 mins down to the bus stop, 25 mins waiting for the bus and 15 mins bus ride. To make matters worse, after waiting 25 mins for the bus, 3 of them turned up at once. The problem? Road works in Newton Abbot.

Waiting for a bus is the worse part of using the bus instead of owning a car, yes I know bus fares in Torbay are not the cheapest in the land but then I don't have to pay.

There is of course two parts to waiting for a bus. The bit where the bus has arrived and the 10 people in front of you are boarding the bus. The first gets to the hallowed position by the driver and digs around in side her bag for a return ticket. Everyone behind is now standing in the cold and damp expecting to get on the bus NOW. How can it take so long to find a ticket. What are they talking about? Are they discussing if God exists and is he/she a bus driver? The next person moves forward. How can it take so long to find the money. The next person has their ticket ready, the driver punches it and we all move forward. At last we're get on the bus.The next person, who has been shaking his head and tuting and clicking teeth all the time during this wait now reaches the driver. "How much to Torquay?" On being told £1.85 he digs around and find 27p in change which he returns to his pocket and then spends about 19 years trying to find his wallet. Don't people always keep their wallets in the same pocket? You know; the last pocket they look in!

Eventually we all get on and watch the same process carried out at all the stops to Torquay. I really do love bus driving.

You get to the bus stop and there are a few people there, this means you haven't just missed the bus. So you wait with hope in your heart with the anticipation of the appearance of the bus round the corner at any moment. I am not sure how long it takes for the feeling that maybe the afore said appearance may be a little delayed. This feeling is soon changed to maybe a lot delayed when you remember the 20 mins you spent in Newton yesterday waiting at the temporary traffic lights just out side Shereborne Rd.

The journey back was slightly worse. As I came down from Oldway Mansion and onto the main road 4 buses went by heading for Torquay. I hate standing around waiting so I started to walk. An other bus went by when I was no more than 50 yards from the bus stop. I should have known better. Evenually after standing (I really do hate standing up, I became a bus driver because you spend almost all of your working life sitting down) at the next bus stop for 10 mins a bus came and I got home over 2 hours after leaving home.

Every bus driver should do something like this now and then so they have a taste of what it is like to be a passenger, sorry customer.

It is still easier than having a car and having to drive to Paignton and find a parking place and then drive back and find a parking place some where within walking distance of home, not a likely event when you live close to the town centre.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

More from Malta

If you think bus drivers in the UK are bad then read this from 'The Times of Malta'.


Bus drivers behaving badly
Ariadne Massa of ‘The Times of Malta’.

Bus drivers, already suffering from an image problem, were found to have committed 932 breaches of their code of conduct over the past nine months with offences ranging from swearing and smoking to failing to obey traffic signs and driving right past bus stops.
A Code of Conduct and Discipline for bus drivers was introduced in February as part of efforts to improve the service under an agreement reached between the government, the Public Transport Authority (ADT) and the Public Transport Association.
A total of 471 fines, amounting to £10 000, were settled immediately by the offenders, while another 46 were decided at a tribunal with bus drivers having to cough up £800, Darrell Pace, the Roads Ministry spokesman, told The Times.
The most common offence was changing the schedule without authorisation, with 359 fines issued, followed by 97 fines for failing to report to work as stipulated by the roster.
Twelve fines of £50 each were dished out to bus drivers for using blasphemous words, though many suspect this figure would be much higher if everybody had to file a report for every rude word uttered.
Another 23 fines were issued to those who failed to stop at a bus stop, 21 for deviating from the established route and eight fines for parking in a prohibited place.
A number were caught using a mobile phone and others failed to keep their bus clean or well-maintained.
The bulk of the reports were made by ADT enforcement officers rather than by the public, which may mean that some bus drivers have been let off the hook if people have failed to report any shortcoming.
Before the code was introduced the only way bus drivers could be reprimanded for their misbehaviour was through the courts, which put people off from making any reports.
The code's introduction means that bus drivers have no choice but to obey if they do not want to be fined and as a result their behaviour is changing slowly, according to the ministry spokesman.
"An increase in patronage over the last year, a decrease in the number of complaints received by phone and an increased compliance with vehicle maintenance requirements could indicate a change for the better in bus drivers' behaviour," Mr Pace said.
Mr Pace said that if the public wanted to report any incident complaints should be directed to ADT's Customer Care Unit freephone 8007 2393.

Sunday, 13 November 2005

This van should turn right


I was stopped at the lights in Abby Road when this white van came up behind me and moved into the right lane. This lane is marked for turn right into the car park.


To be continued below..................

But he turned left


But guess what, he turned left.
He must have been in an almighty hurry because this maneuver must have saved him all of 10 seconds.
Either that or he was trying to uphold the honour of all white van drivers every where.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Road works on the Strand (2)


Sprungland can not get past the bus because there are vehicles on his left parked. Even a class of year six school children would have put cones up in this section of road to make it qucker and easier for traffic to leave the road works.

If you were waiting a long time for a bus yesterday dont blame us, blame Town Hall

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Road Works on the Strand.


One day in September I thought we had reached rock bottom with buses running late. We had just introduced the new 12A service and there were problems with road works in Newton and we simply did not have enough time to get round the route. Well the road works in Newton have gone and we have an extra 15 minutes which means we now don't have to risk our driving licenses just to get round the route.

But to day we had buses running up to and over an hour late. By the early evening so many buses had been turned short of their destinations that the controller was spending all his time recording the lost mileage in the book. And why was this?

It was due to the road works on the Strand. No, that's not true. It was due to the total lack of traffic management around the road works by the contractors carrying out the road works. No even that is not true. It was due to the fact that Torbay Highways Department did not force the contractors to set up proper traffic management around the road works. But then they never do. Why did I expect anything different with these road works. Probably because the Strand is the main road through Torquay and there are very few alternatives. Especially as the alternatives include Belgrave Rd and Sheden Hill. And there are road works blocking them as well.

It does not seem to occur to our Town Hall that if they leave it to the good will of the contractors to ensure that diversions are well thought out and sign posted and the temporary traffic lights have just a little planning put into their sighting and operation, then the contractors will not spend time and money doing this important work. Why should they? Their job is to repair the road and the less money it costs them the more money they will make.

And who suffers when no one gives a damn about the motorist sitting for 20 mins in a badly thought out and executed diversion round a badly thought out and executed set of road works. (O.K. I know the motorist is destroying the planet so why should anyone give a damn). Not the contractor. I have never heard of Torbay Council saying to a contractor," Well here is you £2 million for the road works but we have deducted £500 000 because your traffic management was crap." Maybe they should.

The council don't suffer. I have never heard anyone say, "I'm not voting for Councilor Smith again because the temporary lights kept falling over." Maybe they should. (Actually that should be, 'Maybe they should vote').

Not the Highways department. They are civil servants, they never suffer. Maybe they should.

In case you think I am a little over to top on this one, have a close look at the photo. It is just one example of how bad the planning was for these road works. You can see two sets of traffic lights, one on green and one on amber. It had taken me 25 mins and 200 yards to reach the green temporary lights so I could make my way through the road works. Then the pedestrian lights changed and we had to stop. By the time the pedestrian lights had changed the temporary lights had also changed and traffic was coming towards us from the other end of the road works. An other 4 min wait.

It could have been worse. Look closer. Traffic coming from the road works wasn't coming from the left of the Clock Tower but the right. Had the pedestrian lights changed when the traffic had been going the other way people would have crossed the road secure in the knowledge that they had a green man flashing but the drivers coming the other way would not have been able to see a red light. They were on the wrong side of the road for that. This foolish and potentially dangerous lack of care shown by the contractors shows that they know they can get away with the kind of traffic management a group of year six school children on a class project would be ashamed of.

This is just one example of the mess these road works have been today but it should be enoughht to convince Torbay Highways Dept that they should have a detailed look at all contractors plans particularly the bits about traffic management, before they let them dig up any more of our roads. Either that or they should be forced to spend all day driving through the road works with a small child sitting in the back of their car screaming. Very loudly.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Did you have a crash in Roselands?


BUS FIRM PROBE DOUBLE DECKER DAMAGE CLAIM

Back to list of Herald Express Stories
08 November 2005

The Stagecoach bus company is investigating reports that a double-decker bus allegedly collided with a number of cars in Paignton.Residents in Grange Heights were woken at 6.30am by a crash in the road. When they went outside, an eye-witness described how vehicles on both sides of the road had been damaged.
Tim Lake, of 24 Grange Heights, said: "Me and the neighbours were woken by a loud bang."I thought it was thunder."A neighbour said my Transit van had been pushed up on two wheels. The wheels are damaged, as are the sills and the tail light."My wife's car on the other side of the road was also damaged. It was scratched and a wing mirror was smashed.
There were other cars damaged."Mr Lake reported the incident to Stagecoach, and the company is looking into the matter.
A Stagecoach spokesman said: "Initial inquiries point to it being one of our vehicles. The procedure will be that we'll hold an investigation with the driver and then make a decision."


I will keep you informed about what some people are calling,
"The Accident Waiting To Happen."

Monday, 7 November 2005

Danger; Road Works Signs Ahead.


I am sure that some where in the Misery of Transport there are guide lines for placing warning signs for road works. How far from the road works, how many signs, what size etc etc.

I am equally sure that there is nothing in those guide lines that the road work warning signs must be placed in a DANGEROUS place. I mean, The Ministry of Transport don't want us to have RTCs do they?

Well the road where the sign is placed is 19 feet wide. That's 9 Ft 6 ins for me and 9 Ft 6 ins for the lunatic just about to come round the bend on the right on two wheels at as close to light speed as he/she can get. Given that a bus is 8 feet 4 inches wide and the sign is 2 feet wide I have no need of a degree in Higher Maths to work out that I am going to be over the centre of the road 10 feet from a blind bend. Either that or I can stop and wait for the road works to go away, which in Torquay could take several months, if you are lucky.


PS One of the reasons I am scarred of this junction is because of Hyde Road. On the left of Hyde Rd is one hour parking. On the right are double yellow lines on which blue badge holders park for up to 3 hours for free. They do so to avoid paying the fee in the very handy car park. This makes for very slow going in Hyde Rd and motorists make up for lost time on the first clear road they see.Click for a letter in the Herald Express re Blue Badge Holders.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Doris

The other day at the NVQ session we all learnt how to deal with passengers ( the company calls them customers. I will try but I have been calling them passengers for a long time now). Not all passengers, just the passengers who need a little extra attention. Those in wheelchairs, blind, deaf, with learning difficulties, etc. Several DVD's were show of the how not to followed by a brief discussion of how badly the driver did followed by DVD of what he should have done. I sure I was not alone in thinking that in future I would give that little extra in making it easier for those who find using a bus difficult.

So to day I went out scanning bus stops as they appeared in the distance for my chance to try out my new found skills and awareness. A white stick, a wheelchair, a hearing aid, anything, even a push chair. No, nothing. Except Doris. The trouble is there were no DVD's of how to deal with Doris. I actually believe the only way to deal with Doris is to give her a tener and tell her, no beg her to take a taxi.

Doris always gets on at Paignton Bus Station and only when you are running 10 mins late on your break trip. She appears round the end of the Station just as you are about to shut the doors and go. She puts her hand out and starts to run. She is now traveling slightly slower than if she had continued to walk and she knows it but she likes to show willing.

She finally makes it to the bus just as some one else arrives from the other side. They had given up getting your bus but now can because Doris appeared. Doris waves them on the bus first, no they say after you. Doris is adamant and waves them on once more. Every braincell that still function is now begging me to shut the doors and GOOOO......................

Finally Doris gets on and asks for a return ticket. "To where?" you foolishly ask. "Back to here." says Doris, smiling sweetly with a touch of pity. Where else would she want to return to. You try again"No. Where are you going to?" Now Doris looks puzzled. She has just told you she wants to come back to here. She is beginning to wonder if this bus driver is a little dim. By now of course you are. Braincells are dying by the million. A last try, "Where will you get of this bus?" Eventually Doris decides she can not play this game any longer and pretends to realize what it is you are after and admits that she is going to Torquay. Maybe it was the grey goo coming out your ears.

You press the right buttons and £2.90 comes up and you ask Doris for two ninty. Now if Doris is feeling kind it is at this point she will produce her half price OAP pass. If not she will go in her hand bag, which is so big that most international air lines would refuse to carry it as hand luggage. From here she will produce a purse. By now the two number twelves behind will have pulled in and out and several existing passengers will be debating whether or not to get off the bus and wait for the next one (due in 7 mins).

From her purse she will produce a £5 note. Almost there. No chance. Doris will then say that she doesn't want to take all my change. This despite, or probably because of the fact that she can see in my cash tray enough change to keep a small African country going for several months. See will now go back in her hand bag and produce an other purse and start to go through her change in what she, me and every who is still left on the bus knows is a vain attempt to find £2.90.

One pound coin, a twenty, a fifty, an other twenty, a ten, two fives. Hope is being reborn. 15 p in copper, an other fifty. Almost there, the posibility of getting under way is close. Ha, more fool you for thinking that. After grubbing round in the corners of her purse and only coming up with one more 5p piece and a two pence piece, Doris, apologizing profusely sweeps the coins back into her purse and re produces the fiver. At last the end is in sight. True it is but there are still mountains to climb yet. You take the fiver, almost burning Doris's finger tips in the process and issue the ticket and offer the change.

Remember the OAP pass I mentioned earlier. Well this is when Doris remembers hers. So you annul the ticket and modify the change and close the doors and set the hazard warning lights and select reverse and look round to make sure it is safe to go and ignore Doris's friend Mable who is banging on the door demanding to be let in. But Doris has not yet sat down. Amoung the few remaining passengers on the bus she has come across an old friend and is standing in the aisle talking to her. Now we learnt on the NVQ course not to move off is there is someone old or infirm still standing, but we are going to make an exception.

As the bus moves off very slowly Doris is heard to say, "Bus drivers these days. Don't give us old people time to sit down. So inconsiderate."

So please, writers of NVQ course, how do I deal with Doris and still stay sane?

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

NVQ

To day should have been a day off. But yesterday I had a phone call from the allocations officer at work who told me there was a spare place on the National Vocational Qualification Induction Course being run in Exeter and would I please like to attend. Well I said yes and I am now on my way to obtaining An NVQ in Road passenger Transport (Level 2) Today we covered the Customer Service Workbook which details the way we should interact with our customers.( AKA passengers. A very few of them are know by other names which I don't intend to use here. I mean I do like my job and I would like to keep it.)

I was quite overwhelmed by the number of different skills I need to be a bus driver. I mean I know all the skills, it's just you don't know how many there are until you write them all down. On Monday if you had asked me I would have said,"Drive the bus, smile at the passengers, sell the tickets and try to keep to time." One thing I did find out was that spending 7 hours deciding what the skills are and writing them all down in all their detail is harder work than driving a bus. An other thing I learnt was that red fire extinguishers with white writing contain water and red fire extinguishers with black writing contain CO2 and which types of fire these extinguishers should be used on. I only hope when I am faced with a wall of flame one day I with remember the most important thing I learnt today. Be professional. Get a fireman in to fight the bloody thing.

More as the work progresses.

Arson in Torquay

After having to divert because of the sea front being under water on Saturday, buses were again diverted after a Torquay charity shop was devastated by a fire which ravaged its premises. Around 60 firefighters tackled the blaze in a flat above the British Heart Foundation branch in Union Street yesterday morning at 3.20am.

Fire crews were on the scene for more than seven hours to make sure the building was safe. Six fire engines from Torquay, Paignton, Newton Abbot and Totnes along with an incident command vehicle, hydraulic platform and an incident support unit were used during the incident.

A man has been charged with arson and burglary and was due to appear before Torbay magistrates today.

Union Street in Torquay is the main road down through town and was closed until about 10:30.

This part of Union Street is the Charity Shop heart of Torquay and two other charity shops were closed due to smoke damage but re opened later.

Monday, 31 October 2005

Links to Other Places.

Links to other places

are all now to be found on the right hand side of the main page.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Running Engines at Bus Stops.

I presonally belive that any bus driver that leaves an engine running on a bus stop for more that at most a minute, company rule 2 mins max, should have an inspector park a bus outside his/her front door at 2 am and leave the engine running for the rest of the night.

I went into Brixham today. Brixham is on of our terminuses/termini (not sure which) and had 10 mins stand time. There was a bus, a 12, in front of me on the stop. He had his engine running, no problem, he was due out. Did he go? No.

Now it was a not unpleasent day for the end of October. Several people were sitting in the Square enjoying a quite chat except that the noise of the bus engine would have been drowning out any chance of there hearing half the conversation. After a couple of mins I dicided to see if the driver was having a problem, after all he should have been gone by now. No, no problem, just on his mobile dickhead. Sorry mobile phone.

For an other 7 mins. Bastard.

Sea Front and Engines Running

On Saturday I drove along the sea front. I know I always drive along the sea front but on Saturday I noticed that the waves were starting to come over the sea wall. It was almost high tide and the wind was from the east. This usually means that the sea front would be closed at some time around high tide. Sure enough, half an hour later someone got on the radio and announced to the world, well Torbay any way, which is almost the same thing, that the sea front was closed and we were on the new diversion.

The old diversion was my idea. It involved driving out of town on a nice wide road, turning over the ring road, also a nice wide road and back down an other wide road coming back on to our route in Preston. This missed out the section of the sea front that had waves crashing over it; it also missed out 7 bus stops.

Someone in Higher Management did not like this and invented the new diversion. This only misses out 5 bus stops. And the bit with the sea crashing over it,not even higher management are that dumb. It does involve driving the buses along fairly narrow roads at the same time as all the cars and vans and lorries that have also been diverted. While you are watching all these cars, vans and lorries plus the occasional bus coming the other way it is possible to miss, or should I say hit the branches of trees that have inconveniently grown out into the road way. Trees that line regular bus routes tend to get their branches genetically adjusted by the constant passing of 11 ton lumps of bus shaped metal, but we only use the diversion a few times a year. The trees down there don't know that one day their turn will come.

To cut a short story even shorter, when one of our more experienced drivers came in to work this morning he was greeted with a chorus of, "I love the sound of breaking glass."
So embarrassing

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Sun Set in Spitsbergan.


Shortly after midday today, Thursday the 27 October, the sun set in Spitsbergan. It will not rise again until late in February next year.

At the same time on Abbey Sands Beach here in Torquay people were sun bathing and children were playing in the sea. The Temperature was 18C. At 11:30 pm it was still 15C.

Given the choice where would you spend an early autumn break.

Or to put it an other way; should we be worrying about Global Warming?

Cars Parked in the Way

On of the problems we face from time to time are cars that have been parked that are blocking the road. The driver has just nipped out for a moment to the Cash machine, Take away, Doctors, Pub and have left room for all the motor bikes in the bay to get past but not an 8 foot 3 in wide bus. The usual procedure here is to sound the horn and then get a newspaper out and have a read. After a few minutes the driver will then get on the radio and inform control. One such incident yesterday went as follows:-

Driver, "Papa 12 to Yellow control."
Yellow control, "Go" (1)
Driver,"I am stuck in Midvale Road. There's a parked car in the way."
Yellow control, "Have you sounded the horn." (2)
Slight pause followed by the sound of the horn being blown twice coming over the radio.
Driver, very dryly, "That's an affirmative." (3)

Foot notes
(1) We don't go in for correct radio procedure, none of that over and out stuff here.
(2) It is of course illegal to blow the horn on a stationary vehicle unless to avoid an accident.
(3) 'Affirmative'; bus driver slang for Yes.

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Late Running


Today, I, along with most of the 12/12A bus service spent most of the morning and much of the afternoon about 30 to 40 mins late. The reason for this late running? The Council. When in doubt always blame the council.

The council have got some contractors replacing the traffic lights at Tanners Road/Dartmouth Road/ Penwill Way junction. The contractors switched of the lights that they are replacing and erected temporary lights. Part of the problem is the junction is staggered. Dartmouth Rd is the main road and normally the traffic flows two ways. Not with the temporary lights. We have a four way set of lights installed and traffic is back over 2 miles and drivers are driving through side roads in an attempt to find a way round the delays.

Do the contractors care? A better question would be have the contractors noticed? An even better question is, have Torbay Council's Highways Department noticed. If they haven't then their head office must be in Exeter. If they have noticed then why haven't they had a word with the contractors and said, "Get the traffic flowing a bit better or get the hell out of Torbay."

Rosa Parks


Rosa Parks, probably the most famous bus passenger in the world died today aged 97. R.I.P.

Monday, 24 October 2005

Half Term and the Weather

This week is half term. Most of the schools in England and Wales are closed for a week and it is a chance to take a late holiday. It is also a chance taking a late holiday at this time of the year. Twenty years ago when I was teaching in a comprehensive school in Salford we came down to the South West in a camper van and had a complete week of glorious sun. We stayed for two days at Waterside Holiday Park in Paignton and enjoyed every minute.

This year people are not quite having the luck we had. This afternoon I pulled into Paignton Bus Station which is next to the train station and a family of 6 boarded the bus for Waterside Holiday Park. I always feel guilty, as though it is some how my fault that I am charging these rain sodden people to get to a caravan park where it looks like they will spend the next week playing monopoly and eating tons of chocolates like the advert that has been appearing on the TV recently. Today it rained all day but the forecast for the rest of the week does get better and when the weather is nice at this time of year the Bay can be a good place for a holiday without the crowds.

Sunday, 23 October 2005

Safety in the Depot.


Now and then, about twice a month I do an early turn. The two big differences between early turns and my more usual middle start are having to set the alarm for some ungodly hour like 5 in the morning and having to go upto the bus park and get a bus out for myself. Usually I just walk down from the depot to the main road and take over a bus. If you are a passenger this can be a pain. Just when you think that you may even get to your destination on time the bus pulls in and an other driver gets on and has a meaningful conversation about traffic, the latest scandal, how usless the boss is, the fact that one of the two drivers has 3 weeks holiday coming up, some really interesting comment one of the drivers made to an irrate passenger in Paignton Bus Station yesterday; you know the sort of thing that Easteners script writers have been using for the last ten years.

I digress, when you take a bus out of the park this is what should greet you as you walk into the park. Buses all facing forward and ready to go. You don't just get on the bus and drive away, first you do a visual check, make sure all the wheels are still on the bus and there are no tramps sleeping on the back seat. That sort of thing, then in the bus and away, full of enthusiasm, ready to greet your passengers with a cheery 'Good morning' and take them safely and speedily to their destinations.

I say should greet you, and for a week it did. The cleaners are supposed to reverse the buses into the park so we can safely drive them out. The boss insisted and I took a photo the next day of the fruits of his insistance. Yesterday when I went to work I took this photo which shows all the buses were facing the wrong way. I get shouted at for walking 10 feet without my yellow jacket on and the cleaners can park 30 buses the wrong way round and no one notices.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Safety In Paignton Bus Station.


A few weeks ago a man came into the staff canteen on Paignton Bus Station. He was not happy. You could tell he was not happy by the fact that he was frothing at the mouth and shouting at, or near, the top of his voice that the company was a disgrace and didn't know how to run a prolonged drinking session in a brewery. I have changed the wording slightly here as one or two nuns read this blog. There were a few drivers there and we all agreed with him. Well you tend to agree with some one who is clearly several yards over the edge. ( Yah Tony, you go to war if you want).

Any way he wanted to know who he had to write to to complain so we told him. Complains Dept, The Bus Company, Devon. We assured him the Post Office knew where it was and would deliver his letter no problem. As he calmed down a little I took a chance and asked him what it was that had upset him so much. I was prepared to try and explain if I could the reason for him waiting half an hour for a bus that should have been every 15 mins or explain why he had had to mortgage his house to by a return ticket to Torquay or even that the toilets were closed because they had been used by Class A drugs users and the police had asked us to close the toilets as the could not find the man power to police them.

But it was none of these. What had happened was he had turned up for a bus just as it was pulling away and was upset that even though the driver had seen him waving she had carried on reversing away from the bus stop and refused to pick him up. Now it is a company rule that once a bus has started to reverse the driver may not stop to pick passengers up. See Photo. I would imagine that any bus station in the country where buses reverse away from a bus stop would have the same rule. This is because we don't like having accidents, not because we don't like passengers. O.K. I know that there are some bus drivers out there that don't in fact like passengers and every passenger must know at least one such bus driver just like there are lawyers and estate agents out they that are unloved and unliked by their clients.

In a bus station once a bus has started to reverse it has right of way. All other buses stop until the reversing bus is out of the way. Think what would happen if a bus suddenly stopped and picked up a passenger. The driver waiting would get fed up waiting and drive forward just as the reversing driver decided to move. Crash. Lots of glass in bus windows all over passengers in bus. Not nice.

Well a couple of days ago I saw and other reason for not stopping once you have started reversing. I was on the Bus Station platform waiting to take over a bus after my lunch break when I noticed a bus on the stop had just started to reverse It had gone about a foot when someone waved and the driver went off his head and stopped and opened the doors. Passenger, aware that this was a rare favour hurried up to the bus and in his haste slipped on the wet floor. He hit is shin on the edge, very hard edge, of the platform and his head on the safety bar on the door and ended up lying in his best suit on the damp and dirty floor of the bus.

Remember: There's always an other bus, eventually.

Footnote to this. When I drove in to the Bus Station yesterday I noticed a couple walking in the bus reversing area without a care in the world. Just as they walked behind a bus it's reversing lights went on. It is very difficult to see directly behind a bus from the drivers seat and fearing for these two idiots lives I blew the horn as loud as it would go. The other driver heard me, as did every one within 200 yards. Except for the mad couple who just carried on walking as if they were in the safest place in the world. Which thanks to me they were.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Kingskwerswell Bypass


If you are heading for Torquay you will almost certainly drive down the A380. You will arrive at Penn Inn roundabout on the outskirts of Newton Abbot and think,"Oh good. Nearly there." The kids in the back will be clamoring to see who sees the sea first and you will be thinking of a trip down to the hotel bar for a nice relaxing drink. Then you will make it to the other side of the roundabout and notice that the traffic is moving, but only just. By the time you get through Kingskerswell on the way to Torquay,( 2 miles, seems like for ever) the only question on your mind will be, "Why the hell don't they build a bypass round this place?"

A good question. If you are a friend of Tony Blair could you please have a word with him and ask him if we can have the money. Tell him is he cuts short the war in where ever it is we are at war by only one day he will have enough money left to build us a bypass.

For the past seven years to my knowledge the County Council and Torbay Council have been trying to get the money from central government. They apply, central govenment says, "Looks fine, plans are OK, and it does look like you need a bypass. Could you do an indepth traffic survey to show the auditors?" So the councils do the survey and send it of to Whitehall who put it on a shelf in one of their offices in the Falkland Islands.

Six months goes by and the council ring Whitehall and ask what progress the application is making. Whitehall say, "We'll ring you back." The council have heard that one before and say, "No. We will hang on." Two weeks later a cleaner in the corridors of power notices the phone off the hook and hangs up.

Eventually some one in Whitehall will dig out the files and ring the council and say that all things considered you can have your bypass. Oh, just one thing. The traffic survey is out of date, could you do a new one. Six months later, new plans and new survey are sent to Whitehall who say, "God you do need a bypass. Why didn't you ask sooner. We have just spent all this year's money. Apply again next year, with a new traffic survey of course and we will pass your plans on to the different department to deal with (meaning give some one else a good laugh at your expence)."

It now looks like the Bypass, because of the cost, £80 million, will be built in stages. The whole thing will be no more than 3 miles long. How can you build a streatch of road 3 miles long in stages. Lets face it, the only way we will ever get a bypass is if we go and steal one from some where. Given this fact, isn't it time that the Councils, Torbay and Devon County had a look at making the existing road easier to drive along. A fly over at the lights would be cheaper then a bypass but would look a bit of a mess. Pedestrian underpasses went out of fashion years ago as did pedestrian bridges. but anyone who drives along the road (me, 9000 times in both directions in the last 7 years) will tell you the main problem. Jury's Corner Traffic Lights. Now is the time to start experimenting with these lights. For starters they could time them to change a lot less often for the traffic on the main road. On Tuesday morning I drove from Penn Inn to Jury's Corner. Should have taken 5 mins max, it took 20. When I pulled out of the stop at Priory Ave, which is 300 yards from the lights, they had changed 3 times before I got to the lights. Once past the lights it was 40 mph all the way to Scott's Bridge where the speed limit drops to 30. It's always the same when the road is slightly busy, crawl to Jury's Corner, fly once you are passed.

For latest item in Herald Express click here.

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Thing we have to put up with (Part 2).


This is a lady having a smoke in her car in Borough Road in Paignton. Borough Road is not very wide and really is unsuitable for double decker buses. But people get on buses to get to work, do their shopping, go to school, down the pub, visit friends, annoy the bus driver plus a 1001 other usful things. On my left is a truck unloading goods. We need trucks to unload goods. If they didn't the consumer society would come to a grinding holt.

Any way this young lady was in the way. She was not going to move so I could drive past and get all my passengers to school, college, shops, home, doctors, friends, pub etc. Why should I move for you? Was her response. Well dear lady, you are not moving for me. I can sit here all day for all I care; I still get paid. It's the people on my bus and the people waiting to get on my bus down the road and all the people behind me that you are moving for.

Any way once I had taken here photo she moved. She must have had visions of her picture on the front page of the Herald Express with a head line " Was this you? Did you cause traffic chaos in Paignton on Wednesday? If So Why?".

Friday, 14 October 2005

Two wasted trips the Newton Abbot.

On Thursday I made a mistake. Now regular readers will not believe this statement, having gathered from previous post that I am the prefect bus driver.
But I did.
This is what happened. A young lady got on in Torquay and asked for the Willows , a shopping complex on the outskirts of Torquay. She also asked if I could tell her when we got there. I explained that the bus did not got all the way to the Willows but that it was a ten minute walk after she got of the bus. She paid her fare and sat down.
Now I don’t have the best of memory for thing like remembering to tell people when they have arrived at their destination. I like to think about other things, such as driving the bus and what I am going to post here each evening. So I have a trick; I press Zero and C on the ticket machine and a piece of ticket roll emerges from the machine with “Not valid for Travel” printed on it. A paper feed we call it. This I stick on the ticket machine with a piece of blue tac I keep in the cash tray for just this propose. From then on each time I issue a ticket I remember “The Willows”. Bit like a knot in a hankie.
But before I could do this 4 people got on the bus and wanted to go to Paignton. By the time I had explained to them that the bus did not go to Paignton and where to get a bus to Paignton I had forgotten about the Willows and only remembered when the poor young lady came up to me in Newton and asked if we had reached the Willows yet.
This was definitely a “Hole in the Ground” moment. Eventually I dropped her of at the Willows 40 mins later than she should have got there. Mia Culpa, mia maxima culpa.

To day, Friday, it was a lady’s purse that made the trip to Newton and there was a happier ending. I dropped some people in Fleet Street in Torquay and one of then handed me a purse which she had found on the bus. I am always upset when this happens, some poor soul has lost some thing and probably needs it now but it may take two days before they get it back. Anyway I dropped the purse in my bag to hand it in when I finished my duty at 16:30. It was now 13:30. However 15 mins later an other driver got on the radio and asked if any driver who had left Torquay in the last 20 mins had found a purse. So I was able to tell the driver that I would be back in Torquay in 50 mins and be able to reunite the purse and owner.
A happy ending, I like happy endings.

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Guess Who Got on the Bus To day.

Yesterday he had an out of date Day Pass, to day he had an out of date Weekly pass. When I pointed out that the ticket expired on the 9th he looked surprised and asked me the date. I told him and he got of the bus. So on the radio once again and the next driver took the pass from him and over the next hour and a half I heard reports of him walking towards Paignton. 5 miles. And if you were in the Bay to day you will know that the rain was a lot more than heavy.

I just love a story with a happy ending!

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

From a Local Paper

I am 17 years old and was terribly disgusted with the bus ride from Swieqi to Sliema on bus number 64 on September 29 at about 1.45 p.m.
The number of unacceptable acts by the driver himself on such a public service are embarrassing to say the least.Before the bus left he asked the last person who got on the bus for a cigarette; she kindly enough offered him one. Unexpectedly the bus driver stopped the bus and got off to smoke. However, while doing so, the driver also went to do his "business" behind the bushes close to the bus stop.
Before returning to his seat, he rudely enough spat in front of all, locals and tourists alike.Then he came back on the bus, still smoking his cigarette, with hardly any windows open for some fresh air. Finally, he threw a paper and his cigarette butt out of his window while driving.
To finish off the bus ride, he decided to gargle and spit out for one final time. In addition, he was in conversation on his mobile phone throughout the trip.
When is public transport ever going to improve? And where are the transport authorities to check these things out?___________________________________________

Before the company have a fit I should point out that the local paper is the Times Of Malta and not the Herald Express.

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

First Day Back at Work

Tuesday, after having been away for nine days, it was back to work. 5 mins after I had started it was like I had never been away.

Not much happened really.

In the morning a young man got on the bus in Paignton and half showed me what appeared to be a pass and started to walk down the bus to find a seat. Something about the way he did it suggested that all was not right so I called him back. I would have called him back in any case as I like to make sure that all tickets and passes people show me are valid. This some times upsets some passengers but in the end it is their money I am protecting. When someone steals some thing from Tescos they are really stealing from all the other people who shop in Tescos. When someone steals a bus ride they are stealing from the people they are sitting next to on the bus.

Anyway, the pass, a Torbay MegaRider was dated 10 Oct 05 and to day is the 11th. I pointed this out and the young man protested that he had bought it earlier in the day. I gently told him that as the ticket was out of date I could not carry him. He still maintianed that he had bought it that morning. I suggested that he take it over to our Travel Shop, handily situated in the bus station, and they would tell him what to do. I was much to polite to tell him what to do. And company rules forbid me from telling him what to do.

He got off the bus and wandered in the direction of the Travel Shop but as I drove out of the bus station I noticed he was heading back towards the bus stop to try his luck on the next bus. So I got on the radio and warned all following bus drivers to watch out for him. I wonder how long he stood there before digging into his pocket and paying his fare like the rest of the passengers.

In the afternoon after my meal break the bus I was taking over was 20 mins late but no problem, so was the bus in front of me.

Monday, 10 October 2005

Back to Work

Well I have just had a weeks holiday and by good fortune Sunday and Monday were rest days. But it's back to work to morrow.

While I have been away the fares have gone up to cover the rising cost of fuel. Those of you who ride on our buses will know that lots of fares end in 5p. Return Torquay to Paignton used to be £2.75. The problem with this is that holders of the Devon Wide Concessionary Pass pay half fare. Half of £2.75 = £1.37 and a half pence. The government got rid of half pence coins back in the 70 s so the fare is £1.37.

Passenger tenders a five pound note. Driver has to fish about in his cash tray for 1p coin, 2p coin, a10p coin, a fifty pence coin and 3 one pound coins; all of which takes time especially as the cash trays only have 4 compartments so some compartments have to contain coins of different value.

Here was a chance to get rid of copper by rounding all the fares up or down to the nearest 10p and helping us to spent less time giving out change and more time on time. However today I went for a ride on a bus into Paignton and soon realized that lots of fares still ended in 5p. Maybe when the cost of fuel goes down and the fares are reduced they will take this radical step of getting rid of fares that end in 5p.