Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Winter Rotas.

Click on above to see rota

As I have said before this time of year, when we change rotas from summer to winter is always a slightly worrying time. Will the rotas be worse, the same or even better. Well this change is for the worse. In the summer there were 5 duties out of the 20 we do over a four week period that finished after 8:00 pm which makes them lates. There are now nine duties that finish after 8:00. Also a new development; there are three duties that start before 9:00 am which make them earlies. Only 7 of them are middles, which for a rota described as 12 Middles is like calling Torquay United a really good football team. Or even a football team, (Nil points and 2 goals after 4 games.) Another worrying duty is the As Required Duty. As Required means being on Stand By which if every one is in means sitting around the depot for 8 hours doing nothing or going out and doing nine hours on Torquay Locals. I am not too keen on Torquay Locals. Sitting around doing nothing for 8 hours does has it's attractions though.

I have looked at moving to a different rota but that would mean doing earlies. I went on the middle rota in the first place to avoid having to get up at 4:30 am which to me is in the middle of the night, 8:00 am is my preferred time for getting up in the morning thank you very much. I'll just have to get used to the idea of doing the lates and hope for some thing better when we change again next May.

A couple of other changes have taken place over the last few weeks. We now have a new Depot Operations Manager, Mr McAllister who joins us from Firstbus Yorkshire. He is looking forward to the challenge of working in Torquay with it's seasonal changes. I wonder if he knows that Torquay Depot is listed last in Janes Directory of British Bus Depots. Tony Simmons is now in charge of the day to day running of Paignton Bus Depot. Tony, could we have a sign put up saying No Skateboarding please. And while you are putting that one up directing people to the nearest toilets. It is a little embarasing telling some one who is jumping from one foot to the other that they have a 3 min walk before they can stop jumping from one foot to the other.

Monday, 29 August 2005

One of the many things we have to put up with.

I first noticed the van in the right hand lane as he came off Penn inn roundabout. The road is two lanes but after two hundred yards it becomes one lane. This driver continued well past the point where he should have moved in and only forced his way in when the alternative was a head on crash. He was now 4 car lengths behind me instead of 9. Later I noticed that he had turned right.Five Hundred yards furture up the road he appeared at the next road on the right and forced his way back in the the stream of traffic heading to Torquay. He was now the second car behind me.

At the lights at Jury's Corner he moved it to the right turn lane and as soon as the lights started to change he was away. All told his three dices with death should have earned him 9 penatly points and several hundred pounds in fines had there been a police car about watching.

What it did get him was into Torquay about 15 seconds sooner than if he had waited his turn. What is he going to do with those 15 seconds I wonder, re write War and Peace? Suicide Drivers like this kill more people every year than Suicide Bombers and do they care. Shouldn't think so.

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Destination Blinds, Who reads destination blinds.

It is a firmly established belief among bus drivers that the travelling public do not read destination blinds. This afternoon I was in Brixham and my blinds were reading Paignton, Torquay, NEWTON ABBOT.

47 people got on and 22 of them asked me if I was going to Torquay. Of the remaining 25, three were locals and didn't ask anything, apart from "When will they all go home?" The other 22 asked if I was going to Paignton. The company spent a small fortune buying buses equipped with destination blinds so people would know where the bus was going. It must be that the only people in the UK that can read are you and me , dear reader. You wouldn't ask me where I was going would you?

Just as I was about to go a couple came up and got on the bus. I had already decided that if one more person asked me where I was going I would ignore the running board and head for Berry Head where I would stop the bus 50 feet from the edge, hold up a sign saying "This bus is now going to plunge over Berry Head, you will be able to enjoy unprecedented views until it hits the sea 800 feet straight down." No body would have moved. None of them would have bothered reading the sign. I would then have but a brick on the gas peddle and left the bus. The couple showed me there megariders and went and sat down. No, "Are you going to Paignton? Are you going to Torquay? Are you going to Newton Abbot?" Thank God, every one was saved.

Thirty yards further while waiting at the lights on the bloke who had just got on came up to me and said, "You are going to Torquay aren't you?" Which is why you will have read about a driverless bus going over Berry Head in your newspaper. If the jury is made up of bus drivers I will get away with it. Justifiable Homicide; no problem.

Friday, 26 August 2005

Letter in the Herald Express

Yet again some one has written to the local paper, the Herald Express, complaining aboput the Traffic Wardens. Well lets get one thing straight, we don't have traffic wardens in Torbay any more, we have Parking Attendants. The traffic wardens were the ones employed by the police who spent their days on the streets wandering round with their hands clasped tightly behind their backs imitating Phil the Greek and issued one parking ticket every 167 days, or was it every 761 days. They have gone, replaced by people who are prepared to go out and do a days work even if it upsets a few people who park on yellow lines without bothering to check if there is a restriction on parking in force.

Also lets get something else straight, parking restrictions are not there to make parking difficult. They are there to make driving easier. I drive 100 miles a day round the Bay and I have definatly noticed that with few exceptions my job has become a little easier.

Lets take the Sea Front as an example. For the past 8 years I have been driving past cars parked on the Abbey Gardens side of the sea front. There has for all of that time been a plate which says "May to Sept No waiting at any time". Now because it is fairly difficut for a Traffic Warden to issue a ticket with his hands super gluded behind his back, people parked here all year round. In the summer it was posible to take 20 mins to get from the Grand Hotel to Belgrave Road. Thousands of drivers were held up as the tried to drive their cars along the road. Remember driving your car is what you bought it for,not to have it rot away in a traffic jam with the engine burning fossil fuel and poluting the world. These thousands were held up by the parking of 25 cars. Even if there were 4 people per car enjoying themselves on the beach that's only 100 selfish people holding up thousands. And increasing polution and speeding Global Warming. Because of these 100 selfish people enjoying themselves on the beach in a few years time sea levels will have risen so much that we wont have a beach for future generations the enjoy them selves on. So Parking Attendant aren't just waiting to pounce with their tickets, they are saving the planet.

So before you park your car on a double yellow line, think, "Will this cost me £60.00?"

Eventualy there will be so many cars on the road that it will be imposible to find parking places for all of them and owners will have to spend hours each day driving round hoping that some other idiot car owner will decide to go for a drive (therebye losing his most precious posesion, a parking place). When that day comes it will be time to take all the cars to the crusher and travel by bike.

Or bus, come to that.

Thursday, 25 August 2005

Changes to route 12

From Sunday 3rd September we will be running a bus service to the new South Devon College in Paignton. The College used to be in Torre a mile or so out of Torquay on the Newton Road. This was on the 12 route and the 12 carried all the students that travelled by bus to and from college every day. Now it has moved to a larger site in Paignton which is not on the 12 route, until now.

As everyone in Torbay needs the college to suceed, the Council and Stagecoach have come up with the 12A. The 12 route will run every 15 mins and starts in Newton Abbot and runs through Kingskerswell, past Torbay Hospital, Torquay Police Station, down Union Street(1) and Fleet walk to the Harbour. Then it goes along the Sea Front, through Preston and into Paignton Bus Station. From there it goes past Torbay Leasure Centre, on to Waterside, Cherry Brook Drive, Churston and down into Brixham. It is a very busy route and makes lots of money for the company. So it is an important route both for the company and the Bay.

The 12A route will also run every 15 mins 7 mins behind the 12 and will follow the same route from Newton to Paignton Bus Station. Then it will go via the Zoo, Paignton Comunity College, Borough Road and Roselands to the college in Long Lane. Then it will go along Roselands Drive to Gibson Rd and down Cherry Brook Drive where it will turn right to rejoin the 12 route and continue in to Brixham.

As with any change of this size the workers, ie the bus drivers have expressed concerns and I will list them in order that they occur.

1) Sherborne Rd
2) Torquay Strand
3) Paignton Bus Station
4) Borough Road
5) Cherry Brook Drive
6) Brixham

There is a 7 and an 8 and a 9 but I will report on 7 when it happens and come back to 8 later and will mention 9 only if it ever turns up.

Numbers 1,2,3 and 6 are the same problem in four different places. What will happen if too many buses turn up at the same time. Sherborne Rd in Newton Abbot can only just cope, if a third number 12 turns up it will just have to drop of passengers and drive round the block. In Torquay if a third bus turns up the first bus will just have to shut it's doors and go even if it means leaving passengers behind. If it doesn't the The Strand will become grid locked fairly quickly. This will upset those passengers going beyond Paignton as it could mean them being delayed by up to 15 mins. Paignton Bus Station will also clog up quickly is too many buses arrive all at once but at least there will be a controller there to look after things.

Brixham Town Square can only take two buses at any one time,so if three turn up at once one will just have to drop and go. Passengers will have to get used to the idea of empty buses driving away and leaving them.

Borough Road. I have only driven down this road 3 times, there is a junior school half way down and we will be driving past , or attempting to, with a bus load of students all on their way to a hard days learning at the same time as the morning school run. If you drive at the same time as a school run you have got to feel for us.

Cherry Brook Drive. At the bottom of Cherry Brook Drive we will have to turn right at a duel carridgeway. A very busy, very fast duel carridgeway full of motorists desperate to get to work and looking for a burst of speed to make up for the fact that yet again their alarm didn't go of. Or in some cases an adrenaline rush to wake them selves up. And they will find a 30 foot long bus trying to turn right across the road in front of them. Same in the evening only going the other way.

I said I would mention 8 later, well here it is. Remember that the route starts in Newton Abbot. On Tuesday the 5 Sept(two days after the 12A starts) South West Water are digging half the roads in Newton and will be for 3 months. Newton will become a Black Hole into which buses vanish, never to be seen again. Just when we though we had done with road works for a while.

More on this as it turns up.

(1) Torquay's main shopping street

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Park and Ride Doing Well.

11:00 - 15 August 2005
Brixham's new park and ride service has been declared a success by Torbay Council. It was set up towards the end of July to help ease pressure on parking and traffic congestion in the area.During its first week in operation 128 cars with 350 passengers took advantage of the facility.In the second week, the figures increased to 249 cars with 702 passengers.Cllr Chris Lomas, executive member for community, said: "We are very pleased with the figures for the first fortnight."We were confident the service would prove a success and the statistics have confirmed this."There was initially some concern when we launched the service because a group of travellers had moved on to the land we had leased at Churston."Thankfully, they and their vehicles occupied an adjoining field and their presence did not affect the operation of the park and ride."The service being run by Stagecoach with its number 12 buses will continue to operate throughout the peak summer period until Sunday September 4 and we hope many more people will make use of it."

So far I have had little trouble with this set up. People are getting on in Brixham and telling us they want the Park and Ride and apart from one driver who got bogged down in the mud on the first day it seems to have gone well. It could do with a slightly bigger turning circle for the buses if the scheme is to be extended or used again next summer.
There was one man who got on in Brixham and wanted a ticket to the Park & Ride which we can't do. His reason was that it only cost £1.00 return to Park & Ride but £1.85 return to Churston. When I explained that the ticket machine would not issue a ticket from Brixham to P & R he called me a Job's Worth. I suggested he try the next bus which he did. With the same sort of luck he got from me.

Monday, 22 August 2005

HMS The Temeraire

I drove into Paignton Bus Station a couple of days ago and this bloke came and knelt down in front of the bus. I guessed that he wasn't praying to it so I got out to see what he was doing.

When I drove in the number 18064 and the Stagecoach Logo and name were there and the name Tameraire was being added.

It would appear that all our buses are being named. I waited till he had finished and then waited for the bottle of Champagne to be produced, I waited for that in vain.

Not knowing where the name came from I looked it up on the net and if you click here you will find what I found.

Change of duty

This morning when I got up I thought, "Three and a half hours before I have to go to work. Lets write a thorough, well thought out appraisal of the changes about to happen on the 12/12A route."

The 12A bit is new, but it's appraisal will have to wait. Because after I had had a shower and when down stairs to get a cup of coffee I noticed the shower water, which should by now have been drifting down one of South West Water's sewerage pipes was in fact sitting in a great pile where the drain used to be.

So I have just spent the last hour and a half with my arm down said drain pulling lumps of grease mixed with hairs and rabbits and tea bags and leaves and one or two other unknown (fortunately) bits and pieces. Drain is now flowing and my shower water is now heading thank fully for the sea somewhere off Corbin Head. By the way the temperature round here yesterday was 25c so maybe the sea is where all you holiday makers should head for to day.

On of the problems of having my arm down the drain is that even though I have had a second shower I can still catch a slight wiff of drain pipe. Sorry in advance to all my passengers to day.

12/12A apprasal to morrow.

Saturday, 20 August 2005

Road Work Hell in Newton

About a week ago a notice appeared just before the Penn Inn on the way into Newton Abbot telling us that there will be road works with long delays in Newton from 5th Sept till 16 December.

God Help Us

.Click here for full story.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Union Street Torquay

For the past 6 months the council have been doing road works in Union Street (it did seem like longer). Now they are finished. The footpaths are wider and there are very clearly marked out bays for the bus stops, taxis, loading bays and bays for Blue Badge holders. (Blue Badge Holders are disabled drivers but I am not sure if you can say disabled any more). Ordinary drivers are not supposed to park in Union Street any more but that doesn't stop them.

In an attempt to stop drivers driving down the street too fast there are ramps like the one shown here every 20 metres. They are made up of little cobble stones and each time you drive over them the bus jumps up as the front wheels meet the ramp, then there are a series of small, rapid and unpleasent bumps, then a thud as the front wheel leaves the ramp. This is all repeated as the back wheel reaches the ramp. All these thuds and bumps are transmitted through the bus to the spine of everyone on the bus, including me. Especially me. I drive down Union Street on average 16 or 17 times a week, 47 weeks a year and I expect to continue driving a bus down Union Street for the next 5 years. There are 6 of these ramps which means I will go over 24 thousand ramps in Union Street during the rest of my working life. That is if my back will stand the strain.

I wonder if the person in the council's planning office did the above sum before deciding to inflict these monsters on us. If he did, will he too drive over them 24 000 times just to prove that doing so will have no long term ill effects on my back. If it does will the council compensate me for any pain and lost of earnings I might suffer? (Sorry, I do like a joke now and then.)

An other problems with these ramps is shown by the person crosing the road. They are designed to invide people to cross the road at the ramp and people do cross the road at these ramps just like the gentleman in the photo, without bothering to look first.

A third problem is that the most comfortable way to drive over cobble stones is, as most drivers will tell you is as fast as possible. Not much good at slowing the traffic down if you ask me.

I wonder how long they will last before they are removed.

I'm back!

An other incident on Paignton Bus Station. If you looked through all of the posts in this blog, Paignton Bus Station, or Pgn would come up fairly often. This one happened yesterday afternoon when I was on my way to Brixham.
A family group, eight of them, started to board the bus. Mother showed me a family explorer. Great value, ├ét £15.00 for up to five people for a days travel. Other members of the group also showed me explorer tickets, every one had a valid ticket, not always the case when so many people get on at once. Some people try to sneak the old child on without a ticket.
Seven of them had boarded the bus when the last child, a boy about 10 years old turned away from the bus and was very sick over the barrier into the road way. I was very glad he had not been sick 10 seconds later. The mother was standing on the platform and I suggested that she take the child to some seats in the bus station and let him recover,perhaps wash and have a drink of water and catch the next bus which would be along in 8 mins.
She was having none of this and neither was father. He protested the his son was feeling much better and could get on the bus. Son meanwhile was being sick again. I told them son was not travelling on bus and should catch the next bus. They were only going to the beach at Goodrington, not catching a train. 10 mins wasn't going to make much difference. Finally the group got of and I continued on to Brixham.

Well have a look at the next post and have a think about what I did. Should I have let them travel and risk having the child throw up on the bus, which would have been unpleasant for all concerned and would have taken the bus out of service while it was being cleaned, disrupting the travel plans of all the passengers.

Bad Parking

The Police car crew parked in the bus stop while the were dealing with a minor scrape between a truck and a car. Not a problem really except that across the road there is a large free and empty car park. Not a good example.

The blue car was parked out side Brixham library on double yellow lines. Double Yellow Lines mean NO PARKING, usually at any time. With good reason. Brixham takes about 7 1/4 seconds to grid lock in the summer and with me blocking the road with a double decker that time goes down to three and 17 twentythirds of a second. The young person driving this car came springing down the library steps with a stupid grin on her face and no sign of and disability the the Blue Badge in the windscreen suggested she should have. At least she was quick and gridlock was averted.

Foot note to incident in Pgn

When I got to Goodrington (nice beach) two middle aged couples got of the bus. They had got on the bus in Paignton at the same time as the family group had got on and then got off. They were Asian, by the way, the family group that is, not the middle aged couples.
One of them had called me "Our kid" when he had paid their fares. As he got off he turned and said, "You can join our party anytime mate." I asked him what party was that, though I had a sinking feeling I knew. "The National Party"
Unfortunately he walked away without hearing my opinion on the National Party.
My apologies to any of the passengers still on the bus who did.

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Computer Crash.

I usually report crashes involving buses and cars but as well as a bus crash (no one hurt, just a bit shocked) my computer crashed.

I have just got it back on line after several days starring at a blank screen, making phone calls, trying ideas, wanting to throw the bloody thing out the window, buying spare parts and getting to work in between all this that I am too tired to post right now.

Something tomorrow I promise.

Thursday, 4 August 2005

Union Street and Big Yellow Truck

Two photos here, the top one is Union Street, the main shopping Street in Torquay.Work has been going on here for months with a view to stopping people parking in the road way and blocking it. But I have not seen a Parking Attendant down here for months so all that work has been a waste of time. Pritty white, green and red markings in the road mean nothing unless backed up by a £60.00 parking ticket.

The Yellow truck ( German by the way) seen here trying to take out the traffic lights at the Kings Drive then drove 500 metres down the road and did take out the lights at Belgrave Road. So watch out for big yellow German trucks trying to get their own back on Fawlty Towers.

Housing Shortage

HOMES CRISIS 20 July 2005
From our excellent local paper The Herald Express
"Westcountry people need a home. Politicians, business leaders and local authorities are warning that the shortage of affordable homes in the Westcountry is at crisis point.New figures reveal it will take at least 100 years at existing construction rates to clear the backlog of people needing a place of their own

As you can see in the two photos I took, 38 studio appartments have been built in Regent Close in an attempt to over come this problem.
The top photo was taken on August 1 2004 and shows work just starting on the site at Regent Close.
This Photo was taken on August 2 2005 as the first people were just starting to move in.

That works out at a rate of one studio appartment every nine and a half days. At this rate this company will have build 3817 studio appartments in the next hundred years.That isn't bad going when you consider that it took 14 months to build the Empire State Building.

Monday, 1 August 2005

Parking on a Bus Stop

There is always some one who thinks it's OK to park on a bus stop. This bus stop lay by is on a busy two lane duel carrigeway and left me half in the lay by and half in the road way with passing motorist thinking I had parked there just to annoy them.

As if.