Friday, 30 September 2005

An RTA is now an RTC

Now and then a driver gets on the radio and warns other drivers that there has been an RTA some where, adding such information as, traffic movement, road blocked, emergency services on scene. RTA in this context means, or used to mean Road Traffic Accident.

It can also mean Road Traffic Act. This definition effects us mainly in the hours we drive. We are not allowed to drive for more than 5 1/2 hours without a 30 min break or we can drive for 8 1/2 hours but must take 45 mins break in that time and if we must take a 30 mins break before driving again. We are not allowed to drive more than 10 hours in a day and not allowed to drive more than 13 days without a day off. Actually day off is wrong. You can finish driving at say, 12:30 pm one day and start the next day at 12:31 pm. The 5 1/2 hour rule is the one we follow at work and it is just about as long as any one should drive. I did once drive for almost 7 hours but that was on the day of the Big Storm last Oct and it took 90 mins to get through the diversion when the sea front was closed. I also once drove for 39 days in a 40 day period a few years ago when we were desperately short of drivers during the height of summer but that is now only for the young, foolish and desperate for overtime people.

RTA used to stand for Road Traffic Accident. The problem with that is that there are almost no accidents on the roads these days. In fact there never have been very many.Not even back in the old days when Boadicea was a young girl and drove her parents mad when she keep wanting to borrow the chariote and keep crashing it into Romans. The person driving along a road with his window open and a bee flys in his car and stings him and he passes out from the shock and his car crashes in to a bus queue killing 20 people. Now that's an accident. The same person driving along at 50 mph in a 30 limit and 10 pints of Tennents Extra Strong Lager in side him and looses control of his car and hits the same bus queue with the same result is not.

So now we have RTC. Road Traffic Collision. Don't be in one. They are not nice.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Bus is Best!

A mad monk has travelled round the EU by bus; all 25 countries

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Yellow Jacket, footnote.

Footnote 1.
Yesterday I told the depot manager I would wear the stupid yellow thing when ever the company said I must; i.e. in an bus running area. To night I fininshed work and drove a bus into the yard and parked it in the fuel line. I was ten feet from the door to the pay-in room (where I don't have to wear YJ) and I foregot YJ and got seen walking in bus running area by manager and got told of.

We have buses running late all over the place, people waiting far too long for a bus, we are driving on a route through a housing estate with blind bends and hills and right turns on to main roads that are imposible to take without ignoring the rule in the Highway Code that says, "never start a right turn you can not complete." and the company are so worried by the new political correctness of Helth and Safety that time is spent giving me a leture for crossing ten feet of bus running area where the only way a bus could have hit me is if some one was dangling one from a helicopter and dropped it on my head.

This is me, yellow jacket and all. Now for 7 years we walked round the bus park completely unharmed by the fact that we didn't have yellow jackets. Then health and safety turned up and overnight we all got yellow jackets to be worn in all areas where buses run. Now I have a problem with this. It takes the safety issue away from the driver of the vehicle and the pedestrian.

In the old days, before Health and Safety became the new Political Correctness, people walking in the bus park watched out for moving buses and kept out of their way. Drivers in the bus park, highly trained and skilled in handling large buses, kept watch for pedestrians and tried not to run them down. Now, the driver believes it is safe because the pedestrian will be wearing yellow and be easy to see and the pedestrian feels he is protected from harm by a millimeter thick piece of yellow cloth. We do have a speed limit in the bus park of 5 mph and buses make quiet a lot of noise so I would have to be blind and deaf to get hit by a bus driven by a blind bus driver. What ever I have said about the company doing daft things in the past I do not believe that they are mad enough to employ blind, deaf bus drivers.

My other problem with these jackets is that the company spent hundreds of thousands of pounds buying us all smart (their word) uniforms. Now you see drivers hanging around the office, in the canteen, driving their buses and for all I know sitting at home watching TV and going to bed wearing their yellow things and it does not improve our image one little bit.

So now you will see me as in photo when I have to according to company rules. But never driving a bus, in the canteen, down the pub, sitting in front of this computer or any of the other places I have mentioned.

I have suggested that I be the control in this experiment, if I don't wear a jacket and don't get run down then the company will know that the £100 000 they spent on all these jackets would have been wasted. If I do get run down then they could say, "Careless bastard."

Saturday, 24 September 2005

Parking Attendant at Work.

I used to like Parking Attendants. They put £60.00 tickets on all those idiots that parked on double yellow lines. It is a little easier to drive round town now but most of the time not much faster. Here and there it is but it is easier because we don't have to spend anxious moments watching both mirrows to make sure we don't take the wing mirrow of some stupid, illegally parked, prat's car. But now I don't like them.

Not because I have had a parking ticket, I haven't. But because head office feel that because the Parking Attendants are a thousand time more active than the old traffic wardens we now need less time to complete our journeys. So we have lost 8 mins off our running time. If you have been waiting for a bus over the last 3 weeks you may have noticed one of the effects of cutting our running times, if you haven't, then I will tell you that lots of the buses have been running late; some times over half an hour and more late. Bring back the traffic wardens is what I say.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Cars in the Bus Station

This sign is at the enterance to the bus station in Newton.
Question; does it mean,
a) I'm lost so I can ignore it.
b) how the hell do I know.
c) I'm a copper. I don't need to know.
d) It means no vehicles but the police don't care so why should I.

Answer d) is correct. There were two police cars parked up the road, you can see one in the photo. I pointed out to one of the police officers that cars should not be in the bus station and the fact that since the road works started in Newton there have been a large increase in the number of cars driving through the bus station. He said "Right mate we'll sort it out." His method of sorting it out was to go and have a chat with his mates in the second police car parked just up the road and wave to the drivers as they drove through the bus station. Well done the 47th best police force in the country.

Foot note:-
There are only 47 police forces in the country to save you asking.

Monday, 19 September 2005

Very Dark Grey Friday.

Last Friday was the worst day any one can remember for buses running late, mostly 12's. I was driving the 200, the Open Top service between Meatfoot and Totnes and I took over my bus at Paignton Bus Station half an hour late. Not the best of ideas when I have never driven the route before and I only had a map of Totnes with the route penciled in.

The radio was going non stop all day with drivers reporting in how late they were and asking to be turned short of their destination so they could get back on time. But you can only turn so many buses otherwise no buses would have got to Brixham or Newton. Part of the problem were the road works at Corbin Head. On one side of the road works traffic was back 200 yards while on the Paignton side it was over a mile. Two things bother me here. One is why can't Transco, who have plenty of experience digging up this section of road manage the temporary traffic lights better. The second is why don't the council tell Transco that next time they dig the road up at Corbin Head that they had better get the traffic lights right or they will be taken to court and fined. The council do have this power but seem unable to get round to using it, rather than do something they let every traveler in the Bay and beyond suffer.

Once drivers had lost time here they never had the chance to get back on time because we only just have enough running time to cover the route as it is. Once some thing like this happens queues of angry, frustrated, I'm going to go by car next time, passengers build up.

When I finally finished at 20:10 I went for a bus at 20:26. After a 20 min wait (buses are every 15 mins at this time of night) two turned up, still running late and unable to catch up with their time.

I was going to call this Post Black Friday. But I thought that I would save that title for a later date when some thing even worse goes down. I fear that, like the meteor from space it it is not ' if ' but ' when '.

Friday, 16 September 2005

12's and 12A's

It's been going for over a week now and it is a fairly safe to say that most of the drivers and lots of passengers are not completely happy with the new bus route. If a passenger is traveling between Newton and Paignton then it should be fine. They should have a bus every 7 or 8 mins. But many of the buses are still running very late, some times 3 or 4 buses running together, then a big gap and more buses then turn up running together. Part of the problem is the road works in Newton and part of the problem is the fact that we are now running on winter times. In summer we get longer times to make up for the fact that there are more people about, both getting on the buses and more traffic on the roads. But in September the holiday season is still going. Lots of OAP's turn up in the Bay for their holidays.

Brixham is a popular day out but if you are traveling to and from Brixham the shorter route on the number 12 is now only every 15 mins, it used to be every 10 mins. So the number of people getting on each bus to go to and from Brixham has gone up by 50%. All this extra loading adds to the journey time, as does explaining to bemused passenger the difference between the 12 and the 12A.

It goes like this; holiday maker, who has been here before and knows it's the 12 to Brixham and doesn't understand the differance the A makes, gets on the 12A in Torquay or Paignton and asks for a ticket to Brixham, driver has to explain to the passenger that the 12 is the better bus to go to Brixham, 1) it takes 15 mins less and 2) the journey round Roselands involves 27 sharp bends, 5 speed ramps, 4 right turns from minor roads into main roads (1), quiet a few turns from main roads into minor roads that involve going onto the wrong side of the road and the possibility that the bus will be held up in several narrow roads the were not built with double deckers in mind. No one who has traveled to Brixham from Paignton on a 12A is likely to do it twice. In Brixham those people who have been waiting for a long time for a 12 and risk getting on a 12A usually comment, "That was ******* awful, next time I will wait for the 12".

An other problem I have with this over kill of a bus route is the question,'How many students are we going to take to New South Devon College?' The students can buy a weekly ticket for £10.00 and will attend college 30 weeks in a year. 1 student = £300 per year, 10 students = £3000, 100 students = £30 000 , 1000 students = £300 000. So if we carry a thousand students every day the college is open we will increase our income by £300 000. Well that seems well worth the effort. But hang on a moment, to carry one thousand students to college in the morning and home again in the afternoon will take 11 buses that are full to the brim. At 4 buses per hour that will take 2 and three quater hours just to get the buses to the college plus the time it takes to load 90 people on to each bus. And if the buses are now all full, what about the good people of Roselands Drive who used to have a number 3 bus but now have the 12A (full of Students). Are they going the have to travel before the students or wait until they have gone.

Foot note.

(1) I have been driving buses now for over 8 years ( 275 000 miles ) and in the past 10 days have discovered some thing I had not noticed before. Buses are not designed to turn right from minor roads on to main roads. We have a great view to the front, big windows, a great view to the right, but to the left there are door pillers in the way, the nearside mirrow is in the way, the cab door frame is in the way and we have 7 such right turns to make. On the old 12 route there was one right turn from minor road to main road and the main road is one way with nothing coming fron the left. Most bus route I have driven on both here and in London do not have such right turns. In fact, thinking back to all the bus trips I have been on over the last 55 years I and finding it difficult to remember any bus routes with right turns like these. And the 12A has 7. I have not had any near misses yet, just a couple of nasty moments.

Monday, 12 September 2005

No money, no ticket, no pass, no travel

That is the company rule. There are exceptions such as when the person with no money etc is vunerable. But the person who got on the bus on Sunday wasn't in that class. He was in his early twenties and said that his girl friend was waiting for him at Newton Abbot railway station. She had the money which he needed to pay for his bus journey.

Incidents like this do happen but not very often, Once or twice a year seems to be about average.

Now the last time I heard a story like this was from a man in his forties with his arm in a sling who got on at Torbay Hospital (the man that is, not just the arm in the sling). He had been taken to hospital by ambulance and had no money but his wife would be waiting at Paignton Bus Station and she would have the bus fare. Seemed reasonable. When I got to Paignton Bus Station he got of the bus, removed sling, made a rude gesture with one finger and walked away. No sign of wife.

So, "Sorry mate," says I. But I did come up with a solution. I would continue to Newton and if girl friend was at the station waiting for him I would radio the next bus and tell him to pick the young man up as his fare had been paid.

As I got to Penn Inn a couple of stops before the Station the tension was mounting, would she be there, sitting forlornly waiting for a bus that her boy friend may or may not be on?

Or would the stop be bare. Round the last corner, heading for the stop.

And guess what.

Saturday, 10 September 2005

A Week of 12A's

The 12A's have been running for a week now and I was going the write a full, carefully considered, well worked out appraisal of the good point and the bad points.

But I'm too knackered.

The picture below sums it up nicely.

"When will the bloody bus turn up?"

Go to duplicatebus for an article in the Herald Express re the 12A and the now defuct number 3

Friday, 9 September 2005

Road Works Newton Abbot.

Yes, I know this is Paignton Bus Station and I know that Newton Abbot is 8 miles away but the road works there are begining to seriously affect bus running in the Bay.

If you come into Newton from the North there are two ways through town, either down East Street or along The Avenue. The buses come along The Avenue, usually without too much difficulty. However the first thing that has happened as part of the road works is that East Street is now one way heading north. This means that all the through traffic is coming along The Avenue and the buses are being delayed on every trip. This, coupled with that fact that the 12 has gone from being a 7 or 8 min service into Brixham to a 15 min service is the reason for this long queue for the Brixham bound number 12 at 5 o clock yesterday afternoon.

These road works in Newton are long term road works, lasting until mid December. Some thing positive needs to be done to ensure that passengers are not left standing around waiting long periods for a bus that never seems to turn up. At the moment the policy seems to be "Wait and see what happens." A more aggressive strategy is needed.

A follow on from the above situation was that half an hour later I managed to seriously upset an other driver. I was waiting to take over from the driver of the bus that all these people were waiting for. When it arrived an other bus also arrived, always happens, wait ages for a bus and two turn up. We both loaded up and I set off first. When I got to Brixham I loaded up and the second bus arrived, unloaded and set off for Newton without loading. No problem with that, I had all the waiting passengers on board and followed him up New Road out of Brixham. As I left a third bus arrived and the driver, as we passed each other pointed at his watch, asking how late I was. But I was gone before I could answer. The bus in front of me stopped at the first stop to pick up and I stopped behind him to drop off. I left enough to go round him but the eaderly lady wanted me to take her right to the stop so I had to wait until the bus at the stop had gone instead of pulling round it, as would be expected of me, and picking up passenger future up the road.

Then the radio went, a driver asking me how late I was, "15 mins". He said he was 30 mins late. At that point I though it was the driver behind me and I made a flippant remark about going for a world record. Drivers dislike running late even more than passengers and running seriously late makes me either flippant or sarcastic. On this occasion I was a mixture of both. It was only after I had made the comment that I reallised that it had been the driver of the bus in front who could not understand why I had not passed him at the bus stop. Sorry Mike, I would have passed you if I could and I absolutly would not have said what I said if I had know it was you on the radio.

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Don't Press Buttons Marked EMERGENCY.......

........Except in an EMERGENCY!!!

I went into Brixham Bank Lane yesterday afternoon, I was running 11 mins late due to taking over the bus 15 mins late. There was a 12A on the bus stop, parked about 6 feet short (lack of proper training?) which did not leave me, a number 12 much room. As I had not seen an other 12 behind me I pulled on to the stop and loaded the passengers who were there. While I was doing this an other number 12 came into Bank Lane. Now there is defiantly not room for 3 buses and this latest arrival was blocking the whole of the Town Square except for the minor road that comes up from the harbour. As I had loaded all the passengers I could see I closed the doors, checked the mirrors and prepared to reverse back 3 feet so I could get out from behind the badly parked 12A. I moved back a foot and a car emerged from the side road so I stopped. I was just about to move off when a little old lady came and stood by the doors. Now at this point I was definatly what is know in the trade as "Committed to Go." I had reversing lights showing and cars behind me waiting to let me go; to have not gone now would have confused the car drivers and it is not conducive to road safety to confuse car drivers. I again made sure it was safe and released the brake to go when an other woman came up and gestured angrily that I should open the door and let the little old lady on. Again I refused pointing to the bus and the chaos behind. Where upon the woman opened the doors using the Emergency button. This was outrageous. This was not an emergency. A emergency is where someone's life or limb is in danger; not when some one wants to get on a bus that is committed to go with an other bus behind that was due out in 2 mins. Any way the little old lady got on and while I was dealing with her several other people came up and boarded the bus which ment I was causing even more confusion and adding to the possibility that Brixham would end up grid locked. All the car drivers behind must have been muttering nasty (nastier) things about bus drivers and how not to run a bus service. Finally I pulled away with 35 people on the bus. The bus behind (who was on time) left 2 mins later with two people on board. All that trouble to save a little old lady a two minute delay.

Look who's back!

Once again we have road works in the Corbin Head area. This is the 8th time in two years that this bit of road has been dug up and traffic has been disrupted.

It is to be hoped that with all this practice they will eventualy get it right and go away once and for all.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Free travel on Stagecoach Buses!


BY PHILIPPA WALKER for the Herald Express

Guide dog trainers in the Bay will be able to travel for free on Stagecoach's local bus services.The bus company has linked up with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Torquay to boost the training and development of future guide dogs.
Young guide dog pups spend most of their first year with a puppy walker volunteer, who teaches basic obedience and gets them used to a home environment and the noise and bustle of towns.
They will also prepare the dogs for their working life ahead, which includes taking them on public transport including buses, trains and taxis.The new initiative will play a big part in helping the future guide dogs get used to public transport and busy environments at an early age.

Nice one Stagecoach!


One of the things that happens when you are waiting for a bus is that two (sometimes three) turn up at once. This happens a lot on the 12 route. The buses used to be every 10 mins apart and if one bus got held up for some reason the next bus could quite easily catch it up. What happens then is the bus that is running on time gets on the radio and tells the driver of the late running bus to keep going where he can. So late driver goes past people waiting at a stop and the on time driver stops and picks the passengers up. This helps everyone, the late drivers gets a bit of time back and it doesn't make any difference to the passengers which bus they get on. In fact it does make a little difference because the late bus will now clear the bus stops further up the road and all his passengers get some time back as well.

Leap-frogging also takes place at the terminus. If a bus is very late arriving at the terminus and there are a lot of people waiting it is better if the late bus goes without picking anyone up. This saves him 5 mins loading time, but the passengers he has left don't lose because which ever bus they get on it still takes time to load the passengers. If the late driver had loaded up he would be running on the bus behind's time and the bus behind would be with him but running empty. Because he has left 5 mins before the bus behind he can now clear all the bus stops along the route and everyone gains and the bus is usually back on time which is where we want to be.

Leap-frogging only works however if both buses are going to the same place. I can't leap-frog a 77 on Newton Abbot station, not all the passengers at the stop might want to go to Buckland, some may well want to goto Torquay. Now we have a problem and the new 12A route. It is timed to run every 15 mins, as is the 12. So a 12 comes along and 7 mins later along comes a 12A. Then 8 mins later an other 12 comes along. And so on. But they do not go to the same place, but for a lot of the time they do follow the same route. If you wish to travel any where between Newton and Paignton it doesn't matter which bus you get on. They both go to the same places. But if you are waiting to go to Roselands or the New South Devon College you need a 12A. If you get to your stop and you have just missed one you will have a 15 min wait for the next 12A. If it is running late and the bus behind, a 12, catches and passes it and pulls in at your stop and the 12A driver plays leap-frog and goes screaming past you now have an other 15 min wait for the next 12A. You can catch the 12 and change at Paignton bus station but you will have to pay to Paignton on the 12 and then pay from Paignton on the 12A. This will cost more then the direct fare. I you have a return ticket the driver of the bus you get on will punch it and now you can not use it on the 12A you catch in Paignton. Only if you have a pass will the cost remain the same.

Leap-frogging at the terminus is out as well. You are at Brixham going to college, you want a 12A and one has just gone. Now you have a 15 min wait. A 12 comes and goes, next bus should be a 12A but it is running late. Then a 12 turns up and pulls on to the stop followed by a seriously late 12A which pulls round to the Bakery, unloads and vanishes into the distance. Another 15 mins to wait.

So if you are a 12 driver and you catch a late running 12A up no leap-frogging. If you are a 12 and catch a seriously late 12 up then you can play leap-frog. The only time 12's and 12A's can play leap-frog is from Paignton to Newton, both buses are going to the same place so it doesn't matter which bus people get. This inability by drivers to help late running drivers will have an detrimental effect on the time keeping of the 12/12A service in the Bay.

The best solution to this problem would be to renumber the 12A, call it 14 and have it run only between Paignton and Brixham via Roselands and the college and allow the 12 service to sell through tickets. This would allow passengers to board a 12 any where between Newton and Paignton and change to a 14 in Paignton. Passengers could also catch the 14 from Roselands or the college and change to a 12 in Paignton. Leap-frogging could make a come back; Except at the terminus at Brixham. To solve that problem we could make use of, for the 14, the now defunct 66 stop out side the Undertakers in New Road.

If you have other solutions or comments then click on comments.

Monday, 5 September 2005

Park and Ride a Success

PARK AND RIDE A SUCCESS 11:00 - 05 September 2005

Torbay Council has hailed Brixham's park and ride a success as the service drew to a close last night.The scheme, promoted by the council and Torbay Development Agency was aimed at relieving car parking pressures and traffic congestion in the town. The slogan "Bus it to Beautiful Brixham" was used to encourage people to park their cars at a site at Churston and take Stagecoach's service 12 buses into the town.
Cllr Alan Faulkner, executive member for environmental services, said: "We have received considerable positive feedback from people who took advantage of the park and ride."During one week, more than 700 people left a total of nearly 250 cars at Churston and made the return bus ride into Brixham."
Not only was the service well used by visitors but we also had some local commuters who decided it was more convenient to park at Churston and catch the bus."There is no doubt we took the right decision to operate this service in partnership with Stagecoach."We are very pleased with the passenger figures that we think will total about 3,500 during the six weeks of its operation.

It was such a success that a rival firm tried to take over from Stagecoach but could not find any where to land in Brixham! Proves that "Bus is Best."

Sunday, 4 September 2005

I wish it was a bus!

Well it does say Bus, so it must be a bus, can't carry 90 people on that so it must be just wishful thinking. Shame.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

12 and 12a

Today Saturday 3rd Sept 2005, after 6 years and 4 months I stopped being a 12 driver.

Instead I became a 12/12A driver.

From to morrow half my duties will be on the old 12 route and half will be on the new 12A route. South Devon College, in a bold and imaginative move have abandoned their old site in Torre and moved to a new site in Paignton. The 12A will carry the students from all over the Bay to this new site. I have to admit that I am looking forward to this change in the same way that George W Bush must be looking forward to his next popularity ratings.

The 12A only runs every hour on a Sunday, and the students wont be back for a week or two. Time will tell and I will keep you posted

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Baghdad and New Orleons

The two main stories of the day are Baghdad and New Orleans. Baghdad, where the sudden fear of being blown up started a panic. What do you do, start to run even though there is no where to run to except in to the people in front of you. Then the people behind you who are running have no where to go but into you. In a crowd suddenly out of control is a dangerous place to be.

My unease of large crowds goes back to Coronation Day in 1953 when we walked down the Strand in London in the evening to watch the fireworks on the Embankment. Hundreds of thousands of other people were also walking down the Strand and we were in that crowd for what seems like a long time. Now a days the only time I like being in Fleet Walk, which can get very crowded in summer, is in the bus.

In New Orleans where a similar number of people could be dead they did have warning. For 6 days they knew that Katrina was coming. Most left but those that did not, seemed so ill prepared for what was about to happen. A two hundred mile wide monster was about to hit and destroy the most vulnerable stretch of the USA coast line and those that stayed must have believed that every thing would be OK regardless. Did they have adequate clothing, spare food, bottled water, battery radios and all the other items that any experience hurricane watcher will tell you you need. Not those seen on TV.

Incidents like this that hit the head lines make you sit in your chair and stare at the TV screen and be glad that disasters like this don’t happen every day. Then later in the evening I watched a program on BBC Four called Holidays in the Danger Zone. Ben Anderson the presenter went down the Amazon, the Ganges and the Congo. On all three rivers he came across problems faced by the local populations day by day, year in year out, unrelenting struggles for food, water, shealter, safety and some sort of order in there lives. And you realize that for a large percentage of the world’s population, disasters like these two in Baghdad and New Orleons do happen every day.

And there is nothing you can do about it.