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

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.


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).

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?


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


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


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.