Saturday, 28 January 2006

Kingskerswell Library

As you drive up to Newton Abbot you go under a bridge that is known as The Arch. A couple of days ago I took the photo with this banner, “Save our Library” hanging from it for all the world to see. The banner has done part of its job. I, and the tens of thousands who pass under the Arch now know the library is in danger.

There has been an Arch here since Roman times.
After the Romans left the Celts revered the arch as a sacred place.
The Saxon used it to hang criminals from and the Plantagenets built a monastery around it.
Henry VIII closed it down and it fell into ruin and decay.

In 1688, after he had invaded England, landing at Brixham, William of Orange marched under the Arch. He admired it so much that he declared that it was suitable to be his Victory Arch and he would come back one day and take it stone by stone to London. But he never got round to it.

By Victorian times only the arch remained. It is said that Isambard Kingdom Brunel passed under it as a young boy on his way for a day out in beautiful Torquay. Its structural majesty inspired him to be come an engineer, he was thinking of becoming a coach driver.

Finally in 1966 the local authority knocked the arch down to widen the road (we are still waiting for the road to be widened).

Going on past record the Library has had it.

Bit of a shock at work yesterday.

And I didn't even know we were for sale.
Apparently some oil rich middle eastern gentleman's five year old son wanted a cowboy outfit for his birthday.

Notice on the Bus Stop.

I went into Newton Abbot yesterday afternoon and this notice had been stuck on all the bus stops there.

Speaks for its self really.

Lots of drivers don't switch their bus engines off at the terminus which shows that they have never lived in a house that is within 50 metres of a bus terminus. If they had then they would switch their engines off. Part of the problem is the engines does not sound too loud when you're sitting in the cad sorry cab.

When you are trying to watch TV and the bus engine is in the background thumping away and you don't know when it is going to go away, you start to visualize baseball bats and bus driver's heads coming into violent contact.

Or in the case of one person, nice, polite though grammatically incorrect notices.

Friday, 27 January 2006

What is in this black box?

This little black box is my module. It is the ticket machine's memory. Each morning when I get to work the first thing I do is put it in the depot ticket reader and 'Sign it on'. It now holds all the fares and fare stages for all the route both here and in Exeter. Not that I ever work in Exeter. Now I don't have to remember all those fares. Over 500 on the twelve route alone. It also has a calendar and clock in there ticking away. It is probable the third most important piece of a bus driver's equipment, after the bus and his trousers, and is never left lying around.

Well on Wednesday morning I had an appointment at Torbay Hospital to see an eye specialist at 9:00 am. No problem, I didn't start work till 11:32. I did phone in the day before to warn them that there was a slight possibility that I may be late, so they were prepared if necessary .
When I got to the hospital the doctor needed to dilate my eyes. As he put the drops in he warned me that I would be unable to drive for 3 hours. Not to worry, the spare driver could take the bus to Newton and back, takes about an hour, and I could continue from there.

The eye exam revealed nothing serious, just something that can happen as one approaches middle age (my words, the doc said some thing with the word old in it). So I got to work at 10:30, two hours before I could drive. I explained my problem to the controller who said what all controllers say at this point, "First I've heard of it, mate."

Any way, a volunteer was found to take the bus to Newton and I wandered off to have a cup of coffee and a listen to the new iPod, a late Christmas present. At 12:20 I wandered down to pick up my bus. When I had hung my coat on the hook provided, all mod cons on our buses, and the cash tray on the hooks provided I placed the module in the ticket machine and seeing that the road behind was clear I set off for Brixham. It was then that I noticed the words "Not Signed On." on the display screen on the ticket machine. Hanging about for two hours and the module was no use what so ever to me. All those fares and fare stages, the clock and the calendar locked away for lack of a four digit number I should have used to sign it on as soon as I walked in the office.

No problem, it was quiet and I could sign on in Paignton. All I had to do was use my emergency tickets, it does take about 3 times as long to issue an emergency ticket but hopefully there wouldn't be too many people getting on to day and I know most of the fares. First two were easy, return into town, £1.95. Then in Union Street there was a queue stretching round the block. The first half dozen people had return tickets any way. Then a slight problem, 3 returns to the new college. No idea of the fare so I had to go on Radio Stagecoach and ask. £3.65. A couple of single ticket and a return. Then someone pointed out that the date was 25th. OMG. I had been writing 24th on all the emg tickets. I managed to get most of them back but because there were 3 people out there with tickets that appeared to be out of date I had to got public and tell control what had happened and would any driver getting a ticket dated yesterday would they please accept them. I never heard any one ask so all the tickets must have been OK.
Once I got to Paignton I signed the module on and the rest of the day went as most other days do; after an interesting start.


Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Not a grand junction

This is the junction at the Grand Hotel on Torquay sea front. As you approach this junction all the traffic is in one lane. Then there is a second lane for traffic to turn right for the Grand Hotel or Torquay Train Station. Then, for about 20 yards there are two lanes going straight on. Unfortunately 20 yards the other side of the lights these two lanes reduce to one lane.

So what happens is that most people stay in the left lane and form a nice, orderly queue. However there are strangers who don't know that the lane they are in is about to vanish. When the do realize they usually end up slowing down which causes confusion. Confusion is not a good thing when you are driving a car.

The other thing that happens is boy racers (see yellow car) on an adrenalin rush come up the right hand land and dash across the lights and force their way in to the flow of traffic putting everyone at risk. The gain in journey time saved by this action must be as much as half a second.

Recently, due to road works we have been diverting along the ring road. Not a road I had driven along much in the past. One thing I did notice was that at every set of traffic lights along the ring road the junctions are like this. One lane changing in to two lanes while you drive through the lights and then back to one lane almost immediately. It seems that some one in the Highways Department thinks," Oh look. There's room for two lanes here. lets make two lanes even though it's only for 40 yards. People will think the road is wonderful. Its got two Lanes." All it does is encourage people to overtake two or three cars for a very small decrease in journey time. Oh, and annoy the poor sod who has to brake hard to let them back in. Usually me, though not always.

Monday, 23 January 2006

Roster Changes

We have a couple of new bus routes starting in the Bay on Sunday and there are a few minor changes to the timetables of other routes also. Because of this some drivers will have changes made to their duties. Now before new duties can be posted for all to see the have to be worked out up in Head office in Exeter by some one who is paid a lot more money than I am. Then the Traffic Commission have to be given 6 weeks notice just in case they, or any one else doesn't like them That doesn't include Joe Public of course, what have bus routes got to do with them? Then someone else looks at them to make sure that they actually work. No good having 5 buses turn up in Brixham Bank Lane at the same time, there just isn't room for them. Then the new timetables have to be printed. Stagecoach are good at providing timetables, we have them in all our travel shops for free and are fixed to almost all the bus stops and they are easy to read. No, stop laughing. Well OK they would be easy to read if schools included reading bus and train timetables on the national curriculum. Mind you it would help if they had reading on the national curriculum as well. And OK they would be easier to read if they were printed a little larger so bus passengers didn't have to carry a magnifying glass around with them. Any way, enough about time tables, we were discussing changes to are duties.

After all the above have been done the new duties are passed on to the Union who have a good look through them just to make sure that there is nothing in there that they don't think is legal or right. That doesn't include 32 minute breaks, they may not be right but they are legal. Then they are posted so we, the drivers can find out what hours we will be working, which duties have school runs, when we are lates, earlies, what are our days off, are there any weekends etc, etc. It is always a worrying time, will the new duties be better then the old ones or worse, worse. On my Middle 12 Rota at the moment the duties are, by and large OK. I don't want any changes, thank you very much.

Given that the process must take over 6 weeks, given the requirement to tell the Traffic commission, and given that a notice went up well over 2 weeks ago saying that the new duties would be Posted A.S.A.P. you would think that we should find out all this detail at least a couple of weeks before the new duties start. Well we found out to day, Monday, and they start next Sunday. Is it some great secret, is some one in head office a former MI5 or CIA agent and they don't want us leaking the details to the press or an other bus company, or worse still to our friend Joe Public. Or could it be they just didn't want us to know for some reason, maybe we might laugh.

Anyway after all the waiting there are posted and my duties have no changes. Which is OK by me.

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Why is this driver smiling

Four hours after I took this photo, Brian retired. He started driving a bus so long ago that Global Warming hadn't been discovered, mobile phones only appeared in Sci Fi and if you suggested that you would have your very own personal compurter, men in white coats would have turned up and gently lead you away.

He has probablely carried half a million passengers safely to their destinations and never said a nasty word about any of them, driven a million miles and never shouted rude words at all the mad, bad and just plain stupid car drivers he has encountered, put up with managerial wims created in an office some where so far removed from bus driving as to at times seem to be on an other planet.

And now he has left it all behind and is he glad? You can bet your cotten socks he's glad.

Best wishes to you Brian, enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

More on Megariders

We have a SDC megarider ticket. It is for students at the New South Devon College, which finally became compleately open this week.(It should have been last Sept but there were problems with the roof). The ticket only costs £10.00 for a weeks travel on any stagecoach bus in Devon and is there to encourage the students to actually make the journey to college. Problem is, some of the students have been buying the SDC ticket for friends who are not students.This saves them £8.00 on the Goldrider Ticket. So now we have to ask those students who present a SDC ticket to show their college ID card. Which is a pain in the butt; as our American cousins would say.

Any way, today at the college one of the students waiting to get on noticed that I was asking to see the ID card. She mustn't of had one and she licked her finger and rubbed the ticket so that SDC didn't show and told me that it was a Paignton Megarider which she could use at the college. Problem was, now the ticket was defaced and I could not accept it any way. When I told her this she claimed it had come out of the ticket machine like that, oh right! it was still wet where she had rubbed it and I enjoyed pointing this out. She enjoyed telling me and everyone one the bus exactly what she thought of me and I think everyone except the sweet little old lady sitting half way down the bus enjoyed listening while she told me. Some of them may have even learnt a few new words before she stormed off into the distance.

If only driving a bus could be this enjoyable all the time.

Trouble on my bus.

I had a little bit of trouble on the bus yesterday. As I pulled up at the stop on the Strand, Red Tarmac and Black Tarmac were waiting there. I opened the door to let them on but Green Tarmac came running up and pushed them out of the way and got on the bus, showed me his ticket and went upstairs.
Black Tarmac was upset by this and wanted to go upstairs and have a word with Green Tarmac about his bad manners. Red Tarmac told him not to, but Black Tarmac could not be dissuaded and went upstairs.
There was some banging and shouting and then Black Tarmac came down with bits of gravel hanging of him and tar oozing out of every pore. He was in a sorry state.
Red Tarmac had no sympathy for him, "I told you not to go near that Green Tarmac. He's a cyclepath."

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Dartmouth Road Reopens.

Dartmouth Road reopenned this afternoon, true there are traffic lights in one section and there will be on going work for the next 3 weeks but we will no longer have to share the Ring Road with thousands of other vehicles. In fact, this afternoon, shortly after the Dartmouth Road was opened I was on the Ring Road and it was as clear as a bell.

While this work was being carried out there were constant delays and both drivers and controllers had to work very hard to keep up a reasonable bus service on the 12 and 12A as well as the 120 Paignton to Kingswear service. Well done to all. Things had not so much been pear shaped, they'd been, well you know the shape you get when you drop a ripe melon from the top of Blackpool Tower? Yes! That shape.

There are other road works futher up the Dartmouth Road including the one shown in the photo.
Not enought room to get a bus through, the two buses in front of me had both reported having to go up on the cerb as the workmen had made no attempt to move any of the machinery out of the way. I just drove up and stopped, took the camera out and started taking photos. 15 seconds later they moved machinery and away I went. They must have thought I was going to send the photos to the Towm Hall. Contractors can and should get fined for blocking roads.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Driving round Roselands

As you drive round Roselands, a residential estate in Paignton, you will notice a red car and a white van parked in some one's drive, slowly rusting away. They have been there so long that they were probably mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
Don't worry, one day when the owner gets round to it and has a spare afternoon he is going to do them up and sell them. Either that or it's part of an ecology experiment to see how long it takes for a motor vehicle to biodegrade.
Keep watching.

Saturday, 14 January 2006

The Road Works in Paignton

Major road works in Paignton have been the one of the two main topics of conversation over the last week. "How late are you?" has been the main question drivers have been asked. The road should be open again by Friday but there will still be delays. Some of the delays we have been suffering are not caused by the road works themselves as the first photo shows. The sign directs traffic to turn right to avoid delays but I have to go straight on, but the sign is stopping me. I just got out of the bus and dragged the sign out of the way.

The second problem that the council seen unable to understand is that the traffic lights at Tweenaway Cross, which have a right turn filter, have different timings over weekends. Less traffic gets to turn right. Only 3 or 4 cars were getting through, during the week this number is as high as 20. This mean that traffic queing to turn right was blocking the traffic that wanted to go straight on. Result, half hour delays instead of 10 mins. There was a story going a round last week the the timings on the lights were going to be altered; I didn't believe it then and I still don't. They will probably come down on Thursday and change them.

The second photo shows traffic that has tried to take a short cut to avoid waiting on the ring road. During the week no one bothers but to day the ring road was so bad drivers were trying anything to find a quicker way throught the diversion. And from taking this photo to getting onto the ring road took 15 mins. Not realy fair on the people who live in Roselands who have to put up with 8 buses an hour running past their front door.

It would appear that no one in the Town Hall knew that the road was going to close until it did. Their compleate lack of action regarding the problems the lights at Tweenaway Cross would cause show that they believe that putting a few signs up is the end of their responsibility. About the only thing they did get right was doing the road now and not in the middle of summer.

Friday, 13 January 2006

Three Megariders

We have several megarider tickets. Megarider tickets allow the holder to travel as many times as they like within a well defined area. Some can be for a day, like the £3.80 Torbay megarider, some for a week, like the Paignton and Torquay megariders and some like the Goldrider, £18.00 a week, £65.00 a month or £600.00 a year. The Goldrider can be used on all Stagecoach Devon buses and on some other Stagecoach UK's networks.
The problem I had at the to day was with the Paignton megarider and the South Devon College Megarider. Both cost £10.00 for a week. A passenger got on the bus in Union Street in Torquay and tried to use a Paignton Megarider. She held the pass up about 3 feet away from me and tried to walk down the bus as she was doing so. At that distance it is possible to see that it was a megarider but not for which area. When I had a closer look it turned out to be a Paignton megarider. When I told her that she could not use it in Torquay she said that she did not know. I extracted, with the protest that she always used it to travel to Torquay, the fare of £1.30 that would take her to Cockington Lane, where the megarider became valid.
At the next stop an other Paignton megarider was presented and as soon as I said that it could not be used the fare of £1.30 was presented instantaneously, she had it in her hand ready in case she was challenged.
A little later a passenger got on in Paignton Bus Station with a South Devon College megarider. These are for students attending the college and to buy one a College ID card must be produced and to use it the same ID card must be produced. No card was in view so I asked for the card. A wallet was opened and part of a College card was shown but I asked to see it all. It had expired July 2004. No good, it had to be current. Then the young man changed his tune slightly. He said that he had asked for a Paignton megarider not a SDC megarider. I told him that he could not travel and the controller was called.
The controller told him what I had, the ticket was invalid without a current College ID and he could not travel.

There is nothing unusual about these three events, other than the fact that they all happened in a very short space of time. These megariders are being misused and changes need to be made and made soon. Every time some one gets away with using an invalid ticket costs the traveling public money because it means the fares will have to go up sooner rather than later to make up for the short fall in revenue. We the drivers are going to suffer too, less revenue means less money for a massive pay rise this year. With that in mind, please check all tickets with some care.

More on the Boar

Futher to a recent post about the wild boar that were let out by animal rights activists, of the hundred that were let out 50 have been rounded up and 22, sadly, have been shot. The remaining free boar are still being hunted.

What rights were the idiots who let them out thinking of giving the boar, the right to be shot.

Hurry along now, sir

This young seagull was in two minds about flying to Torquay or taking the bus. As he is under 5 he could have travelled free. However when I told him I was a 12A and went the long way round he decided to wait for the next number 12.

Monday, 9 January 2006

Two Trips to South Devon College.

South Devon College (SDC) is in the process of moving. It used to be about half a mile to the north of Torquay on the main road to Newton. Across the road is the Police Station, handy in case the students got out of hand. It was a 10 min walk into town for the shops, cafes, bars and bright lights of Torquay and it was close to a train station and on the 12 bus route. Not a perfect place as the site was a little too small and some of the buildings were in need of some care and attention. But nothing too serious. Them some one said," I know, lets move to the Industrial Estate in Paignton. There's loads of room there."

Well loads of room is a big advantage and the idea took hold. However the Industrial Estate in Paignton is miles from any where , not even on a bus route. So Stagecoach had to create one, the imaginatively named 12A. 12A because for most of its route it follows the same route as the 12 but from Paignton it goes through Roselands, to the new SDC and on to Brixham. (If you want you can go to duplicate bus and read articles and letters from the local paper about the trouble this new route has generated) .

Any way, on Friday morning I was driving a 12A and was on the Strand on my way to the new SDC. A young lady walked up to the bus, looked at the destination blinds and boarded the bus and showed me a Torbay Megarider(1). A couple of hundred yards down the road she came up to me and asked if I would tell her when we got to the college.

When we got to Paignton she asked if we had reached the college yet, I told her it would be an other 25 mins and that I had not forgotten her. We have road works going on in Paignton at the moment which are causing big, big problems on the way to the college but we got there eventually and as I pulled up at the stop I called out, "South Devon College."

She came up and thanked me and then asked where the Police Station was, "Some one told me it was near the college." she said.

This was definitely those OMG(2) moments that happen now and then.

The Police Station, as you will remember is across the road from the old college. About a 6 min bus ride on a 12 or 12A from where I had picked her up, but in the other direction. She had spent 45 mins going the wrong way and now faced a 50 min ride to where she wanted to go and to make matters worse the 12A that she needed to catch had just gone so she had an other 15 mins to wait for the next one. Very definitely OMG(2) moment.

I can only assume that she didn't ask for the police station as she knew that us bus drivers are so law abiding that we wouldn't even know where it was.

In the afternoon on the Strand heading for the new SDC again slightly older lady boarded the bus after looking at the destination blinds and showed me a Torbay Megarider(1). "Will you tell me when we get to the College?" she asked.

Blind panic set in. "The new one or the old one, the one in Torquay near the police station or the one in Paignton, the one just up the road or the one 45 mins away."I probably frothed at the mouth but I had no intention of taking some one to the wrong place twice in one day.

She explained that she was going to the new college to sign up for a course and patted me gently on the arm. As she walked down the bus I heard her mutter, "And keep taking the Medication."

When we got there she asked if it usually took so long. I explained that the traffic had added about 5 mins to the journey time and headed of the Brixham. When I got back she was waiting at the stop and I asked her did she like the college. She said it was very nice but had decided that the traveling time from St Marychurch would be just too much and she was going to take an OU(3) course instead.

Thinking about these two ladies later I found the second event more worrying, how many other people would be put of attending the new college because traveling time. And there is not much we can do about shortening it.

(1) Megarider, a day ticket, £3.80 use any where in Torbay and up to, but not in Newton Abbot.
(2) OMG, short for "Oh My God."
(3) OU, the
Open University(4),
Harold Wilson's best idea.
(4) My old University

Saturday, 7 January 2006

Open Letter To Charles Kennedy

Hi Charles,

The time has come to turn mother's picture to the wall and quit. Not because you have been drinking too much and not because you lied about drinking too much but because you did not murder the Tory Party when you had the chance.

Best wishes for the future

Bus driver.

Friday, 6 January 2006

Taxis in Paignton Bus Station

Stagecoach are stopping taxis from entering Paignton Bus Station (for full story click Duplicate Bus)

All taxis that enter the bus station do so to drop their passengers at the National Express stop which is the first stop you come to when you enter the bus station. Private cars also enter the bus station to drop passengers off for this service (see photo). Most keep out off the way of our buses but there is the odd one who seems to forget the first rule of driving in a bus station. That is, buses are bigger that cars and will do much more damage to you than you will to them. No, seriously the first rule is don't go in a bus station, any bus station. The second rule is if you do go in to a bus station, then give way to reversing buses.

Instead of banning taxis from coming into the bus station the company could mark out a bay (and there is room) with a sign saying "Drop off Point." in big letters and "Give way to buses at all times." in small letters. Then write to all the taxi firms and ask them always to use this bay in future. Banning them completely is overkill in the name of the new Political Correctness.(1)

(1) Health and Safety(2)
(2) There still isn't any drinking water in PBS once the canteen is closed.

Wild Boar in Devon

Just before Christmas, just as I was about to go out to work I heard an item at the end of the news report on Radio Devon. It said," 100 wild boar have been released by Animal Rights Activists from a farm in North Devon." It would seem that keeping wild boar upset some one who went down to the farm and cut the fence and let them out. Click for full story
Now, over 2 weeks later there are still 60 of the boar still running round free and there numbers could start to grow as wild boar in Devon do what wild boar any where do. Yesterday there was a massive hunt for these animals by over 100 people but only one was captured.
Now there have been sighting as far away as Plymouth and it could be months or even years before all these animals are accounted for. Meanwhile farmers are having their field ripped up by the boar and gardens are being destroyed as the boar go about looking for something to eat.
The Animal Liberation Front said it was responsible for freeing the animals but I think it was the local Tourist Board looking for a new, major wild life attraction for Devon. It used to be just Big Cats wandering round Dartmoor, now we have wild boar as well.

Thursday, 5 January 2006

No Shutle Bus

With the road works in full swing, and lots of delays between Brixham and Paignton we are unable to take passengers to the Big Tree and Torbay Leisure Centre. Quite a few liitle old ladies, and other people are now having to walk. It is not that far, about three quaters of a mile but there and back,with shopping, it is a long way if you are 90 years old. It would not be difficult to put a sign up in the bus station and have a bus run every 30 mins and would assist our passengers greatly.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Sorry, I left this warning out on a previous post.

Expect Chaos.

From Tuesday 3rd Jan 06 the road between the YMCA and Waterside will be closed for resurfacing. For 4 weeks. Must be laying each piece of tarmac by hand.
As this is the main road to Brixham it will cause delays and diversions. The 12 will divert up the Totnes Road, past the Zoo and turn left onto the ring road at Tweenaway Cross. Then along the ring road to Goodrington Road where it will turn left. Down Goodrington Rd to Dartmouth Road and turn right, back onto normal line of route. The route back will be the reverse of above. This means that the stops at Sands Rd, The Big Tree, Keywest, The YMCA and Waterside will not be serviced by the 12. The 12A will not be affected by the diversion except where there is heavy traffic. Do expect delays due to increased traffic along the ring road and at Tweenaway Cross and the Totnes Road.
Also it is a company rule that buses on diversion do not stop to pick passengers up so if you are waiting for a 12A you can expect the 12's to go sailing past you. Shout at us if it makes you feel better, but it's not our fault.
I have explained this problem to someone at management level and asked that the destination blinds be fixed so they will display, "Sorry, I'm on diversion." but it may not happen in time for Tuesday.

For an easier to read explanation of the diversion click.

More on my hitting bus in Paignton

Readers of this blog will know that I recently hit a parked bus on Paignton Bus Station while reversing off Stand M on my way to Brixham. An accident requires that you fill in an accident report form for the insurance company. Also drivers who do have an accident have to see the Depot Operations Manager and explain why.
I went along with a photo, on the grounds of blame some one else where posible. I had taken it the next day showing an X46 parked on the next stand. As you can see it is parked over the bay markings. This means the 12 drivers do not have much room to swing the back of the bus round to get off the bay.
The problem is that the X46 stand has no buses parked on their right and the drivers have plenty of room to swing round when they reverse and don't realize that us 12 drivers don't have so much room.
I did suggest that the X46 bay be moved so we would have more room but it is down to the driver (me in this case) to only reverse is it is safe to do so. Any way I received a note later that day saying that no future action would be taken but please don't do it again. Dead right mate, it upsets my professional pride to hit other buses, especially stationary ones.