Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Is this mean or what?

As you will know we have just put our fares up. Also I have discovered over the last few days a couple of tickets have been discontinued. One is the South Devon College weekly megarider which we sold for £10.00. It turns out that this ticket was introduced in September when the College moved to the wilderness out on Paignton Industrial Estate as a three month special offer; the three months was extended to a ten month special offer and now it has gone.

The other ticket to go is the dog return. It used to be sold for 50p. Now all that is available is a dog single for 50p. This means that if some little old lady wants to take her dog for a day out some where she will travel for free but it will cost £1.00 for the dog. We don't sell that many dog tickets, probably one or two a month so the income from only selling dog singles will double to about £8400 per year. Sounds a lot and it is if it dropped through your letter box one day but compared with the company's turn over of £25 million per year; well I ask you?

Monday, 26 June 2006

Hard Luck and Well Done Australia

I got home this evening just as the game ended and was so disppionted to hear that the Soccerroes had been beaten by a last minute penalty. What desperately bad luck.

But to have reached the final 16 on their second visit to the final stages of the world cup is a great achievement and Australia should be proud of their team. I am looking forward to 2010 and hope they do even better next time.

First Day Back

Sunday and back to work after a weeks holiday. Start at 07 58 so I was waiting for the first bus at 07 45 which turned up on time and promptly broke down. Fine start. The radio on the bus wasn’t working too well so down to the phone box to let control know what was happening. Ten mins later the spare driver turned up to get me to work and the fitters arrived to get the broken down bus going.

A couple of things that I had missed while I was on holiday were the fact that there had been a fare increase which started to day and it was the Torbay Half marathon which meant the sea front would be closed and we would have top use the diversion for the duration of the race.
On the first trip I started ten mins late but was soon back on time as early Sunday morning can be very quiet down here in the bay. On the way back from Brixham the race had started so there was a little delay compounded by the number of times I was held up while people got used to the new fares. A couple of people were a few pence short of the new fare and I had to chip in about 40 pence of my own money so the could travel. I know there have been notices on the buses about the fare increase but notices on buses are like adverts on TV. So much in your face that you ignore them.

Then down on the Strand heading for Paignton. The diversion was quiet a long one, missing out nine stops so every one who got on was asked where exactly they were going and if they were effected the problem was explained carefully and the nearest stop where they could get off was pointed out to them so the knew in advance what was happening. One gentleman, no sorry, I will change that, one male person said that my offer to stop at the back of the Grand Hotel was even better than the normal stop in front of the Hotel. So off we went.

As we got near to the Grand he came up to me and demanded to be let off at the next stop. Had he asked nicely I would have let him; but he DEMANDED. So I refused and told him the back of the Grand. He then shouted that he had had a quadruple heart bye pass operation and I was going to make him walk miles. I suggested that if he had a heart problem he should sit down and not get so stressed out. He called me a not nice name suggesting that my mother and father had never married, at least not each other. Now this would normally get some expelled from the bus pronto but as that was what he wanted I told him to go and sit down. He did so complaining loudly but an other passenger told him to shut up. “The driver explained when you got on.” She pointed out , which probably sent him a little closer to his next heart operation.

He then came back and continued his tirade of abuse. I was all calmness and sweetness and when we finally got to the stop I opened the doors and wished him a nice day. He may have had a quadruple heart op but he sure ignored any warnings he may have had re stress and the need to stay calm no matter what.

It may seem a nice idea if we could let people get of anywhere when we are on a diversion but it usually takes longer round the diversion and stopping to let lots of people of all over the place adds up to more and more delays. Not fair on those on the bus and all those waiting further along the route. If the delay get serious them it can be hours before the bus gets back on time and hundreds of people can end up being delayed long after the division is finished.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Best and Worst Buildings in Torquay. Part 2

I have not completely made up my mind about this building in Torquay. Is it the best? Remember the Worst by far is at the top of Abbey Road; the Central Methodist Church. Well come down Abbey Road and at the bottom continue a few metres into Fleet Street and judge for your self. A sunny out look, a fair sized room that isn't overpowering, it's only a few steps to the bar from the door with plenty of seats, children are not allowed (apart from one famous occasion), there is a slight problem with the toilets which are up some stairs, but that does leave more room downstairs for drinking, there is good food served and usually there is no TV. There is one at the moment but it is the World Cup after all. (Well done Oz, by the way.) Definitely a contender for best building in Torquay.

Michelanglo and My Dining Room Floor.

I'm on holiday at the moment, yes I know, I've just come back from 5 weeks in Australia but the holiday rotas where recently changed and this year, 2006, I have 8 weeks holiday but next year I will only get 4 weeks. Not fair is it. Anyway some decorating that was planed for 2002 finally had to be done. The floor in the dining room needed painting. Should be easy, lying down on the job. I have just finished and I can tell you two things.

One, I have increased my respect for Michelangelo 100 fold. 50 years ago, on a school trip to Rome we went to see the Sistine Chapel. It was a few days before Easter and the place was mega crowded and we went through at about 10 mph just so the people who wanted to see the ceiling could all fit in. Since then I have read a little about the painting and how long it took and the few hours I spent on my knees painting the dining room floor work out at about 0.0001% of the time Michelangelo spent on his back painting the end of the world and I am exhausted. I have a feeling he preferred working on David.

Two, The next time I paint any floor the sun will have turned into a raging giant star, will have blown it's self and all the planets to atoms, the universe will have expanded for trillions and trillions of years and the lights of what ever suns are still in existence will have failed. At this point Einstein equation e=mc2 will stop working and all the energy that is still hanging about will rush to a single point and go "BANG". A new Universe will come into existence (1)and 12 billion six thousand and ten years(2) later I will paint the floor again. God help me!

Foot Notes
(1) Well that's my theory about the universe, just keeps repeating it's self for ever and ever, probably never had a beginning in the first place. Make your own up if want but you have to have some thing to think about when you are stuck behind vans in Abbey Road.
(2) Bishop Ussher worked out the world had been created in the year 4004 BC.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Best and Worst Buildings in Torquay

There was an item on BBC 24 hr News yesterday, Yes I know, don't laugh. There was nothing else on. Any way this item was about badly designed buildings and a competition to find the worst designed building in the country. I think two favorites to win are Bus Stations, Preston in Lancs and Northampton. This is my nomination and I feel confident that any one who has ever seen this pile of concrete will agree with me. It is supposed to be there for the worship of god and should up-lift all those who see it, in to singing the grand old gent's praises. Fat chance of that, more like a modern, apologetic, version of the entrance to hell at the top of Abbey Road. Catch a 12 or 12A and sit on the left upstairs for a brief glimpse of Torquay's worst designed building. Then email with a photo and add your voice to this appeal to get this dump demolished and some thing better like a McDonald's or KFC built on the sight.

Unless YOU know better. Or in this case worse!

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Van in the Way.

Happens from time to time, no way to get past. One passenger wanted to know why I didn't go on the pavement but that isn't an option. The curb is quite high and with the nearside of the bus up on the pavement it would be leaning towards the van and may even hit it. Also on the pavement there are two inspection covers for water mains. My name, and the street and the underside of the bus would be mud if I drove an 11 tonne bus over a water main and it burst. Those bay windows also stick out and might hit the top windows on the bus and While I am not sure how much they cost, it would not look good in the deductions column of my wage slip.

Any way the delivery driver was going as fast as he could. When I got to the Castle Circus stop I checked how late we were given that I had left the Cary Parade on time. Three mins. It did seem like a lot longer waiting for the van to go but it always does. Some thing to do with Einstien and his relatives I beleive. One lady passengers, didn't see it like that and as she was getting off remarked nastily, " I might just make my dentist appointment. Thanks a lot."

I like happy endings.

Friday, 16 June 2006

Broken down and Phoning for Help

Broken down and Phoning for Help or Just Phoning?

When I took this picture the driver had his hazard lights on because he was broken down in a dangerous place and was on the phone trying to arrange for some breakdown firm to come and give him assistance.

Or he had his hazard lights on and was just making a phone call. In a dangerous place.

My guess is the latter as two mins later he went past me at the next bus stop. Not what the department of Transport really ment when they brought in the law making drivers pull over before answering the phone.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Traffic,Water and a Crash.

Yesterday it was a traffic out of the woodwork day. When I took over my bus it was 15 mins late. An hour and half late I was still 10 mins down when a red light came on on the dash and a very loud buzzer started it's attempt to send me even future down the road to deafness. A couple of radio calls to Orange control and it was decided the bus was low on water so the passengers got transferred to the next bus and I drove the two miles to Paignton Bus Station nice and carefully. There I put 20 litres of water in the radiator. Light went out and the buzzer stopped scaring the resident seagulls.

After meal break, back to the traffic, still 15 mins down with a bus just in front of me who was 30 mins down. The over the radio came the news of a crash at Tweenaway Cross. The 12A, which I and the bus in front were on, go through Tweenaway so this was just the news we had been waiting for. Tweenaway can be slow at the best of times without having a couple of car drivers deciding to redesign the fronts of their cars. Now by now I knew the 12 behind me was 15 mins away and got on the radio to check the status at Tweenaway and was told,"Long delays". It would still be better for those people wanting to go the Brixham to wait for the twelve. And I told lots of passengers this. With the best of intentions. When I got to Tweenaway there were long delays, but not the way I was going. It was clear, the other roads were jammed up but Totnes Road was like a Sunday morning at 4:30am and I got to Brixham 5 mins early. I wasn't due out for 15 mins and had a nerve racking time when I realized that all those people in Torquay and Paignton I had told would be better waiting for a 12 had not yet arrived.

Just as I set of 2 Number 12 s arrived full to the gunalls (what ever they are?) with all those people who had waited 20 mins for a bus and could have been on mine and home 15 mins earlier. I just looked in the off side mirror and hoped no one notice me and start screaming abuse at me. Sorry to all of you.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Who Drove a Car Over the Footbridge?

Onlookers could not believe their eyes as an elderly couple got lost and twice drove their car over Torquay's narrow harbour footbridge.
Police say it was sheer luck the car didn't end up in the drink after the pensioners took their wrong turn. They drove:
OUT of the car park.
OVER the busy old fish quay and paths, then
ON TO the showpiece 50-metre pedestrian bridge.
Bemused witnesses say the couple, who were thought to be visitors, even honked their horn on their return bridge trip to get another elderly couple out of the way.
The incident occurred at midday on Sunday when witnesses say the couple left the Pavilion car park in their green Ford Focus.
The incident was reported to police who say the registered keeper of the car was not local.
As no complaint was made, no further action is likely.

The Action that should be taken is that all drivers over 70 and every two years after that should be required to take an assesment lesson with a local driving school. If the instructor thinks they are OK then fine. If not then they should have a test with a Department of Transport Examinor who would have the final say regarding their continuing to hold a driving licence.

Monday, 12 June 2006

Jeremy Clarkson, Such a Nice Man.

Jeremy Clarkson in his Mirror column on Saturday has shown that there is hope even for him. Though the main article on his page spread in the Daily Boobs was an outright attack on all bus drivers and those who travel on buses I can forgive him slightly for this. He is a busy man and with the Friday dead line approaching and 2000 words still to write he looks round for inspiration.

While stood in a detestable traffic jam caused by all those people who should be out walking the dog instead of clogging up his road with their unimportant journey he notices a bus pull out from a bus stop.

"I know," says our dear Jeremy, "I'll have a go at bus drivers. (Again) "That's always popular". He has after all got to write 2000 words and as long as it has J. Clarkson as the by line it's easy money even if the content is mostly rubbish. The people at the Daily Boobs don't seem to care as long as it fills a page.

No, the area of hope was in one of those bits at the side of the page. A little comment that showed that even the great icon of the "What the fuck is Global Warming?" brigade is into recycling. Even if it was only a crap 4 year old joke he recycled, it is a beginning. There is hope yet.

Oh yes, just in case you missed his piece in the Daily Mirror the joke was the one about the Dept of Transport making bad drivers stick flags on their cars and the really bad drivers fly two flags on their cars. Having seen dear Jeremy drive I imagine if this idea actually did catch on his car would be the only car in London with several 50 foot flag poles stuck on the side to accomadate all his flags.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Well Meaning But Illegal Advice.

Between Windy Corner and Waterside the speed limit used to be 40 mph. Then for some unknown reason some one in the local Highways Department decided that this was too fast and changed it to 30 mph. Now I have driven along that streach of road for 8 years and have never noticed anything that might suggest that 40 mph was too fast. There are no schools, no children playing in the road, no pubs, no pedestrians, no shops, nothing except big houses all with cars in the drive.

Now there was a slight problem with the plan. There is a section of the road that is a duel carrigeway. And there is some rule in the Department of Transport in London which says that duel carigeways that have a 40 limit can not be slowed down to 30 mph.


Oh yes there is an "unless" clause some where if you look hard enough. And this unless clause is;- if you pull a bus lane in the duel carrigeway the it can become a 30 mph road. So the council spent lots and lots of our money to put in bus lanes on both sides of the carrigeway. Completely useless bus lanes. Worse than completely useless, they upset car drivers who think that some how we, the bus drivers have conspired to get these useless, expensive bus lanes and are not happy. Well they were made even more unhappy by the fact that some clowns dressed as bus drivers and driving vehicles that look exacly like our buses were using the bus lanes to over take cars on the inside and then cutting up said cars as they emerged from the end of the bus lane at speeds well in excess of the 30 mph the poor car drivers were being forced to drive at.

So a notice went up at work it which the company hinted that they would monitor the situation with a radar gun to check bus speeds. Some one must have moaned to the union, they also put up a notice, this one supporting the company's attempts to deal with these impostors.

So far so good. No problem so far. Drivers should stick to the speed limits even when they appear to defy logic. Even if it is just to avoid 3 penalty points and a £100 fine. The problem comes with the last paragraph of the Union letter which urges drivers to drive, and I quote, "Well below the official speed limit."

Now there are only 3 reasons that you should drive well below the official speed limit.
  1. Your vehicle is not designed to be driven that fast, i.e. a milk float or moped.
  2. The road conditions demand that for safety reasons you drive below the speed limit.i.e .Lots of bends, snow or ice, lots of pot holes, fog, lots of parked cars, poor visibility and many more I can't be bother thinking about.
  3. The traffic conditions also demand that you drive below the speed limit.i.e. All the vehicles in front of you are doing 5 miles an hour and if you drive at 30 mph there will be an awful bang as you hit a few of them. And loads of forms to fill in, including one which will ask,"Why did you leave your last job."

I used to be a driving instructor before I became a bus driver, trust me on this. If the road is clear and the traffic conditions allow then drive at the speed limit, not well below. Some car divers already hate us (see next post ( re Clarkson in the Mirror)), do you want all of them to hate us or are some people just paranoid.

Get Past the Bus or Die.

As you approach the roundabout at the end of the Ring Road coming down from Newton the road changes from a single lane 40 mph road to two lanes. As the arrows suggest the left lane is for going straight on, (there is no left turn) and the right hand lane is for turning right.

Yesterday I was coming up to this roundabout. The road was clear and I had been traveling at 40 mph, ignoring well meaning but illegal advice from the depot's RMT Union rep about traveling well below the speed limit. More about that in next post. Anyway a white van moved into the right hand lane and entered the roundabout a second or so after me. I kept well over to the left to allow him to turn right on the roundabout. However as I left the roundabout I have to move into the right lane at once in order to be in the correct position to turn right 150 metres ahead. So a signaled and moved over. Unfortunately the white van did not turn right as he should have done but was trying to overtake me on the roundabout. Not a very safe thing to do at the best of times but very unsafe when he should have turned right. He suddenly found me moving across in front of him and he had to brake very hard indeed or run into the back of me. Not a good idea when you have your wife and young child in the van with you. How do I know he had his wife and child in the van with him? He chased me up the road and when I stopped at the next stop to pick some one up he pulled across the road in front of me and blocked me in. He got out of his van while his wife looked daggers at me from the front seat. A few seconds later the young child was placed on the front seat so he could look at the monster who had nearly killed them all. Driver came round to the side window demanding to know what did I think I was playing at?

Now I have learn lots of things in my life and one of them is that having slanging matches at the side of the road with upset drivers is a complete waste of time and energy. I once, many years ago came into contact with an other car and we managed to swop details without exchanging a single word, a very civilized method of dealing with an unfortunate incident. So I didn't say anything to this driver, just took a few pictures. In the end he drove off.

Twenty mins later I was paying in at the end of my shift and who walked in. He wanted to know who to complain to and I indicated the controller who was on duty but added that he should explain first why he had gone straight on even though the road markings suggested that he turn right. At first he said he didn't see any markings. I told him I had driven round that roundabout lots and lots of times and they were there. After a little time spent in quiet contemplation he apologised and left.

The deep question that I wanted to ask but didn't, was why in God's name did he try and overtake me on the roundabout in the first place. I didn't really need to ask, some poeple must get in front of the bus no matter what. In the course of a days driving there are usually 3 or 4 incidents where car drivers risk life and limb just to get past the bus. Now forty years ago I may just have understood this, buses were slow and poured out thick black smoke in their wake. But this has changed. Buses don't usually smoke these days and our buses may not be quiet as fast as a car pulling away but they do have a good turn of speed. Also I had approached at 40 mph so I wasn't holding him up in any way. After the roundabout there is a long two lane duel carrigeway, plenty of time to overtake safely. Or was the urge to get past the bus at all cost so strong in him that he was willing to risk the safety of son and wife just to do it as soon as possible, even if that sooner was by only one second.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

Police on Foot Patrol

Now it is nice to see the police walking round our fair town.

But in Black Shirts?

Has no one at the top management of the Devon and Cornwall police read any history?

Actually the answer to that question is almost certainly no. It would appear from comments in the local paper recently that top management have lost the plot.

This is just a small part of the article and was written by a senior office in his "I quit" letter.

"Far from the culture of consultation, openness, honesty, transparency and care that you espoused in July 2002, I leave an organisation where I witness managers being openly hostile of each other and where mistrust abounds; an organisation where I feel lip-service is paid to consultation and staff morale; an organisation where I feel senior people who do not conform to the 'non-challenging norm' are vilified, isolated and professionally damaged - an organisation where I feel many people seem to hold little respect for some members of your command team, and where staff morale is at the lowest ebb that I, and others, can ever remember."

An other comment from a former member of the police authority was,"I rang 999 only last year to report what he suspected was an active burglary at the home of local magistrate, only to be told that the Force did not have the manpower to respond to the incident - but they might pop around in "two or three days" to take details."

What is going on?

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Blocking the Road

There are times when we have to block the road to load and unload. Usually because some car driver has parked on a bus stop. I am not happy to block the road as it upsets car drivers and reinforces the stereotype the car drivers have of bus drivers, i.e. we block the road at the drop of a hat and we block the road at all times. The reason I don't like blocking the road is that to some extent we rely on the good will of car drivers to let us out from bus stops Every car driver, like the blue car above, who spends time blocked in by the bus is one less car driver who will let us out.

In the photo above the bus blocking the road is going out of service and didn't want to get stuck on the bus stop. But there was no need to block the road. It is not a problem to have pulled forward and let the passengers off and then check it is safe and reverse 4 feet back and drive away. Then all the car drivers who were kept waiting would not have gone away thinking all bus drivers are road blocking bastards and that's the last time I let a bus out from a bus stop.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

A footnote on yesterday's post.

In yesterday's post I made reference to bus drivers' belief that passengers don't read destination blinds or timetables. Not just the drivers, there are controllers and managers that I know who also have this belief. Well to today there was a little incident which suggest that drivers also don't read things that they should.

I was working a rest day, which I do from time to time to help out when we are busy and I signed on at 8:40. The bus I caught to work arrived at 8:37 and it is a 3 minute walk up the hill to the depot, you can run it in 2 minutes I'm told but I'm not going to try that. Any way I arrived at 8:40 signed on and checked which bus and running board I would be using. Bus was there but not the running board. The running board or duty card as they are some times called tells you such things as where to go and at what time to have your break and most importantly what time to go home. So I told the controller that the running board wasn't in the box where it should be. He told me to look in all the other boxes but it wasn't in any of them. "What's the duty number?" he asked. "3581." Said I.
"I've got that." said an other driver. "It's my duty." He led me over to the main notice board where all the duties are posted and said , "Look, that's me." I had a look and sure enough there was his name with the correct line number next to it but what he hadn't noticed was the "A/L" after his name.

A/L means annual leave. He was on holiday and hadn't noticed. Now this isn't the only way drivers can find out when their holidays are. There is a folder in the Pay In room with 2006/2007 Holidays printed on it in thick felt tip pen. It usually appears in December (our holiday year runs April to March) and when it does I check it instantaniously and write the dates down in my diary so I wont forget. As if.

Puzzled Passenger and Lost Property

Sorry I’ve been a bit slack recently but some thing has got in my computer and has been causing problems.

Anyway yesterday I went down to Brixham as a 12A. When I got there the 12 in front of me was still there and being a sociable chap I went to have a brief chat to the driver. While we were chatting one or two passengers got on his bus, paid their fare and sat down. Then a lady approached the bus and looked at the side destination board and went and sat on the low wall next to the bus stop. I thought that she wanted my bus which wasn’t due out for a few mins.

Then an couple boarded the bus and also paid their fare and sat down. With this the lady sitting on the wall got up and slowly can up to the bus and asked in a slightly puzzled voice, “Is this bus for Explorers only or can anyone use it?” Now we do have some buses that are painted in the logo of South Devon College and I have been asked if it was just for college students only. This query was a first though.

I then had a look at the side destination board. It is of the type that displays the number and destination of the bus and then scrolls along and displays some additional information. This board displayed details of day tickets that can be bought from the driver. Now when the driver had reached Brixham he had switched the engine off. This stopped the words from scrolling through. Had it been scrolling through it would have read “Adult Explorers Only £5.00”. Now the £5.00 bit was missing and it read “Adult Explorers Only”.

This shows that some passengers , dispite what bus drivers believe, do actually read destination blinds, even if what is some time on them is slightly unusual. It also shows that (hint, hint, some bus drivers do wish to save the planet and switch their engines off at termini)

An other thing that happened yesterday was the voice on the radio which made a plea for all 12/12A drivers to check their bus for lost property, namely a wallet. Now I have no problem attempting to restore lost property with its loser but there are a couple of problems with this sort of vagueness. One, The wallet may not be on the bus, the loser may have left it at home or lost it somewhere else and is just hoping that it is on a bus and he may get it back pronto. The other reason it may not be on the bus is that sadly some on who gets on the bus and notices the wallet may be tempted and may subscribe to the Oscar Wilde method of dealing with temptation.

Two, at present there are 28 buses running on the 12/12A routes at the moment. I know you may find that hard to believe if you have been waiting a while for your bus but it’s true. Does the voice on the radio expect us all to pull over and check what maybe a late running or full double decker bus for lost property in a less than a 28 to 1 chance of finding said wallet.
So if you do lose some thing on a bus and you approach a controller or bus driver and ask them to use the radio to see if any one has your wallet etc please have the following information ready. The service number of the bus, where did you get off the bus, how long ago, which direction it was travelling in, where were you sitting and best of all, if you bought a ticket on the bus have that to hand as well as that will contain information regarding the drivers number. Even without the ticket the rest of the information will reduce the number of buses that pull over and look for your wallet down to two or three.

Best of all, try not to lose anything on the bus.