Saturday, 31 March 2007

First Sighting This Year

Foreign language students are a fact of life here in Torquay and other sea side towns along the south coast. We make a lot of money from them and they learn some English and have a good time while they are here. Most are fine, but just a few are a pain in the neck, just like everywhere. One of the problems is being foreign they have no idea of the concept of queuing for buses. Queuing for buses is very much alive and well here, well, not quiet 100% but no where near the status of endangered species yet. I am sure the Language Schools try and instill in their students that waiting in a line to board a bus is much more acceptable than trampling little old ladies into the pavement in an effort to get the best seats on the bus. Mind you I have seen a few little old ladies doing their share of trampling in my time. The other problem with the students and one that again the Language Schools should look at is their tendency to go out for a days site seeing in large groups and then wonder why 60 or 70 of them are a little unwelcome if they all try and get on a bus in the middle of rush hour. Perhaps that’s why they don’t queue. An other problem is that most of them buy bus passes but there are always a few who don’t and indulge in the game of “Pass the Pass.” They think they have invented it and get a nasty shock when the bus driver takes the pass off them and makes then wait for the next bus. On which they will have to pay, shock, horror, shame.

Anyway, yesterday two young boys boarded the bus and had not the least idea where they were going and not a word of English between them, I hope they learn fast, my first foreign language students of the year. The first of thousands.

So I muttered my mantra, one I try every year:- “I WILL BE NICE TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDENTS THIS YEAR.” Yeah, Right.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

A Quiet Day

A bit of a quiet day really, It usually is at this time of year, just before Easter and the holiday season starting; the lull before the storm, the quiet before the nightmare, the slumbering volcano just before the Pyroclastic flow sweeps us all into .....what ever Pyroclastic flows sweep us into. It's always nice to see the visitors turning up again, depending on them so much as we do down here. It usually takes about a week or, in a good year, ten days before we start wishing they had gone to Spain, or Florida or Iran or some where really nice like Blackpool. But like I say, a quiet day. Not much except roadworks and I have been going on about roadworks a lot recently. So here is a picture of one of our local residents. (Note; I will probably get an email from someone who knows these things telling me that this bird wintered in Russia and is therefore a Summer visitor. If it is why didn't it go to bloody Blackpool for it's summer hols?)

Oh yes, sorry, can't leave roadworks alone. Here is the picture of that ambulance from yesterday's little tirade about roadworks.

And I don't really mean all I just said about summer visitors, not even the gulls.

Talking of Gulls, our local football team are know as the Gulls and they are now so far behind at the bottom of the football league that it would take several miricles or several extremly large bribes (and we don't do that here in Torquay) to keep them up. Not good news if you are into football or for the town A bit of sympathy would be nice.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Road Works

I know I go on about road works but at the moment they seem to be joint top (with free bus passes in Torbay) in the pain league. There are only three sets, the one at Long Road and the two in Newton Abbot. I had a slightly amusing incident in The Avenue in Newton today. The first involved an Ambulance which was siting quietly at the lights which were on red. They changed to green but it was obvious to a blind man in a pitch black coal mine that there was no use in us going anywhere. The road workers, yes there are one or two despite the fact that they only seem to be there working for a couple of hours a week had decided to move some machinery for one part of the site to an other part. This piece of plant was moving at 1.3 miles per hour and was followed by a car, a single decker and a double decker bus, which were also being followed by several cars. We would have to wait. Suddenly off set the ambulance, blue lights and two tones going as if by magic that would remove machinery, two buses, and lots of cars. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry so I just put the bus in neutral and got out for a stretch.

4 minutes later the road finally cleared, it would have been much quicker if the ambulance had waited but I suppose you get into the mind set of your job, flashing lights and two tone noise always make traffic get out of your way so why take any notice of the blind man down a coal mine?

Later in the afternoon I arrived at the Strand heading for Brixham via Roselands and Long road. At the best of times (no road works) this trip takes 60 minutes compered with 40 on the 12 which should have been not far behind me. With the road works 75 minutes if we got lucky. Four people got on and asked for Brixham. I strongly advised then to take the 12 and tried to explain the reason. They didn't want to know and on they got. "We're not in a hurry." one lady remarked. OK. OK neither am I. But I am getting paid and when I get to Brixham all I do is turn round and come back. I ain't going no where really. But they are and why add 35 minutes, a lot of it spent in a traffic jam, to a journey for no reason.

This nagged me a little so when I got to Paignton Bus Station I stuck my head round the bulkhead and said in a loud urgent voice "Passengers going to Brixham are very, very strongly urged to leave this bus here and get the 12 which will be along an a few moments." At the time I didn't know;
a) where the 12 was
b) if anyone took my advice.

Just as I pulled out of the bus station the station controller, getting concerned about the length of the queue for the 12 asked over the radio where the next 12 was. Livermead, still 10 minutes away. Oops. Never mind, he will still get to Brixham before me. And he did, 20 minutes on a 12 to Brixham, 40minutes on the 12A to Brixham, I took an hour and 5 minutes. I am glad to say that when I got to Brixham there was no one on the bus, advice taken. Also the 12 that had been behind me was back in paignton before I got to Brixham.

Please God, make them finish the road works at Long Road.

From thelondonpaper

If some thing appears in a newspaper that affects us or is about bus drivers some will cut out the item and post it on our notice board. In the small print there is the news that over 380 police officer will now be patrolling London's buses in and attempt to cut down on the number of violent crimes committed on the transport system. Shame this has to be done but good that it is being done.
Tucked away in the item is the fact that the number of Code Red calls from bus drivers in trouble has gone up by over 30% since some one had a bright idea. Gordon Brown had a bright idea that all pensioners and disabled should travel free on the buses. Now that was a bright idea. Unfortunately it got watered down to anyone over 60 and anyone who could walk with a limp for more than 5 seconds gets free travel. This meant the number of people able to get free travel went up by 400% but Gordon didn't increase the funding by 400%.
Any way the bright idea I am talking about here was free bus travel for school children. Troy and Fiona in their neat school uniform could get to and from school for free. But then, in the evening, when Troy and Fiona had changed into their other uniform of baggy jeans, baseball caps on back to front (do they still do this? Hard to tell under the hood) and Hoodie and meet on the street corner. When bored, usually about 5 seconds later, someone, usually the one who nicked a can of beer from some where says, "I know there's a bus coming. Lets get on that." Doesn't cost anything and it is so much more fun throwing bricks at bus windows from the inside than from the outside; more likely to hit the windows that way and if you do miss you can always pick the brick up and have an other go.
Please Torbay don't have that bright idea.

Monday, 26 March 2007

British Summer Time

It's my long weekend this week, 3 whole days off, it comes round every 4 weeks so not much bus driving today. So two photos taken, the one on the left was taken Sunday evening without flash and the one on the right taken Saturday evening with flash. Both photos were taken at exactly the same time 18:55.

So why is one bright and the other dark. Because we still have the strange ritual of changing from GMT to BST every March when the clocks go forward an hour. Come September they will go back an hour and the evening will suddenly be much darker. We did have a 3 year period some time ago when this little ritual was abandoned and most people preferred the lighter evenings.

Please Tony Blair, and I know you read this blog, before you go into oblivion do one last thing. Announce that in September the clocks will not go back and we can have the lighter evenings for ever.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Devon General

Here is a bus done up in the livery of Devon General who preceded Bay Line who preceded Stagecoach. A Blast form the Past.
It just appeared, I got a quick shot and it vanished into the distance never to be seen again.

Around Torbay

There have been one or two, or even more articles and letters in the local paper over the last few days re old dears queueing for hours in the cold and wet to change their bus passes. Indeed I have reported such queues here on this blog. So in the interest of research and empathy with the waiting masses I decided to go down to the Stagecoach Travel Shop on the Harbour Side today with a view to changing my pass. Providing the queue was down to less than 200. I did cheat a little, it was a lovely sunny warm day and instead of turning up at a quarter to nine in the morning, I got there at 3:30. In the afternoon I should point out. I didn't spend several hours in a sleeping bag on the pavement waiting, shivering, for the shop to open. So what was there when I turned up? Massive queue, hours spent reminiscing with 80 year olds about the queues we used to get during the war, Salvation Army Cadets handing out warming cups of Bovril,old dears banging their walking sticks on the windows of the Travel Shop and threatening to write nasty letters to the Editor. No, sorry. I walked into the shop and three charming and very helpful members of staff (see below) waiting to help me fill in the application form, take my photo and give me the above pass. Took about two minutes from start to finish. So now I can travel free round the Bay on any bus that turns up. Aren't Torbay Council wonderful. And Stagecoach Devon for providing the staff and shop to assist in the changes.

Rushed of their feet, aren't they?

I was there for about 20 minutes and in that time they deal with about 5 people, the moral of the story seems to be don't turn up on hour one, day one; wait a few days and it will all calm down.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Keep Clear

I was down on the Harbour the other day, a day off and I decided to go up to Castle Circus so I jumped on a 12 and showed my pass and away we went. I used my staff pass which is as near to free as you can get, not my Devon Wide pass which would have cost the good rate payers of Torbay more than the actual fare of 60p.

Anyway the bus stopped in Abbey Road dropped a couple off and started to move away. When we had tavelled about 100 feet away from the stop this car went passed at high speed, horn blowing. The driver obviously believing that as he had a posh car and he was such a good driver he didn't deserve to be behind a bus. Then he drove into the box marked "Keep Clear." preventing the white van fron turning right and so demonstrating that he wasn't a good driver at all but some impatient clown who wanted to get as far up the road as fast as he could and who gives a s**t about anyone else on the road.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

A Couple of Queues and a Photo

This is the queue to get into the Stagecoach Travel shop in Paignton. The people queueing are there to change their Devon Wide Bus Passes for Torbay Bus Passes for the change which takes place on 1st April.A similar queue can be found at our shop in Torquay. There are other places to change the passes but they seem to be ignored completely. The council have installed their own camera to take applicant's photos and print them directly onto the pass. Some of the photos have been taken in such a rush that they have come out looking like the one below. The couple iof bods in the yellow jackets have been drafted in from Head Office in Exeter to help speed things up a little even though strickly speaking this is a Torbay Council matter.
Here is my hint for the day:-If you are going to take some one's photo don't stand them in front of a window.

The other photo was taken in Long Road. Any bus going down Long Road between 3 pm and 6 pm takes 25 mins to get in and out, hopefully one day the road works, which are to improve access to Long Road (sic) will be finished. At present they are only 3 weeks over due and there is still much to do. Should be great once they are done.

If you look at the road way you can see that it is in need of repair; so once the access to Long Rd is finished and cars and buses can get in and out with minimum of fuss the road way will be dug up one side at a time so all that will happen is the temporary traffic lights will be moved a hundred yards and more work will start. This road is the only way to and from South Devon College and is on the 12A route. PS. I love road works.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Two Dogs

We carry dogs on our buses, 50p for a single trip or 75p for a Dog Day Rover. We can only carry two dogs at any time and indeed drivers can refuse to carry dogs if the feel they are not under full control of their owners.

So yesterday when I pulled on to the Harbour Side I looked twice at the dog waiting at the stop. A Pit Bull Terrier type, thug, straining at the lead, drool running down it's chin by the bucket full, got to have at least a dog ASBO against it. Owner got on and showed ticket to Paignton Zoo and Dog Rover. The poor thing had been let out from the Zoo for a day out. They went upstairs, good, a long way from me.

Two stops down the road an other dog, a sweet black and white collie. The type that appear on One Man and His Dog and on calendars showing nice dogs of the world. Our friend upstairs would never in a million years appear on such a calendar. In fact the only time he would have his photo taken would be so he could be posted up in the local police station. Having concern for the safety of the nice, sweet, lovable sheep dog, a close relative of Lassie I told the owners that there was a dog upstairs and it would be a good idea, and not wanting blood and guts all over the upper deck, if they stayed down stairs. Which they did. The elderly owner thanked me for passing on the information and as he walked down the bus he did add that his dog wasn't too keen on other dogs. I smiled sweetly at the dog and told him he was, "A good dog. " like you do.

We got to the Zoo. Fang the Destroyer and his owner came down stairs and the two dog made eye contact. All hell broke loose. Shep the nice, sweet, lovable star of every dog food advert for the last 10 years went berserk. He was definitely after BLOOD in a big way. It was all the owner could do to hold him back. Any vet on the bus would have immediately pull him down as a rabid dog. Barking Mad he was. Fang the Destroyer meanwhile looked at Shep with complete disdain and sat down and scratched behind his ear gently a couple of time while he waited for me to open the doors. He then got of and left his mark wetly on the bus stop without loosing his composure for a single second. Shep on the other hand spend the rest of the journey telling everyone on the bus exactly how he would have made mince meat out of Fang if only his owner hadn't restrained him. If he had been let loose, he wanted everyone to know, then he could have torn Fang to shreds. Yeah. Right.

You can never tell by appearances.

I love cats by the way.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Now and Then

someone gets on the bus and is a few pence short of their bus fare. The first time this happened was back in London, nearly ten years ago and I was uncooperative. What a mean bastard I must have been in those far of days, refusing travel for 5p. Months later a woman boarded the bus, it was wet, cold, a wind coming in from Siberia, late and in the middle of now where. She only had 76p and the fare was 80p. I patiently pointed out that if I helped everyone who was a few pence short of their fare I would be...........Then I stopped, had a little think for a moment and reconsidered. I was going to say in the poor house but I changed it to "9p down". In 10 months. So I took the 76p and issued the 80p ticket.

Since then I haven't bothered about the odd few pence. Don't try getting on the bus and saying you've only got 5p but could you have a £4.00 day rider. That is pushing your luck just a bit to far over the edge. Actually,it doesn't happen very often. Probably no more than once or twice a year. But on Sunday it happened twice in one day, both ten pence short. So I must be about £3.00 down over the last ten years which represents 0.003% of my income of about £110 000 in the same period. Not a big expenditure in return for that warm glow you get when you help the occasional person out. In fact one of them found 8p in copper which he gave me as he got of the bus so I am only £2.92 down so far. It might get up to £5.00 by the time I retire.

PS. In the first instance mentioned above the poor person did travel, an other passenger donated the 5p.

PPS. The temporary traffic lights in Newton Abbot have gone at last. I feel like I have lost an old friend. I just wish the lights at Long Rd would go away, when they do it will feel like a bad tooth ache has gone. At least in Newton there were always workmen there. At Long Rd you had to get there early in the morning to have any chance of watching some one doing any work in the various holes lying around the place as you sat for hours waiting for the lights to change.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Free, no it's not.

Someone has to pay.

I have been asked by lots of people and there have been letters in the paper asking and indeed moaning about the decision by Torbay to remove it's self from the Devon County Wide scheme to provide free bus travel to two groups of people. The single, and simple answer is cost. It is costing too much. A couple of questions and a few examples will also help to explain why the whole idea is underfunded. The original idea was to provide free bus travel to pensioners and the disabled. But not only pensioners got included in the first group. In the UK you become a pensioner at 60 if you are female and 65 if you are male. But to refuse free travel to men over 60 while allowing it to women over 60 is discrimination on grounds of gender. So there are a lot of men out there still working, including me who can travel to a full time job free. Not free of course someone, some tax payer some where has to pay up. The second group, the disabled it seems to me is larger than the first. In fact I probable qualify under the disabled as, due to smoking I am unable to walk a long distance without taking a rest. This means, as my doctor once told me, I would qualify for a disabled drivers permit which would mean I could stick a blue badge in the windscreen of my car and park anywhere. ( OK not quite anywhere). All I had to do was get a form from the town hall and get him, my doctor, to sign it and I would get the blue badge. I would also have to get a car to stick the badge in, personally I would sooner walk. Or take a bus. Now when I heard that disabled people would get free travel I assumed it would be those who were, like pensioners, short of money due to their disability preventing them from holding down a job. If that were the criteria for disabled and the men between 60 and 65 were excluded the the 28 700 free pass holders in the Bay would be far less and much more affordable.

Three examples all from the past 3 days, on Friday I was just about to pull away from a stop in Torquay when I notice a female in her thirty's running towards the bus with her arm out. I wait a few second and she got on, produced a pass, asked for Paignton and then thanked me for waiting saying, "If I'd missed you I would have been late for work." Next yesterday I was just about to pull away from the stop in Fleet St when a female, early sixty's rushed up, "Hang on a sec please." She then called to a group of her 4 friends, "Come on girls, you've all got your passes." Where were they going? The Harbour. It's the next stop, 200 yards away. Downhill all the way. "Well it's free." she said, laughing. To which I replied, "No it's not. It's just cost the rate payers of Torbay almost £4.50." The fare, had they all paid would have been 60p each. £3.00. The last one was to day, a couple got on in Fleet Walk, "Abbey Rd." and flashed two passes. Abbey Rd is the next stop the other way from the Harbour and even closer. As they were both under 40 these passes must have been issued under the disabled rule. When they got off in Abbey Rd they must have been late for where they were going because they both set of at a run up the hill as fast as their legs could carry them.

So dear sweet little old lady, so old you can remember Nevil Chamberlain waving his piece of paper and dismissing the chance of war, when you want a day out in Exeter and have to pay £2.00 instead of going for free as you can now, you can have a guess at the reason. Mr Mayor, when you say you want to make changes for the good of the Bay and the people who live here have a look at what qualifies some people for a free bus pass a little more carefully.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Going To The Zoo

Paignton Zoo. A fine zoo, been on TV, new baby rhino just arrived. An excellent way to spend several hours of your visit to Torbay. Catch a 12A from Torquay, Paignton or Brixham. Yesterday several people got on in Paignton bus station wanting to go to the zoo. a lot of other people also got on in the bus station due to the buses running a little erratically (road works, Penn Inn). One couple after the zoo went upstairs and did not hear me shout, "This stop for the zoo." I did this at the stop for the zoo, not the one 2 miles down the road, I'm good like that. Anyway because I was so late, control had given me permission to turn at Broadsands. This meant I didn't go into Brixham and saved me 25 minutes. It should have put me back on time but road works at Long Rd had also delayed me. Lucky for the couple who were still on the bus when I got to Broadsands. So they stayed on the bus as I headed back to the zoo. Still late and with an other 12A right behind me I got permission from control to miss out the college which saved me and the zoo people an other 15 minutes.

If you are going to a destination and you are unsure of it's whereabouts then ask the driver to give you a shout, but do try and sit down stairs. Even my loud voice gets muffled as it travels up the stairs. Still the couple got to see more of Paignton than they intended and it was a bright sunny day and I am sure they enjoyed their trip to the zoo the long way round.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Road Works at the Penn Inn.

If you live in the area and listen to the road reports on the local radio the location Penn Inn Roundabout will be familiar to you. If you don't live in the area then think of some where that turns up most days in your local radio road reports and you have an idea how important smooth flowing traffic is at Penn Inn. Today some one decided that smooth flowing traffic round Penn Inn just wasn't going to happen. To this end a big hole was dug, not in the road as you might expect but in the pavement( sidewalk in the US of A). But one lane needed to be closed off. No more smooth flowing traffic at Penn Inn.

And it would happen today, because today I was doing my easiest duty 3613. It starts late enough so that everyone has got to where they are going by the time I get anywhere near a bus, I have my break just as the schools are letting out so no school run, the first half is fairly long but that means the second half is dead short. The other way round is a killer. The only time I do much work is the trip after the break going up to Newton. By the time I get back rush hour is over and I have a nice gentle run to Brixham and then dead to the depot and home for supper. I love it.

But not today. The combination of the lane closed at Penn Inn and the road works at Long Road, mentioned a day ago, meant we were all running late, some of us half an hour late or more. The only way to cope with this is for the controllers to turn buses short of their destinations. This is not popular with anyone, except the drivers who get turned. For the controllers it means extra paper work and trying to make sure all the drivers get their legal 30 min break and that there are buses actually making it to Newton and to Brixham. Turn too many buses and passengers numbers could overwelm the bus that finally makes it to the terminus. For the passengers it means longer waits and for the drivers not being turned it means lots of people saying things like, "Where have all the buses been. I been here hours." All this makes for a very frustrating and tiring day.

Now and then, in the canteen a bus driver will be heard to say, "This would be a great job if it wasn't for the passengers." We don't mean it really; it just slips out after several awkward passengers get on the bus at the same time. That usually doesn't happen they are usually more spread out. What is true is, "This would be a great job if it wasn't for road works."

More on the Number Two Bus in Paignton

Below is part of an item that appeared on the BBC Devon web page to day.

Complaint at response to 999 call.

Police are investigating a complaint that a 999 call over a vandal attack on a Devon bus was answered late.
A driver suffered eye injuries after an object was thrown at a Stagecoach bus in Paignton. It was one of seven attacks in three weeks on the route.
Bob Crow, leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said police took several hours to respond to the call.
Police said they could not comment as the inquiry was ongoing.

After the last attack on the number two service the company withdrew buses after 6 pm. Police then said they would be stepping up patrols in the area in an attempt to catch the vandals. Good luck to them though I am still not sure how they intend to catch people throwing bricks at buses if there aren't any buses running.

Anyway I look forward with interest to the result of the inquiry into the above complaint.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Changes at Long Road

For the last 15 weeks, contractors have been working at the junction of Long Road and the Ring Road in Paignton. Long Road goes down to the new South Devon College and the road works are to improve access to the College. To day a stage was reached which meant the temporary traffic lights had to be re sited. This meant the delay getting out of and into Long Road went from 3 minutes to 4 minutes if you just missed the lights. Not a problem for most of the day but between 3:30 and 4:30 when most of the students set of for home, mostly in their cars, it was taking not 3 minutes to get out but 30 minutes. Didn't we just have fun. Actually we had double the fun because on the way to Brixham the bus goes into Long Road and then 35 minutes later, on it's way back to Paignton and Torquay, it goes back into Long Road, and an other 30 minute exercise in Zen meditation for the poor bus driver. So once again road works take their toll.

To make it slightly worse, while you are waiting for the lights to change to get into Long Road there is a notice put up by our council announcing that the road works are for improved access and will last 13 Weeks and will start at the beginning of December, 15 weeks ago. And there is at least 2 weeks work still to do. Oh yes, one more thing about Long Road that anyone who drives down will confirm. The road surface looks and feels like the army have been driving tanks up and down it for the last 6 months. Some time soon 800 yards of roadway will have to be dug up and resurfaced. More fun for all.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Devon County Wide Passes

Devon County Wide Bus Passes. Not sure what they are? then click on to Torbay Council's Web Site and look up Bus Passes and you will be told;
Residents of Devon who are over 60 or disabled qualify for a Devonwide bus pass allowing travel at half fare on most public bus routes throughout the county of Devon.
Now this information became out of date on the 1st April 2006 when a Government scheme started that allowed all people over 60 and those who are disabled to travel free within their local area. Torbay along with most areas in Devon went for the idea of the local area to include the whole of Devon. Under this arrangement it is posible for a Devon Countywide Pass to travel from Torquay all the way to Ilfracombe on the north Devon coast and back in a day without it costing a penny. The problem with this scheme is the cost. The government is providing what they see as enough money to fund it but it turns out that for some reason the money provided isn't enough.

So from 1st April this year Torbay are opting out of Devon and running their own scheme. Problem is some sections of the media ran headlines along the lines of " free bus travel for pensioners to end." Torbay have come up with some publisity but it is taking it's time to get through. Daily, old dears are getting on the bus, showing their pass and asking what is going to happen when the free travel ends.

It's just going to change slightly, free travel will still be available anywhere in Torquay, but if you want to go to Ilfracombe you will have to pay. This isn't a disaster as not many people in Torbay are likely to feel the need for a day out in Ilfracombe every other day of the week. The round trip would take 6 hours for one thing.
But a bit more effort is needed to get the message across to the poor old dears who think they are going to have to pay to travel on the buses from next month. I know not many of them are likely to look on the Web site but it would show a sign of willingness on the council's part if the did bring the above mentioned section up to date.
PS The whole thing will change again in April 2008 when HM Government provide an other £250 million so that the over sixties can travel on buses free anywhere in the country and not just in their own area.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Focus and Parking

Right next door to the depot here in Torquay is a Focus DIY store. Nice big car park in front and a big store behind. Usually when I get to work the car park is pretty full. Not this morning. At first I thought they must be going out of business. ( Note: They aren't) Then I remembered the notice that went up in the sign on room last week. What had happened was this. There is room for 35 cars to park in the road out side the depot and for years the manager at Focus has not minded that some of the bus drivers have parked their cars in the Focus car park. There are, on any weekday over 100 drivers on duty at some time between 5 am and 12:30 am. The first controller gets into work at 4:30 am and the last controller goes home at about 2 am. The place is only closed for 2 1/2 hours. Recently a new office block and a block of flats have been built on the other side of Regent Close and there is not enough car parking space in the grounds of those buildings so people from there have also been parking in Focus. To the point that customers of Focus are finding it hard to get a parking place. The area manager went in one morning and counted 42 cars in the car park, there were only 4 customers in the store. The other problem was non customers were using the parking spaces close to the entrance to the store so Focus customers had to stagger a long way back to their cars with tons of DIY materials. So no more free parking for anyone but Focus customers. Me, I believe the bus company should give all the drivers free bus passes so we can get a bus to work. Just like I do. OK. OK, we do have bus passes but not everyone can live some where on the 12 route and as close to work as I do. even travelling by bus it only takes me 20 minutes to get to and from work. The moral of this story is bus travel is great if you live and work on a bus route. If you don't, it sucks.

Talking of cars, I watched the Channel 4 program, "The Great Global Warming Swindle" this evening in which a lot of people put forward arguments that both insisted Global Warming wasn't all it is cracked up to be and interesting reasons for the strength and power of the argument for climatic change. That is the Global Warming movement has now become a powerful industry in it's own right employing hundreds of thousands of people. Speak against Global Warming and you instantly have hundreds of thousands of people with a vested interest in getting you to shut up.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Scores From Two Football Matches

Two games were played this weekend by West Country teams one went well but the other not so well. The big game was between Plymouth Argyle from the Championship took on Watford from the Premiership in the quarter finals of the FA Cup, just two games away from a dream game at the new Wembley Stadium. Alas it was not to be, Watford won by the only goal. Plymouth gave all they had and were unlucky not to get some reward for the pressure they kept up for most of the game. Match Report

The other game was on Saturday and concerned our very own Torquay United. They are right down at the bottom of Division Two and if they stay there they will go out of the Football League at the end of the season. After a good start to the season Torquay switched off and headed down a deep dark tunnel. It is so long since they won a game, last year some time I believe. Anyway they were playing Wycombe who are 7th and hoping to make the play offs at the end of the season. Torquay won 3 - 0. Very unexpected. It is not exactly a Supernova exploding at the end of the tunnel but some one has definitely appeared with a candle. All Torquay need to do now is win 2 and draw one more games than the two teams above them. With nine games left to play they can do it. I will keep you posted. Division Two Table. From last May

So commiserations to our near neighbours in Plymouth and keep on winning Torquay.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

EU and Global Warning.

The measures could include a ban on filament light bulbs by 2010, forcing people to switch to fluorescent bulbs.
The bulbs last longer but more are more expensive to buy.

This is one of the measures announced yesterday in the European Union's attempt to lead the world in the fight to stop Global Warming killing the planet, or at very least making it a very not nice place to live by 2080. WOW! That is far reaching. I eagerly scanned the rest of the document to find what other measures were to be put in place but it turned out to be not much more than a list of hopeful commitments to using more renewable sources of energy without actually stating what those sources were.

Well if the EU does want to lead the rest of the world in saving the planet I have a few ideas that might, if our grandchildren are lucky, just help.

1) From 2012 no private motor car may be bought or sold anywhere in the EU unless it does 75 miles per gallon. If you live in metric land that is 100km on 3.75 litres of fuel. So either the motor manufacturers build such cars or they forget Europe as a market.
2)From 2017 no private motor car may be used on roads in the EU unless it does 75 miles per Gallon. That would mean almost all the cars on the roads today would be scrape by 2017.
3)From 2023 no vehicle on the road in the EU can run on petrol. All cars on the road by then must have a Carbon Footprint better that a car running on petrol and doing 75 miles per gallon.

Other vehicles on the roads, buses, coaches, Heavy Good Vehicles, builder's vans, ambulances, delivery trucks, the list goes on, would have to have a pro rata Carbon Footprint depending on its size and what it is uses for.

4) All new buildings, houses, office blocks, hospitals, pubs, hotels what ever built after 2010 must produce at least 75% of their energy use. The technology is available now to do this.

5) All existing buildings must, by 2015 be adapted to supply 50% of their energy use.

There are many other measures in ares away from the private car and the home that need similar gob smacking measures to be taken otherwise we should all write a groveling letter of apology to our great grand children and seal it in a time capsule to be opened in 2090, not that by then it will do them much good. At least they will know we were thinking of them.

So which is it to be then, get rid if the filament light bulb, (note Australia is getting rid of theirs by 2010 so the EU isn't exactly leading there) or do something serious.

On a personal note, when I first began to understand the full implications of Global Warming I expected it to happen some time in the next 20 years. I was quiet please about this. I had missed the start of the world by 4.5 billion years; now it looks like I am going to miss the end by about 50 years. I'm a bit pissed of about that.

Really nice day on the buses, the sun was shinning, traffic was light, I didn't run out of change, everyone was out to have a nice enjoyable weekend and I didn't run late once all day. (I just thought I would mention bus driving.)

Friday, 9 March 2007

Please stop talking while I am trying to help you.

I went into Brixham this afternoon and I had a need to go to the toilet. So when all the passengers had left the bus I removed the module and cash tray and headed for the loo. A lady passenger stopped me and asked me how long it was before I left. 5 minutes. She had a problem. Now I knew what the problem was as she had already spoken to one of the drivers who had been in Brixham 15 minutes before and he had called control on the radio for their assistance. She had them walked away. She then tried to tell me her problem but I had to point out that I too had a small problem with a full bladder and my problem couldn't wait but would be dealt with very briefly. She still tried to explain her problem, no doubt so I would have something to think about while I was changing the size of my bladder. Let me assure you, there is only one thing I think about while carrying out this exercise, Relief.

When I got back she took two thousand six hundred and seventeen words to explain her problem. I could have done it in 15. I told her that I would have to get on to Control for their instruction as the problem wasn't covered in my rule book. All the time I was trying to raise Control and when I was trying to explain the problem to control she continued explaining the problem. Even when control came up with a solution she continued explaining. I pointed out I was now 5 minutes late and would she mind going and sitting down she continued rabbiting on directly down my ear. Eventually she took the hint and went and sat down. For the next ten minutes she explained her problem to a little old lady sitting near her. In the end the little old lady got of at Windy Corner and I know she had a ticket for the zoo, 15 minutes further on. The little old lady must have decided it was worth standing 15 minutes in the cool wind for the next bus just for a bit of piece and quiet.

I had a minute to wait when I got to Torquay but it still took me 3 minutes to get away, and all I did was tell her what the fare from Torquay to Brixham was. All she did was tell me her life story, the short version fortunately.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

The Number 2 route used to run around Paignton from some time about 7 am until about 11 pm. Now it only runs until 6 pm. The reason. Some one, or maybe more than one person has been throwing large stones or even bricks at the buses. This has been going on for over 3 weeks with no arrests in sight. In the last incident the driver ended up with a piece of glass in his eye and was lucky not to loose the sight of that eye. Well the Boss has had enough and has, as promised a week ago, withdrawn the service after 6 pm.

Exactly which War on Terror are you fighting Mr Blair? There are one or two (20 Million?) people out here who think you are fighting the wrong one on their behalf.
(Sorry, I get carried away now and then)

The incidents have been reported in the local paper, The Herald Express and on the local BBC TV news. One of the commentators said that the police had been accused of not taking the matter seriously. No one from the police appeared on the program but a spokesperson for the police was reported as being upset buy this comment and said the police planned to increase patrols over the next 2 nights.

Please Officer Plod. Explain that one to me, I know I can be a bit dim at times but I am missing something here. Surely there won't be any buses for the vandals to throw bricks at (Stagecoach have bolted the stable door and shot the horse) so how can you expect to catch vandals throwing bricks at non existent buses. A few extra patrols 3 weeks ago when these attacks started would have instilled more confidence in your ability to fight this particular war on terror.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Not too well.

I have not been 100% for the last few days. I have been so so at work but buy the time I have been getting home it has been a case of eating my supper and slumping down in front of the TV. No that there has been any thing special on, in fact if I see an other wildebeest eaten by a crocodile or polar bear tear apart a penguin I might just go down to Blockbusters and get Nightmare on Elm Street out. One day at work over the weekend I was so listless that I told a passenger who asked me what bus went to St Marychurch that I was very sorry but I had never heard of St Marychurch.
Now if you know Torquay who will know how outrageous that was. If you don't then it would be like a Sydney bus driver saying, "Opera House. What Opera House?" or a New York bus driver saying, "The Empire State what? Or a Manchester bus driver saying, "Piccadilly Gardens, no mate. Can't picture them."
Just in case you haven't any idea what Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester look like; here is a picture.

So anyway, I came home to night determined not to end up slumped in front of the telly. So here I am, slumped in front of the computer. What to write about? Rain, and more rain, and still it rains. After two very dry winters we are making up for it. What else, oh yes, remember the bus stop that was moved a hundred yards up the road last year. As I approached the old stop the bell had gone. Standing at the old stop were a couple who obviously wanted the bus, they put their arms out, Bless. But we can't stop there, the council say it is dangerous. Simultaneously a voice in my ear said, "I wanted that stop." So I stopped at the new stop explained about the move and let the passenger of and waited for the couple waiting at the wrong place to turn up at the right place. I mean I had pointed up towards the new stop as I went past. They mustn't have believed me as they didn't turn up so I went on without them. It had stopped raining but soon started again. Probably the most exciting thing so far this week was when the temporary traffic lights at the road works in Newton were moved. Caused a little bit of a delay for an hour. Oh yes, one of our drivers was interviewed on Radio Gemini, one of our local radio stations. The interview was about using Mobile phones when driving and the station wanted a professional driver's point of view. And they asked a bus driver. Good for them. Go for the best I always say. Or it could be their main office is just a few doors down from our rest room.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Luna Eclipse 2007

I've just been out watching the Luna Eclipse, only visible in the Northern Hemisphere and only if there are no clouds. When I got home at 20:30 the moon was as bright as it can be. When I went out at 22:15, ten minutes before the eclipse was due to start guess what had turned up. Not Lord Lucan that's for sure. But the clouds were thin and hazy so I got the binoculars out and had a look. Wow! The top half of the moon was still brightly lit by the Sun but the bottom half had turned a deep reddish brown colour. The Seas were still clearly visible, dark patches strewn around the surface of the moon. The whole thing looked like a dirty golf ball, illuminated from the inside. I have seem a few Lunar eclipses over the years but this was quiet stunningly beautiful.
Then later more clouds appeared and the moon left the stage. Still half an hour to go, I shall go and have a last look in 20 minutes. If there is any more I will report back.

Back to bus driving; I recently mentioned the non Olympic sport of "Must get in Front of the Bus". On thing I didn't point out was you get disqualified if you actually make contact with the bus while trying to save this important second of your life. Maybe if I had what happened this evening wouldn't have happened. I have to admit the driver used a gambit I don't often see. He/she (it happened so fast I am not sure which, ( I know there will be those out there who will assume it was a she after they read the details.)). I was approaching a set of traffic lights which were on red. In front of me at the side of the road there was a lay by with a few parked cars there. On of them, white in colour was approached by a teenage boy who got in just as I rolled past and stopped for the red light. There were 4 or 5 cars in front of me also waiting for the lights to change. When they did I released the hand brake, as the car in front of me started to move I took my foot off the foot brake and started to move. The white car them shot forward and cut out in front of me clipping the front of the bus slightly with the wheel arch. Sorry, Sir/Miss/Madam that's instant disqualification, this is strictly a non contact sport. Bit like Basket Ball. The white car driver having risked all to get in front of me wasn't going to give up the advantage gained by stopping and swapping names and addresses and other important details and headed of into the distance at a small but increasing fraction of the speed of light. I checked for damaged (see photo) and headed for Brixham.

Sorry, clouds still there, moon definately gone. Oh well, not to worry there is on next year in February at 3 in the morning. Hands up those of you who think I will be up for that one.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Free Bus Passes.

This is a Devon Wide Travel Pass. It entitles the holder, me, to free travel on all local buses after 9 am Monday to Friday and all day Sat and Sun. The original idea was for old age pensioners to get free travel on the buses. So why have I got this pass, I'm not a pensioner?

To get to the point, an elderly lady who I would guess is a pensioner got on the bus to day and told me that she had heard on the radio ( not the one on the bus I should add) that the free travel scheme was going to stop as it was costing the Local Authorities much more than they expected and far more than the Central Government are providing. Well it isn't going to stop. It can't stop. The Government says pensioners can travel free on local buses. So pensioners will continue to travel free on local buses. What is going to change is what exactly the local authorities will define as a local bus. What they are also going to look at is the number of passes that have been issued. Not only pensioners get free travel, and men over 60 even if they are not pensioners but also other groups. Torbay it would seem have issued 27 000 passes; the population is only 145 000 and that it would seem is part of the problem. So some passes might be withdrawn. Will I loose out? No, that would be discrimination on the basis of gender. In this country women become OAP's at 60, men at 65. But because women get a pass at 60 so must men or we would be discriminated against. Which is why I have a pass.
PS. I can travel free on the local buses anyway so I don't use it and become a burden on the local council tax payers, of which I am one.

3 Years and One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Miles Later

March the first 2004 and the new buses arrived in Paignton Bus Station where they all entered service. As an old bus came in the passengers, and the driver, were transferred to a brand spanking new bus.
March the first 2007, 3 years later and with about 150 000 miles on the clock and you can hardly tell the difference.