Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Ego Trip

Day off yesterday and today but I had a little boost to the ego yesterday. On Saturday I took some photos of a Taxi that had been hit by a tree and I sent a couple of them to the local paper, the Herald Express, which printed them, with my name on the photo.

They haven't got round to hiring me as staff photographer yet but I am expecting an e mail any day now.

In the mean while, back to work tomorrow on the new summer timetables, to see what horrors await.

Monday, 28 May 2007

The Grim Reaper.

If you break down in your car the chances are some break down truck will turn up that will have seen better days. Oil, grease, mud and dents will be it's predominant features.
Break down in a bus and this masterpiece will turn up and tow you away. All most makes breaking down worth it.

Tree hits taxi

We have had some great weather so far this year but the last few days it has been crap. Friday night was the worst so far with strong winds and heavy rain all night long. Which was a shame as there was a bus rally at Oldway Mansion on Saturday. Lots of old, lovingly restored buses were taking part and some were even taking passengers on trips round the Bay. I was working and missed it. After lunch I was walking round to the bus stop on Cary Parade in Torquay to start my second half when I heard a loud crack. Across the road there is a line of trees and a branch of one of the trees had snapped off and hit a taxi parked on the rank. The driver was sitting in the cab at the time and he was quite lucky the branch didn't go through his windscreen.

Today, Monday is a Bank Holiday and when we have a Bank Holiday on the Monday, which usually happens we do the same duty on the Monday we did on the Sunday and both days were, for me anyway, early starts and long duties. It is also school holidays so it has been two hard days. Not much interesting happening except for the French Traders coming over from France and setting their stalls up on the road the goes to Paignton. The Council invited them, said something about cultural exchange. What it did do was cause a lot of drivers to slow down as they drove past and say, "Oh look. French Traders." So for 7 hours getting in and out of Torquay was slow going. Some thing else to blame on the Common Market; or maybe on the council for inviting them in the first place. They have been before and we always have the same problem.

An other little problem we have had this weekend has been the failure of the traffic lights at Goodrington. Actually it hasn't been a problem for us as the lights are at a "T" junction and we are going straight on. When the lights fail at a junction the priority works as if there weren't any lights there which means we just keep going and the poor cars coming out of the side road have to give way to us. Anyway one time when I got there and some poor sod had been working on the lights for 3 hours. As I approached he pressed a switch and the lights came on, showing red. Then they changed normally, red and amber and then green. The traffic light man punched the air with joy, short lived as all the lights went out 2 seconds later. Last I saw of him as I drove away he was hitting the control box with a large sledgehammer. Must have been the right tactic as the lights worked OK all day today

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Must Get In Front of the Bus ( A Non Olympic Sport)

This is the bus after the crash. Actually to call it a crash is a bit of an exaggeration, like saying Tony Blair was a good Prime Minister. More of a slight scratch. I have circled the damage in yellow so you can see it. There is slightly more damage to the car, the scratch is at least 6 inches long. As is apparent from the photo I was in the 2nd lane of 3 when a competitor on the famous sport of , 'I must get in front of the bus even if I get my wing ripped of doing it', came from the first lane and tried to overtake me. What am I saying, he did over take me but he turned his wheel just a second too soon and even though I turned slightly away from him, he still hit me. Now I should point out that more people take part in the above sport than play the National Lottery. Bit of a surprise this as the prize for winning the lottery could be more than a million pounds and the prize for winning the afore mentioned sport is you get home one second sooner. What are you going to do with that second, rewrite War & Peace?

Making contact on the other hand means you spend 5 minutes at the road side swapping details, an hour filling in the insurance forms and 3 days waiting for your car to come back from the repair shop where some 17 year old apprentice mechanic who has been banned from driving for 10 years has been using it for a runabout on a pub crawl in Exeter and showing his mates how to do handbrake turns on gravel farm tracks. (Hint; Look under the back seat for any used condoms before your wife finds them). Oh yes, next year's insurance premium might not quiet be double; if you're lucky.

But some drivers like the adrenaline rush and think it's worth the risk

Friday, 25 May 2007

Paignton Bus Station and the Brixham Park & Ride.

Once again Paignton Bus Station was the scene of carnage and disaster as a reversing bus hit a fuel tanker. As you can see the damage to the bus was actually slight and there appeared to be no damage done to the tanker. This is the usual scale when these collisions occur as the bus is usually going at 2 mph, I speak from experience here. But they do seem to be happening more often. The number and size of buses using the station has increased in recent years and when several buses arrive at more or less the same time they are parked fairly close together with little room to swing the back of the bus round. Add some thing like the fuel tanker and the margin for error becomes small to the point of not if but when. There are plans I believe to pull the station down and rebuild it but I heard mention of such plans way back in the dim and distant past of the last century when I first stated working for the company.

Note: I should point out this is the first time anyone has actually hit a fuel tanker and I hear there are plans to have a controller directing buses when ever there is a fuel tanker in the bus station. Usually we just hit the garage wall.

The other excitement of the day was the opening of the Brixham Park & Ride. This usually only operates in July and August but the council decided to open it for this week which is School holiday week and Monday is a bank holiday as well. We have to turn right into the car park and again a right turn is need to get out of the car park. The first year we managed without the assistance of traffic lights but last year a full set of traffic lights were erected so we and the car drivers could get out of the car park without resorting to the closing of eyes and going method of crossing a busy main road. (Copied from cats the world over). Now we, car drivers and cats can get out in safety. All winter the lights have been covered up with plastic sheeting. This morning at 10:00, an hour and a half after the car park opened the council workers arrived with a crane big enough to use to build a set of pyramids, loads of cones, barriers and a set of Stop/Go boards to remove the sheeting. The must have been on an hourly rate because it took them for ever to get the sheeting down and the traffic queues were half a mile back in both directions. I just hope it was worth it because the most cars I saw using the car park as I went past were 3, and one of those belonged to the attendant.

An other thing that bothers me is on the notice in the sign-on room at work it has the fares and includes the following couple of items; Dog return 75p Dog single 50p. Are we expecting hoards of people to arrive at the Park & Ride with their dog and buy a single ticket for the much loved family pet and expect it to walk back to the car park on it's own? Good trick if you can pull it off. Or worse still, tie the stupid mute to a lamp post and get on the next bus and bugger off as fast as possible before anyone notices.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Brixham and the Traffic Lights

This is Brixham yesterday afternoon. Which ever way you look nothing is moving. Except the pedestrians. And they're all having a good laugh at us poor drivers.
I got there about 5 mins past one and as I drove into the Town Square a driver who was just leaving got on the radio and warned me that there could be a problem with the traffic lights. They had taken 4 minutes to change he said. When I got in I managed to get half way round the square before coming to a stop. I remained stopped for 4 minutes. I finally made it to the bus stop, which is on the left of the red car you can see in the picture on the left. I loaded up and managed to pull of the stop. 7 minutes later and the lights still hadn't changed. The driver at the front of the queue finally decided that he would risk going through the lights on red but choose the moment to go when a number 12 came round the corner. Even more chaos.
All in all from entering the Town Square to getting out, and it isn't all that big took 17 minutes. I had called control and asked them to ring Town Hall and explain that we had a serious problem down here in Brixham but Brixham is a long way from the Town Hall in Torquay both in miles and attitude and the man finally arrived at 6 pm the fix the lights. I did here some drivers being stuck for up to 45 minutes trying to get in and out of Brixham during the afternoon. And the Brixham Park and Ride starts to morrow for a week.Lets hope the man who fixed the lights did a good job.
Mind you Brixham can get gridlocked at the drop of a hat at the best of times during the summer and with the 12, 12A and 12B all trying to us a bus stop that only really fits one bus plus all the coaches dropping their parties of the summer should be fun.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007


There are over 3000 bus stops used by Stagecoach in Devon. Almost all of them have timetables displayed that are easy for the passengers to see, not all that easy to read and for some of the passengers, impossible to understand. I have always said the reading timetables should be on the National Curriculum. I ask you, which is more important, knowing how long Queen Victoria rained for, or standing at the bus stop at Victoria Park and knowing how long you have been waiting for the next bus to Brixham so you can moan at the driver when it turns up late? Or even knowing how to spell reigned?
Anyway, twice a year the times of the buses change and our bus stop man has to go round all of the bus stops and change all the timetables. And here he is attempting to change those on the bus stop near the depot on the Newton Rd. The driver watching is thinking, "Driving a bus really isn't that bad a job after all."
Also to be seen in the photo is the type of class adverts our passengers get to read while they are waiting for a bus. No wonder they moan at us when we are late. Which doesn't happen often. Honestly.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Eye Sight Standards

Here in the UK you can take a car driving test at 17. At the start of that test the candidate is asked to read a number plate in good day light at 20.5 metres. That candidate, assuming he or she is successful with both the eye sight and the car test they can now drive for the next 53 years without any check to see if their sight is still good enough. Only if you are thinking of becoming a bus, lorry, taxi driver or a driving instructor do you have to take an actual test. Even when the driver becomes 70 they only have to state on a form that they meet the eye sight requirements, ie can read the number plate at 20.5 metres. No one calls round and holds up a number plate and says, "Read!"

Five years ago when I took my last bus licence medical I reached the required standard without using glasses. Then about 2 1/2 years ago I drove an 85 to Exeter. When I got to Exeter there were some road works effecting the route out, a diversion was in place. So I asked the controller what the route was, not knowing Exeter very well. He explained the route and said, "and when you get to the roundabout just follow the sign for Torquay."

When I got to the roundabout I had a little difficulty in the rain and street lamp dimness reading the signs for Torquay. So I made an appointment with a local optician who said glasses for distance work would be a good idea. And they were, and still are. I find driving without the glasses a bit of a strain, with the glasses, no problem.

Well today I went for another 5 year medical, which I passed, I can carry on driving up and down between Newton Abbot and Brixham for another 19 months. One of the things that the doctor checked was my eye sight and he told me that I actually reached the required standard without my glasses. This means that I didn't need to have paid my optician loads of money 2 1/2 years ago after all. But it is much easier with the glasses to see things like people at bus stops, traffic lights, bends in the road and signs directing me to Brixham and Newton Abbot.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Sorry about the pridiction.

Well I got half of it right, I did say Chelsea 1, it was the Man U score I got wrong. I don't watch much football but I got down to the pub for 5 to 3 and got a pint. By half past 3 I had drunk the pint and gone for a walk. If they (the teams) had been Rock Bands they would have been booed of the pitch, if they had been bus drivers they would be on a final written warning and I am just glad they ain't my doctor.

Talking of doctors I have my 5 year medical tomorrow. All bus drivers when they start driving a bus and every 5 years after they get to 45, and every year after 65 have to take this medical. It's mostly eye sight and state of heart and am I diabetic or hooked on drugs or alcohol. The company kindly pay the fee but I have to go on my day off and the only time the doctor can see me is 15:30 so it is a day hanging around waiting to see if I can continue driving a bus. After my last hopeless attempt at prediction I will give it a miss this time.
If you are interested in having a look at the form the doctor has to fill in Click Here.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Spoke too soon again.

A week or so ago I mentioned that there was the Devon General Bus Rally at Oldway Mansion on Sunday the 27th May. Don't worry, it's still on if you were planning on going. I was planning on going, Sunday the 27th is one of my few days off. Well in the same article I mentioned, just in passing that Sunday 27th was the start of the Summer season down here in Beautiful Devon. Big time table changes, we get more time on several of the bus routes to help us cope with the extra passengers, traffic and all those questions from bewildered passengers. The meal breaks don't get longer to help us get over all of the above (hint, hint, head office). With these changes come new rotas and duties. The new rotas were up on the wall yesterday and my days of have been changed and on the day of the rally I will be working from 07:58 to 16:57. The rally ends at 17:00 so I have 3 minutes to get from the depot in Regent Close to Oldway. Anyone got a helicopter I can borrow?

Also going back to speaking too soon I mentioned a RTC I had witnessed while waiting to take over a bus by the depot. Today I received a nice little letter from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary asking me to fill in a Witness Statement. All 6 pages. It took me ages, probably an hour to fill in. Some policeman has now got to transfer all the detail to some other form and send it in quadruple to the Home Office and god knows where else or he will get a nasty letter from head office for not filling in Form reference number Q/3478SFE/Uk/fillthisin/orgetthesack. I am not surprised that people can be a little reluctant to volunteer their names and address if the see an RTC. I tend to though, some years ago I was involve in a slight incident and a person on the bus wouldn’t give name and address,” Don’t want to get involved.” Do they thing the Mafia are going to come round and knee cap him and burn his house down or some thing. Any way I ended up in court and because I didn’t have a witness it cost me £275 in fines and costs when I was completely innocent of any offence. The other person’s witness lied through his back, and front teeth when he wasn’t even there. Long time ago now and all forgotten.

Yesterday I started at 09:33 on the Harbour side and by 09:50 I had had two small incidents that always leave me slightly annoyed. The first was a gentleman who got on and asked for a ticket to the train station and even gave me the right money, £1.35. About 15 other passengers also boarded. So I promptly forgot about the person going to the station until I got to Livermead, about a mile past the station when this anxious voiced asked me if I would tell him when we got to the train station. Why didn’t he do that when he got on? A mile down the road I went speeding past the bus stop at Christchurch when a voice at my shoulder informed me that, “I wanted that stop.” Some one had been standing just behind me in the aisle and had expected me to have noticed him. Sorry mate, too busy looking at the road ahead. I resisted the temptation to inform him that the bus stop belonged to the council and he couldn’t have it. Instead I told him I hadn’t heard the bell and dropped him of at the next stop.

Things like this annoy me because both those persons are going to go away with the impression that bus drivers deliberately drive past their stops with out stopping because we are rude, ignorant, mad, evil, sadistic, uncaring bastards who don’t give a damn. Which as you know couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cup Final Day My prediction: Manchester United 3 Chelsea 1 Wembley Stadium Great!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Parking a Car At Work Isn't Easy.

On any week day there are 101 drivers at work at our Torquay depot. There are 33 parking places. So if you get there after about 5:30 in the morning the chance of getting a parking place is about as slim as Tony admitting Iraq was a big mistake.
But if you have the right kind of vehicle you can slip it in to the most unlikely of places.
Quiet day today despite the weather showing a vast improvement over the rain of the last 4 days. The Devon County Show opened in Exeter, which is just down the road, which is where everyone must have been because they weren't in the Bay.

"Do you go to the Astra Hotel?"

"Do you go to the Astra Hotel?" My heart always sinks a little when I open the doors and someone asks me a question like that. I have a pretty good idea of what maybe coming next. I don't know the names and the where abouts of all the hotels in Torquay;there are thousnds of them, perhaps there is some poor soul who does but it isn't me. And I have a feeling that the elderly lady standing at the bus stop doesn't know where her hotel is. She and her male companion had arrived in Torquay that afternoon by coach and as dinner wouldn't be till 6 pm they decided to nip down into town for a little walk round.

"Do know the name of the road it's on?" Both sadly shake their heads. "What number bus did you get?" They walked. "How long did it take?" Not long it seems. "Do you remember passing any big shops or pubs or a Police Station? A forlorn shake of the head as the depth of the problem begins to sink in. Last chance, I use the radio and send out a call to the 80 other bus drivers who are driving round the Bay at this very minute. Maybe one of them will know where the Astra Hotel is. At this moment the lady volunteers the information that the hotel is up a hill. We are in a the Harbour area, you know, harbours tend to be all at sea level. Every where else in Torquay is up a hill. Torre is local speak for hill. Torquay means the 'Harbour by the Hill.'

They board the bus and as they have said it wasn't a long walk into town I charge then to the Police Station. Two reasons for that, one, there are a lot of hotels near the police station and two, if their hotel isn't there they can always go in the station and ask the nice person behind the desk where their hotel is.

Actually they got of at the top of town, they didn't recognise anywhere and dicided to try an other road out of town. And when I got home I had a look in the phone book and on the internet, The Astra Hotel doesn't appear anywhere and so probably doesn't appear in Torquay either.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

New signs in Paignton Bus station

This sign has recently been added to the ambiance of Paignton Bus Station. Good. The bus station has a large area of covered ground which is a nice place to skateboard if you are into skateboarding but it is not a nice place for skateboarders if you are elderly or infirm or have small children and a pile of shopping to look after while you wait for a bus. I have in the past asked a former station manager for such a notice to be put up. He assured me that the matter was in hand, but it has been in hand for over 2 years. They (?) do say better late than never. There are times when I don't agree with they, who ever they are.

I also asked the same station manager two years ago if two other signs could be put up, one, which has gone up, stating that ball games were not allowed in the bus station, that was also in hand for 2 years. The other sign I suggested hasn't made it. The one explaining where the nearest toilets are. Standing out side the staff canteen and watching people walk by looking at the various doors with slightly worried looks on their faces and watching them get to the end of the station and making their way back with slightly more worried looks on their faces and then explaining that they need to walk all the way back to the other end of the station, over the road, then over the level crossing (hopefully there won't be a train coming) and first left, should take only a couple of minutes, is not my idea of a fun pass time.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Speaking too Soon

A couple of weeks ago I made a comment on how few accidents I have seen actually happen in front of my very own eyes. Then a couple of days later I was sitting on a walk and CRASH. Right in front of me. Well yesterday I was going into Brixham, heading for the crossroads at Churston Village. There were cars in front of me and I saw a car coming towards me with a right turn signal on indicating the drivers wish to turn into the village. I slowed slightly to leave a gap between the car in front of me so the car, which by now had stopped, could make the turn. Suddenly the car started to move forward and for a second I thought the driver had changed his mind. Then I noticed that the front of the car behind had a seriously dented front end. As I continued I realised that the back of this car also had a seriously dented back end and a third car had, due to the fact that he had just run into the back of the second car, a seriously dented front end. By the time I got back from Brixham (20 Mins) the police had arrived and were busy clearing the damaged cars from the road. No ambulance so no one hurt.

Then today I was heading for Newton, just Passing Coventry Farm Industrial Estate in slow moving traffic, a cyclist had just past me on the inside when the traffic slowed to a stop. There was a bus and a 38 tonne HGV in front of me and I could not see what was happening but I assumed some one was turning right in to the estate. Then the HGV pulled out on to the right hand side of the road followed by the bus in front of me. Then I noticed that there was a car pulling a trailer with a power boat in. The car driver looked like he had pulled over to the left and the cyclist who had just past me had run into the trailer. Not quite in front of my very own eyes but close enough. The cyclist did not appear to be hurt but his bike did not look too good and he looked decidedly upset.

Some would say this is a case of speaking too soon about not seeing accidents but maybe it is just the law of averages catching up with me. If it is the law of averages; you have caught up with me; no more please.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Devon General Rally

Here is a date for the diary. 27 May 2007 at Oldway Mansion in Paignton. Catch a 12, 12A, 12B or if you are coming from Totnes or Plymouth then it's a FirstBus for you, the X80. The Devon General Society will have on display and will be running trips in a number of West Country buses dating back to the 1930s. Starts at 10:00 and lasts until 17:00.
It is a rest day on the 27th so I will be there with the camera and will display lots of photos on the blog. I say it's a rest day but it just might not be as there is an other event happening that day which could change my days off. For Stagecoach in Torbay it is the start of Summer. New timetables and running times will be published any day now. The Duty Boards and our new rotas will be published at the same time or shortly after. Who am I kidding? The new rotas and duty boards will arrive some time on Thursday the 24th of May and if we are lucky we get to look at them some time Friday afternoon. Plenty of notice concerning what could be major changes from the Sunday.
It rained a lot to day. Tomorrow, Sunday is going to be much worse, it will start raining about 04:00 and stop shortly after the Ark gets built. Rain is forecast for the next few days which can only mean one thing. The Devon County Show is next weekend. Web site click here
I was reading on bus driver jimmy's blog about changing drivers. To day I was waiting at Cary Parade in Torquay to take over a bus. While I was waiting the queue went from just me to ten people. Bus came in and I moved forward and said in my loud, official, slightly sympathetic voice, "We're just changing drivers. Wont be too long." It had been a quiet day and the bus wasn't due out for over 4 minutes but I felt obliged to rush with all those people anxious to get on the bus. A while back I timed how long it takes me , 1 minute 45 seconds if I rush, 1 minute 30 seconds if I don't. So seat in the right place, steering wheel and cash try also in the right place and hit lots and lots of keys on the ticket machine until the display says, "Loading Fares".
"All done," says I. The first boarded, wanted Paignton. I'm going the other way. Next, "Where does the 85 run from?" Next Brixham, alas, also going the other way. Next,"What time's the last bus?" Next, wanted Newton Abbot but had fish and chips open in a plastic container. Fish and chips have enough grease on them to give any accident lawer halucinations about big fat cheques. "I'm not going to eat them." Yeh right. You're going to sit there with a bag of fish and chips neatly wrapped up for 40 minutes all the way to Newton and then eat them. You must really like cold food or think I was born yesterday, in which case I wouldn't be driving a bus just yet. Finally someone got on who was going my way and had the money to buy a ticket and wanted to travel now. Quite a relief, all that rushing would have been wasted otherwise.

Bus Queue

After having spent the day picking up people who have been waiting in a queue for a bus we then have to wait in a queue to get rid of the bus. What happens when we finally make it to the top of the hill is the bus is cleaned out by out happy band of cleaners,(see photo below) then it is fuelled and then driven through the bus wash before being taken gently to the bus park for a night's well earned rest.

A Letter In The Local Paper

This is a letter from the local paper, the Herald Express.


10 May 2007

I am writing in response to P A Noyce's letter (Your View, Thursday, May 3) regarding Stagecoach buses needing to provide a more reliable service.I have just spent five days just outside Goodrington and think you have a wonderful bus service compared with West Midlands travel.The No12 bus ran about every 10 minutes, drivers are very polite and helpful.I suggest to P A Noyce if you are not happy with your bus service you should visit Wolverhampton.

If our bus decides to turn up we are greeted by miserable, unhelpful drivers who seem to find it hard to communicate with you, they then take us on what can only be described as a journey from hell as they speed down the road, jam on their breaks and throw you from one end of the bus to the other.Please make the most of what you have, I would love to get on a bus up here and be greeted with: "Hi, how are you?"Mind you, if I did I'd probably fall off the bus with shock!


Nice when someone writes something nice about us.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Reasons for being late (No. 627)

This is the entrance to Newton abbot Bus station. Not much chance of getting in there. The cyclist made it through but he is much slimmer than a double decker bus. So when some one asks me why I am late I can come up with reason 627; I couldn't get into and therefore out of Newton Bus station. Several of the buses that are there are not actually in service and are just parked there while drivers are taking a break. We need a bigger bus station. Please write to your MP and ask him if he will speak to the Prime Minister about this matter.

While we are on writing to your MP, I read a little item on a fellow bus driver's blog (bus driver jimmy) that there was a story going round that the free bus rides for under 16s scheme that operates in London was going to be extended. I have no objection to school children being provided with free travel to and from school. Some of the children who get on my bus on their way home from school must be spending over £10 per week just getting to school. This is a big drain on a family economy, I am lucky in that my job provides free bus travel. If it didn't it would cost the tax payer £12.00. (I have a local authority free bus pass). If free bus travel to and from school is provided it will need to be funded in a fairer way the the present OAP/ Disabled bus travel is at the moment.

Some councils are getting more than they need and spending what they have left on trips to Australia for councilors to look at the effects of global warming in the outback instead of giving the money back so it can be sent to other councils like Torbay and others in the South West who are underfunded to the tune of a million quid , approx, a year. My big problem is those children who hang around on street corners with nothing to do all evening. Fine if it is nice and dry and warm. But if it is raining, windy and cold then upstairs at the back of a bus would be a much more inviting place to hang about and pass the odd cig and illegal can of beer about. Some people, especially the elderly fine such groups intimidating, particularly if their language is splattered with Anglo-Saxon words. Bad enough on a street corner but on the bus with you is enough to put lots of people of travelling by bus in the evening.

An other point about free travel for children is this; in winter when I do a school run and the weather is bad I carry 60 school children. Now the weather is dry and sunny I carry 10. The rest walk the mile or so down into town, not for the exercise but to save the bus fare, no doubt to spend on a Big Mac. But they are still getting some exercise, intended or not. Without bus fare to save they will just get the bus and the exercise will go out the window.

Anyway, if definite plans are announced re free travel for the Under 16s I will be the first to let you know.

A completely different topic, I did say that FirstBus were going to run between Torquay and Brixham in competition to our 12 service. I spoke to a FirstBus driver and he put me right. First are only extending their present service between Torquay only as far as Paignton, but it will be every 15 minutes, at present it is every 20 minutes. Present at this conversation was a member of our office staff who butted in to say that wasn't the half of it. When I asked him what he meant he refused to enlighten me. I will just have to wait and see was all he would say. He did add that the new X45 to Plymouth was part of the company's on going effort to improve services for our passengers. Right, OK.

I have just come across a blog called Plymothian Transit.It is centred on Plymouth and has more photos of buses displayed on the blog than I have even taken.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Such a Good Example

While I was driving round the Bay yesterday I noticed a newspaper placard for the local paper. It said in their direct, down to earth method of getting your attention. TEACHERS,"BAD PARENTS" WARNING. Now both my parents were teachers. Has the local paper come up with some new research that shows that my parents were in fact bad parents. And I had always thought they were great parents. Well you live and learn. Even at my time in life. What a shame to be disalusioned in such a way.

When I read the article over lunch it turned out that a Head Teacher from one of our local primary schools was giving the world, or that portion of the world that lived in the bay and read the paper, a warning that bad parents made for bad children. (Click here to read the whole article). He had given up teaching after 20 odd years and is seeking employment as a lorry driver to get away from the cares and stress of teaching. Try bus driving mate, no cares or stress driving a bus.

Later in the day I drove into Brixham. It was early evening at which time the bus times change from day running to evening running and I had 15 minutes waiting time before I left. Waiting for me was mother with infant (asleep) in buggy and 4 year old daughter who was eating chips, french fries if you are in the US of A. Mother wrapped the chips up in the paper and came to board the bus. I explained that she could not bring the chips on the bus and in any case I wasn't going for 15 minutes so there was plenty of time to eat the chips before the bus left.

I got of the bus for a little stretch and watched mother and child. Child by the way was what you would call a 'hand full', taking not the slightest notice of what mother was saying. She started examining each chip before eating and discarding those she did not like the look of on the floor. Was I glad I hadn't let her on the bus with the chips. Now Brixham is a fishing port, which means seagulls. Seagulls do not carefully examine chips before eating them. If you don't believe me try holding a chip up in front of a seagull and see what happens. Just don't complain to me that it took a week to get the feeling back in your fingers. Better still get a Copy of 'The Birds' from Blockbusters. So lots of seagulls arrived in double quick time. So what did mother do? Explain about the fact that gulls are permanently hungry, have sharp beaks and big wings and can spot a dropped chip faster than an African vulture can notice a wildebeest falling over? Explain the dropping litter of any sort was illegal and untidy? Tell her that some poor starving child would have been grateful for those chips? Not exactly. Not even close. She called the child, this sweet lovable child, a twat.

Some time later in this conversation which consisted of mother shouting and child ignoring and me considering putting "Sorry not in Service" up, mother unwisely asked the child did she behave this badly at school for her teacher. The child said no. More unwisely still the mother asked why not. Child replied, "Because I like my teacher."

I then boarded the bus and started the engine. The three of them boarded the bus, mother presenting me with a day ticket. She could have been going on stop or all the way to Newton Abbot, which is over an hour away. Why didn't I put "Out of Service" up and drive away when I had the chance? The journey consisted of more of the same but included mother telling everyone on the bus what they are ready knew, the child was a bit of a hand full. They got of at Shiphay Lane which is three quaters of the way to Newton

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Motor Bike Day

An other driver asked me if I would change duties with him. Mine finished a bit earlier than his and he wanted to go out. I wasn't going anywhere so I agreed. So I ended up doing the open top service, the number 200 which at this time of year runs from Torquay to Totnes. It runs along the sea front at Paignton, some thing the 12 doesn't do. Today was Motor Bike Show day on Paignton Sea Front. Thousands of bikers turn up and park their bikes on the sea front so it was heavy going that way all day. The rest of the route was very quiet, not many people on the bus all day which is strange with the weather being so good, sunny, warm and dry and Bank Holiday weekend. Just the thing to tempt families on the that sea side special, the Open Topped Bus. So why so quiet? Well even though we have just had the warmest April in living memory and May looks set to be the warmest May in living memory we don't actually have open top buses running yet. Which is a shame when you consider that for two years we had open top buses running all year round. Bit cold in winter but the Germans would still board the bus, go upstairs, wrap blankets round their legs and don flying helmets and goggles even when the temperature was down to zero C and the wind had arrived fresh and unimpeded straight from Siberia. I don't think any of them died from hypothermia. But no open tops about until the end of July as they are all being used else where.

But back to the bikers. On one of the trips out to Totnes a group of about 8 went past me, I was doing 40 mph, in a forty limit I should point out, and left me standing. At a guess well over 80 mph. One was so close to the bus avoiding the on coming car that I could have reached out and patted him/her on the head. I didn't try because he had gone before I thought of doing so. As I continued along the road I wondered if I would see a motor bike, and biker smeared along the road some where ahead. Sorry to say, yes I did. There is a section of road that has tall hedges on both sides and a sharp bend. Just on the bend was a stationary car with a serious dent in the side. 50 feet down the road were marks in the hedge that suggested some thing had hit it. An other 50 feet down the road in a lay bye were all the bikes that had just gone past me and one of them looked like it had taken it's last trip to Totnes.

On the way back from Totnes the bikes were still there and had been joined by a police car. No ambulance though. On a later trip still, a brake down truck had arrived.A dismal end to someones weekend.

Totnes town centre, catch the 200 from Torquay or Paignton or the 88 from Paignton, takes 25 minutes. Or 5 minutes by motor bike provided you actually get there. Worth the trip.

Friday, 4 May 2007


RTC used to be RTA. RTA used to mean Road Traffic Accident; it could also mean Road Traffic Act (any law relating to motoring). A driver who works a lot of over time has to be careful of the RTA concerning driver's hours. Any way the police not too long ago decided that of the half a million incidents on our roads here in the UK that resulted in death, injury or just damage to vehicles, very few, maybe a couple of hundred were actually accidents. So now they are called RTCs, Road Traffic Collisions.

OK. Now this morning I was running through a few thoughts for a post coming up next month and I realised how few accidents, sorry RTCs I had actually seen happen. I have arrived at the scattered wreckage and the police car and ambulance and on a couple of occasions the fire engine but have been there at the moment of impact very few times when you consider the number of miles I have driven in the last 46 years. Now this afternoon I was siting on a low wall down on the Newton Road waiting to take over a bus. The traffic was very heavy going into Torquay what with it being Bank Holiday weekend. (It's going to rain by the way.) The road in front of me is two lane but there are traffic lights ahead and if you want to go straight on you have to be in the left lane. The guy driving the car in the outside lane just turned his wheel to move into the left lane without any interest in the fact that there was already a car in the nearside lane. CRASH! Right in front of me. I didn't even have to stand up to take the photo.

The passenger of the car in the nearside got out and spoke to the driver of the other car and indicated that he should move his car to the side of the road for the exchange of details. The car driver in the outside lane then moved forward slowly and pulled into the left lane, which was what he wanted to do in the first place. I put the camera back in my back thinking the action was over. We then all watched dumbfounded as the car continued up the road and vanished slowly (still heavy traffic remember) into the distance. I think you get 6 penalty points on your licence for leaving the scene of an accident.

Anyway there was me thinking I hadn't seen an accident for ages and then I see one. A little note to the powers that organise these sort of coincidences, I have had a Premium Bond for almost fifty years and have never won a prize yet.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Any Ideas?

I was on the Strand the other day waiting to take over a bus when this Little Green Coach appeared. By the time I had got the camera out this was the only shot I could get. I haven't seen it since and wonder where it came from. I remember travelling on coaches like that back in the middle of the last century, when they were called charabangs (which was French for char-à-bancs , literally “carriage with benches).

A regular passenger got on this morning and as I was waiting time he had a little moan about some of the things he had seen while travelling on the buses. I thought he was going to have a go at the group of young people we had visiting our pubs last week end but he started on a story about some one getting on a bus and flashing a ticket at the driver and shouting, "It's an explorer." and walking down the bus holding his finger over the ticket.
(Sound familiar, click here if it doesn't).
I realised that he was telling a story that had happened to me a week or so back but hadn't noticed that I was the driver involved. He seemed to be enjoying telling the story so much I didn't have the heart to break the news to him that I already knew the ending.

Note; I know it is charabanc but when you are 8 years old it sounded like charabang.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

X45 to Plymouth

Here ewe, sorry you know who have gone home and reports of damage are coming in, including one of tar being poured on a town bowling green to form the letters YFA. What of course they did mean was, "We are dickheads."

The other little story is a continuation from a story I heard on Friday that FirstBus are going to run a service from Torquay to Brixham. This is also the 12 route and our most important service in the Bay. Not very nice of FirstBus. I do remember an other bus company trying the same thing a few years ago, but it didn't last. Come to think of it, the company went out of business shortly afterwards. Anyway I went into work today as I usually do and there it was, a declaration of intent; a notice asking for drivers who are interested in driving on the new X45 Paignton to Plymouth route to start in July. FirstBus already run a service X80 to Plymouth. For how much longer I ask myself?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


My thoughts go out to my bus driving colleagues in Manchester to night for two reasons. The first is a fire that damaged a building in Dale Street and must have coursed large scale diversions in and around this busy main road just north of Piccadilly Gardens in the town centre. The second is the news of a fatal crash involving a Stagecoach bus and a Ford Focus. The driver of the Ford Focus was killed and the bus driver seriously injured.

It must have been a hard day today driving a bus in Manchester.