Thursday, 30 August 2007
The road into Torquay is busy at 4 o’clock at the best of time and yesterday was as you would expect just that little bit worse. I sat on the wall by the bus stop for 30 minutes and watched 3 other buses and several thousand cars go by but eventually my bus arrived. An hour to Brixham, well more like an hour 15. I finally made it to Paignton Bus Station on the way back to Torquay by 20 past 6 after listening to other drivers mention in passing that the Red Arrows were over Torquay. Then they flew over Paignton just as I was unloading my passengers and I took this shot.
I finally made it through the traffic in Torquay heading for Newton, past all the crowds who were saying things like, “Wasn’t that great.” Yeh, sure. As I went out of Torquay there were lots of drivers on the radio pointing out that they should be in Torquay for their break and were still in Brixham and similar late running. I was also running late and waited for a gap in the radio noise to ask if I could miss out the last bit of my trip up to Newton but the driver of the bus behind me beat me to the gap and I ended up taking his passengers, all 5 of them as he was even later than me. Ended up 45 minutes late back at the depot but I am sure it was worth it for those who got to watch the Red Arrows.
On a slightly depressing note; I wonder how long it will be before the Global Warming people notice that the Red Arrows are sending the world’s temperature up by 0.0000001 degree C and get them banned?
Monday, 27 August 2007
August Bank Holiday Monday. Nice day, plenty of people about, sunny and warm, beaches crowded, roads fairly empty, a 10 hour shift but I need the money. Only a couple of incidents to report. Actually the first happened last night while I was safe at home in front of the computer. One driver wasn't quiet so lucky though. He stopped in Newton Abbot and a female boarded the bus. A female who didn't want to pay for her bus ride. The driver asked her to either pay or leave the bus. The female did neither. She went upstairs and spread nail varnish and newspapers on the seats and set fire to them. Please don't try this at home. The police arrived and used a fire extinguisher to put the fire out and used tact and handcuffs to arrest the female suspect. The bus was then checked over by the fire department and driven back to the depot where up to 13 seats were found to be damaged. No photos, sorry. The bus is locked away.
The second incident happened in front of my very eyes, well 20 yards away. I was checking the times of the Plymouth bus for a passenger when I noticed an other female, this one was accompanied by an 18 month old toddler who needed a pee. Now there are no toilets on Paignton Bus Station. There are those who say there should be, but there aren't. Anyway female and toddler were standing facing the wall and this growing puddle of pee was running down the pavement. The open door you can see is the entrance to the staff canteen. When they had gone I walked up to the office to get a watering can to swill the area down. We keep a couple there in case a bus radiator needs filling. The controller said he couldn't let me have the watering can as I wasn't 'Type Trained' on it. Before a driver goes out on a bus of a type he hasn't driven before he has to have 3 hours training on the bus so he is familiar with the bus, the length, width and where all the switches are. But type training on a watering can? Not quiet. If you fill a bus up in the morning in the yard the engines are cold and the radiator caps can be removed safely. No type training required there. If the bus has been driven for several hours the water is hot and under pressure and it can be dangerous if the cap is removed incorrectly. We now all have to be taught how to remove the cap safely. Isn't Health and Safety wonderful. Three hours type training equals three hours pay. Just to learn how to do something I have been doing for 45 years without a mishap.
Sunday, 26 August 2007
I pulled up at the stop in Union street in Torquay this afternoon, the bus in front of me, running 12 minutes late, had also just pulled up at the same stop and was loading passengers. There weren't many, 5 or 6 but two of them decided that it would be a good idea to run back to my bus which they did. Now this maybe because they think I will get them to where they are going quicker than the first bus, why they think this is beyond me. I was running on time which means when I get to the next stop but one, the Harbour I will have 3 minutes waiting time. So I will stand there for 3 minutes while the other bus speeds on it's merry way to Paignton. Or maybe they just fancied a bit of exercise. Anyway it is a well known but inexplicable fact that anyone running like this for a bus will duck to avoid any obstructions, a bit like people getting out of helicopters duck to avoid having their head taken of by the rotor blades.Probably a sensible idea, you may however have noticed George W. Bush never ducks when he gets out of a helicopter. The problem with ducking to avoid obstructions is you now cannot see said obstruction and are more likely to run into, in the case of a bus, the mirror. Which the male member of this running duo did. Having head butted the mirror he then blamed the mirror for being there. “What a stupid place to have a mirror. Sticking out like that.” Excuse me sir but a) where else would you put the mirror and b) every vehicle on the road has a mirror sticking out somewhere or you wouldn’t be able to see much with it and c) every bus on the road has a mirror sticking out which you can easily see if you look for it.” As you can see from the photo it's not exactly small.
He then preceded to insist on resetting the mirror. Now bus mirrors are tricky things.You have to get out of the seat and adjust it and then get back in the seat and check it is right. If it isn't you try again. After doing it thousands of time you usually get it right first go. Not like car mirror where you set them and never move them again because no one else drives your car a bus may have 5 or 6 drivers a day and most need to alter them when we change drivers and it is easier to do it yourself. After a couple of abortive efforts to tell him to leave the mirror I agreed that he had got it right and sold them their tickets. Then when they went and sat down I got out of the seat and went and adjusted it myself. I could hear the man stage whispering something, I think I had upset him. At the Harbour a dear sweet little old lady who looked like she had just come from a Royle Garden Party got of the bus and told me I had upset him. “ But never mind,” she said,” he’s a complete ********.” (Sorry, my mother told me never to use words like the one this dear sweet little old lady on her way home from Buck Palace used)(but it started with a boys name(you know, the one that always makes small boys giggle) and ended with head)(I was quiet shocked).
Saturday, 25 August 2007
Bronzeriders are bus passes that school children can obtain. Basically what they are is a free school bus pass that the local authorities issue to children who qualify for free travel to and from school plus they can be used on the buses at all other times. The idea is that the children will get used to travelling on the bus and when they leave school and find work they will continue travelling by bus. I think that is the ides anyway.
They are dated from when school starts next month to some time in December when the school term ends. The problem is there are several thousand of these tickets and the local authorities have started sending them out already even though school doesn’t start for two weeks. They are accompanied by a letter explaining that the Bronzerider tickets can be used to travel to and from school and at all other times. In one way this is a good thing for us drivers. Before they were introduced a few years ago we used to have heated discussions with young people at 8:30 on a Friday evening who were, the females anyway, made up to the nines and dressed for a night on the town and claim they were going to a school function and could therefore used their pass. Now they can use the pass if it has the word Bronzerider printed on it. Now some of the children who have got their passes early think they can use them now, the letter says they can be used at any time. However on the pass it has the words,” Valid between Sept 3 2007 and Dec 21 2007.” So they can not be used until the September date.
A couple of young persons got on a bus today and presented their passes only to be told they weren’t yet valid. They did not display unbridled joy at receiving this news. The first bus they tried to board left without them and the driver used the radio to warn the next driver of the delights awaiting him at the Cary Parade bus stop. He reported that the young ladies had greeted his repeated refusal to accept their passes with, “Attitude!”
And it had been such a nice day until then.
Brixham is the smallest of the 3 towns that makes up Torbay. The road out of Brixham runs for about 3 miles between the old Toll Gate at Monks Bridge to Windy Corner and to day it was full of cars all heading for somewhere other than Brixham. Going into Brixham this morning at about 11:00 was easy. There was no traffic going into Brixham, it was all heading out. So you know it is going to be a long haul back to Paignton. It usually takes 20 minutes but as I drove past all the stationary traffic pointing the other way I knew that I was going to be late for my lunch, which today I was scheduled to take in Paignton at 11:43. Fat chance. My problem with all these cars leaving Brixham isn’t that they are leaving Brixham or that the are all leaving Brixham at the same time like some vast flash flood of machinery (used to flash floods, see Monday) but where in Brixham they have all spent the night. There just isn’t room in Brixham for that many cars. And they can’t have got there by some other route; there isn’t any other route. One road into and out of Brixham. Do they all drive in, take one look and drive out again? Is it the lack of places to park in Brixham? We have the Park and Ride for that problem. So what is it that causes the road to turn into a 3 mile long 10 foot wide car park? If you were there this morning; or any of the other mornings when a couple of thousand cars all queue up to get through the lights at Windy Corner in a bid to escape from the site of the last successful foreign invasion of British soil (William of Orange) could you tell me why you were doing it. I am sure it was just to make me, and most other 12/12A/12B drivers late for their lunch. I got to Paignton at 12:10 by the way and I should have taken over an other bus at 12:28. That was 20 minutes late as well so no rushed sandwiches followed by indigestion.
A leaflet appeared at work today entitled Annual Performance May 2006 to April 2007. It seems we carried 23.6 million passengers compared with 19.2 million the year before and 18.3 million the year before that. Don't we work hard?
Thursday, 23 August 2007
An other thing I heard today is that some of the traders in Fleet St who were upset that buses continued to drive through the flood water on Monday and send waves into there shops every time they went past are getting a petition up to ask the council to ban buses form Fleet St. They can try but there simply isn't any other way round. The only other road we could use is Belgrave Road which is hotel land, expensive hotel land. Imagine buses running up and down from 6 in the morning till midnight. All the cars and coaches would have to find somewhere else to park as Belgrave Rd is quiet narrow and has a couple of awkward bends and no foot path on one side. It is just not an alternative. I do however think the company could put a bit of effort to be more user friendly to the traders in Fleet Street. There are plans to improve the lay out and make it easier for the buses and pedestrians to mix but those depend on the council finding the money some time soon.
After Monday's deluge we have had some good sunny, warm weather which look sets to continue through the Bank Holiday weekend so if you are looking for somewhere to come for an enjoyable few days by the sea give us a try.
A couple got on the bus and asked me if I went to Chelston. No, sorry you need a 32. But we were told the 12 went to Chelston. Do you mean Churston? said I. Is there a differance? Yes 10 miles and a different bus route.
They wanted Churston so they came with me..
We shall see.
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
Monday, 20 August 2007
At 11:15 I went for my lunch at the rest room above the Stagecoach Travel shop in Victoria Parade on the Harbour. My second half started on Cary Parade on the other side of the harbour at 11:59 so I left the Travel Shop at 11:01. It was raining, not just a bit of wet stuff falling from the sky but rain in buckets, large buckets, all being thrown at me. And it was cold and very wet. It is only a couple of hundred yards but I was so wet the water was running down my legs and into my shoes so I was squelching along. To get to Cary Parade I had to cross the end of Fleet Street where it comes down a bit of a slope onto the Strand. It was now 11:58 and all looked normal except for the rain. There was no sign of my bus so I decided to take a few photos of the rain to send to my sisters in Australia in case they had forgotten what it looked like. I then noticed that the roadway on the other side of the central reservation was flooded and a car had stopped in the road and other cars were driving past it. I went over and took several pictures of the problem, this was 12:03. Then my bus arrived and I got in the drivers seat and set up the ticket machine and set of to go up Fleet Street. It was only after I turned in did I realise that Fleet Street, which I had walked past 8 minutes earlier and had not seen any sign of flooding was in fact full of water to a depth of a couple of feet. I think I was the first person to drive into Fleet Street since the water had risen. Which it did in just a couple of minutes. One minute it was raining, next we were knee deep in water.
As you can see from the photo, taken at 12:07, it was deserted except for a couple of buses. In this position I had no choice but to continue slowly up the road. There was was coming in through the doors it was that deep. I did get on the radio and let everyone who was listening what was happening and suggest that buses stay out of Fleet Street for the time being. I then carried on to Newton Abbot where the rain had been the normal sort that runs down the drains and stays there.
Other places were also flooded in the Bay including the section of Dartmouth Road by the YMCA. The road here dips down sharply and is for a few feet actually below sea level at high tide before climbing again as the road continues towards Waterside. The spot is known to bus drivers as the Grand Canyon and is the main road to Brixham not just for the 12 service but just about everyone else. All this traffic had to be diverted up Penwill Way, a road not big enough for all the extra vehicles now using it. It ends in a give way at Totnes Road which was also full of diverted traffic so you can imagine the police were there directing traffic. You would need to imagine it because you wouldn't have seen it.
A long day, some drivers were over two hours late by the time things got back to some sort of normally and it must have been a long drive home for thousands of other drivers all round the Bay And all it took was 40 mm of rain in 20 minutes.
Click here for the story and readers comments in the local paper Herald Express.
Friday, 17 August 2007
The first half of the day was fairly straight forward, except it started at 6:21 when the alarm went of. I don't normally do earlies and 6:21 is close to the middle of the night as far as I'm concerned. Anyway off the work where I was on stand by for the first 50 minutes. Not a great deal you can do on stand by in 50 minutes especially as I have to be in Brixham for 08:56 to run the 09:01 number 12 to Newton Abbot. One thing I did notice about this trip was the number of passengers brandishing Around Torbay concessionary passes before 9:30. They can not be used before 9:30, a rule that came in last April but 7 such passes were thrust in my face before this magic hour arrived. "Too early." Twerlies they are called. Then lunch at 11:15. Bit of jet lag type reaction here, I'm usually having my lunch at about 3 pm so at 11 am I really didn't feel like eating so I just had a cup of coffee before going out for the second half.
Out from the rest room at 11:51 to walk round to Cary Parade in the centre of Torquay to take over a bus due at 11:59. Not quiet enough time with the harbour area full of tourist who are not in a hurry to get anywhere. The odd local in a desperate rush amid thousands of aimless strangers with no idea where they are going and no idea that I have a bus to catch while they suddenly stop and block the footpath and decide which way to go. Anyway I got to the stop just as a 12A arrived. 20 passengers got off but the driver didn't, not my bus, it must be late. Another bus came round the corner but that was a 12, I'm waiting for a 12A. That dropped 20 more aimless wanders on the the streets of downtown Torquay and vanished into Fleet Walk. Then an other 12, same procedure drop and go. 3 buses in two minutes. Then mine. I climb aboard and head for Newton, number 4 in a convoy of 4. The latest number 12 got turned by control but the remaining three of us are now going to play leapfrog all the way to Newton. First bus stops to pick up, the other two drive past. Then the bus at the front stops and I go sailing past. Then I stop to pick up and the two behind overtake me. We all arrive in Newton at the same time and all leave within a minute of each other and continue to play leapfrog all the way to Paignton. Stopping to pick up, get overtaken, set off, pass the bus in front when it stops to pick up, get through some lights and the bus behind doesn't. Will you be able to get some distance in front so they don't passes you again, it's much easier if you are on your own. No such luck today, every time I stopped the bus behind would pass. It is quiet hard work this kind of driving, especially when it goes on for so long. Then I got into Torquay and our little convoy was joined by a 12B that had come down from St Marychurch but is now heading for Paignton and Brixham. Four buses playing leapfrog, even harder work. We all pulled away from the Grand Hotel when one of the drivers got on the radio and reported that there had been an accident at the Grand and the road was partly blocked. At least I had missed that, just, by about 20 seconds. Into Paignton and the 12 and the 12B took the short route to Brixham and I and the other 12A continued to leapfrog round Roseland and South Devon College taking the long route to Brixham. When we got to Brixham the other 12A had got there first and was loading up and I just unloaded and went. All I had to do was drive to the depot, about an hour and 20 minutes and that was it, cash up and go home. But we still managed to end up leapfrogging all the way. And by now I was begining to notice that not eating lunch, even an early lunch is not a good idea.
Got the same duty again on Monday.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Look holiday makers, you are on holiday, it's supposed to be a relaxing time. You can sit in a traffic jam at home. Please come up with a better idea like stay in bed all day curled up with a good book or the wife or someone else's wife or a can of beer or a game boy(the Nintendo type). Gone are the days when the landlady threw you all out at half nine with the strict instruction not to come back till five O'clock. Please; our roads can not stand the influx of thousands of cars going no where at 2 mph. You play havoc with the timetables.
A little update from the front line. You may have noticed that the is a little unpleasantness going on between two of the bus companies that operate here in Torbay. Probably you wont have actually, it's all been very low key and conducted in the best possible taste.
For many years now Stagecoach have employed a fare taker to assist bus passengers on the Strand during the summer. He sells tickets and gives out information and so speeds up the movement of passengers on to the buses. FirstBus now appear to have copied this excellent idea and have a fare taker working on their side (not the prime side) of the Strand. She doesn't look overburdened with work I am glad to say.
Monday, 13 August 2007
Then a woman comes running up. She is very upset. She wants to know where the X64 has gone. I have to admit I am not too sure. She then tells me that she had been on the bus with her husband and she had told the bus driver she needed to go to the toilet and he had told her she had 4 minutes but he had driven off without her. The woman then runs off and I don't see here again. Perhaps she jumped in a taxi and said,"Follow that bus."
One question, what did her husband do as the bus drove off? Did he think," Oh good, an afternoon without the wife!" and settle back to enjoy the rest of the day?
Footnote. Kingsbridge, that's where the X64 goes, I had to look it up.
PS I have just look at the forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday). Heavy rain and 40 mph wind. Is this summer or what?
Saturday, 11 August 2007
A second post which asks the question, Why so long to get something done.
I was waiting time at Falcon Park between Totnes and Paignton on the 200 route and I found it hard not to notice these road works. I mean they were just lying there doing nothing at the side of the road. Which is what they were doing last time I did the 200 service in May, and, come to think about it, in April as well. They only extend for about 100 yards and include just one junction. Not exactly building the Kingskerswell By-pass.
As you can also see from the second photo they should have been finished on 17 June.
I know things move slower down here in the West Country but this is moving slower on an industrial scale. To move this slowly you have to have determination, practice, skill, thick skin, an ability to be able to ignore questions like,"Are you ever going to finish these road works?", and lots of money. Other peoples money. Which, when you present the bill will become your money.
God help us if the Government do give us the green light to really build the by-pass, it could, sorry lets get it right, will take decades.
From the Herald Express (our local paper)
11:00 - 11 August 2007
Hundreds of posters are going up in and around Torquay town centre as a homeless man is now banned under a civil anti-social behaviour order.Vagrant Glenn Skinner, 36, is now barred from the area under an ASBO issued by magistrates on Wednesday at the request of police for a long catalogue of bad behaviour.He is said to be an aggressive beggar, abusive, fouls public places, and takes food and drink from the plates of diners, causing harassment, alarm and distress.Rachael Powell, for Safer Communities Torbay, said: "We've had 200 posters produced and they are being distributed by the street wardens and police community support officers."About 100 will have gone up so far."The street wardens are also going to hand the posters to shopkeepers in Torre as there's a chance Glenn Skinner may hang around this area of Torquay and we want people to report his behaviour if it breaches his anti-social behaviour order restrictions."We have had with positive feedback from everyone as Glenn Skinner's behaviour near their premises would have put potential customers off."The ban zone includes the town centre and car parks. Although he is indefinitely banned from the town centre there are also a battery of other restrictions to control his behaviour outside Torquay which could land him in trouble if he breaches them.He must not act or incite others to be anti-social; swear or be abusive; drink or be drunk in public; foul public places; and approach named witnesses.
Note:- Stagecoach banned him from their buses 5 years ago.
So what took so long?
Friday, 10 August 2007
Meanwhile two drivers a couple of buses away from the action do what bus drivers the world over love to do even more than drive a bus. Chat.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
He had finished by the time I reached him but then he looked round, after he had done himself up, and spotted the bus. Well it is 14 feet high and 8 feet wide. Now there is a bus stop an other 50 yards down the road and the man, now with an empty bladder started running towards the bus stop. Now I know that a small minority of passengers who get on a bus have probably not washed their hands after going to the loo but to have it demonstrated right in front of one's face liker this is a slightly different matter. I looked at the traffic ahead and contemplated pulling out and overtaking the cars in front of me but after that I would have no were to go. Would I get to the stop first and be able to keep going. Not a chance. He got to the stop well before me. Oh God, he's going to put his hand, that hand in his pocket, pull out a hand full of change and demand a single to Brixham.
Salvation. When I was 3 or 4 cars from the stop a car door opened and some one shouted, "Bill, do you want a lift?" Bill did and got in the car. I drove into Brixham whistling a happy tune.
Sunday, 5 August 2007
Foot note (1)
I have to turn the water of each evening because there is a water leak out in the road. So why switch the water off I hear South West Water ask. We have plenty of leaks, one more isn't going to make much difference. Well for some reason there is a low level roar which can be heard in the house. Turn a tap on and it stops but at £4 per cubic metre that's a bit expensive and a waste and makes even more noise that the resonating leak. So, because SWW are making too much profit to bother fixing the water main out in the street (which has burst 15 times in the last 9 years), I have to go out and turn the water off at the meter last thing at night. Then when I get up I have to go out and turn it back on again or the loo would start to smell, me to without a shower. I wonder if I can get some compensation from SWW for all this pain.
Saturday, 4 August 2007
As I headed down towards the depot the thought entered my head that maybe I been the double victim of a 'passing forged bank notes to idiot bus driver' scam. I've been watching too much TV. But once an idea like that gets in it stays in. Well by the time I got to the depot I jumped of the bus and almost ran all the way up to the depot so I could put the notes in the cash machine. Forgeries would come straight out again, the Queen smiling smugly. I went into the pay in room and up to the cash machine. pay number and duty numbers in followed a second later by the first twenty, it came back out. Take a deep breath, this sometimes happens even with genuine notes. By now I knew in my heart of hearts that I was a lot of beer tokens down on the day. Turned the note over, that usually works. In through the slot, couple of seconds while the electronics inside the machine has a good laugh at my expense and out it pops once more. Try the other one. That will be alright. Don’t be stupid; it too vanished into the innards of the cash machine only to reappear like a bad penny, or in this case the bad twenty pound note. Well actually two, bad twenty pound notes. Several naughty words were being spoken under my breath when one of the other drivers, who had been stood around doing nothing except watch me slowly turn pale said, “That machine’s bust. It isn’t taking notes. You have to use the other one.” Which was taking notes and of course took all my notes, fives, tens, twenties without even a hiccup.