Sunday, 30 March 2008

New Ticket Machines

An other change coming up, will we be able to cope? Of course we will, we're professional drivers, are new ticket machines. Should be arriving at the end of May just in time for the summer season. This on pictured here (thanks Cowdenbeath Driver) has all sorts of wonderful things to offer including a card reader so invalid cards don't get past us at busy times and a GPS system so control can track our every movement and know when we are running late, due usually to either traffic or road works, and offer us advice on what to do to improve the situation.

I'll keep you posted as soon as they arrive and or fitted to the buses.

Fare Changes

On Monday March 31 all our single and return tickets increase as does the Day rider. Always a confusing time as many passengers will not have read the notices on the buses which have been there for over two weeks.

Then on Tuesday the National, or should I say English, Concessionary Travel Passes come into operation. These passes, in case you have been on the Moon for the last few weeks allow the over 60s and the eligible disabled free travel after 9:30 on all local buses anywhere in England. Let me start by apologizing to a small group of people I gave incorrect information to.

When the concessionary passes came in they were for use only in the area you lived in and last summer many elderly passengers presented me, and all the other drivers with passes issued outside our area and asked if they could be used, "You will be able to from next April." was the stock reply. Some of the people who asked were from the UK but not from England. Well if you do live in the UK but not in England you can not use your pass in England, sorry but when the scheme was announced two years ago the word National was used to describe it and I assumed, as did most people, that meant the UK but the way devolution is going...........................

I am not sure exactly how many of these English Concessionary passes will be issued but it could be as many as 10 million. So far about 26 actual passes have been issued due to problems at the printers.

None so far in Torbay. To get round this problem we have been told to accept all existing passes issued in Devon and passes issued out side the area provided a cardboard Temporary Pass is also presented. Given that 10 million proper passes should have been printed and only 26 have been printed that means 9 million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and seven four temporary passes will have to be printed. Hopefully by a different printer.

I have an Around Torbay Concessionary pass but the cardboard temporary pass hasn't yet arrived and latest estimates are for about ten days. I was planning to go up to Manchester on a family visit at the weekend but the though of having to pay for my bus fares while I am there has put me off. Yes I know Stagecoach are in Manchester but my brother lives in North Manchester which is FirstBus territory.

Just to round of with an observation about ID Cards. The bus passes have the holders name and Photo and the Government have know they would need to issue 10 million of them for two years and haven't managed to get it organised. make no mistake this cock up IS down to Central Government, not local authorities or as I have suggested, the Printers ( sorry printers everywhere). They just didn't seem to understand the numbers involved.

Now ID Cards will hold much more information and 60 Million will need to be issued with safeguards built into the Card to prevent misuse. What chance do they have of issuing all of us here in the UK an ID Card some time this Century? Perhaps they should ask British Airways to run the system for them.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Changes to Bus Routes For the Summer

A few comments on the above changes, first they don't happen until May 19th so don't expect to see 12A and 12C running up the Babacombe Road just yet and second they are only for the summer season which runs until mid September. The main difference for me as a 12 driver is the fact that the 12A will now no longer run to Brixham. What happened in the summer was the holiday makers would see Brixham on the front of a 12A and get on it to go to Brixham from Torquay or Paignton but it took 20 minutes longer than the 12. Also in Brixham the holiday makers would get on the 12A to go back to Paignton and Torquay and we would have to explain the extra 20 minute journey time. Most would wait for a 12 and the 12A would pull out with only a few passengers on leaving 50 people waiting for the 12, which only ran every 15 minutes. Now only the 12 will go to Brixham and run every 10 minutes. Will make life a bit easier for the drivers and the passengers. One problem that will occur is the 12A and the 12C will now go to the Harbour and not up Fleet Street to the top of town which the 12 will continue to do. From the Harbour they will go to Babacombe and St Marychurch replacing the 32. Passengers who board a 32 at the top of town and want to go to Babacombe will have to change on the Harbour. I hope through tickets will be introduced for the fare paying passengers doing this trip or lots of time will be spend selling tickets on the 12A and 12C on the Harbour.

One 12A and one 12C per hour will continue on from Babacombe to Teignmouth so passengers who would have used the 85 to go to Teignmouth will now get either a 12A or 12C but if they wish to go beyond Teignmouth to Dawlish or Dawlish Warren (where there are lots of caravan parks) will have to change to a number 2 (formally the 85A) in Teignmouth. The bus stop area in Teignmouth is not all that big so some congestion can be expected there.

The other change that will effect us driving the 12s will be the fact that the X46 Exeter Express will not go to Paignton as often as it used to so anyone in Paignton who wishes to go to Exeter will need to get a 12/12A/12C to the Harbour and change. Hopefully a notice will be put up in Paignton explaining this and tells the passengers to tell the 12 driver they wish to go to Exeter so we can sell them an Explorer Ticket (the cheapest way to get to Exeter) otherwise we will sell a return to Torquay and then the X46 driver will sell them an Explorer ticket.

Like I say, these changes are not till May 19th.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

New Newton Abbot Bus Station

Well not really new, just someone with a spade and a bit of time on their hands messing about. It wasn't working too well, mostly because there are too many buses parked in too small a space. Years ago I spent a few months in Newton. One of the rules was you didn't have your meal break in the bus station. In effect what that meant was you drove out of the station and parked somewhere legal. I used to end up 5 minutes out of town parked in a bus lay by. No toilet, no cafe to buy a coffee and no where to sit down and eat lunch except on the bus. Back in those days I used to smoke so when it was cold, wet or windy you only need one guess as to where the post lunch ciggy was consumed.

Now there doesn't seem to be time to get out of the bus station and still have the required 30 minute break so drivers not only from our company but also from Country Bus stay in the station for lunch. Result; the place gets full a lot faster than the litter bin outside MacDonald's.

So now the place has been done up and the bus stops moved about in an effect to make it look like the local authority have spent millions on the place. Trouble is it does not disguise the fact there isn't enough room. The photo showed how close I could get to the kerb given the fact that I am trying to get a 34 foot long bus in to a 35 foot long space. Shame about the grid.

Early Start

Yesterday the alarm went of at 6:20 which is early for me. I usually get up at 8:15 so 6:20 is a strain. Part of the problem is the mind plays little tricks, like worrying I will oversleep. So at 12:17 I woke up and checked I had set the alarm clock. Then at 12:57 and surprise, surprise, also at 1:35, 2:19, 3:45, 4:05 4:11 and finally 6:07 before being finally woken at 6:19 by the cat head butting the bedroom door. During my meal break I was watching the TV in the canteen and while stifling a yawn noted with amusement the newsreader was quoting some road safety person who said if you yawn at the wheel you should pull over and take a rest. Right.
Actually there is not much chance a bus driver will fall asleep at the wheel, there is too much going on, traffic lights, bus stops, taking fares waving to other bus drivers, checking running times, answering questions and so on compared with say a car driver on a motorway staring at the car 10 feet in front while travelling at 70 mph.

Next problem is I woke up this morning at 6:20 as well even though I am not out till gone 10. Could become a habit.

No sign of the new bus passes yet. There is a notice which suggests that it could be as late as September before all over 60s get their pass. I have no idea who has contributed to this delay, Central Government, Local Government or the printers. One thing I do know, it isn't the bus company's fault, you can't blame us for this cock up.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Lost Property

What is it about Saturday's? The amount of lost property calls that go out over the radio on a Saturday equals the rest of the week put together. Usually the person who may or may not have actually left property on the bus approaches a driver or the Paignton controller and explains the problem. Then the radio burst into life with, "Any 12/12A left Paignton in the last 15 minutes heading for Brixham got any lost property." Or "Could all 32s check their buses for a missing mobile phone?" One time a few years ago, on the last Saturday before Christmas a passenger handed me a wallet containing £97.90, a debit card, a receipt for £100 from an ATM, a child return ticket Paignton to Torquay (£2.10) and a set of door keys. Christmas shopping over before it had begun plus no return ticket and no door keys. The passenger who had lost the wallet asked an other bus driver what she should do. He got on the radio and I was able to let the driver know I had the wallet and what time I would be back in Torquay and an hour and a half late Christmas shopping got started. This was a good result but why so much lost property on a Saturday?

Today the calls just seemed to go on and on. We try our best but not all passengers who find things on the bus hand them to the driver, unfortunately. Please look after your property when you get on a bus, saves lots of trouble.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Bus Thinks It's a Train

In Epping, a suburb of Sydney an unattended bus rolled down a bank and on to some rail tracks. No one was hurt but an eye witness said after the crash the driver came running out of a near by shop and to quote the Sydney Morning Herald she said, "Holy Shit. That's my bus".

I think my language would have been lot more colourful had I been in that situation.

A Plastic Bag

It's still there, showing no signs of deterioration, my humble plastic bag.

In case you missed the begining of this on going little story it is to do with Blog Action Day 2007. Bloggers were asked to write about an issue that concerned the enviroment and this plastic bag was hung up on the line to deteriorate (saves space in a land fill site somewhere). It has been there since 21 September 2007 in the rain,(lots) sun,(now and then) wind,(gale force) frost (slight) and snow (15 seconds) and like all plastic bags everywhere (trillions of them) it isn't in any hurry to go anywhere.

Parking and Pleasure

Poor 34 Driver, can he get through, will he take the mirror of the truck, will he just sit there and block the road, will the car drivers move away, what to do? When he went for a job as a bus driver was he tempted by a picture of a bus driver welcoming happy smiling passengers on to his bus? Or did the advert show this picture and ask, "If this how you see the next twenty years?"

Actually he drove through no problem and then ten seconds later the car drivers buggered off just before the Parking Attendant arrived.

Real odd duty yesterday, one of the new duties that have just come out. Started at the depot in the Newton Road at 12:32 and drove a 12 to Paignton. Arrived 13:07. Had meal break. Now that is what I call a short first half. Second half made up for it though, 14:14 to 19:05.

One passenger at the top of Abbey Road wanted to go to Brixham. Now while the diversion was on we did go to Brixham from Abbey Road but the diversion ended a week ago when the road was re opened. Passenger moaned that no one had told him. Just the biggest event in Torquay's history and he missed it poor sod.

Arthur C Clarke 1917 - 2008

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Up and Running

For the last 7 weeks we have been using special running times so we would have extra time in Brixham and Newton, if we needed it, tp make up for the time we lost getting round town twice because the sea front was closed. It opened on Wednesday but we kept the special running boards until Sunday. Now we are on new running boards that don't have the extra time (shame). To day I did a duty that lasted 9hr 55mins and mostly on the 12A route. One good thing I did notice, absolutely no school runs which is a nice change. The specials we were doing seemed to have loads of school runs.

One thing I didn't do any of in the last 7 weeks were 12As which is fine by me. So when I came out of Brixham this morning, as a 12A, up to Windy Corner and headed for Waterside. At the bottom of Cherry Brook Drive the 12 goes straight on and the 12A turns left. Force of habit, I went straight on. I realised my mistake at once and stopped in the stop just past Cherry Brook. Here the road is a duel carriageway and there is plenty of room to turn the bus round which I did, with care, but not before half the passengers had had a minor panic attack thinking they were on the wrong bus. Sorry if you were one of them.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Mad or just stupid?

And on the other side of the road there is a pavement 10 metres wide and a long way away from fast moving traffic and you don't need to step into the road every time you come to a lamp post or traffic sign. So where would you walk if you were out for a Sunday afternoon stroll?

While I'm on about this stretch of road, Torbay council, could you get rid of all those tempory traffic signs. They blow over in the wind, get hit by cars and vans and people just push them over for the fun of it. I mean the road is going to be like this until some time next year, not some time next week.

Devon County Council Student Passes

Above is a photo of the relevant terms and conditions of use that every student receives when they get their bus pass. I have underlined the most important parts; i.e. used only between the points shown on the pass, one return journey between home and college not anywhere to anywhere, misuse can result in the ticket being withdrawn and relevant to the other night, behaviour of an unacceptable standard and bus companies may refuse to carry the student. I refused him travel on two grounds. One, he was trying to use, or misuse, the pass at a place not stated on the pass and two, even after I had carefully explained why he could not use the pass and contacted control on the radio who also said he could not use the pass he continued to argue thereby delaying the bus and those passengers who were on the bus and those standing in the cold at stops further up the road. This I found unacceptable and asked him to leave the bus.

It would be nice if we started withdrawing passes that are being misused, word would soon get round.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Under Tens V Brixham

An other local derby, not Torquay's best performance this season. But it was a nice sunny day and better than working and the pint after was fine. As usual Sponsored by Stagecoach Devon and the Belgrave Hotel. I just wish the lads could do a bit more passing, the ball is that shape so it can be thrown about.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Road Works and Devon County Council

This is Holicombe, between Preston and Torquay, AKA The Gas Works. The hole in the road was filled in by 11:30 this morning but the lights were still there at 12:50, 13:55, 16:10, 17:55 and 18:45. Probable still there. What wasn't there were any road workers. So the question is, what did they fill the hole with? Jelly. And are they waiting for it to set before we can drive over it?

Second or maybe third question is how come so many students who attend South Devon College are unable to comprehend written English? Devon Council Council provide a bus pass for students at a cheap rate so it doesn't cost them the earth to go and learn things at the collage. The student I am going to mention here told me his pass had cost £270 for the academic year. Now going back to my school days, we attended 39 weeks in a year so £270 divided by 39 equals £6.92 per week. £6.92 divided by 5 equals £1.38 a day.

Now to buy a ticket each day from Newton return to the collage would be £4.00 or a weekly ticket for a South Devon Collage student can be bought for £14.00. So the Devon Council bus pass looks good value. And it is, but there are limits to it's value. The other two tickets can be used for unlimited travel anywhere in the Torbay area and all the way to Newton. The Devon Council pass can only be used when the college is open, not Saturday or Sunday, and can only be used for one return journey between home and college. No where else. And this point is laid out clearly in a letter sent out with the pass.

Now this student got on the bus at Tor Park Rd which is in Torquay and his pass said for use between Newton Abbot and South Devon College Paignton. Neither is anywhere close to Tor Park Rd. I explained that he could not use the pass when getting on at this stop. He opened with I can use it anywhere between college and Newton. No. You can use it for a journey between the college and Newton. What you are trying to do is use it for a journey between Tor Park Rd and Newton and that isn't what it says on the pass or in the letter of terms and conditions sent out with the pass. I offered him the option of paying the fare or walking. He carried on arguing. I even got on the radio and asked control if he could use the pass. Control said "NO". He still carried on repeating that he had paid £270 for the pass again and again. Entertaining as this was, in the end I had to go and he didn't come up with the fare so I asked him to leave the bus and let me transport those people who had paid their fare to where they wanted to go.

He got off, hoping the next bus driver would be kinder. The next bus driver told him exactly what I had told him, pay or get off. He paid.

Such incidents happen at least once a week and do take up a lot of time. The above incident actually took 5 minutes which is a long time to be stopped if you are a passenger wanting to get home or a person at a stop further up the road wondering where the bus is. Personally I think once we have explained the terms and conditions in such an incident we should punch a hole in the pass. Then next time they get on the bus at the wrong stop and try to use it the drivers knows they have had the rules explained and can relieve holder of pass. Save a lot of time.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Rock Walk Open

Torbay Road between Cary Parade and Belgrave Road is now known locally as Rock Walk and is now open. The road actually opened on Tuesday but the council asked us not to drive along until they had trimmed some trees that had branches overhanging the road.

Not these bloody big trees but some smaller trees further down the road.
This bus stop is outside the Princess Theatre and is not in use due to the road being too narrow to stop. If we did stop, passing vehicles would be in danger of a head on RTC which would block the road and we don't want that do we?
As you can see there is a fair camber on the road and not a great deal of room. So far I have driven each way twice and driven fairly slowly on both occasions. One thing about this stretch of road, it used to be full of parked cars and if anyone driving a car in front of the bus saw a parking space they would stop and reverse slowly into it, even if they didn't really want to park there but in Torquay on-road parking places are so rare motorist found it difficult to drive past any available spot. Some times this could happen two or three times increasing the journey time by three or four minutes. Now no parking along here so that problem has gone. Until some idiot decides to park.

Parking at the Princess Theatre could become a problem in the evening and is a problem for the council to look at in detail.

The road is going to be like this until work has been done to fix the rock face which will not actually start until at least September and could then take months. How many months? No one is saying officially but think of a film with Henry Fonda in it, a court room drama type film, lots of angry men shouting at each other.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Stop Press

Monday 11 March 2008 22:39

Grand opening ceremony put back 4 to 5 hours as the Council were too busy today clearing up the mess from last night's storm to sweep the road which is full of debris. Not their fault. Not sure whether Risk Assessment will take place. I hope it does.

High Tide

High tide this morning in the Harbour. It had been predicted that the spring high tide could be up to 2 feet above normal spring high tides. As it turned out it was only 1 foot higher than usual. But you can see how close the centre of Torquay came to getting very wet. A few minutes after this photo was taken I drove down Belgrave Rd to turn right on to the sea front. Two police cars blocked the road. What had I done? I could be stuck here for hours.

A small amount of water had made it over the sea wall but fortunately the wind was blowing from the west, had it been from the east we would have been in trouble. After a few minutes the police decided the water was going down and allowed me to turn right. If it hadn't I would have had to turn left up Sheddon Hill and round the town all over again.

During the night there were strong winds and heavy rain, A wind speed of 82mph was recorded at Berry Head in Brixham, which is the other side of the Bay. One concern was of course Rock Walk but a quick inspection at lunch time showed no rock falls. One noticeable casualty of the wind was some scaffolding around a building in East St which was blown down. We had to divert around this area for a few hours. Please note ISCA Scaffolding, the firm who built our Thin Blue Line did not erect this scaffolding.

Then guess what turned up at the Gas Works at about 09:15? Got it in one. Road works. Just what we needed. They were still there when I finished work so they could just be there tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 11 March. The road between Cary Parade and Belgrave Road will be opened at 08:00. If I wake up in time I will go and get a photo of the event and keep it as my Desktop for a while. Also tomorrow there will be a Risk Assessment to see if it is safe to let buses use the road in both directions. If I miss the road opening I will get a photo showing how close we get to the trees. If we are too close I am sure the Council will cut the offending branches off.

Note to Councils everywhere: tree lined road look wonderful, I'm all for them, but please plant the bloody things a bit further away from the edge of the pavement

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Thin Blue Line and a Storm

The Thin Blue Line.
This Thin Blue Line will be all that is protecting us from rock falls, hopefully from Tuesday morning which is when the council plan to open the sea front. But what will protect us from the storm that is heading our way and should arrive in the early hours of Monday morning and still be around on Tuesday? It is Spring High Tide time and there is a depression over the South of England which means a storm surge. We down here on the south coast are lucky as the wind is coming in from the west at 40/50 mph and Torbay faces east so we should miss the worst of the weather. The north coast of Devon and Cornwall will be badly hit, so good luck to you if you live on the coast.
Children and grown ups; Stay away from sea walls and promenades, don't get tempted by the crashing waves, getting swept out to sea is not a fun way to spend the rest of your life.
High Tide in Torbay 08:02 and 20:21 on Monday and 08:20 and 20:56 on Tuesday.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Tuesday 11 March 2008

That is when the sea front is expected to open again. But the weather, having been so kind to us over the last 6 weeks, has decided to turn nasty. Sunday it is going to rain most of the day and in the evening wind speeds of 40 mph+ are expected. Monday will be the same and it is Spring High Tide this weekend as well. Closing the sea front out at Livermead would be all we need. I believe we will be able to use the road in both directions but drivers don't make such decisions. We have managers who do that.

About the photo; I took it in the depot today but don't ask.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Fares and Behind the Barrier

So now you know, the fares, some of them anyway are going up. At least the notice is on the buses in good time. A few years ago when the fares went up the notice was posted on the buses on a Friday afternoon to take effect on the Sunday. 31 March is a Monday so have a bit extra cash or you will have to get of a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.

Today, being Friday was busy. In the middle of the afternoon it took 10 minutes to drive the length of Pimlico, 150 metres, then another 15 to get up Abbey Road. Then 10 more minutes to get through the road words on the way to Paignton At one point in the early evening I was 42 minutes late and got on the Radio and told control, asking for some words of comfort, assistance, or even encouragement but all he said was, " Just keep plodding on." Great help that was. But we were all in the same boat. Then about 19:30 the news came over the radio that the roadworks at the Gas Works had gone. So have the Gas Works, but they went 30 years ago and never came back. The road works should follow their example, go and never return.

Lulled you all in to a false sense of security. You thought I wasn't going to mention Rock Walk didn't you. What? you knew I was going to mention the place on every one's lips, usually as a swear word. If, two months ago, you had asked a hundred people in Torquay where or what Rock Walk is 98 of them would not have had a clue. Anyway this is behind the barrier designed to stop rocks getting on buses. £43 000 it will cost and will be in place until the whole cliff face falls into a heap on the road or some time in the far distant future, so far that only Doctor Who could imagine going to, the cliff face is concreted over. Sorry, got carried away a bit there, that should have been stabilised with netting and huge bolts screwed, personally by the Mayor himself?, into each boulder. It could end up as the largest piece of modern, abstract art in Western Europe, an added attraction drawing holiday makers in their dozens to beautiful Torquay.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Exactly What Don't We Need Right Now?

Yeah, got it in one, road works. I got on the bus to go to work and the driver confessed he was 20 minutes down. Now this isn't too bad considering the state of traffic in Torquay town centre. He then admitted he wasn't doing too bad compared with other drivers who were running even later.

"Why?" Said I.

"Road works." Said he. "At the gas works."

Where else?

Nearly got hit by a car in Fleet St this evening, must have been doing 40 mph at least. (The Car that is, not me). I am thinking of starting a third blog called "Cars in Fleet St, is it a conspiracy?" A couple of hours down there with the camera and I would have enough photos of cars driving illegally along Fleet St to keep a magistrate going for months.


The work to build a barrier to protect traffic on the soon to be opened sea front has been progressing rapidly. Thanks ISCA Scaffolding Ltd. The road has been marked out, 3 metres wide on the lane into Torquay and 3.1 metres on the left lane. It is this section from the Pavilion to the Princess Theatre that worries me with all those trees, big, strong trees, very near the side windows of the top deck. Will we get thrill seekers coming to Torquay to sit upstairs at the front to see how close we can get without showering them with glass?
No doubt the company will take a couple of buses down here, park one on the right and see if the other will clip the trees. Don't forget, the camber of the road will tend to make buses lean to the left. Also we will have to have speed limit down here and give way to any approaching large vehicles. Should be open 17 March, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Early Start

Once every three weeks I have, for me, a very early start. 05:52. Which at this time of year IS the crack of dawn. Even though it is an early start it doesn't let you off what greeted me when I got to work. One of the controllers beckoned me, "We need you to do a test." Now I knew he wasn't talking about a driving test, I can remember passing that years ago. We have two random tests which all employees, from the lowliest Managing Director right up to the people who earn the money, us drivers, have to take. Now a week or two back I witnessed a test which was for drugs and remarked to the controller conducting the test that I had had taken lots of alcohol tests but had never done a drugs test. Today, for a change it was my turn for drugs. I was tested for cannabis and opiates and both tests came up negative. As expected. As I left the office I staggered a little and muttered in a slurred stage whisper, " Glad that wasn't for alcohol." But the controller had heard it before and just smiled.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful apart that is from the land train, pictured above, braking down. This little train wanders round Torquay carrying about 25 to 30 passengers in three carriages. I can be a bit of a pain if you get stuck behind it as it's max speed is about 10 mph. Today it went up Abbey Road and turned left into St Lukes Road to head for the sea front. Half way round it stopped and would not go again. Now where it decided to go on strike wasn't the worse place it could brake down, that would be Pimlico, nothing could get passed there. But, due to the diversion that is in place in Torquay this year, Abbey Rd is about as full as Wembley High Street on Cup Final Day. "You can get past but it is a bit tight." was how the reporting driver described the situation over the radio. Yeah, right. Three cms from the land train on one side and slightly less from a high curb on the other. I don't know how long it was stuck there for but I got back two hours later and he had gone.

There, a whole post and "that place that is falling down" never got a mention. Fingers crossed for March 17.

Monday, 3 March 2008

South Devon University?

From the Herald Express

'University challenge' launched
08:44 - 03 March 2008
Up to 20 towns and cities in England could have a new university or college within the next six years, the Government said.
Universities Secretary John Denham said he wanted to "unlock the talent" of local people and give communities across the country the chance to have their own campus.
Announcing the 'University Challenge' consultation, Mr Denham said that subject to "high quality" bids, he expected the 20 new institutions would be open or approved by 2013. It is hoped they would provide an extra 10,000 student places.

Could our very own South Devon College make it?
Will they one day win University Challenge?
Remember, you heard it first here.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Children on the Bus. Three Tales

These little incidents happened yesterday which was a Saturday. Saturdays always bring children out, into town for a day out with friends. First little tale happened in Preston on the way to Torquay. Three boys aged about ten got on the bus, the first boy asks for a child return to Torquay. £1.95. Second boy also, an other £1.95. The third boy asks for a single to Torquay. I ask him, "Aren't you going home?" in the hope that I can sell him a return ticket. His two friends also tell him to buy a return ticket but he has the one pound 15 pence for the single ticket and says,"I'll have to break into a fiver to get a return." I point out that a some stage he will have to change the fiver so why not now. It isn't the fact that he will spent 35p more buying two single tickets that bothers me but what happened in the next story. He did end up with a single ticket by the way.

Later I was going up Fleet Walk heading for Brixham, this is the 'wrong' way for Brixham but we are on a diversion. I might have mentioned it before. There was a crowd at the stop mostly young children but no one put their hand out so I started to move out to continue up the road. Then a little old dear stuck her hand out. At this point I was only doing 5 mph but I was blocking the road. She was on her own and had her Around Torbay pass in her hand. So I stopped, blocking the road but I would be away in ten seconds before anyone came the other way. NOT A CHANCE. She wanted Newton. I explained I was going to Brixham. But the Newton bus usually stops here she claimed. Yes it will said I getting a bit desperate. Wait at this bus stop for a twelve with Newton Abbott on the front. Slowly, and slightly puzzled she got off but the crowd of children had now noticed I had Brixham on the front of the bus and one of them asked "Do you go to the Big Tree?" I did and I foolishly admitted I did. What a mistake to make. Eight of them got on and all wanted single tickets and none had the right money and I wanted a big hole to open up below the bus. Remember earlier I mentioned that I was blocking the road. I got on the radio and broadcast to the whole of Radio Stagecoach Devon in a voice edged with panic, "Don't come down Fleet Street. Some idiot has blocked it." Everyone heard me except the next 12 coming down Fleet St. He had his radio turned down or maybe he was listerning to Radio FirstBus. He came round the bend and saw who the idiot was that was well and truely blocking the road just as I sold the last child single (£1.55) to the big tree. If the little darlings had bought return tickets I would have been on my way well before the 12 coming down had arrived. He now had to reverse 30 metres, not a good thing to do in Fleet St in the middle of a Saturdy afternoon. So mums and dads, when you give your little darling some money to out on a Saturday tell them to buy return tickets. Please. You know it makes sense.

Last story happened in Paignton in the evening. Three girls, mid teens, done up to the nines, going for a night out. First girl, oldest looking of the 3, "Child single to Newton." Never a child thinks I. The hard stare,"Are you sure you are of an age that qualifies you for child ticket?" She was fifteen but everyone always though she looked older. An other girl also said she was 15, her birthday was later this month. The third girl, who looked the youngest, admitted she was 16. Well I did ask, child return Newton, pressed all the right button came up as £3.95. An adult return to Newton is £4.00 which is a Day Rider. The actual return ticket is £5.90 but any fare of £4.00 and over and we sell the passenger a DayRider. All that hard staring and even if they had been 16 it would have gained the company just 10p. At least they bought return tickets.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Happy Birthday

Four years old today. On 01 March 2004 this bus with 28 other buses was lined up on Paignton sea front waiting to be brought into service. It had 100 miles on the clock.
Now it has 208 082. All together now, "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you." etc etc.