Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Now and Then

Now and Then a passenger gets on who leaves you gob smacked. This one got on in Union Street in Torquay. This is a busy stop and there is a bus shelter for the passengers the hide from the rain. There were about 10 passengers waiting while 15 passengers disembarked, like I say a busy stop. just as the last passenger got off and the new passengers were about to get on this lady, sorry female person came running up between the front of the bus shelter and the bus, never a good idea, people have ended up in an ambulance doing that. She totally ignored the waiting passengers and shouted, "Do you go to Paignton?" at me. I agreed that I went to Paignton and was about to point out that 10 people were in a queue waiting to board the bus. However she noticed them and half turned towards the first person. For a moment I believed she was going to get off the bus and join the queue. No. Sorry. What she said was, "Do you mind? I'm in a hurry." The poor harassed youth never stood a chance. A mumbled, bewildered yes and a half nod was all he could manage. She then totally ignored me and marched down the bus like Napoleon heading for Moscow.

I waited a moment just in case she remembered that paying for a ticket or showing a pass was the usual behavior when boarding a bus but just like Napoleon didn't bother to knock when entering Russia she also wasn't going to bother with simple common curtsies. So I called, "Excuse me." down the bus. Then again. And again. The passengers waiting to board were shuffling back a little, not wanting to be caught up in the expected crossfire. She finally cottoned on that I wanted a brief word with her and marched back up the bus shouting, "I've got a return ticket." I gently explained that I would actually like to see it using my very best customer relations voice. What I would like to have said was, " Says you!" and ten years ago I probably would have but I decided 9.5 years ago that having slanging matches with passengers was extremely counter productive. Usually what happened was there would be said slanging match and then I would spent the rest of the day thinking of all the cutting, nasty, vindictive things I should have said but didn't manage to come up with them at the time. So when she did show me the ticket all I said was, "Have a nice day." Her reaction was to shout, "Don't get shirty with me." I just smiled. The rest of the passengers got on, prehaps a little disappointed that the expected show hadn't been a little more violent (verbally violent that is) than it turned out to be.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Nice Day

When I when through Torquay this morning at the start of a 9hr 55 min duty the council were down at Belgrave Rd clearing the seaweed away, shows someone in the Town Hall reads this blog. And why not?

Then later on in the day, traffic had been light, not a road work in sight though passengers numbers had been fairly heavy and just as I was thinking "What a nice quiet day." I turned into Midvale Rd on the way to Paignton Bus Station and this was what I saw. Only took 6 minutes for the truck driver to move but it meant there were huge crowds at every stop between PBS and Torquay wondering where I was. No problem for me, I'm a professional.

Just as I stopped at Castle Circus at the top of Torquay the 12 behind me managed to overtake me which was nice of him. He could do some of the work from here to Newton, not that we pick much up between Torquay and Newton at that time in the afternoon and by the time I got to Newton I was back on time. So even with this little hold up Tuesday had been a nice day.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Belgrave Rd Bus Stop Stinks.

Two weeks ago we had strong easterly winds for three days. The Bay faces east and as you can see seaweed gets blown on to the seafront. It is several inches deep and has been rotting slowly. The beach looks even worse. When you stop a bus at the Belgrave Road stop the whole bus smells. If this is Mayor Nick Bye's vision for the future of Torbay then I don't think, and more to the point, neither will the visitors think favorably at his ideas. Come on Torbay Council, shift this muck. Please.

The First Post. Four Years On.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004.


No, not you dear reader, the person at the bus stop.I don't want to stop, I want to keep going so I can get to the terminus and have a smoke. Stopping means I face the probability of being asked hard to answer questions like 'How much is it to Brixham?' or 'What time is the last bus?'or 'Where were the last 3 buses?' The passengers on the bus don't want me to stop, they just want to get where they are going as quickly as possible without some vastly overweight person who smells getting on the bus and sitting next to them in the only empty seat on the bus. The car drivers behind don't want me to stop as they will have to check their mirrors, slow down, signal to the drivers behind and the pull out in the face of car drivers coming the other way who also don't want me to stop. The car drivers half a mile back down the road don't want me to stop as it means the will have to risk life, limb and the nearside of their car trying to get past me as I put on a right turn signal and pull straight out in front of them with total disregard for the fact that they have speeded up to 50 mph in a misguided attempt to get in front of me. Who can blame them, even I don't like travelling behind a bus?So you are the only person on the face of the planet who wants me to stop. Put some effort into getting me to stop. Lie in the road, take all your clothes off and hold a big sign with 'Please Stop' written on it, or just put your hand out.

PS These methods of getting the bus to stop are not guaranteed. There are some bloody minded bus drivers out there who will find any excuse to stare in the rear view mirror from the moment they see you at the stop until they are well past you. Sorry about that.

Well that was it, in case you missed it the first time round, the first post in the busdriving blog. Four years, a thousand posts and several hundred photos later and nothing's changed, people still wait till we are 5 feet away from the bus stop before showing any interest in wanting the bus. Don't they read this blog? If not, why not?

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Running early and engine running.

A couple of incidents last week that get up my nose. The first was going into Brixham as a 12A. I was due to leave at 12:21 and I arrived at 12:09, two or three minutes early. That is normal, I left the last timing point on time but because the roads were quiet it meant I had a nice long wait, or it should have been nice but it wasn't. The 12 in front of me on the stop was due out at 12:16, 7 minutes to wait. And guess what, the driver hadn't switched the engine of despite a company rule that says if a wait is more than two minutes the engine MUST be switched of. Part of the problem is bus engines sound quiet when you are siting in the cab. Go outside and it is a different matter. For people within 100 metres the bus sits there thumping away and they have no idea how long it is going to continue disrupting their lives for. Some drivers have no manners. Me, I switch the engine off even if the wait is one minute.

The second incident concerned running early. Again I was driving a 12A to Brixham. The traffic on the Newton Rd had been heavy and I was 7 or 8 minutes late into Torquay. As I got into Hyde Rd in Paignton the 12A behind me overtook me and went into the bus station and on to the stand and picked up the waiting passengers. Fine you might think, nothing for me to do. But by now I was only 4 minutes late. As the other 12A should be 15 minutes behind me it wasn't due to leave for 11 minutes and I would be half way to Roselands by then it meant all those passengers who had been waiting for me now were sat on an unmoving bus for an extra 11 minutes. Well, don't worry, they weren't. When I got to the Zoo, 5 minutes up the road the 12A behind me over took me running 10 minutes early.

Which now means there is a 25 minutes gap before the next bus instead of 15. And who gets moaned at? The poor driver of that bus, "I've been waiting 25 minutes driver. What kind of a bus service are you running here?" A good question.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Nasty Letter 3 About the Blog

A letter from Richard Scant OM(A) T re post about safe driving certificate. I took a photo of a notice but failed to remove the bottom bit with Christina Ratcliffe's signiture on it. Other undisclosed problems which will be discussed on Tuesday 29 April 2008 at a hearing.

More on Tuesday

Booze Up in a Brewery

Today 29 April at 11 am I was due to see the assistant depot manager about something I posted on this blog. I am not saying what but all I will be able to do this time is plead guilty. So I got to work in good time 10:25 for a 10:47 sign on. There I was told by a controller I would not be going in for my hearing as the Union rep was at an other hearing in Paignton. Union members can have their union rep present at hearings. I don't have a union rep as I have been a member and then an Ex member of the TGWU, NUT, NASUWT, and the RMT. The reason I became an ex member of all these unions is because they all screwed up when I expected support except for the RMT. In the case of the RMT, the rep threatened to kill me. Anyway the controller, being told by the union rep that he, the rep, would be in Paignton and would not be available for hearing in Torquay sent the spare bus driver over to Paignton on the asumsion that I would not be having my hearing, so either I went in for my hearing and a bus didn't run or the bus ran and my hearing would be put back. You will be glad to know the bus ran and the hearing has been put back. No idea till when. Will keep you informed.

Later:- the hearing has been set for Wednesday 7 May at 1350.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Torquay Under 11 s Rugby

Last year they were the Under tens but as with all things they are now a year older. One of our drivers, Chris Coverdale helps coach the boys and I get along to some of the matches. Running a rugby team tends to be expensive which is why players, parents, coaching team and us supporters are grateful for the financial assistance the team get from the sponsors.

Last season the team were sponsored once more by Stagecoach in Devon , stand at a bus stop and we'll come along, and The Belgrave Hotel , which is situated one of the best sites on Torquay Seafront, and by a new sponsor TaxiFast of Torquay (01803 60 60 60), office just up Torwood Street near the Clock Tower, who I trust you will use on those rare occasions when the bus just wont do. Hopefully these generous patrons of the game will once again assist the boys in there sporting endeavors and you, my readers will in turn make use of the services provided by our sponsors.

A new photo and next year's fixture list should be out soon.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

New Bus Stop in Union Street

These are the town centre bus stops for the 34 service which starts in Cary Parade down by the Harbour. Then up Fleet St to the Post Office Roundabout which not longer has a Post Office near it and hasn't been a roundabout for about 8 years. From this misnamed place it heads up Abbey Rd stopping twice as marked. At the top of Abbey Rd it turns right into Torr Hill Rd and again right into Union St. Until yesterday it didn't stop in Union St but continued down to the junction with Market St where it turned left and 300 yds along stopped outside the back entrance to the market. A very busy stop. From there it goes through Ellacombe, Plainmore and on to Watcombe and Padacre. It then returns to town via Barton and Hele. It is a circular route and the service 31 goes the other way round.

Now a little history. Pimlico used to be one way from the Post Office Roundabout to Market St and the 34 went along Pimlico missing Abbey Rd, Torr Hill Rd and Union St completely. Then the section of Union St between Market St (not shown on map) and the PO Roundabout was closed to traffic and Pimlico, though remaining one way was now one way in the opposite direction. So the 34 had to make the long journey round. No extra time was allowed for this so it didn't stop between Fleet St and Market St. Then about 5 years ago it was decided it would stop at the bottom of Abbey Rd by the cinema. A couple of years ago the stop at the top, by the casino was included in the 34's repertoire. This was when the route became a circlar route. Now Union St has been added. Now from a passengers point of view this is a good idea, it is a long walk carrying bags of shopping all the way to Market St. But there are a couple of problems, aren't there always. First, the 34 will now stop at this stop in Union St on it's outward journey and on it's return journey. Lets hope no one gets on hoping to go to Watcombe and ends up in the Harbour. The second problem is a bit bigger, or should I say smaller. A few years ago the council spent lots and lots of our money giving Union St a complete Make Over, new pavements, new road surface, lots of speed humps, new loading bays, new taxi rank, new flower pots and a fairly small bus lay by which also acts as an unloading bay and overflow taxi rank. Already it is used by 12, 12A, 12B, 32 and a couple of First Buses. Where is the 34 going to go, or if the 34 gets there first where are the various 12s going to go except in the middle of the road? And any bus driver will tell you loading up a bus is what takes the time and this stop will be busy once people work out it is there.

The other bus stop is also Cary Parade. The 12/12A presently stop here on their way to Newton. From May 19 the 12, 12A and the 12C will stop here as well as the 111, 31, 34 and the odd car, white van and any coach driver who thinks he can drop 50 tourist of on our bus stop. Well coach driver let me tell you in no uncirtain terms. If you want to stop and drop your passengers of feel free to do so, it is against the law and I might take your photo and and post it here with a nasty comment or an NCP operative might stick a parking ticket on your coach, or the final deterant, the Council Public Transport Coordinator might walk up and have words. Let me warn you in advance, having words with the Public Transport Coordinator is not something you will forget in a hurry.

Sorry, got side tracked there. From May 19th the 12 will go from Cary Parade up Fleet St and Abbey Rd to Newton via the Tor Park Hotel (and a few other hotels) but the 12A and 12C will nip round to Debenham's on the Strand to pick up for Babbacombe and St Marychurch. The opposite direction to Newton. What's the betting that thousands of passengers who have just got on at Cary Parade and confused a 12 with a 12A/12C will be heard to say as we trundle through Welswood, half way to Babbacombe, "Will we get to the Torr Park Hotel soon only I'm going to be late for my tea?"

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Bus Stops (Three of Them)

The first is nothing to do with the company except that we stop at it. It's at Windy Corner on the way from Brixham to Paignton. There has been a couple of problems at this stop for ever. The first and most important is it's position. If this bus stop was a packet of cigarettes it would be forced to have a Government Health Warning printed on it.

Pulling up at the stop isn't hard, a left turn indicator a bit of gentle breaking and a slight turn on the wheel and there you are, stopped 10 feet past the bus shelter. The shelter, which was made from recycled guns from the Crimean War, was in the perfect position for back loader buses. (back loaders vanished from Torquay over 40 years ago). Now passengers have to walk ten feet to get on the bus at the front which in the wind and rain isn't fun. It ain't called Windy Corner for nothing.

Pulling away, now that is what makes this stop so dangerous, Two lanes of traffic hurtle by and we have to get into that second lane. Not only that, there is a road just in front of the stop that is fairly hard to get out of. If you have been waiting two minutes to get out, which can happen, you aren't going to let a little thing like a bus stop you. And, one more thing, there is a side road on the right just behind the bus stop, we have to make sure no one is blasting out of there as well. Oh yes, I forgot about the traffic lights 15 yards in front of the stop. So you finally get moving, press the right foot down hard to get away as fast as possible and the lights change so brakes get pressed down hard. Will the car driver behind have noticed the lights have changed or will he realise they changed when he runs into the back of the bus.

Ask all 12 drivers which is the worst stop in the Bay and 95% will say Windy Corner. The other 5% are mistaken when they say Brunel Road.

9 years ago a Union Official, who has since retired, told me that he was going to insist this stop be moved. All it needs is moving 50 yards towards Brixham away from the junction. But that is common land and the council are having difficulty acquiring a small section to turn into a bus lay by. He, the union man, also told me that if the bus stop wasn't moved by September 2001 he was going to instruct his members not to stop at this stop as it was too dangerous.

Sorry, got of the point a little there. Over the last two days someone has spent £6000 building a brand new bus shelter. So now when we pull up at the bus stop passengers still have to run 10 feet in the cold wet rain and wind because the 21st Century bus shelter is in exactly the same place as the Crimean War bus shelter. Perfect for back loaders. Maybe we are going retro and buying 50 London Route Masters painted in Devon General colours.

Yeah, right, I know the title said bus stops, 3 of them bus it's 12:30 in the morning and I am tired so Good night.

Parking In Fleet St.

Fleet Street, Torquay is a pedestrianised street with access for authorised vehicles from either end, goods vehicles may enter to load and unload before 10:00 am and only from the top end. Goods vehicles are not allowed to enter from the Harbour end or load/ unload after 10 am with the excepting of Tesco's who may load after 6 pm. OK so far. Buses in service are on the list of authorised vehicles. I am not going into the list of other authorised vehilces nor am I going to make a list of all the vehicles that do use Fleet St that are not authorised. I am however going to make a list of all the unauthorised vehicles I have seen being approached by the police in Fleet St in the last 10 years. Some of the details on this list may be a little hazy, time removes the fine detail from the memory after 8 years. But as best I remember it here goes. A car drove into Fleet St and stopped at a Hole In The Wall machine, passenger got out and went to the machine, policeperson stopped and spoke to driver, passenger got back in car, car drove off. That's it. In eight years.

Anyway here is a photo of a van taken in Fleet St today after 10 am and facing up the street so it entered from the Harbour end. It also blocked the road for a couple of minutes. The driver was aware he was blocking the road but did he give a ****? What do you think?

Mr Hilditch in the Herald Express

Our Managing Director Mr Chris Hilditch was in the local paper yesterday explaining some of the forthcoming changes to the bus services in the Torbay area. These include changes to the 12 services which I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. He, quite rightly blamed the serious congestion on the Newton Road through Kingskerswell. The stretch of road between the Penn Inn and Scott's Bridge is a major bottleneck at the best of times and in the summer turns in to a 4 mile long two lane car park. The big problem is the traffic lights at Jury's Corner with considerable problems also at Penn Inn. Central Government have for years acknowledged that a by pass is needed but has consistently said, "There isn't any money to build a by pass." The cost was £70 million at the last count, which these days isn't much.

Maybe I am being cynical here, could the fact that we have a Lib Dem MP and either a Lib Dem or Tory council be affecting how a Labour Central Government make their decisions? Maybe if we voted in a Labour Council and MP they would change their mind.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Bus Hits Bridge

Well M'Lud you wanted a bus crash photo, here it is.

Another item from our notice board at work. Bus drivers love it when an other bus driver, particularly from an other bus company, make a gigantic cock up like this. My question is; what was the instructor doing to let his pupil hit this bridge?

Ex Devon General.

A 1965 AEC, the last AEC to go into service with Devon General, seen on Torquay Strand on Sunday. Part of a Historic Vehicles Rally that took place in the Bay. Here it is loading up before heading off to Babbacombe sporting the Number 2. Service 2 was used on the Coast run and is presently called the 85 but from May 19th will revert back to the number 2.

And thanks to all those who gave me information re the black and white photo I had at the top of the page.

Paignton Bus Station

As you can see it got a little chaotic in the bus station yesterday (Monday) but the work is now finished so things should get back to normal today. Normal being major chaotic.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Road Works In Paignton Bus Station

Yesterday, a rest day I went down to Paignton. When I got to the bus station I noticed that it looked a little different. I'm observant like that. The buses usually drive into the bay and reverse out but some resurfacing work is going on so the buses were stopping side on to the bays and driving off. I wondered off for a look round the town and later when I came back I and an other driver were having a chat when we noticed a bus in the same place as the one in the photo was setting off and the driver (name unknown) had not noticed that a big white, brand new National Express bus was just about to drive past him. I had my camera in my hand. Now here is the photographer’s dilemma. Do I put the camera to my eye and capture the moment of metal rending, glass shattering, paint mutilating or do I wave at the driver like mad and save him the chore of exchanging names and addresses with the other driver, running late into Brixham, writing out an accident form and them in a week or two having to go and see the depot manager who would ask him, “How did you manage to not see a blindingly white, 8 foot wide, 12 foot high, 18 tonne National Express bus.” in that voice that depot managers the world over use in these situations?

Well as you can see there isn’t a photo of two buses merged temporarily into one in the middle of Paignton Bus Station so I chose the latter.

The work in the bus station continues today so there could be little bits of confusion and chaos in Paignton today. If you have nothing better to do it could be an interesting show.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Attempting to Over Ride

Yesterday morning started badly. I had a slightly earlier start than usual, 08:01 so the alarm clock was set for 07:01 so I could be out at 07:40 to catch a bus at 07:45. The alarm went off at it's appointed time but I didn't wake up. Now I have two cats, one is dead clever, knows exactly what the alarm going of means; fed in 10 minutes. If I don't wake up he puts his nose in my ear and sneezes. Having your ear syringed by the cat is enough to wake all but the dead. The other cat is too much of a gentleman to spread cat germs all over my ear drum and, more to the point doesn't know the alarm means food. Normally the cats aren't allowed in the bedroom but one had got in during the night when I went to the loo. So when the alarm went off and I didn't stir which cat would I want sleeping on the bed? Right, the clever sod. Which one was sleeping on the bed? Right, the other one. I finally woke at 07:35. I got to the bus stop 11 seconds before the bus arrived, close. I was almost late for the second time in ten years.

So I was a bit grumpy when I got to work. So I went up to the canteen to get a cup of coffee from the machine. 35p a cup, I only had a pound coin in my pocket but the machine gives change. It did give change but only 5p. 95p for a cup of coffee. I desperately needed something to cheer me up and that some thing arrived at Manor Corner in the shape of 6 teenagers. First one asked for a child single to Brixham as did the second. The next 3 had passes and the last asked for a child single to Paignton Bus Station. Now these 6 were all together so the last one asking for a ticket only as far as Paignton, 90p less stuck in the memory. And as you might guess none of the boys got of when I got to Paignton. Big smile on face, I went upstairs and looked at the holder of the Paignton ticket and said,"This is Paignton Bus Station. If you want to go further you have to pay more." When he got off and walked away there was the warm glow of a job well done.

The day looked distinctly brighter.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Cold, Windy, Dull and Very Quiet.

Just in case no one believed me. And one other point, there were over 150 other drivers receiving a similar Diploma so we are providing a very safe bus service here in the Bay.

Yesterday was very windy, as was today and being an easterly it was cold. But yesterday the sun shone all day where as today it was dull. Yesterday was busy, today was very quiet.

An other difference between today and yesterday was today the waves crashing over the sea wall were 10 feet high and the road was closed at 18:30, ten minutes after high water. Yesterday the waves were 25 feet high but no one told the powers that be and the road remained open. Strange.

Tomorrow the wind is forecast for easterly, which brings the sea over what is laughingly called the sea wall and 23 mph which is certainly strong enough to give everything on the road at Livermead a drenching. High Tide is for 18:52 by which time I will have finished for the weekend. I might go down and get some photos of buses vanishing under the sea.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Come Hell and High Water

We had a strong Easterly wind today and high water was at 17:39. High tide and easterly wind can mean the sea front being closed at Livermead. When I drove past at 16:15 the sea was already coming over the sea wall and was expecting the road to be closed by the time I got back from Newton at 17:30. But it wasn't though I did advise passengers as we went past the Grand Hotel that if any windows were open on the seaward side of the bus now would be a good time to close them. Just in front of me there was a cyclist and he decided to dismount and cross the road. A little way a head a car was drenched by a 20 foot wave that crashed over the wall. A passenger upstairs who hadn't bothered to shut a window jumped up and shut it quite quickly. We then drove past the group of people watching the waves and hoping to see a bus swept out to sea but we got by without ending up having to use the periscope. Yes, buses do have periscopes. Bet you didn't know that.

Problem with this kind of incident is the windows get covered by a layer of salt which make it difficult to see, especially in the bright sun light. Into Paignton Bus Station and a quick rub down with a damp cloth helped a little. When I finished and was cashing up I saw a notice about ROSCO Safe Driving Awards.

Rosco is the Road Operators Safety Council and all our drivers get a certificate if they complete a calender year without having a preventable accident. It has been going since 2005, no certificate that year as I clipped a wing mirror in New Road on the way into Brixham. 2006, as you may remember I clipped a bus shelter so no certificate. 2007 was a good year so I get a certificate. No cash to go with it, but you can't have every thing. .

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Bus Pass Time Bomb.

Monday. Two passengers, husband and wife board the bus on the Strand. He asks me can they use their passes to obtain concessionary travel on this bus. “Yes”, says I, but something made me add, “Provided they are the correct passes.” Two Welsh passes were presented. “No. Sorry. You can not use them in England.” Passengers get off the bus and walk away.
Today. Two more passengers, who could even have been the same passengers from Monday board the bus. He shows me the Welsh passes and asks for Paignton. I explain that Welsh passes cannot be used in England. He pays the fare, she says, as they walk down the bus, “That’s the 5th bus driver to tell you that. Now will you believe me?”

Right. Let me make something clear now. I know I said I would only mention Bus Passes in passing but what is seen by myself and other bus drivers as a little bit of a joke at the moment could be a gently ticking time bomb for places like Torquay. We rely heavily on visitors. Most of our summer visitors, not counting the foreign language students, are from other places in the UK. That includes Wales, Scotland and to a smaller extent Ireland. But these visitors cannot use their bus passes in England. Already over the last few days I have had to refuse passes from Wales, so far none from Scotland but later in the summer we do get a fairly large contingent down from north of the border, we even have Scottish Bank notes on display in the Pay In room at the depot so we know what they look like. But if they cannot use their passes here in England there could be a danger they will not make the trip to Torquay and other English resorts. Similarly English tourists will not venture over the Welsh or Scottish boarder for the same reason. The Euro is strong at the moment so people are thinking less of holidaying in Europe so we should benefit from more people in the UK staying in the UK for their holidays. Torquay, being the type of resort it is, attracts the more mature visitor and is a resort that, by it’s size and geography does tend to make bus trips an important part of the holiday. But the basic unfairness of people over 60 from England getting free bus rides with the Welsh and Scottish over sixties having to pay might make them reluctant to leave their own country for holidays in the future. Result, less visitors to Torquay.

Please Mr Brown, I know you read this blog, could you give this matter some thought and make the above pass and the Welsh passes valid anywhere in the UK. And quickly.

Just a mention, we have been without road works for the last week or so. So Devon County Council came up with a great idea. In the middle of the afternoon they closed a lane at Penn Inn. The left hand lane of 3. Chaos. Instantaneous Chaos.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Nasty Letter 2 About the Blog.

Summer services

This was at start of April 2008 and concerned me putting the summer season bus route changes on the blog. I have a feeling this is where it went banana shaped.
I put them in the blog on March 29 and was called in for an interview to explain why I had published confidential, sensitive material on the blog. Didn't I realize other bus companies could read my blog and adjust their summer services accordingly. The mental picture I got of the head of FirstBus instructing one of his minions to read my blog daily incase I let slip confidential information was nearly as funny as an episode of Eastenders.
I pointed out that the company had registered the summer changes with the Traffic Commission, as they are required to do 8 weeks before they start, by March 24. Once the traffic commission have got them they are public. This was countered with a statement that head office were having to deal with requests for information about the changes. I pointed out that now they would have more time to deal with these requests. I refrained from the "Clutching at straws" remark.
At the end of the interview it was decided by the assistant operations manager that no further action would be taken.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Reading Cards

Saturday and Sunday were fairly quiet. So I decided to make use of the time and have a look at where all the visitors were from. Come up with a list type thing. But there were a couple of problems. Our local bus pass has Torbay proudly written large in the top right hand corner. A place up the road, Teignbridge, has it written so small a Sherlock Homes type magnifying class would be needed to read it. OK Teignbridge is only a small place but there is no need to let the bus drivers of England work that out for themselves. Maybe they couldn't afford the ink. Other places have also caused some puzzlement. The first out of town pass I saw was from the City of Centro (OK, I do now know where Centro is) and today along with Cornwall, Dover, London, Cheshire I came across Metro. I though Batman came from Metro or some similar named place. I asked the bearer of the Metro pass where Metro was, Yorkshire it seems. If you are from Yorkshire don't be ashamed, someone has to be from Yorkshire, say so on your pass. While we are here what is the two card London Freedom Pass all about. 15 years ago I would have thought Nelson Mandela had something to do with it, but freeing him is out of date now. I know London is different than the rest of the country, poor sods, but this is only a bus pass after all.

The Photo? Someone pinned it on the wall at work and I thought I would share it with you. Not all examples of humour that make it to our august wall are as sophisticated as this.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Trees by the Harbour

This used to be a nice looking tree down on the Harbour Side. Last year a branch fell of an other tree just like it round the corner by the taxi rank. It was then realised that all the trees by the taxi rank had a genetic defect that would end up turning them into homicidal branch dropping trees and they were all cut down.

These trees on the Strand are from the same tree nursery in Holland and have been trimmed so if they are unlikely to drop a branch on some one's head. Just so you know these trees are situated right next to the 12/12A bus stop.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Sorry, More on Bus pass.

No good in England.

This is a Welsh Concessionary Travel Pass, or to put it an other way a Cerdyn Teithio Rhatach and it can only be used in England provided it is used where bus services make cross border trips into England from the Land of Their Fathers and the local authorities have come to an arrangement to accept these pass on such trips. By no stretch of the imagination can Devon be said to have a border with Wales and I am sure without even asking that neither Torbay nor Devon County Council have any cross border arrangements with the Welsh Assembly.

I make this statement because yesterday on the radio there were several calls from drivers asking if the Welsh Bus Pass can be used on our buses here in Devon. The answer was always NO. Now it wasn't as if these drivers didn't know the answer but sometimes when you tell someone they can not use a pass or ticket the passenger doesn't believe you, or to be more blunt, hopes you wont be bothered trying the radio and will let them travel. Or mabe has never heard of radios. So time has to be spent contacting control and asking them a question we all know the answer to just so some doubting Dylan can hear a voice of authority coming out of a loud speaker telling them exactly what the poor bus driver has probably told them twice already and almost certainly the passenger knew also.

The other thing that happened yesterday was that British Telecom are yet again spending time down a hole in the road in Churston and temporary traffic lights were once again in place. The hole in the road is full of Hi Tech Telecom equipment (or maybe a couple of computer games) and the engineers have been playing down there for about 6 weeks now, seems to be taking them a long time to get it right. I hope you haven't been trying to make a phone call in the Churston area. Information I have received suggests at least an other two weeks will be required before they move somewhere else and make lots of other drivers' lives a misery. Going into Brixham the queue at the lights is 100 yards long, coming out it can be a mile long. You know, the usual arrangment at temporary traffic lights. No attempt has ever been made to even things up a little. So buses run late through no fault of our's and we get shouted at, people would think we like running late. Well we don't, it makes life harder for us and we, like our passengers end up getting home late to dinners that have spent an hour going round in a microwave in a sad attempt to keep them warm and edible.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


To day I found myself spare for a couple of hours, not something I usually do. Being spare driver can be nice. Sometimes there is nothing that needs doing so you sit around and do just that: nothing. In the end it can get boring doing nothing so when the controller called my name and said he had a little job to do I was quite glad. Not a difficult job. One of the buses out on the road needed changing and I had to take a bus up to Padacre, the terminus of the 34 and 31, and change a bus. The bus I was to bring back to the depot was due at 13:04 and I had to be back at the depot to take over a number 12A at 13:32. Not exactly tight as it only takes 15 minutes to get from Padacre, park the bus in the yard and walk down to the main road to pick up my 12A.

However the 34 I was to collect was running late. To make matters slightly more worrying, and I hate worrying, we have been having a small problem with the radios and an engineer had all the valves and such like spread out testing each one to see which one was bust so I could not contact control. I could be forced to make an executive decision. I am not used to making executive decisions. I usually make the wrong executive decision when I am forced to make executive decisions. Probably why I am not a controller. I had to be back at the depot no later than 13:27 to connect with the 12A I had to take over. Take 15 minutes from 13:27 equals 13:12. I had to leave Padacre by 13:12. The bus didn't absolutely have to be changed, that could be done later if necessary. So not exactly an exactingly difficult executive decision but still a decision. Anyway the 34 turned up at 13:10 so the bus got changed and I got back to the depot on time. The bus I was taking over was 15 minutes late due to on going road works in Churston. And the radio burst into life just as it arrived. And here is a picture of a 34 in Padacre.

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Clock Tower and The Queens Hotel

This is on the Harbour side in Torquay, the centre of the English Riviera and the site of two of Torquay's most famous land marks, The Clock Tower and The Queens Hotel.

The Clock Tower you can see, the Queens Hotel you can't. The Queens has been empty and the building deteriorating for some years now. The owner wants to turn it from a hotel to holiday apartments but the local council were reluctant to grant planing permission. So the owner did nothing and the building became an eyesore. Now it is covered with plastic sheeting, not to protect any builders from the weather or passers by from falling materials but to make it look nicer. If you come down on holiday it will look like building work is about to start but for those of us who live here it will look like this for months or even years yet. The nature of the eyesore has changed but is still there.

Scaffolding by ISCA

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Dog Poo

So there I was, driving up Fleet St. Two hundred metres ahead was a dog, part greyhound, part dashound. part something else. It decided that the middle of Fleet St was a good place to spend a penny. Owner settled down to wait back to me and my 11.5 tonne, 2 metre wide 3.45 metre high bus with 50 people on board bus. So I stopped. Well I wasn't going to run over all that dog poo was I?

Lady owner did the responsible thing and waited for her dog to do what dogs have to do. I waited also. Just as lady owner finished collecting what the dog had done she noticed bus. I waved to indicate that what ever she was doing was more important than me getting to Newton Abbot. She looked sheepish but continued to clean the street up which was fine by me.

Global Warming; A Thing of the Past?

Last year this bush in the back garden, no idea what it is called, flowered on 25 Feb. Now it has just started to flower. Also we had snow this morning, does this mean there is a new ice age on it's way?

Carer Passes

Carers Allowance.

The weekly rate is £48.65. This is reduced by the amount of certain other benefits, including State Pension, that you receive. If you receive certain other benefits at £48.65 or more a week, Carer's Allowance cannot be paid to you as well.

Just so you know what a carer gets. This is paid to someone ( A Carer) who looks someone, usually a family member who is disabled to the point of being unable to look after themselves.

From my point of view as a bus driver a carer used to be someone who travelled on a bus with a person who was so disabled as to make it impossible for them to take a bus ride unattended. This disability could be either physical or mental. I say ‘used to be’ because now the Government has decided that carers do not come in the "Core Validity" of Concessionary Bus Passes. The core validity only covers people who are over 60 years of age or are disabled.

Most people who get on a bus and have a pass because they are disabled can do so with little or no problem, indeed many are on their way to or from work. But, and to quote just one example, the young lad who boards the bus in a wheel chair needs a carer with him as he is unable to propel his wheel chair and unable to communicate his needs. He does very much enjoy his trips out on the bus. However the carer who assists him on his trips no longer gets free travel and has to pay the bus fare. Bus fares are not exactly cheap especially if your total income is £48.65. For this carer, a return trip to the town centre is £2.40 which represents 5% of her income. That’s 5% of income spent on one short bus trip, a longer trip say to Brixham and back would be nearly 9%. So while the disabled person can make as many trips as they like for free the carer is severely restricted in the number she/he can. So there is little point in Central Government (the caring government) going to the expense of giving the severely disabled bus passes as they will not be able to use them.

Now as a bus driver I used to see carer passes very rarely, 2 a month would be a lot and I do know that up to February this year Torbay Council had issued less than 200 carer passes. Not because Torbay Council are mean, tight fisted, uncaring sods, it’s just that there are not that many people who need carer passes. Based on the figure of 200 carer passes out of a total of over 30 000 concessionary passes this means 0.7% of passes were carer passes. Out of the total cost for bus passes of one billion pounds carer passes would have cost Central Government an extra £7 million. Now £7 million sounds a lot, give me 7 million quid and this blog would be renamed ‘No longer Busdriving’ about 15 seconds later but to Central Government it is a less than a day in the War in Iran. To disabled people who can not make bus trips on their own it is a life time stuck indoors while life and the buses pass by without an apparent care, or carer, on board.

If you live in the UK please email your MP and ask him to speak to Gordon Brown about extending carer passes into the Core Validity of Concessionary Bus Passes.
Please note; Don't just copy this post and send it to your MP as it will simply get blocked.
Click here for your MP's name and email address
Also finds your local councilor.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

At Last.

Well, it's arrived, only 5 days late. So eager to try it out I went down to Fleet Street to catch a bus up to St Marychurch, The driver looked at my pass when I said Marychurch and looked at me and said,"You're having a laugh ain't you." and registered me as a Staff Pass. Failed at the first hurdle, still never mind I can try on the way back. So I waited with pass in hand for a 32 but when it came there were several people waiting and the driver looked busy so to save time I showed him my staff pass, no ticket to issue. So I still don't know if it works.

Friday, 4 April 2008

It IS Rocket Science!

OK, OK, I did say I wasn't going to talk about bus passes again but here goes. I was talking to our Managing Director on Wednesday and he was trying to explain how the system worked regarding how the bus companies got paid. He probably did a good job but in the end I decided that I was glad all I have to do is press a couple of buttons and smile sweetly at the passengers as they take their tickets. Mentioning tickets; one thing I have noticed is some passengers just showed the pass and walked down the bus, obviously at home they don't need to tell the driver where they are going or get a ticket which they do down here. Something to do with statistics.

One little calculation I did do that definitely isn't rocket science was 11 million into £1 billion equals £90.90 . That is 11 million passes issued Nationwide and £1 billion cash per year to fund the scheme. The £90.90 is the spend per pass per year, that's £1.75 per week. That's one return trip out for an OAP every eight days. OK I know not everyone over 60 will use their pass, I don't expect Liz and Phil will do much travelling by bus but there are determined people out there who will make up for the Queen's failure to enjoy her free bus travel.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Day One of Bus Passes

I got on the bus to go to work and asked the driver how it was going. He said 17 words, sixteen of which were swear words. So I guessed it wasn't going too well. I feared the worst. And what happened when I got out on the road myself? Not much. The biggest excitement of the day was when a couple got on with the new pass and I looked to see where they were from. Rotherham, Gateshead, Grimsby, Morecombe, Poole, Knott End, Whitehaven, Basingstoke? All these places I know or have at least visited but Centro. Where the bloody hell is Centro. I mean who would call a town Centro and if they did surely I would have heard of it?

OK; if that isn't bad enough then those with long enough memories will also have heard of Selnec the bus company with the worst ever colour scheme. I personally believe they bought ten thousand tins of different coloured paint and mixed to lot and got a new colour; Vomit.

Anyway I digress. I have taken less money than today's effort but only when I have spent about half the duty broken down ( back in the old days when we did occasionally break down). It seemed everyone decided to come out and try out their new passes, even those who hadn't actually got their new pass, which was most of them. A council official told me that the new passes were, "in the post." A couple of discrete coughs from me and he added, "or will be any day now."

Actually the delay in the passes is due to Central Government. Instead of letting each local authority produce their own passes, I know Torbay council have the technology to do this so others probably can as well, they insisted that the passes were made at only Authorized Pass Producers and there are only 6 names on the list. Eleven million passes divided by 6 equals 1.84 million passes per printer. That would be like the government saying we could only have six toilet paper suppliers for the whole country. Think about it. Well no, perhaps not.

Anyway, I will only mention bus passes again to let you know when mine does arrive and of course in passing. Oh yeah, I will also have a rant at Central Government any day now about Carers passes when I can find the energy.

New Fares and Free Travel

Most passengers knew the fares were going up and payed up, except for one gentleman who on hearing the new fare declared that he would never travel on a bus again preferring to walk. He then demonstrated his resolve by getting of the bus and walking. If he is true to his word then he will be a very determined ex-passenger because it is a very long walk from Newton Abbot Rail Station to Kingskerswell.

Most of the conversations with passengers yesterday (Mon 31 March) were about concessionary passes. The first took place while I was waiting to catch a bus to work. One lady was worried that her pass was due to run out on the 31st (which all Around Torbay passes were) and she wouldn't be able to travel the next day. I reassured her that we weren't heartless down at the bus company and we would accept the passes until September. Several other passengers were given the same information during the course of the morning. Then at lunch time a new notice had been prepared in response to the millions of fax messages that had been flying round the country about the rules and regulations and last minute decisions being made due to the fact that almost no one had a proper pass (problems at the printers). We would honor the passes only until 13th April, after that they would have to be accompanied by the cardboard temp pass, and of course the person using the pass for us to honor. But I have been reassured that by then everyone will either have the new pass or a temp pass. As yet I have neither.

Passes from outside Devon will have to be either the new pass or an old pass plus cardboard temp pass. Then a couple got on the bus and the husband told me that just before they left the house to catch the train down for a weeks holiday in Torquay the post had arrived with his wife's new pass but not his. So she can have free bus rides around the Bay but he will have to pay. Sad.

PS Please disregard previous post. I have no idea how it got there. Nothing to do with me. Honest.

PPS And if you are at a loss about what to do with your new bus pass here is an idea.

Stop Press

HM Government announce that the free bus fares for pensioners is all a big April Fools Joke.