Saturday, 28 June 2008

This Slightly Baffles Me.

There I am, driving along the road, Fleet Street and Shaldon Bridge are a fine examples of the situation. There is an other bus coming towards me, about mid way between us there is a narrow section of road, there isn't an enough room for both of us to pass so me, being the perfect gentleman slows gently to a stop and flashes my headlights to draw the other bus driver's attention to the fact that I have stopped to let him go. The other bus is still moving at this point. So what does the driver do? He stops, flashes his lights to draw my attention to the fact that he too is a perfect gentleman and has stopped to let me go. After a few moments pause to try and work this out I set off. What does the other driver do? He sets off as well. What do we both do? We have a crash in the middle of the road, our language proving that neither of us is a perfect gentleman. Now here's an idea, if I stop, you keep going. If you stop, I'll keep going.

A Minor Problem With the New Ticket Machines

On the old machines there was a V shaped cutter. Pull the ticket and the cutter dug into the paper and tore a neat V shaped tear in the paper detaching your ticket from the rest of the roll. So generations of bus passengers have pulled the ticket as it emerged from the machine.
But the new machines have a labour saving device that Cuts the ticket for you, no need to waste hard won energy, which is so expensive these days. The makers of the machine understood that there would be a transitional problem, passengers would sill expect to have to pull the ticket out of the machine not realising that this was a) unnecessary and b) would jam the machine. So they stuck a neat little notice just below where the ticket emerges in the hope that the existence of this labour saving device would come to the notice of the travelling public. But there is a slight problem, isn't there always?

Now what did that notice say?

So today when someone bought 3 return tickets and pulled them before the cutter had done it job, it's only job, the job it came into existence for, what would a ticket cutter do if it couldn't cut tickets, I'll tell you. It jams the printer. Next lot of tickets didn't print because the cutter had so much paper stuck in it the whole thing gave up. I almost did too. I opened the printer door and unjammed the cutter re set the paper and closed the printer door and pressed a couple of buttons that should have sent a few inches of paper in to the outside world and cut it off. Did it? Starts in n, ends in o, nothing in between. Several attempts and about 2 hours later the controller wanders over and spent just 7.348 seconds fiddling with the damn thing and it works perfectly. By now 27 people had also wandered over and wanted to get on the bus. By now I should have been half a mile down the road. By the time I sold all 27 passengers their tickets (the cutter worked perfectly) I should have been 2 miles down the road. An other reason for being late. Yes I know, they seem to be increasing by the week. Please wait for the cutter to CUT.

New Land Train

A new land train has appeared on the fair byways and highways of Torquay. The old train which was trungling round when I first moved down here 10 years ago has been retired and this gleaming, turbo charged monster is carrying excited passengers and their trip of a lifetime, well holiday anyway, round beautiful Torquay. The proud driver stands by his machine while passengers are boarding here on the Harbour side.
Smart isn't it.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Ambulance Driving in Rush Hour

It must be an ambulance driver's worst nightmare to go out on a call in rush hour. The roads are clogged with traffic here at King's Ash in Paignton as this ambulance speeds on it's way to an emergency. The driver of the car coming up the hill did well to stop in time to leave space for the ambulance to get through but the traffic lights at Tweenaway Cross, probably the busiest junction in the Bay are ahead. A few months ago an ambulance carrying a casualty from a road traffic accident to hospital was involved in a collision at this junction, in the morning rush hour.

Rugby Team Fixtures

As promised here are the fixtures for next Season.

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 will not do.
The Belgrave Hotel is presently undergoing a refit and will soon reopen as Premier Travel Inn, watch out for details here.

TORQUAY RFC U11S FIXTURE’S till the end of the year.
September is Training only, games start in October.
Matches are played on a Sunday morning KO at 10:30
Home games at Torquay Rugby ground by the Grand Hotel
12/10/2008 TOPSHAM HOME
26/10/2008 PAIGNTON AWAY
02/11/2008 BRIXHAM HOME
16/11/2008 PLMSTOCK AWAY
23/11/2008 TOTNES HOME
30/11/2008 SALCOMBE AWAY
21/12/2008 To Be Arranged
28/12/2008 To Be Arranged

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A Save the Planet Idea.

One neat idea on the new ticket machines can be seen on this ticket which is for two concessionary pass holders. But it's only one ticket I hear you all say. Yes, but below the word concession is x02 which means every time two or more people get on the bus and ask for single tickets I can save paper, and therefor the planet, by issuing a multi ticket. So instead of getting a ticket miles long when ten people get on and ask for ten single tickets they only use a small amount of paper and reduce their carbon footprint. But they have to ask when they get on, not after I have issued the tenth ticket.

Two Faced? Me? Never?

You may recall a few days ago I showed a photo of a bus parked in a coach bay (buses stop and pick passengers up all along a route, coaches only pick up at pre arranged places). Now here is a picture of a coach parked on a bus stop. In Brixham Town Square. The most congested 0.0036 sq km on the planet. Gridlock has been known to occure in Brixham up to 10 times a day in the summer. Brixham is addicted to gridlock. Drop of a hat, gridlock. Drop an H, gridlock.
And unlike the bus in the coach bay the other day this coach is causing chaos. I cannot get on the stop to drop off my passengers and the only place I can stop is in the middle of the road bringing Brixham to a stand still for the 3 minutes it takes to get 75 people of the bus. I have to stop at the stop or close by so my passengers know where to get back on the bus to go back to Torquay where as the coach driver can drop off in several locations around town, all of which should be marked on the map his company should have given him so he knows where the coach bays are situated when he goes to a new destination. Or am I away with the fairies and no such maps of coach bays in strange towns exist for coach drivers to use, now there's a market idea for someone.

Now What Would Bill Oddie Do?

There I was, on my way to work, not late but rushing a bit when I noticed this poor seagull chick on the pavement. No matter how much you may dislike seagulls, and I don't, this has to be a sad little picture.
Poor little thing.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Not at the Park And Ride This Time.

Three years ago just before the much heralded Park and Ride was set up on the way to Brixham a group of travellers arrived and stayed for a few days. Well on Sunday a group arrived behind the Leisure Centre in Paignton and today this group arrived and parked in the grounds of the new sewerage works on the road to Brixham. Torbay Council, who are forced to follow strict government procedures say it could take 10 days to remove them. Full story click here

Problem at Mill Solved

No sorry, not solved. It just went away. Nice of it.

Royal Visit

I took over a bus on the Strand yesterday heading for St Marychurch. While changing drivers a gentleman approached the bus with his Guide Dog. He was very anxious that he was getting on the right bus for the Babbacombe Sailing Club, I and the outgoing driver both assured him he was on the best possible bus and I promised him faithfully I would make sure he got off at the right stop. When we got to the Chilcott Memorial he was still quite concerned we were in the right place. He explained that he had an appointment to see Princess Anne. Oh. Yeah. Right. Yes. OK what now?

Then I noticed there were a lot of No Parking cones around and a small group of police officers trying to look butch and a crowd around the entrance to the Sailing Club. He explained that he went sailing even though he was blind (good for him) and Princess Anne was patron of a society for disabled sailors (Good for her) and he was going to meet her and share afternoon tea.


Read on from the Herald Express


11:00 - 23 June 2008
Princess Anne is to honour young sailors in a visit to the Bay today.The Princess Royal accepted an invitation from Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club to present awards at a reception for youngsters and volunteer instructors at the end of its regatta.The Princess is patron of the Royal Yachting Association Sailability, an initiative which promotes the skills of boating to those with any form of physical, sensory or learning disability.She will present certificates to children from Coombe Pafford school who have successfully completed sailing training.

Cadets who have completed qualifications to become assistant instructors will also be presented to the princess.Invited guests include representatives from schools and organisations, including the Blind Sailing Association, the Sea Scouts and RYA Sailability.Commodore Dave Homer said preparations for the VIP visit were going well."It is very busy for us because we are preparing for the big event while holding the regatta."We are hugely honoured that the Princess is coming. It will be an excellent day for the club and for the volunteers whose efforts must be celebrated," he said.

The visit coincides with Babbacombe Festival which runs until Sunday, June 29.

John Williams

John Williams joined Devin General in the mid seventies and worked as a driver for many years on Paignton locals. Then, when Paignton Bus Station became an out station with more than 15 buses a night being parked there each night, he took the job as cleaner and fueller, a job he did very effectively.

Sadly on Monday evening John, who was in his mid fifties, suffered a massive heart attack and died.

He had his own style of working and was fairly out spoken in his views, mostly he was cheerful but occasionally cantankerous and was well liked by his colleagues and will be missed by all.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Odd little incidents

First was good, I pulled into the stop at the Grand Hotel heading for Newton. There was a 12A behind me heading for Teignmouth which didn't stop. There was no one at the stop. Then two ladies came running up just as the 12A pulled out into the flow of traffic. It had gone. But the ladies wanted to go to Teignmouth and would have a wait of 30 minutes so I called them over and told them to get on my bus and I would take them to the next stop. I intended to get on the radio and ask the 12A driver to wait but the driver of the 12A had beaten me to it and was on the radio telling me to do just what I was doing. The two passengers could not believe what was happening. "This would never happen back home in Yorkshire." they said.

Then later I went up to Teignmouth as a 12A. Once you go over Sheldon Bridge and turn in towards Teignmouth the road narrows and there are parked cars on the right, enough room for a car and a bus to pass but not two buses, maybe there is but as the bus coming towards me was a brand spanking new 2nd day on the road Enviro 400 with 213 miles on the clock I wasn't going to find out. So I slowed down and allowed the other bus to come through. There was also a road on the left with a car trying to turn right, the driver had enough room in front of me and enough time before the other bus arrived to go, so go he did, but cautiously. I then noticed two red cars, what is it about red cars, pull out from the line of traffic behind me, not the car behind me but 5 or 6 cars behind me, and accelerate like a photon leaving the Sun in a mad desperate attempt to get past the bus. Remember it is a non Olympic sport, get past the bus even if it kills you. Well this time it almost did. Hand on horn, half Teignmouth must have heard it. The cautious driver of the emerging car certainly did and put his foot hard on his brake. Red cars missed him by a couple of layers of paint. Would have brought Teignmouth to a dead stop other wise.

Third little incident happened on the way back from Teignmouth in Anseys Cove at the bus stop there. Someone on the bus had rung the bell and being a nice bus driver I had stopped to let them of. As they were getting off I noticed a person, a female, walking in the direction of the bus stop. She wasn't giving any indication that she wanted the bus, no little increase in speed, no bus pass in hand, no urgancy of any sort. I checked the mirror for passing traffic, bus drivers do that dispite report to the contrary. None there, close doors, right indicator on, last quick glance at aproching female. Still walking along with out a care in the world. Started moving, by now car in distance so accelorating fairly briskly. Female's expression changed for indifferance to disbelief to anoyance to hatered to 'if looks could kill' in about 1.769 seconds, plus waved fist. Now if she could do all that why couldn't she put her hand out in the first place. Then I would have know she wanted the bus and waited for her?

It's all part of driving a bus and helps to make it such an interesting job.

Test Post

Nothing seems to be getting through. Monday

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Mid Summer's Day

Yesterday Was Mid Summer's Day though you could be forgiven for not noticing that it was even summer when you see this view of Torquay Harbour. Dull, overcast all day long. Much better today. The other thing that happens on Mid Summer's Day is I take a photo of a plastic bag. Not just any plastic bag though there are trillions of them to choose from. The plastic bag I photograph has been hanging on the washing line in the back garden since Blog Action Day last year. I put it there intending to photograph it every 3 months to show how long plastic bags last and the harm they are doing to the environment. It expected it to last for ever. We had some strong winds down here a couple of months ago and as you can see I have discovered a way of getting rid of plastic bags.
All you have to do is hang all your plastic bags on the washing line and leave them there. However as there are trillions of them we would need a washing line going round the world about fifteen times which is not the most practical solution to a problem I have ever come up with.

Here is a better idea. Don't us plastic bags. Buy a green bag and use that instead.

Come back in 3 months to see how the remains of this bag are going on.

Torbay Half marathon

Today was Torbay Half Marathon Day. This is a race that starts in Paignton runs to Torquay back to Paignton and then does the complete round trip again, just over 13 miles. It involves closing a lot of the road between Paignton and Torquay for 2 and a half hours. In that time 12 or 13 number 12s in each direction have to be diverted over the Ring Road and through Preston. It does tend to add a lot to the journey time which is why this controller is looking anxiously up the road in the hope that the last runners have gone through and he can get the buses back on track again.
For photos of the race click here

Friday, 20 June 2008

Still Trouble at the mill

Tuesday and I still don't seem to be getting items posted.


Not sure what's going on here.
Could be:-
a) a stowaway
b) a base jumper
c) a misguided and shortsighted rock climber
d) a protester
e) some one doing essential maintenance work

More on Double White Lines

Section 128 The Highway Code

Double white lines where the line nearest to you is broken. This means you may cross the lines to overtake if it is safe, provided you can complete the manoeuvre before reaching a solid white line on your side. White direction arrows on the road indicate that you need to get back onto your side of the road.

Section 129 The Highway Code

Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.

The above is also from the Highway Code and refers to what you can and can not do with a moving vehicle on a section of road marked with double white lines. The each section of the Code starts with the words "Double white lines" and then goes on to say what you can do if the broken line is on your side or the solid line is on your side. In both cases the Code calls them "Double White Lines". It therefore does not matter if the line on one side is broken and the other side is solid. If there are two of them running down the middle of the road then they are "Double white lines" and it is, as per section 240 The Highway Code, illegal to park next to them.


Meanwhile here is a picture of a bus clearly parked in a coach bay.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

It Is Illegal to Park Next to Double White Lines.

YES IT IS. Click here if you don't believe me.

From the Highway code.
Section 240
You MUST NOT stop or park on
a road marked with double white lines,
except to pick up or set down passengers

That's what the red writing in the photo says, no it isn't written in the road but maybe it should be.

This photo was taken yesterday while I was waiting time on the Newton Road up near Scott's Bridge. Cars and vans have been parking in this section of road for some time now and I have never seen anything done to stop them parking here illegally. The problem I have with parking here is something from the world of chemistry called seeding. Once one crystal forms in a solution the rest follow very quickly. It is the same with parking. Once one car parks in a clear section of road, even illegally like this other cars drivers come along and think, "Oh look, he's parked there. It must be OK to park." The problem with double white lines and parking is it is something that does not require a No Parking notice like yellow lines do. The white lines are NO PARKING 24/7, the yellow lines work at different times and even on different days (a bit like bus drivers). Also double white lines might have been mentioned by your driving instructor in an of hand sort of way and didn't really seem important at the time. And Parking Attendants can not issue tickets for parking here, it is up to the police and most police officers don't know how to issue a parking ticket.
Given that this road is close to Torbay Hospital, which like all hospitals suffers from a lack of parking space it is only a matter of time before cars are parked all the way up to the bend. That's the bend with all the green stuff, I think it is called vegetation and is difficult to see even parked cars through. So one day a bus or other big vehicle is going to come round the bend and BANG!
The third car in the photo has a For Sale sign in the window so it has probably been here for a while.

Road Closed in Brixham

Following an incident in Brixham in which a pedestrian was knocked down at the traffic lights at Bank Lane the road was closed from 13:35 until about 18:15. I had left Bank Lane at 13:31 and was half way up New Road when the driver of a number 22 got on the radio and said there was a problem. A little later the driver of the number 12 that was, or should have been running behind me reported that the police had closed the road. This is usual practice when someone has been hurt. A team of forensic officers come down and examine the scene in detail in an attempt to determine exactly what happened and if possible decide who was to blame. This had a serious effect on the running of the number 12s for the rest of the afternoon. Later, at about 18:00 I returned to Brixham and the road was still closed. Two number 12s were still stuck in the Town Square and had been since 13:35. Had I been a few minutes later I too would have been stuck. As it was 3 buses arrived in Brixham at more or less the same time. We turned round on the main road, a little bit of shunting back and forth, The other two buses headed of for Newton but I knew that the next bus into Brixham was still in Torquay, 35 minutes away. I also knew that I would have enough running time now the evening rush was over to be able to wait an extra 15 minutes so the gap between myself and the next bus would not be too big. I contacted control and they said OK to wait. By the time I finished an hour and a half later I was back on time. The roads had been very quiet due to the not so good weather we are having at the moment so catching up hadn't been a problem.

From the Herald Express.


An 89-year-old woman was due to undergo surgery in hospital after suffering serious injuries when she was trapped under a truck.The accident happened as the elderly woman was crossing a Brixham town centre crossroads yesterday afternoon.She collided with the 12-wheel truck and ended up trapped underneath by her legs.Yesterday afternoon's drama brought traffic at the Bolton Cross junction to a standstill, as pharmacy staff, nearby doctors from St Luke's medical centre and passers-by rushed to her aid.

The shocked lorry driver, in his 30s, works for Cornish-based Steve Wills Haulage.Police confirm the woman was walking, pushing her wheeled shopping basket, from the rear of Threshers off-licence towards a pedestrian refuge in the middle of Brixham's busiest junction when the accident happened.Web manager Mark Lakeman of Mission Adventuresports, whose office overlooks the junction near Brixham library, said: "I first heard screaming, and then saw a young couple rush towards a small wheeled trolley trapped against a bollard."Then I realised someone was hurt and underneath the vehicle."After that, everyone did what they could, including directing traffic, until the 999 services arrived, which was only minutes. They were really quick."Police are appealing for witnesses to the 1.45pm incident, which closed the port's busiest junction for several hours and completely disrupted bus services.Sgt Ivan Kingdon said yesterday afternoon they were not sure if the casualty was local.A family liaison officer was at the hospital shortly after she arrived by ambulance."We would appreciate the help of the public," the sergeant added."Her injuries are life-changing, and we are awaiting the arrival of a police accident investigator."The driver is helping with inquiries. The tachograph on the lorry is important and the vehicle cannot be driven, so we are arranging for a tow to the duty garage."

Police said later the woman's injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, and she was due to undergo surgery.It is understood the CCTV camera in Fore Street does not cover the Bank Lane area.Mr Lakeman said that pedestrian safety needed improving in Bank Lane.The one-way system accommodated cars, coaches, buses, taxis, fish lorries, delivery trucks and construction traffic for the Dean and Dyball regeneration scheme on the dockside.Mr Lakeman added: "It's the only part of the busy junction without a pelican-controlled crossing, and you see near misses every day."It nearly turned into a double tragedy as an elderly man tripped in New Road outside the Bolton Hotel and fell in front of a moving white van just after the woman had been injured.He was quickly picked up by other spectators and, apart from a bruised knee, was not seriously hurt.

Eye-witnesses are being asked to contact police on 08452 777444 quoting log 483 of June 18.

A Very Distressing Incident.

A very distressing incident this morning, I have no details other than the fact that a passenger died, apparently of natural causes, while travelling on one of our buses this morning. I have been driving a bus eleven years now and I have not heard of an incident like this on a bus before. Fifteen years ago when I was a driving instructor in London one of my colleagues at the driving school I worked at was in the middle of a lesson when the pupil complained she was feeling unwell. He swapped seats with her and drove to a nearby hospital where she unfortunately died.
Incidents like this are rare, fortunately, but they do bring home to us how fragile life can be.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Petrol? Yes I remember Petrol.

One of the things I noticed today driving round were the queues for petrol at our few petrol stations in the area. One had a sign up all day saying 'No fuel, shop open' so no queue there. Another, the one in Kingskerswell heading into Torquay had a sign up saying 'No Petrol' but the queue hid the sign. Only when the poor motorist had queued for god knows how long and turned onto the forecourt, having clogged up our bus stop in the meanwhile, did they see the sign. Diesel by the litre but no petrol. Then word must have gone round that the petrol station up at Waterside had fuel and a queue formed as if by magic. That queue also managed to clog up the nearby bus stop but the motorists did eventually move onto the pavement so traffic could flow once again.

Travel By Bus!

For all the shortage of fuel I haven't noticed a lack of cars on the road, though one of our drivers did get on the radio and announce that a hold up at Shiphay Lane was due to a stationary car in the outside lane at the traffic lights that appeared to have run out of petrol.

There are moments when I am glad I don't own a car, like when I think of car tax, insurance, mot, repairs, the cost of replacing it, parking, petrol at £6 a gallon, buggering up the atmosphere with greenhouse gas, etc, etc, etc

Sunday, 15 June 2008

On Line Tickets

Now here's an idea, I haven't tried it but I have seen a few of the 'on line' tickets. How it works is you buy your ticket on line and Stagecoach send you the ticket through the post so allow a few days for the ticket to arrive. You can buy them in advance so if you are the sort of person who buys all your Christmas cards in September then this is for YOU!

One thing I am noticing about the new 12A/12C service, the destination is St Marychurch which is what it says on the front. But most visitors haven't heard of St Marychurch, they have all heard of, and want to go to, Babbacombe which is one stop down from Marychurch but that isn't on the destination blind. A lot of people walk up to the front of the bus and look at the destination blind. Most come and ask, "Do you go to Babbacombe?" but a few do walk away. Remember in some places in the country it is not considered safe to ask bus drivers questions.

On Line Tickets

You can now buy your tickets on line, though at present the tickets you can buy are limited. I was only able to find one ticket that was any use in Torbay and some of the information given on the web site was months out of date and other information regarding Plus Bus train tickets was completely inaccurate dispite me telling one member of our management team, two controllers and a member of the office staff that the information was incorrect. It was about annual plus bus tickets which cost several hundred pounds only being valid on the date of issue. That's several hundred pounds for one day's travel. Not good value.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

As the Parade Passes By

This is the scene that greeted me as I came back from my first (of 3 ) trips to Teignmouth at 10 past two this afternoon. A marching band and a troop of soldiers going round the Clock Tower. I have to admit I have no idea what the event was unless it was something to do with the Trooping of the Colour which was going on in London today. I only knew that had been held when I got home and was watching the news on TV.

I was held up for a few minutes on my break trip which meant I missed a few minutes of my break. No big deal. However when I went out after break to start my second half with an other trip to Teignmouth there was no sign of my bus. The bus in front of me left 5 minutes late, a 12C, the bus 10 minutes behind me left on time. Then 20 minutes later an other 12C turned up and left with no sign of my 12A. It finally arrived at 15:40. I should have left at 15:07 so I had a few anxious passengers waiting for me. As it happened the bus due to leave for Teignmouth at 15:37 left at more or less the same time as me. Fortunately the traffic was light so I was able to make up some of my time. I am sure there was a logical explanation as to why my bus was so late but listening to logical explanations when you are 37 minutes late and passengers milling about is not always a good idea. By the time I got back from my third trip of the day to Teignmouth I was back on time and got home just in time to hear the closing music to Doctor Who. I have recorded it so don't tell me what happened.

Day Off

Had a gruelling day off yesterday. I cut the grass, had a couple off hours rest then took my new camera out for a photo shoot, then down to the pub for a glass of beer. When I got home later and downloaded the photos I noticed something very unusual on this one. Hint; there are 4 buses in the frame.
Three trips to Teignmouth today.
Now that's what I call a nice day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Seen in Newton Abbot and Fleet St

This Routemaster with the Logo of the South Devon Railway displayed in the destination blind was seen in Newton Abbot this afternoon. I haven't seen this bus about before but for more info click here
A slightly less welcome sight but not unexpected was a brand new litter bin back in the firing line in Fleet Street. It would appear the Honorable Guild of Litter Bins carry less weight then the litter bins themselves.

Meanwhile what a day! For me it started about 11:15 when I signed on. I catch a bus up to the depot to start work and when I get on the driver usually tells me if there are any problems around the Bay. Nothing was said. When I signed on and collected my running board the controllers didn't report any problems so I walked down to the Newton Road to pick up my bus for Brixham with a song in my heart. It's a beautiful sunny day. Bus is due at 11:34. I wasn't too concerned at 11:40 when it hadn't turned up but 11:50 arrived and the bus hadn't. Then 12 noon, then 12:10. What was of more concern was the fact that the 11:24 hadn't arrived either. Then at 12:12 two buses arrived, the second one was the one I was taking over and it was 38 minutes late. This is excessive and could only mean either road works or an RTC. Well it was road works, a hundred yards before the Penn Inn roundabout. The buses were being held up on the way into Newton and on the way out. Traffic was being controlled not by temp traffic lights but by stop go boards. Stop go boards usually work better than traffic lights as the operators can watch the flow of traffic and alter the timing to suit. I don't think much watching flow of traffic was taking place here today. When I got there 4 hours later, after a trip to Brixham and a lunch break in Paignton, there seemed to be 50 vehicles coming the other way and 5 going towards Newton. Four buses arrived in the bus station together which was full of school children from the two local secondary school as well as lots of shoppers on their way home. I pulled out first with only about 20 children on board but picked up at every stop as far as Jury's Corner and by the time I got into Torquay was pretty much full. Then someone ripped their ticket out of the machine with a disproportionate amount of violence considering the ticket is only made of paper, thin paper at that so a further few minutes was lost while the machine was given some first aid due to the fact it got jammed by the paper being twisted. Please wait for the paper to cut before removing it from the machine.

By the way, it really was a lovely sunny day again down here in beautiful Devon.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Litter Bin In Fleet Street and Poor Seagull.

I started work down on the Harbour this morning, usually I just walk down there but there was a 34 coming just as I reached the bus stop in Fleet St and the driver stopped and insisted I got on, maybe he didn't know the way down to the Strand. Anyway a bit lower down there was this barrier guarding a small hole in the roadway. What used to be here was a litter bin. It was situated about 6 feet before the 12 bus stop and has to be watched carefully as we approach the stop. You need to get close to it so there is enough room for buses going the other way to get past you. It is one extra item to be keeping an eye on that we could really do with out being so close the bus stop. It isn't the first time it has been hit, last time I believe a delivery trunk did the dirty deed, this time..... well no news has filtered through which might suggest the guilty party might, heaven forbid, be the holder of a PCV Licence. Who ever did it really does not matter. Not to the litter bin which is presently in litter bin hospital. The fact that it has been hit twice would suggest that the Honorable Guild of Litter Bins should, in an attempt to save this poor bin from a third assault, petition the council to have it moved to a place of safely, or at least somewhere safer than this spot. And no where near the 12 bus stop. Please.

Later in the day I went to Teignmouth where I decided, having a few minutes waiting time, to eat my last sandwich. I wasn't all that hungry at lunch time. Anyway I noticed this gull hanging about and while I ate my buttie I ignored him. I've read the notices about feeding seagulls and I have seen visitors on Torquay Harbour throw a chip to a gull and vanish as 50 of his close relatives turn up to join in the feast. It wasn't till I had finished the corned beef delight that I noticed my little friend was limping. He couldn't put his right foot foot down properly, poor lamb. Either that or he was trying for the sympathy vote.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Rock Fall in Rock Walk

Last Saturday a lump of rock about 3 feet by 3 feet by one foot and a load of soil fell down the cliff face at Rock Walk. None of the material made it to the main safety barrier. The photos below show the cliff face before the trees and scrub were removed, After the scrub had been removed and after the rock fall.

As you can see no trees were actually removed from this section of the cliff face so removing trees had nothing to do with the fall.

The rock and soil were just waiting to come crashing down on some passing bus but didn't quiet make it.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

A Few Light Showers May Reach Parts of the South West

Half nine in Teignmouth, the deckchairs already set up for the expected hoards on a beautiful sunny day. Shame the heavens opened at lunch time.
Later, there I was on the Strand picking passengers up for Babbacombe and Marychurch. I was beginning to relax, two thirds of the way through the duty. Then the problem turned up. We the drivers have had a steep learning curve with the new ticket machines but the passengers have also had to learn something new about the machines. The old Wayfarer machines had a system that meant the ticket had to be pulled from the machine. There was a V shaped knife inside the machine and when the ticket was given a gentle pull it cut a similar shaped tear in the ticket. So our customers have spent the last 20 years pulling the ticket, sometimes violently from the machine. The new machines have done away with this need for violence on the bus platform in that they actually cut the ticket once it is printed. So for the last two weeks we have been pressing the issue button and saying, "Wait for it to Cut." It only takes a second but some people can't wait and pull the ticket, sometimes violently. One such act of violence perpetrate on my poor ticket machine didn't just jam the ticket roll, it did sometime to the little knife that cuts the paper. I think it fell out. Anyway the tickets weren't being cut and I ended up using emergency tickets. It is much slower issuing emergency tickets and quiet a few people spent an extra minute or two standing in the rain waiting to get on the bus because of this.
Please be gentle with our ticket machines, they are after all, young and inexperienced.
I saw an item on the news yesterday, the Government wants to make enterance to swimming pools free. I hope they fund this scheme a lot better than the entrance to buses for free or there won't be a swimming pool left in the country by the time of the London Olympics.
Free beer for the over sixties, now that would be an idea Mr Brown.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

How Safe is Fleet Walk?

Very safe.

A couple of incidents today, what you would call close encounters of the very near miss kind got me thinking about other close calls I have had over the years. It was the fact that in the space of a few hours I had to brake hard to avoid first a cyclist and later a teenager on a skateboard that got me thinking about other near misses. And I realised how few such incidents I had had in the the last ten years and about 10 000 trips through this pedestrianised street. I could now count them on the fingers of one hand and still have a couple of fingers left over and that wasn't even bothering with the thumb.

The first of two today had happened as I was going up Fleet St, I approached a small section set aside for the parking of bikes. A young man had just got on his bike and he , without bothering to look round, set of. I braked firmly and a collision was avoided. By chance there was an other number 12 waiting outside the former post office for me to pass. The driver was one of those brave hardy souls who cycles to work and he held his thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart to indicate how close I and the cyclist had been, As I went past him I expressed the hope that he didn't ride his bike in a similar fashion, "Sometimes" was his answer. Right. Cyclists.

Later the skateboarder came hurtling down the slope at the Strand end just as I entered, again a sharp application of the brake reduced the speed of the bus down from 5 mph to zero in the space of a couple of feet and the youth on the board and the bus missed by inches. Which was lucky for him because running into even a stationary bus at 20 mph on a skateboard tends to ruin your evening.

Which is why we ALWAYS drive slowly in Fleet Street.

Two close encounters in one day and they say things happen in threes. Well not today. I was on my way to Newton and then back to the depot to finish. No more trips along Fleet St for me today. Probably just as well.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

I Was Only Trying to Help.

There I was, waiting time in Paignton Bus Station. Driving a 12C heading for the College. There is also a 12A that goes from PBS to the college. Once they get to the college they both come back to PBS and then both head for St Marychurch. Three would be passengers board, He pushing pram with baby, she stops to pay and asks for two tickets to Borough Road. Now both the 12C and the 12A go to Borough Rd. One takes 8 minutes and apart from a couple of bends as you leave the bus station is a straight run. The other takes 27 minutes, it starts of as a straight run but ends up with lots of turns, bends stops and starts as we make right turns onto main road plus a trip through the road works in Long Rd, a tedious wait at the timing point at the College then back out through the road works (complete with temp traffic lights) then the trek through Roselands with all the bends and speed humps and parked cars and the right turn out onto the Ring Road. Slight problem, the bus that does the easy trip will be ten minutes yet. So what would you do if you were the passenger and you knew all of the above, would you wait and take the easy trip and be home in 18 minutes or would you get on my 12C and be home in 27 minutes? And what would you do if you were me? Would you explain this to the passenger. The routes are new, only a couple of weeks old. The passenger might not know the route too well. So I tried to explain that the 12A would be easier and quicker and got my head bitten off, comprehensively. Passenger she said, "OK, if you can't be bothered." and stormed of the bus, passenger he and baby followed. I mean if she had said, "Yes I know. I don't mind." I would have sold her the tickets with a smile on my face just like always and whistled a happy tune to myself. But it leaves a nasty taste, so next time someone, who might not understand the difference between the two route, gets on, do I; a) explain and either save someone the long trip round or maybe get my head bitten off again (it isn't nice, I can tell you) or; b) say nothing and not get my head bitten off, but have a passengers take the long trip round?

All those who said ;b), go and stand in the corner. I'm not like that. Thought sometimes I am tempted.

"Have a nice day."

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Glasses, PBS and Timetables.

Had a little problem in Brixham this evening with the bus. I had picked up a passenger in New Road about half a mile from the terminus at Bank Lane. Now when I got to Bank Lane all I did was put up "Sorry out of Service" and head back to the depot. But there was a bit of a leak,there was water in the cab and coming from under the bus. Not much but enough for me to get on to control and say, Help, What do I do?" Control checked with engineering and they decided it was not the radiator that was leaking but the heating system and it would be OK for me to drive back as far as Paignton Bus Station treating it tenderly. The bus could then cool down and the fueler at Paignton could check the water in the radiator and if it was OK drive it back to the depot later. This was a little bonus for me. I could pay in at Paignton and go home. It's a slightly longer bus journey but the walk once I get of the bus was much shorter. I'd be home 10 minutes early, only a little bonus, not quiet 6 numbers coming up but nice all the same.
When I got home I realised I had left my glasses in Paignton pay in room. Bugger. So I had my supper and spend a boring hour busing over to Paignton to get my glasses. I don't need them except for driving, things in the distance get a bit blurred, like people waiting at bus stops, bus stops, cars, other buses, bends, traffic lights and bus stations. With the glasses all becomes clear. Close up I don't need them, I can see clearly, read a time table no problem which brings me to the timetables above. That's our complete collection for the Torbay area including Newton. I always carry the set. Comes in handy now and then when people ask about the times of buses I don't drive; like yesterday a couple asked me the time of the bus to Exeter. A quick glance at the X46 timetable showed the last one had gone 26 minuets before. This meant getting the 12A/12C timetable out, bus to Teignmouth at 18:45 (arrive 19:18) then the number 2 (not shown here as it isn't a Torbay bus but I do have a copy) from Teignmouth at 19:45 and Exeter for 20:38. Had the passengers checked the times of the X46 they could have been on the Strand 25 minutes earlier at 17:40 they would have been in Exeter at 18:42. I have always said, reading timetables should be on the National Curriculum.
Now, I mentioned that passengers ask for times of buses now and then but the most enquires received come over the radio from other drivers, "What time is this bus or when's the last bus to so and so." I will help if I can but only if I am not actually driving at the time, it's not good for the driving licence to be reading a bus timetable while doing 40 mph round Strawberry Bends, not good for the bus either so why not get you own set, free at any Stagecoach travel shop.

Curly Wirly Bridge

Someone asked me where the curly wirly bridge was. Well here it is at the bottom of Belgrave Rd just by the leak from the nuclear power plant.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

A Bus Trip to Teignmouth

A day off so I went for a ride up to Teignmouth with the camera in movie mode. This clip shows the section between Brunel Manor and Sheldon Bridge. It's not continuous as my camera only takes movies for one minute and then stops for 20 seconds to store the existing data. I am going to get a new, bigger, better camera before my next holidays in September that will take longer shots, and sound. I'll have to work a few days overtime to afford it though.

I sat upstairs in the front nearside seat and those trees appear very, very close compared with the view from the driving seat where I normal sit.

Lost, no just not completely sure where I'm going all the time..

After saying that Brixham could look a bit grim in the rain I thought I might put the record straight and balance the matter up a little and show what Brixham looks like when the sun is shinning, which it does quite a lot down here.
One of the problems when you are driving on a new route is lack of local knowledge on the route. We go out with a mentor, a driver experienced in the route so we know which roads to drive along and where the stops and fare stages are but that doesn't completely prepare us for all the little extras that come along. Take the Windy Corner stop, it is also known as Broadsands Road, Churston shops, Churston Library, Spears, The chip shop and the stop just before the Ring Road. Most stops have multiple names like this and it takes a little time to learn them. We also get asked for local landmarks, hotels, shops, garden centres, car show rooms, pubs, the curly whirly bridge, car parks, parks, supermarkets, schools, MacDonald's, DIY stores, the balloon, the circus (when it's in town), the railway station (there are 5 of them on the 12 route), the Harbour (will you tell me when we get there?), churches ( no they don't burst into flames when I drive past). Now and then I get asked for somewhere I haven't heard of, usually it's something on the lines of, "We've forgotten the name of our hotel but it is up a hill." Almost everywhere in Torquay is either up a hill or down a hill, it's the nature of the place.
Anyway this evening a passenger boarded the bus and asked for The Little Theatre. I pulled my face and regretted I didn't know where it was. The passenger produced a leaflet which suggested that you all come along the see Pirates of Penzance that evening or you would regret it for ever and ever. All the details were there, who was in it, what it was about, what time the show started and how much it would cost. What it didn't say was where the Little Theatre is. Now Wembey Stadium doesn't need an address, nor do the Houses of Parliament; The White House and Sydney Opera House probably come under that category as well, they are definitely stand alone sorts of places. But the Little Theatre? The name it's self does suggest it isn't exactly big, right? Then the passenger said she had been told it was in Babbacombe. I was sitting in the driving seat of a bus about to head for Babbacombe. What could be better? I decided to check but an other driver was using the radio so I set off. A little way up the road the radio fell silent so I send my message out into Torbay at the speed of light in the hope someone could tell me exactly where the Little Theatre was. By now I was at Wellswood a mile up the Babbacombe Road. Turns out the passenger didn't need to go to Babbacombe, just walk 200 yards up the Babbacombe Road, turn right at the lights and an other half mile down that road and she would end up at the Pirates of Penzance. She had a day ticket so I sent her across the road to catch a bus back to town with directions to find the Theatre. I hope she did. Interestingly, Pirates of Penzance was first performed here in Torbay, in Paignton to be exact.

Winge in the paper

11:00 - 29 May 2008
We have finally given up on the buses altogether.It's a long and sorry tale, which seems all the more crazy when you consider that my two teenage daughters were paying Stagecoach nearly £10 a day between them to catch buses from our Torquay home.Now my elder daughter has found somebody to give her a lift, after being told that the number 85 was being cancelled.When she inquired she was told by the bus information service that there would be no bus to Teignmouth in the morning to get her to work on time after the new timetables were introduced.I didn't believe her when she told me, and phoned the bus information line myself, only to be given exactly the same information.The first bus to Teignmouth from Torquay would not arrive in Teignmouth until 9.20am, I was told.So she found a lift share, thanks to the kindness of somebody prepared to double back and pick her up every day.It was only after I wrote about the madness of the new timetables in this column that Torbay Council told me the information service was wrong. There would be a new service running earlier buses to Teignmouth every day.But it was too late, by then she had made her own arrangements for fear of losing her job.Then, in the same round of reorganisation, Stagecoach announced it was going to reduce the frequency of the number 12 service along the congested Newton Road.Again, it was a final straw moment.My younger daughter goes to sixth form college in Newton Abbot because when we moved to Torquay three years ago from Teignbridge, she was happy and well-established at her school. With all the other changes going on around her after our divorce, I agreed with her decision not to move to a new school in Torquay.It turned out to be the right decision, she has done well academically and is now loving sixth form and has a great crowd of nice friends.But the number 12 bus has turned out to be the bane of her life.Even when she first started getting the bus from the harbourside she needed to be leaving home at 7.30am in order to have any chance to getting to school by 9am.The bus has become her nemesis. She hates it with a passion.For her Stagecoach became slow coach. Hours of wasted time, week after week, staring out of the window of the number 12 as it inched its way like a snail along the ever more congested Newton Road, stopping and starting to pick up passengers as the traffic in front of it built up and brought it to a standstill.She curses the fact she is one of the youngest in her year, and still too young to drive.Our only alternative would have been for me to also leave home at 7.30am and drive her to Torquay railway station so she could get the only train to Newton Abbot which would have got her to school on time.I would have happily done that, but it seemed unfair on my youngest child, who was only four at the time. He also would have had to be up, and dressed, and out of the house by 7.30am every day.So she got the bus. And being a teenage girl, with hair straighteners and make-up and showering to worry about, that meant getting up ridiculously early every morning.However, being a teenager, mornings are not her best time. In fact, mornings became our worst time.I had a choice. Leave her to her own devices, knowing she would get out of the front door eventually, looking perfectly beautiful but also knowing she would be 10 minutes late for school, or try to get her up on time.Every parent of teenagers knows what a thankless task that is. I'm sure everybody has tried different tacks.There's the softly-softly, when you are in a good mood on a sunny morning when you gently tiptoe in and open the curtains with a smile and a drink.Or there is the fun and tickling approach, when you try to tease them awake in a good mood by tickling their toes under the duvet.Or you can bang in loudly, throwing back curtains and covers and poke them until they growl and swear at you.I have even tried ringing her on her mobile phone, knowing the one thing teenagers react to is a phone call.But the problem with all of these tactics is that, as soon as you leave the room, your teenagers will heave a sigh of relief, roll over and go back to sleep.Especially when, in the back of their mind, they know there will be another number 12 coming along in 10 more minutes.The only foolproof way is to stay in the room until they are up and out of bed and in the shower. This can take anything up to 15 minutes.And when you are the only adult in the house, with other children to sort and get breakfast for, it's not exactly a viable option.But the news that the number 12 was going to be running even less frequently was the final straw and I am now driving her to Torquay railway station every morning, so that she can have the pleasure of getting on the cattle truck full of schoolchildren.The train takes less than 15 minutes, but now she is getting to Newton nearly an hour earlier than necessary.But strangely, now that she knows there is only one train, she is getting up on time every day.And it seems we have escaped the pleasures of daily bus journeys just in the nick of time. Because last week, along with the confusion of the new timetables, Stagecoach introduced new ticketing machines.These, according to my bus travelling colleague, are the reason that all the buses in South Devon appear to be travelling in threes at the moment.It's no wonder too many of us drive cars rather than rely on public transport. It's no wonder older people try to hang on to their cars.I once had a very elderly neighbour who used to wait anxiously outside the house whenever her husband went out in the car alone.One day she confided: "It's all right when we're both in the car. But he can't see very well now and I have to tell him if there are any cars coming."We were living in a rural area with no bus service and when he eventually gave up driving after a bit of a crash at 90, their lives changed drastically for the worse.And for everyone who relies on the buses, being at the mercy of a nameless, faceless institution which appears to be trying everything in its power to annoy rather than help its poor customers every day, is enough to make you feel like a moaning, whinging wreck.