Sunday, 28 September 2008

A video to watch, or not if you are squeamish

This is definitely something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

A boy on his way home from school jumps over a barrier near a set of traffic lights and is hit by a bus. To save you running the video back to check the lights were on green and the bus stopped in less than 60 feet so it was being driven at about 25 mph. One thing you are always aware of when you are driving a bus is how much damage you can do to the human body with the front of a bus. The report said the boy, though injured had made a full recovery. How about the driver? Something like that doesn't go away for a long time.

To see the video click here

Torquay Under 11s Rugby Team

Next Sunday the Torquay RFC Under 11s start their season. I have been watching the team for a couple of years now. As you can see from the shirts they are sponsored by Stagecoach Devon and the Belgrave Hotel. They are also sponsored by TaxiFast. One of the coaches is a bus driver at Stagecoach and the gent in the middle is the Engineering Manger from the Torquay Dept. Without the help of the team's sponsors they would not be turned out as smart as they are and some training equipment wouldn't be available.

First game is next Sunday away to Newton Abbot and the team have been training hard and can look forward to an enjoyable and hopefully a winning season. I will post the occasional report here.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


Imagine for a moment you are driving a company vehicle. This vehicle is fitted with automatic transmission and has a handbrake so strong that if you put the handbrake on and left it in gear and pressed the accelerator, the engine would blow up before the vehicle would move. Then of course it wouldn't move. So you don't press the accelerator if the handbrake is on. So you are driving along in broad daylight with clear visibility. Then you come to a halt because there is a line of stationary traffic in front of you stretching as far as the eye can see. In this case, which we are all imagining as far as you can see is 115 yards, that's 104.5 metres if you are using the new fangled metric system. 15 vehicles are stationary in front of you with no sign of movement. Even though this is all made up you also know, because you have driven along this road, in your mind, at least 10 000 times and it is unusual for there to be stationary traffic here, it just doesn't happen. Except that is, when there is an accident. And there is an accident black spot ahead.

After about a minute and the status quo is still status quoing you might begin to think there has in fact been an accident. So you decide to take a photo of the stationary traffic for the record. Watching carefully for movement in the traffic ahead you take your camera out of your bag. All the time you are ready to return the camera to the bag without taking the photo if any of the 15 vehicles ahead show any sign of movement. But they don't so you take the photo and still watching the traffic you return the camera to your bag. This takes about 15 seconds. By now more than 2 minutes has passed since you stopped. An other minute passes and the traffic starts to move.

Oh yes, imagine this was the photo you took.

Someone from your company's management team saw you take the photo. Remember you are imagining all of this, what exactly do you expect to happen now?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Someone Sent Me This Link

A reader, many thanks, sent me this link to a blog. It is called 'The continuing saga of Westphalia-on-Sea (twinned with Pessimisme, France)' and is completely fictitious. However, if you live in a sea side town, any sea side town, like I do, there is a probability you might begin to believe, as you read more and more, possibly after as much as two or three lines that the town is in fact your home town and the characters depicted there are in fact running the asylum you call home. No sorry, there couldn't be two places in the world like Torquay could there? OK. There are, so send me a list. But this is fictitious so don't take it seriously, please.

The Ferry across the Bay run by Stagecoach ends this weekend, I do believe Stagecoach are offering a £3.00 return on Sunday, I haven't seen that written down so don't shout at me if it isn't true. I have been over to Brixham and back on the cat. fast compared with the bus and a lot more restful, no stopping and starting every few minutes at bus stops, traffic lights, road works and betting shops. More expensive than the bus and not much use it you want to get on or off anywhere but Torquay or Brixham.

It's also OK if you are in a hurry but if you just want a trip across the Bay then get the Western Lady. You can sit out in the open and feel the wind and sun and you will feel like you have been on a boat trip and not just zipped over from Brixham for an important meeting. And good luck in a force ten gale. I was speaking to someone from Stagecoach who did say the trial has gone well and all it needs now was £3 million quid to buy two boats and a million, from Torbay Council to improve landing and passenger waiting facilities at both ends and it will be up and running next Spring. Enjoy.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Big Chair & Lions, Buffalo and a Croc & The Life of Brian

This is the Big Chair, it's 20 feet high and was built by a retired furniture maker. If you want to see it you will have to get to Higher Natsworthy Farm near Widecombe-in-the Moor which is some where on Dartmoor. The story appeared in the local paper a few days ago and has given me inspiration, now I am retired (almost) I shall build a fifty foot high bus on Tor Abbey Green. It will give me something to do when I am not looking for work or riding round for free on our excellent bus service. Sadly Mr Henry Bruce has to take the chair down by next March because he didn't get planning permission before he built it. I have studied local councils all my adult life, so far I have learn several things about them, one of those gems of knowledge being they get really upset if you don't ask first, which is why Torbay Council should be upset with it's self as it didn't ask for planning permission before removing all the trees from Rock Walk, if they did I must have missed those yellow notices they stick up all over the place. Anyway I am not going to make the same mistake and will ask for planning permission before I start building my bus. I will keep you posted.

Next concerns a video on YouTube I heard about. It's called 'Battle at Kruger.' It lasts 8 minutes and is about life in Kruger National Park. Next time the cat brings a struggling mouse in through the cat flap I am going to check for a crocodile coming up the garden path.

And finally years after everyone in Torquay had forgotten the council once banned 'Life of Brian' someone tried to show the film at a festival. What didn't our wonderful council do? Up hold the Ban? Who said yes? What do you think are council consists of? A bunch of reactionary old farts? In 1979 they may have been or had shares in the cinema in the next town but now they are a forward looking progressive group of politicians really hoping the twenty first century might turn up some time, I mean to say we have only just got parking meters here in Torquay. This week. How forward looking is that?

Oh yes, there is a Facebook group called 'Save the Giant's chair on Dartmoor' has 440 members and is growing fast.

Mr Bruce, a former furniture maker, said he hoped the campaign would be successful and is working to renew the planning permission.
He said: "If the chair was being threatened, the more voices to promote it, the better."
Sam Shields, from Plymouth, created the campaign.
His statement on the website said: "Please can you invite your friends and post any pictures you take.
"Lots of locals do not know it is even there, as it is not in any tourist books."
Another poster, Mark Jeffrey, says: "If they can leave the Angel of the North alone then they can leave our chair alone as well."

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Day in Dawlish

To get to Dawlish you catch a 32 from the Strand which only goes to Teignmouth, change then to a number 2. Bit closer than Ilfracombe but as I explained earlier I don't start before 9:30 on a week day because the if I try to use my bus pass before then I would get called a 'Twirly'. Don't forget, if you still have an old style pass then hot foot it down to the council office and get a new one before Tuesday or you will end up shouting at some poor bus driver who wont let you on the bus, not for free anyway. Dawlish isn't too far so I decided to get the 10:40 number 32 . What a daft idea. I have only been off the job a few weeks and I had forgotten about the 'After breakfast idea.' Holidaymakers sit in the hotel lounge after breakfast and someone says, "Lets go to Teignmouth." and someone else says, "Now that's a good idea." So there were fifty people (I counted) waiting at the bus stop and most had had the same idea as me, worse they had got there sooner than me. I didn't have a chance of getting on the bus which carried only 60 passengers and would almost certainly turn up with 30 people already sitting comfortably on it. When it did turn up for a brief while I though I might actually get the bus to Teignmouth after all. The 32, going to Teignmouth came out of Fleet Street followed closely by a 33 which was only going to Marychurch, all I needed to do was get those passengers in the queue who only wanted to go as far as Welswood, Babacombe or Marychurch to form a separate queue and catch the 33 behind, there might be enough of them to leave me room on the 32 to Teignmouth.

So, unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I stood at the front of the queue and in that loud, commanding voice I am known for on two continents, I asked. 15 people, kind souls bless them moved over and formed the new queue. An off duty bus driver who had been on the 32 even helped out by getting off and joining said new queue. Would it be enough. After all the effort on my part and cooperation on the part of the waiting passengers it deserved to. Well I am sorry to report that when the 32 pulled away looking like a sardine tin, without the tomato ketchup fortunately, there were 6 of us still standing on the Strand waiting for the next bus which was due in 60 minutes. We would learn patience waiting for Stagecoach, or we would wander off and sadly never come to Teignmouth.

I got the 33 to Marychurch in the off chance that it might get there at the same time as the 32 and there might be by now empty seats or even some empty floor space to stand on. But it had gone when we got there. I went for a walk round Marychurch and caught the next bus an hour later, I still had to stand part of the way. Just managed to get the number 2 up to Dawlish, the bus was an Enviro 400. A newish bus, less than a year old. I sat in my 2nd favourite seat on a bus, downstairs over the back wheel. You're high up and have a good view. Let me just say this, the last time I sat on a seat this hard it was in a park and called a bench.

A few pictures of Dawlish and the Black Swans and Mr Brunel's railway line. I S Brunel might well have been the greatest engineer ever but it would have been much nicer if he had put his blood railway line somewhere other than 3 feet away from the beach.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Ilfacombe By Bus

One of the things I do these days when not looking for work is go for bus rides, I have a concessionary bus pass so they are free bus rides just like before. A slight problem is the 9:30 start time these passes have Monday to Friday, actually it isn't too big a problem, I have never been an early riser. So one day last week the weather forecast was better on the North Coast of Devon than down here so I decided to go to Ilfracombe. X46 left the Strand at 9:30 for Exeter, due in at 10:32. 155 due out of Exeter at 10:45, 13 minutes difference, should be OK. Traffic along the Newton road held up by road works at Aller and by the time we got to Countess Wear I was thinking there could be a possibility of not making it. The one after the one I wanted left at 12:45 which would give me 15 minutes in Ilfracombe, I was only going to get just over two hours as it was but that would be long enough to take a few photos, have some fish and chips and a beer. If I only had fifteen minutes there then the photos and the food would be out.
10:47 we pulled into the bus station and the bay where the 155 goes from was empty. No queue of people standing there waiting patiently, Bugger, bus must have gone. So I paid a visit to the travel shop to look for alternatives to far away Ilfracombe. Then I was just about to go and get a coffee and scan the timetables when a former colleague from Torquay walked by and I said hello. That is all I said except, "Got to go. There's my bus". 155 15 minutes late. Oh goodie, Ilfracombe back on the agenda one more. We set off 20 mins late and the trip to Barnstaple was basically uneventful apart from the fact that I was now travelling through parts of Devon I had never been to before and into some towns and villages I had never even heard off, next time I make this trip I will do a bit of research first so I know where I am. Barnstaple turned up a couple of hours later and 30 mins late but there was a number 3A waiting on the stand for the last leg, a half hour trip to the north coast.
On the way into the town we went past the local nuclear power plant cleverly disguised as the local theatre, imaginative thinking here by the local council with an eye on the probably rise in the cost of power that faces us all.
Photos, fish and chips and a walk round the town, sorry Ilfracombe but you just ain’t as pretty as Torquay and where is the beach? Then a pint, big pub but only one person in the place and then back to the bus station. I will never say anything nasty about Paignton Bus Station again. I caught a number 3 this time which missed out the trip round the houses and out to the Tesco supermarket and some back to Barnstaple. Bus station was full with shoppers and students waiting for the 155 which left on time. In Exeter I had enough time for a cup of coffee before the last X46 back to Torquay.

One more thing, Sorry two more things; I travelled on 6 different buses, two of them operated by First and 4 by Stagecoach. All of them for free. On the tickets I got on the First buses there was printed a warning that at the end of September the old type of bus passes would no longer be accepted and passengers with the old passes should make sure they got new ones before the end of the month. Stagecoach didn’t give such a warning. So if you are still using a pass issued last year get down to your local council office with some form of photo ID and proof of where you live NOW and get a new style bus passes or next Wednesday YOU will have to pay for your bus rides, instead of the poor tax payer paying.

The other thing concerned a mobile phone and a driver, who answered said mobile phone while driving the bus. Not a good idea that. Not something I personally have ever done.

More photos of Ilfracombe click here.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Eleven Trillion Dollars

The United States of America's national debt is now over $11,000,000,000,000, that's $2890 per person on the planet, lets hope no one decides to forclose the debt. This is since that nice Mr Bush decided to bail out all those bankrupt mortgage lenders over there in the good old US of A. Time will tell if his decision was the right one and the prospect of a world resession is now receding in to the distance. If it is, then good for him. Maybe this nearly last gasp action of his Presidency will redeem him in the eyes of history for all the mad things he has done during the previous 7 and a half years, namely Iraq and Katrina plus a whole host of other comparatively minor blunders that leaders tend to make like setting up Homeland Security for one.

Talking of America, one more thing that may be on it way from the land of the free is the Yellow School Bus. The government is being urged to introduce US-style yellow school buses for primary schools across Britain.
The Yellow School Bus Commission, chaired by the former education secretary, David Blunkett, said it could "revolutionise" the school run.
A year-long review found the numbers of children being driven to school by car had doubled in the past 20 years.
The cross-party commission found that introducing yellow buses could mean millions fewer car journeys each year.
Currently, 6,600 UK pupils use yellow buses as part of 20 pilot schemes - they usually have extra safety features like CCTV and students generally have allocated seats.
Behaviour problems
In its report, the commission says they offer numerous benefits - from a safe journey to school to reducing congestion, reducing pollution and improving attendance times at schools.
It found that 41% of primary school pupils and 21% of secondary school pupils were being taken to school by car - accounting for 20% of car journeys during the morning rush hour and about one million tonnes of CO2 each year.

Cost could be between £50 and £100 million. How exactly it will run is hard to say. I do know bus companies would be hard pressed to run something like this, extra drivers would be needed between 7:00 and 9:30am and 3:00 and 5;00pm which is just when the companies need all the drivers they can get to run their own buses. I have a feeling in the USA schools employ their own bus drivers (I sit in front of my computer ready to be corrected) who only drive the school runs. A similar system here? A relief for drivers arriving in Newton Abbot around 3:30 in the afternoon.

Finally for this post an apology. I haven't been posting with as much zeal as I used to. Without the excitement of bus driving to give me something to report, Stagecoach and I have parted company, I have kind of got out of the habit of posting. I will however make a big effort to find something to write about, even if it is only a bit of bus riding. Like the other day I went to Ilfacombe on the north coast of Devon. Six different buses there and back. More about that tomorrow including the driver who used a mobile while driving along the road at 40 mph with loads of passengers on the bus. Naughty person

See you all tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Place Your Bets.

I first heard this story Saturday morning and didn't actually believe it. But now here it is in the paper, if it's true I hope his horse won at extremely long odds. Read on ( from the Herald Express):-

Driver stopped bus 'to place bet' claim

Saturday, September 13, 2008, 10:10

A BUS driver has been suspended after he allegedly pulled his bus over and told passengers to wait ‘a few minutes’ while he disappeared into a Newton Abbot bookmakers.
Mum of one Kerry Williams, claims the driver of the number 77 bus travelling from Buckland to Newton Abbot town centre, pulled the bus over outside Ladbrokes on Queen Street while he placed a bet.
The alleged incident happened at about 9.50am on Saturday.
Stagecoach have since ‘relieved the driver of his duties’ while an investigation into the matter is carried out.
Miss Williams explained she was waiting for her 11-year-old daughter Melanie at Sherborne Road bus station.
The bus was late arriving and I was starting to wonder where it was when I saw my daughter walking towards me.
“She told me that when the bus got to Queen Street, the driver stopped outside of Ladbrokes the bookmakers and told the passengers that he would only be a few minutes. He left the bus and my daughter believed he went into the bookmakers,” Miss Williams claimed.
A Stagecoach spokesman said: “We are carrying out a full and thorough investigation with the driver concerned in order to take appropriate action. The driver has been relieved of his duties as a precautionary measure during the investigation.”

The last time I had a bet on a horse it was called Devon Lock, I lost a week's pocket money and it put me off betting for life.
The story even made it to the Sunday Mirror.

Change for the Better?

Not much on busdriving at the moment but here are a couple of experiences as a bus passenger from the last couple of days. First was on Thursday when I was in Paignton and wanted to get to Torquay. Quick check on the timetable, 12 due in 5 minutes, 12A 5 minutes after that and another 12 after 5 more minutes; should be in Torquay in 25 minutes. Ha! 15 minutes went by before a 15 year old bus passing as a 12A turned up. By then 25 people were standing waiting with hope in their hearts but doubt in their minds. And of course when you have been waiting this long the driver got out and another driver got in. He has to now set up the machine before anyone can get on. All more time standing about. So by the time the 25 of us who had been waiting got on and other 20 passengers had turned up. No other buses heading for Torquay had turned up though. Where were they all? When we got round to Victoria Park and at almost every bus stop into Torquay there were loads of people waiting. Still no other bus went past us so we had a wait at each stop as more and more people boarded. (Bring back conductors).

Eventually, 48 minutes after I got to the bus stop in Paignton I arrived at Cary Parade in Torquay. Almost double the advertised journey time. 80 people got off which meant 10 of them must have been standing. Then on Friday I went to catch a 32/33 in Abbey Rd. They are every 15 minutes according to the timetable and I got to the stop 2 minutes before the bus was due. 28 minutes later it turned up, standing room only once again.

In the past Stagecoach have kept the summer timetables, which give more running time, until the 3rd week in September but this year winter times started in the first week of September. There are still plenty of holidaymakers about and the buses don't seem to be coping despite the notice on the side of the buses which proudly proclaims, "A Change for the Better." Yeah, right.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Shark Eats Kangaroo on Torquay Beach

Yes that's right a shark did eat a kangaroo on Torquay beach. I got the story from the BBC web site so it must be true.

A kangaroo met an unlikely death after it bounded into the surf and was mauled by a shark, according to eyewitnesses.
Daniel Hurst, who says he saw the incident while out walking his dogs, was accused of being drunk or on drugs after he told the story to friends.
But the emergence of a second witness and the discovery of mangled kangaroo remains appear to confirm his story.
Experts say kangaroos will take to the sea only if they are ill or in danger.
Mr Hurst said he was walking along Torquay beach when he saw the marsupial behind scrubland next to the dunes.
"It just headed down towards the water and in it went," he told News Reporters.
"There's a bit of a rip in that area so... the kangaroo could have been dragged out, but I could still see its head, and that's when the shark leapt out of the water on its side.
"The kangaroo disappeared after that. I stayed around for a while, just very interested, and hoping the shark jumped again, but it never eventuated."
The unlikely tale appears to have been backed up by local officials, who discovered a kangaroo carcass on the beach.

Friday, 5 September 2008

From The Herald Express

Lib Dems look at life on the buses
Thursday, September 04, 2008, 07:00

LIB DEM councillors in the Bay have joined forces with their MP to launch a survey of bus users.
Torbay councillors have teamed up with Bay MP Adrian Sanders to look at the reliability of local bus services, how often people use them, when they travel and problems users have while travelling to particular destinations or accessing buses.
The survey is being circulated throughout the borough.
Mr Sanders said: "My postbag always contains a number of letters from constituents highlighting issues which they have with local bus services.
"This survey will give my councillor colleagues and myself some very useful information we can use to try to improve the services."
The leader of the Lib Dem group on Torbay Council, Steve Darling, said: "My fellow councillors and myself have been made aware by local people of a number of particular issues they face which they would like to be tackled.
"These include a lack of capacity, with people being left stranded at the bus stop because the bus is full.
"Also, the standard of buses which are used on some of the inner residential areas is not as good as those on the main routes.
"The survey will also help highlight any other issues which bus users are facing, which we will take up with the council and the bus companies."
A Stagecoach spokeswoman said: "We have not been informed of this survey.
"However, we do welcome any feedback from our passengers and we look forward to the results."

The second I get to see the results I will post them here. Could be very interesting. At least from Monday 08 Sept the 32 will be restored to it's pre summer route up to Babbacombe and St Marychurch and passengers will no longer have to go through the chore of changing buses at the Strand in what was seen by many as a way of getting more money from the council via the concessionary bus pass scheme. Also the number 33 will raise it's head again, back from it's pre Hitditch days. It will travel in a big circle around Marychurch, Barton, the Willows, The Hospital, Shiphay, Chelston, Town, The Strand and back up to Marychurch, a 5 minute rest and then doing the same thing all over again. In both directions.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Ferries Across the Bay

Here is a video of the Catamaran leaving Torquay on it's way to Brixham with about 40 passengers. About 60 disembarked when it pulled in. It seems to be going fairly well regards to passenger numbers with everyone saying nice things about the trip as they left the boat. There have been stories going round that the boat ran over some dolphins out in the Bay but what was happening was the dolphins came out to play in front of the boat just as dolphins do. In the end the driver just pulled round them and left then playing happily with a half eaten herring the way all predators play with their food.

If you want a quieter, slower more traditional way to sail across the Bay there is still the Western Lady who will still be here when this month's trial ends.

When this ferry was first mentioned by Stagecoach they said they were going to spend £4 million getting two boats built in South Africa. Now it appears they are, if thousands and thousands of people do use the service in the next month, looking to hire or buy a boat locally to use. A slight change of plan.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Falkirk Wheel

The day after the wedding in Glasgow we were going to visit the newly wed's house in Falkirk and on the way a visit was planed to see the Falkirk Wheel. Now I had never heard of this engineering marvel but I decided to wait until we got there to find out what exactly The Falkirk Wheel was. Well this is it.

In case you still aren't sure it is a high tech canal lock that replaces about 7 or 8 old style locks to join one canal to an other. Once a boat sails in either or both locks the whole thing turns anticlockwise and one moves up and the other moves down. It is so well balanced that it can move hundreds of boats a day for less than £10.00 worth of electricity. It is a pity there aren't two canals in Torbay with a height difference of 65 metres, something like this would be a far better attraction that the balloon and it doesn't need to worry about the wind speed getting above 10 mph. The visitors centre next to it wasn't built or planned when the Wheel was built in 2002, opened by the Queen, but so many people turned up to watch it working the centre went up in double quick time. Boat trips run twice an hour and tend to be fairly full but they do travel a lot slower than Torbays own Catamaran. The swan is happy because there are no notices saying 'Don't feed the swans'.