Sunday, 30 March 2008
I'll keep you posted as soon as they arrive and or fitted to the buses.
Then on Tuesday the National, or should I say English, Concessionary Travel Passes come into operation. These passes, in case you have been on the Moon for the last few weeks allow the over 60s and the eligible disabled free travel after 9:30 on all local buses anywhere in England. Let me start by apologizing to a small group of people I gave incorrect information to.
When the concessionary passes came in they were for use only in the area you lived in and last summer many elderly passengers presented me, and all the other drivers with passes issued outside our area and asked if they could be used, "You will be able to from next April." was the stock reply. Some of the people who asked were from the UK but not from England. Well if you do live in the UK but not in England you can not use your pass in England, sorry but when the scheme was announced two years ago the word National was used to describe it and I assumed, as did most people, that meant the UK but the way devolution is going...........................
I am not sure exactly how many of these English Concessionary passes will be issued but it could be as many as 10 million. So far about 26 actual passes have been issued due to problems at the printers.
None so far in Torbay. To get round this problem we have been told to accept all existing passes issued in Devon and passes issued out side the area provided a cardboard Temporary Pass is also presented. Given that 10 million proper passes should have been printed and only 26 have been printed that means 9 million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and seven four temporary passes will have to be printed. Hopefully by a different printer.
I have an Around Torbay Concessionary pass but the cardboard temporary pass hasn't yet arrived and latest estimates are for about ten days. I was planning to go up to Manchester on a family visit at the weekend but the though of having to pay for my bus fares while I am there has put me off. Yes I know Stagecoach are in Manchester but my brother lives in North Manchester which is FirstBus territory.
Just to round of with an observation about ID Cards. The bus passes have the holders name and Photo and the Government have know they would need to issue 10 million of them for two years and haven't managed to get it organised. make no mistake this cock up IS down to Central Government, not local authorities or as I have suggested, the Printers ( sorry printers everywhere). They just didn't seem to understand the numbers involved.
Now ID Cards will hold much more information and 60 Million will need to be issued with safeguards built into the Card to prevent misuse. What chance do they have of issuing all of us here in the UK an ID Card some time this Century? Perhaps they should ask British Airways to run the system for them.
Saturday, 29 March 2008
One 12A and one 12C per hour will continue on from Babacombe to Teignmouth so passengers who would have used the 85 to go to Teignmouth will now get either a 12A or 12C but if they wish to go beyond Teignmouth to Dawlish or Dawlish Warren (where there are lots of caravan parks) will have to change to a number 2 (formally the 85A) in Teignmouth. The bus stop area in Teignmouth is not all that big so some congestion can be expected there.
The other change that will effect us driving the 12s will be the fact that the X46 Exeter Express will not go to Paignton as often as it used to so anyone in Paignton who wishes to go to Exeter will need to get a 12/12A/12C to the Harbour and change. Hopefully a notice will be put up in Paignton explaining this and tells the passengers to tell the 12 driver they wish to go to Exeter so we can sell them an Explorer Ticket (the cheapest way to get to Exeter) otherwise we will sell a return to Torquay and then the X46 driver will sell them an Explorer ticket.
Like I say, these changes are not till May 19th.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
Now there doesn't seem to be time to get out of the bus station and still have the required 30 minute break so drivers not only from our company but also from Country Bus stay in the station for lunch. Result; the place gets full a lot faster than the litter bin outside MacDonald's.
So now the place has been done up and the bus stops moved about in an effect to make it look like the local authority have spent millions on the place. Trouble is it does not disguise the fact there isn't enough room. The photo showed how close I could get to the kerb given the fact that I am trying to get a 34 foot long bus in to a 35 foot long space. Shame about the grid.
Actually there is not much chance a bus driver will fall asleep at the wheel, there is too much going on, traffic lights, bus stops, taking fares waving to other bus drivers, checking running times, answering questions and so on compared with say a car driver on a motorway staring at the car 10 feet in front while travelling at 70 mph.
Next problem is I woke up this morning at 6:20 as well even though I am not out till gone 10. Could become a habit.
No sign of the new bus passes yet. There is a notice which suggests that it could be as late as September before all over 60s get their pass. I have no idea who has contributed to this delay, Central Government, Local Government or the printers. One thing I do know, it isn't the bus company's fault, you can't blame us for this cock up.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Today the calls just seemed to go on and on. We try our best but not all passengers who find things on the bus hand them to the driver, unfortunately. Please look after your property when you get on a bus, saves lots of trouble.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
In case you missed the begining of this on going little story it is to do with Blog Action Day 2007. Bloggers were asked to write about an issue that concerned the enviroment and this plastic bag was hung up on the line to deteriorate (saves space in a land fill site somewhere). It has been there since 21 September 2007 in the rain,(lots) sun,(now and then) wind,(gale force) frost (slight) and snow (15 seconds) and like all plastic bags everywhere (trillions of them) it isn't in any hurry to go anywhere.
Actually he drove through no problem and then ten seconds later the car drivers buggered off just before the Parking Attendant arrived.
Real odd duty yesterday, one of the new duties that have just come out. Started at the depot in the Newton Road at 12:32 and drove a 12 to Paignton. Arrived 13:07. Had meal break. Now that is what I call a short first half. Second half made up for it though, 14:14 to 19:05.
One passenger at the top of Abbey Road wanted to go to Brixham. Now while the diversion was on we did go to Brixham from Abbey Road but the diversion ended a week ago when the road was re opened. Passenger moaned that no one had told him. Just the biggest event in Torquay's history and he missed it poor sod.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
One thing I didn't do any of in the last 7 weeks were 12As which is fine by me. So when I came out of Brixham this morning, as a 12A, up to Windy Corner and headed for Waterside. At the bottom of Cherry Brook Drive the 12 goes straight on and the 12A turns left. Force of habit, I went straight on. I realised my mistake at once and stopped in the stop just past Cherry Brook. Here the road is a duel carriageway and there is plenty of room to turn the bus round which I did, with care, but not before half the passengers had had a minor panic attack thinking they were on the wrong bus. Sorry if you were one of them.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
And on the other side of the road there is a pavement 10 metres wide and a long way away from fast moving traffic and you don't need to step into the road every time you come to a lamp post or traffic sign. So where would you walk if you were out for a Sunday afternoon stroll?
While I'm on about this stretch of road, Torbay council, could you get rid of all those tempory traffic signs. They blow over in the wind, get hit by cars and vans and people just push them over for the fun of it. I mean the road is going to be like this until some time next year, not some time next week.
It would be nice if we started withdrawing passes that are being misused, word would soon get round.
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Friday, 14 March 2008
Second or maybe third question is how come so many students who attend South Devon College are unable to comprehend written English? Devon Council Council provide a bus pass for students at a cheap rate so it doesn't cost them the earth to go and learn things at the collage. The student I am going to mention here told me his pass had cost £270 for the academic year. Now going back to my school days, we attended 39 weeks in a year so £270 divided by 39 equals £6.92 per week. £6.92 divided by 5 equals £1.38 a day.
Now to buy a ticket each day from Newton return to the collage would be £4.00 or a weekly ticket for a South Devon Collage student can be bought for £14.00. So the Devon Council bus pass looks good value. And it is, but there are limits to it's value. The other two tickets can be used for unlimited travel anywhere in the Torbay area and all the way to Newton. The Devon Council pass can only be used when the college is open, not Saturday or Sunday, and can only be used for one return journey between home and college. No where else. And this point is laid out clearly in a letter sent out with the pass.
Now this student got on the bus at Tor Park Rd which is in Torquay and his pass said for use between Newton Abbot and South Devon College Paignton. Neither is anywhere close to Tor Park Rd. I explained that he could not use the pass when getting on at this stop. He opened with I can use it anywhere between college and Newton. No. You can use it for a journey between the college and Newton. What you are trying to do is use it for a journey between Tor Park Rd and Newton and that isn't what it says on the pass or in the letter of terms and conditions sent out with the pass. I offered him the option of paying the fare or walking. He carried on arguing. I even got on the radio and asked control if he could use the pass. Control said "NO". He still carried on repeating that he had paid £270 for the pass again and again. Entertaining as this was, in the end I had to go and he didn't come up with the fare so I asked him to leave the bus and let me transport those people who had paid their fare to where they wanted to go.
He got off, hoping the next bus driver would be kinder. The next bus driver told him exactly what I had told him, pay or get off. He paid.
Such incidents happen at least once a week and do take up a lot of time. The above incident actually took 5 minutes which is a long time to be stopped if you are a passenger wanting to get home or a person at a stop further up the road wondering where the bus is. Personally I think once we have explained the terms and conditions in such an incident we should punch a hole in the pass. Then next time they get on the bus at the wrong stop and try to use it the drivers knows they have had the rules explained and can relieve holder of pass. Save a lot of time.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Not these bloody big trees but some smaller trees further down the road.
This bus stop is outside the Princess Theatre and is not in use due to the road being too narrow to stop. If we did stop, passing vehicles would be in danger of a head on RTC which would block the road and we don't want that do we?
As you can see there is a fair camber on the road and not a great deal of room. So far I have driven each way twice and driven fairly slowly on both occasions. One thing about this stretch of road, it used to be full of parked cars and if anyone driving a car in front of the bus saw a parking space they would stop and reverse slowly into it, even if they didn't really want to park there but in Torquay on-road parking places are so rare motorist found it difficult to drive past any available spot. Some times this could happen two or three times increasing the journey time by three or four minutes. Now no parking along here so that problem has gone. Until some idiot decides to park.
Parking at the Princess Theatre could become a problem in the evening and is a problem for the council to look at in detail.
The road is going to be like this until work has been done to fix the rock face which will not actually start until at least September and could then take months. How many months? No one is saying officially but think of a film with Henry Fonda in it, a court room drama type film, lots of angry men shouting at each other.
Monday, 10 March 2008
Grand opening ceremony put back 4 to 5 hours as the Council were too busy today clearing up the mess from last night's storm to sweep the road which is full of debris. Not their fault. Not sure whether Risk Assessment will take place. I hope it does.
A small amount of water had made it over the sea wall but fortunately the wind was blowing from the west, had it been from the east we would have been in trouble. After a few minutes the police decided the water was going down and allowed me to turn right. If it hadn't I would have had to turn left up Sheddon Hill and round the town all over again.
During the night there were strong winds and heavy rain, A wind speed of 82mph was recorded at Berry Head in Brixham, which is the other side of the Bay. One concern was of course Rock Walk but a quick inspection at lunch time showed no rock falls. One noticeable casualty of the wind was some scaffolding around a building in East St which was blown down. We had to divert around this area for a few hours. Please note ISCA Scaffolding, the firm who built our Thin Blue Line did not erect this scaffolding.
Then guess what turned up at the Gas Works at about 09:15? Got it in one. Road works. Just what we needed. They were still there when I finished work so they could just be there tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 11 March. The road between Cary Parade and Belgrave Road will be opened at 08:00. If I wake up in time I will go and get a photo of the event and keep it as my Desktop for a while. Also tomorrow there will be a Risk Assessment to see if it is safe to let buses use the road in both directions. If I miss the road opening I will get a photo showing how close we get to the trees. If we are too close I am sure the Council will cut the offending branches off.
Note to Councils everywhere: tree lined road look wonderful, I'm all for them, but please plant the bloody things a bit further away from the edge of the pavement
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Saturday, 8 March 2008
About the photo; I took it in the depot today but don't ask.
Friday, 7 March 2008
So now you know, the fares, some of them anyway are going up. At least the notice is on the buses in good time. A few years ago when the fares went up the notice was posted on the buses on a Friday afternoon to take effect on the Sunday. 31 March is a Monday so have a bit extra cash or you will have to get of a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.
Today, being Friday was busy. In the middle of the afternoon it took 10 minutes to drive the length of Pimlico, 150 metres, then another 15 to get up Abbey Road. Then 10 more minutes to get through the road words on the way to Paignton At one point in the early evening I was 42 minutes late and got on the Radio and told control, asking for some words of comfort, assistance, or even encouragement but all he said was, " Just keep plodding on." Great help that was. But we were all in the same boat. Then about 19:30 the news came over the radio that the roadworks at the Gas Works had gone. So have the Gas Works, but they went 30 years ago and never came back. The road works should follow their example, go and never return.
Lulled you all in to a false sense of security. You thought I wasn't going to mention Rock Walk didn't you. What? you knew I was going to mention the place on every one's lips, usually as a swear word. If, two months ago, you had asked a hundred people in Torquay where or what Rock Walk is 98 of them would not have had a clue. Anyway this is behind the barrier designed to stop rocks getting on buses. £43 000 it will cost and will be in place until the whole cliff face falls into a heap on the road or some time in the far distant future, so far that only Doctor Who could imagine going to, the cliff face is concreted over. Sorry, got carried away a bit there, that should have been stabilised with netting and huge bolts screwed, personally by the Mayor himself?, into each boulder. It could end up as the largest piece of modern, abstract art in Western Europe, an added attraction drawing holiday makers in their dozens to beautiful Torquay.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
"Why?" Said I.
"Road works." Said he. "At the gas works."
Nearly got hit by a car in Fleet St this evening, must have been doing 40 mph at least. (The Car that is, not me). I am thinking of starting a third blog called "Cars in Fleet St, is it a conspiracy?" A couple of hours down there with the camera and I would have enough photos of cars driving illegally along Fleet St to keep a magistrate going for months.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful apart that is from the land train, pictured above, braking down. This little train wanders round Torquay carrying about 25 to 30 passengers in three carriages. I can be a bit of a pain if you get stuck behind it as it's max speed is about 10 mph. Today it went up Abbey Road and turned left into St Lukes Road to head for the sea front. Half way round it stopped and would not go again. Now where it decided to go on strike wasn't the worse place it could brake down, that would be Pimlico, nothing could get passed there. But, due to the diversion that is in place in Torquay this year, Abbey Rd is about as full as Wembley High Street on Cup Final Day. "You can get past but it is a bit tight." was how the reporting driver described the situation over the radio. Yeah, right. Three cms from the land train on one side and slightly less from a high curb on the other. I don't know how long it was stuck there for but I got back two hours later and he had gone.
There, a whole post and "that place that is falling down" never got a mention. Fingers crossed for March 17.
Monday, 3 March 2008
'University challenge' launched
08:44 - 03 March 2008
Up to 20 towns and cities in England could have a new university or college within the next six years, the Government said.
Universities Secretary John Denham said he wanted to "unlock the talent" of local people and give communities across the country the chance to have their own campus.
Announcing the 'University Challenge' consultation, Mr Denham said that subject to "high quality" bids, he expected the 20 new institutions would be open or approved by 2013. It is hoped they would provide an extra 10,000 student places.
Could our very own South Devon College make it?
Will they one day win University Challenge?
Remember, you heard it first here.
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Later I was going up Fleet Walk heading for Brixham, this is the 'wrong' way for Brixham but we are on a diversion. I might have mentioned it before. There was a crowd at the stop mostly young children but no one put their hand out so I started to move out to continue up the road. Then a little old dear stuck her hand out. At this point I was only doing 5 mph but I was blocking the road. She was on her own and had her Around Torbay pass in her hand. So I stopped, blocking the road but I would be away in ten seconds before anyone came the other way. NOT A CHANCE. She wanted Newton. I explained I was going to Brixham. But the Newton bus usually stops here she claimed. Yes it will said I getting a bit desperate. Wait at this bus stop for a twelve with Newton Abbott on the front. Slowly, and slightly puzzled she got off but the crowd of children had now noticed I had Brixham on the front of the bus and one of them asked "Do you go to the Big Tree?" I did and I foolishly admitted I did. What a mistake to make. Eight of them got on and all wanted single tickets and none had the right money and I wanted a big hole to open up below the bus. Remember earlier I mentioned that I was blocking the road. I got on the radio and broadcast to the whole of Radio Stagecoach Devon in a voice edged with panic, "Don't come down Fleet Street. Some idiot has blocked it." Everyone heard me except the next 12 coming down Fleet St. He had his radio turned down or maybe he was listerning to Radio FirstBus. He came round the bend and saw who the idiot was that was well and truely blocking the road just as I sold the last child single (£1.55) to the big tree. If the little darlings had bought return tickets I would have been on my way well before the 12 coming down had arrived. He now had to reverse 30 metres, not a good thing to do in Fleet St in the middle of a Saturdy afternoon. So mums and dads, when you give your little darling some money to out on a Saturday tell them to buy return tickets. Please. You know it makes sense.
Last story happened in Paignton in the evening. Three girls, mid teens, done up to the nines, going for a night out. First girl, oldest looking of the 3, "Child single to Newton." Never a child thinks I. The hard stare,"Are you sure you are of an age that qualifies you for child ticket?" She was fifteen but everyone always though she looked older. An other girl also said she was 15, her birthday was later this month. The third girl, who looked the youngest, admitted she was 16. Well I did ask, child return Newton, pressed all the right button came up as £3.95. An adult return to Newton is £4.00 which is a Day Rider. The actual return ticket is £5.90 but any fare of £4.00 and over and we sell the passenger a DayRider. All that hard staring and even if they had been 16 it would have gained the company just 10p. At least they bought return tickets.