Wednesday, 30 April 2008
I waited a moment just in case she remembered that paying for a ticket or showing a pass was the usual behavior when boarding a bus but just like Napoleon didn't bother to knock when entering Russia she also wasn't going to bother with simple common curtsies. So I called, "Excuse me." down the bus. Then again. And again. The passengers waiting to board were shuffling back a little, not wanting to be caught up in the expected crossfire. She finally cottoned on that I wanted a brief word with her and marched back up the bus shouting, "I've got a return ticket." I gently explained that I would actually like to see it using my very best customer relations voice. What I would like to have said was, " Says you!" and ten years ago I probably would have but I decided 9.5 years ago that having slanging matches with passengers was extremely counter productive. Usually what happened was there would be said slanging match and then I would spent the rest of the day thinking of all the cutting, nasty, vindictive things I should have said but didn't manage to come up with them at the time. So when she did show me the ticket all I said was, "Have a nice day." Her reaction was to shout, "Don't get shirty with me." I just smiled. The rest of the passengers got on, prehaps a little disappointed that the expected show hadn't been a little more violent (verbally violent that is) than it turned out to be.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
When I when through Torquay this morning at the start of a 9hr 55 min duty the council were down at Belgrave Rd clearing the seaweed away, shows someone in the Town Hall reads this blog. And why not?
Then later on in the day, traffic had been light, not a road work in sight though passengers numbers had been fairly heavy and just as I was thinking "What a nice quiet day." I turned into Midvale Rd on the way to Paignton Bus Station and this was what I saw. Only took 6 minutes for the truck driver to move but it meant there were huge crowds at every stop between PBS and Torquay wondering where I was. No problem for me, I'm a professional.
Just as I stopped at Castle Circus at the top of Torquay the 12 behind me managed to overtake me which was nice of him. He could do some of the work from here to Newton, not that we pick much up between Torquay and Newton at that time in the afternoon and by the time I got to Newton I was back on time. So even with this little hold up Tuesday had been a nice day.
Monday, 28 April 2008
IF YOU WANT ME TO STOP:- PUT YOU HAND OUT.
No, not you dear reader, the person at the bus stop.I don't want to stop, I want to keep going so I can get to the terminus and have a smoke. Stopping means I face the probability of being asked hard to answer questions like 'How much is it to Brixham?' or 'What time is the last bus?'or 'Where were the last 3 buses?' The passengers on the bus don't want me to stop, they just want to get where they are going as quickly as possible without some vastly overweight person who smells getting on the bus and sitting next to them in the only empty seat on the bus. The car drivers behind don't want me to stop as they will have to check their mirrors, slow down, signal to the drivers behind and the pull out in the face of car drivers coming the other way who also don't want me to stop. The car drivers half a mile back down the road don't want me to stop as it means the will have to risk life, limb and the nearside of their car trying to get past me as I put on a right turn signal and pull straight out in front of them with total disregard for the fact that they have speeded up to 50 mph in a misguided attempt to get in front of me. Who can blame them, even I don't like travelling behind a bus?So you are the only person on the face of the planet who wants me to stop. Put some effort into getting me to stop. Lie in the road, take all your clothes off and hold a big sign with 'Please Stop' written on it, or just put your hand out.
PS These methods of getting the bus to stop are not guaranteed. There are some bloody minded bus drivers out there who will find any excuse to stare in the rear view mirror from the moment they see you at the stop until they are well past you. Sorry about that.
Well that was it, in case you missed it the first time round, the first post in the busdriving blog. Four years, a thousand posts and several hundred photos later and nothing's changed, people still wait till we are 5 feet away from the bus stop before showing any interest in wanting the bus. Don't they read this blog? If not, why not?
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Saturday, 26 April 2008
Booze Up in a Brewery
Friday, 25 April 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Pulling up at the stop isn't hard, a left turn indicator a bit of gentle breaking and a slight turn on the wheel and there you are, stopped 10 feet past the bus shelter. The shelter, which was made from recycled guns from the Crimean War, was in the perfect position for back loader buses. (back loaders vanished from Torquay over 40 years ago). Now passengers have to walk ten feet to get on the bus at the front which in the wind and rain isn't fun. It ain't called Windy Corner for nothing.
Pulling away, now that is what makes this stop so dangerous, Two lanes of traffic hurtle by and we have to get into that second lane. Not only that, there is a road just in front of the stop that is fairly hard to get out of. If you have been waiting two minutes to get out, which can happen, you aren't going to let a little thing like a bus stop you. And, one more thing, there is a side road on the right just behind the bus stop, we have to make sure no one is blasting out of there as well. Oh yes, I forgot about the traffic lights 15 yards in front of the stop. So you finally get moving, press the right foot down hard to get away as fast as possible and the lights change so brakes get pressed down hard. Will the car driver behind have noticed the lights have changed or will he realise they changed when he runs into the back of the bus.
Ask all 12 drivers which is the worst stop in the Bay and 95% will say Windy Corner. The other 5% are mistaken when they say Brunel Road.
9 years ago a Union Official, who has since retired, told me that he was going to insist this stop be moved. All it needs is moving 50 yards towards Brixham away from the junction. But that is common land and the council are having difficulty acquiring a small section to turn into a bus lay by. He, the union man, also told me that if the bus stop wasn't moved by September 2001 he was going to instruct his members not to stop at this stop as it was too dangerous.
Sorry, got of the point a little there. Over the last two days someone has spent £6000 building a brand new bus shelter. So now when we pull up at the bus stop passengers still have to run 10 feet in the cold wet rain and wind because the 21st Century bus shelter is in exactly the same place as the Crimean War bus shelter. Perfect for back loaders. Maybe we are going retro and buying 50 London Route Masters painted in Devon General colours.
Yeah, right, I know the title said bus stops, 3 of them bus it's 12:30 in the morning and I am tired so Good night.
Maybe I am being cynical here, could the fact that we have a Lib Dem MP and either a Lib Dem or Tory council be affecting how a Labour Central Government make their decisions? Maybe if we voted in a Labour Council and MP they would change their mind.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Another item from our notice board at work. Bus drivers love it when an other bus driver, particularly from an other bus company, make a gigantic cock up like this. My question is; what was the instructor doing to let his pupil hit this bridge?
And thanks to all those who gave me information re the black and white photo I had at the top of the page.
Monday, 21 April 2008
Yesterday, a rest day I went down to Paignton. When I got to the bus station I noticed that it looked a little different. I'm observant like that. The buses usually drive into the bay and reverse out but some resurfacing work is going on so the buses were stopping side on to the bays and driving off. I wondered off for a look round the town and later when I came back I and an other driver were having a chat when we noticed a bus in the same place as the one in the photo was setting off and the driver (name unknown) had not noticed that a big white, brand new National Express bus was just about to drive past him. I had my camera in my hand. Now here is the photographer’s dilemma. Do I put the camera to my eye and capture the moment of metal rending, glass shattering, paint mutilating or do I wave at the driver like mad and save him the chore of exchanging names and addresses with the other driver, running late into Brixham, writing out an accident form and them in a week or two having to go and see the depot manager who would ask him, “How did you manage to not see a blindingly white, 8 foot wide, 12 foot high, 18 tonne National Express bus.” in that voice that depot managers the world over use in these situations?
Well as you can see there isn’t a photo of two buses merged temporarily into one in the middle of Paignton Bus Station so I chose the latter.
The work in the bus station continues today so there could be little bits of confusion and chaos in Paignton today. If you have nothing better to do it could be an interesting show.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
So I was a bit grumpy when I got to work. So I went up to the canteen to get a cup of coffee from the machine. 35p a cup, I only had a pound coin in my pocket but the machine gives change. It did give change but only 5p. 95p for a cup of coffee. I desperately needed something to cheer me up and that some thing arrived at Manor Corner in the shape of 6 teenagers. First one asked for a child single to Brixham as did the second. The next 3 had passes and the last asked for a child single to Paignton Bus Station. Now these 6 were all together so the last one asking for a ticket only as far as Paignton, 90p less stuck in the memory. And as you might guess none of the boys got of when I got to Paignton. Big smile on face, I went upstairs and looked at the holder of the Paignton ticket and said,"This is Paignton Bus Station. If you want to go further you have to pay more." When he got off and walked away there was the warm glow of a job well done.
The day looked distinctly brighter.
Friday, 18 April 2008
Yesterday was very windy, as was today and being an easterly it was cold. But yesterday the sun shone all day where as today it was dull. Yesterday was busy, today was very quiet.
An other difference between today and yesterday was today the waves crashing over the sea wall were 10 feet high and the road was closed at 18:30, ten minutes after high water. Yesterday the waves were 25 feet high but no one told the powers that be and the road remained open. Strange.
Tomorrow the wind is forecast for easterly, which brings the sea over what is laughingly called the sea wall and 23 mph which is certainly strong enough to give everything on the road at Livermead a drenching. High Tide is for 18:52 by which time I will have finished for the weekend. I might go down and get some photos of buses vanishing under the sea.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
Problem with this kind of incident is the windows get covered by a layer of salt which make it difficult to see, especially in the bright sun light. Into Paignton Bus Station and a quick rub down with a damp cloth helped a little. When I finished and was cashing up I saw a notice about ROSCO Safe Driving Awards.
Rosco is the Road Operators Safety Council and all our drivers get a certificate if they complete a calender year without having a preventable accident. It has been going since 2005, no certificate that year as I clipped a wing mirror in New Road on the way into Brixham. 2006, as you may remember I clipped a bus shelter so no certificate. 2007 was a good year so I get a certificate. No cash to go with it, but you can't have every thing. .
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Today. Two more passengers, who could even have been the same passengers from Monday board the bus. He shows me the Welsh passes and asks for Paignton. I explain that Welsh passes cannot be used in England. He pays the fare, she says, as they walk down the bus, “That’s the 5th bus driver to tell you that. Now will you believe me?”
Right. Let me make something clear now. I know I said I would only mention Bus Passes in passing but what is seen by myself and other bus drivers as a little bit of a joke at the moment could be a gently ticking time bomb for places like Torquay. We rely heavily on visitors. Most of our summer visitors, not counting the foreign language students, are from other places in the UK. That includes Wales, Scotland and to a smaller extent Ireland. But these visitors cannot use their bus passes in England. Already over the last few days I have had to refuse passes from Wales, so far none from Scotland but later in the summer we do get a fairly large contingent down from north of the border, we even have Scottish Bank notes on display in the Pay In room at the depot so we know what they look like. But if they cannot use their passes here in England there could be a danger they will not make the trip to Torquay and other English resorts. Similarly English tourists will not venture over the Welsh or Scottish boarder for the same reason. The Euro is strong at the moment so people are thinking less of holidaying in Europe so we should benefit from more people in the UK staying in the UK for their holidays. Torquay, being the type of resort it is, attracts the more mature visitor and is a resort that, by it’s size and geography does tend to make bus trips an important part of the holiday. But the basic unfairness of people over 60 from England getting free bus rides with the Welsh and Scottish over sixties having to pay might make them reluctant to leave their own country for holidays in the future. Result, less visitors to Torquay.
Please Mr Brown, I know you read this blog, could you give this matter some thought and make the above pass and the Welsh passes valid anywhere in the UK. And quickly.
Just a mention, we have been without road works for the last week or so. So Devon County Council came up with a great idea. In the middle of the afternoon they closed a lane at Penn Inn. The left hand lane of 3. Chaos. Instantaneous Chaos.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
This was at start of April 2008 and concerned me putting the summer season bus route changes on the blog. I have a feeling this is where it went banana shaped.
I put them in the blog on March 29 and was called in for an interview to explain why I had published confidential, sensitive material on the blog. Didn't I realize other bus companies could read my blog and adjust their summer services accordingly. The mental picture I got of the head of FirstBus instructing one of his minions to read my blog daily incase I let slip confidential information was nearly as funny as an episode of Eastenders.
I pointed out that the company had registered the summer changes with the Traffic Commission, as they are required to do 8 weeks before they start, by March 24. Once the traffic commission have got them they are public. This was countered with a statement that head office were having to deal with requests for information about the changes. I pointed out that now they would have more time to deal with these requests. I refrained from the "Clutching at straws" remark.
At the end of the interview it was decided by the assistant operations manager that no further action would be taken.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
The Photo? Someone pinned it on the wall at work and I thought I would share it with you. Not all examples of humour that make it to our august wall are as sophisticated as this.
Friday, 11 April 2008
Thursday, 10 April 2008
No good in England.
This is a Welsh Concessionary Travel Pass, or to put it an other way a Cerdyn Teithio Rhatach and it can only be used in England provided it is used where bus services make cross border trips into England from the Land of Their Fathers and the local authorities have come to an arrangement to accept these pass on such trips. By no stretch of the imagination can Devon be said to have a border with Wales and I am sure without even asking that neither Torbay nor Devon County Council have any cross border arrangements with the Welsh Assembly.
I make this statement because yesterday on the radio there were several calls from drivers asking if the Welsh Bus Pass can be used on our buses here in Devon. The answer was always NO. Now it wasn't as if these drivers didn't know the answer but sometimes when you tell someone they can not use a pass or ticket the passenger doesn't believe you, or to be more blunt, hopes you wont be bothered trying the radio and will let them travel. Or mabe has never heard of radios. So time has to be spent contacting control and asking them a question we all know the answer to just so some doubting Dylan can hear a voice of authority coming out of a loud speaker telling them exactly what the poor bus driver has probably told them twice already and almost certainly the passenger knew also.
The other thing that happened yesterday was that British Telecom are yet again spending time down a hole in the road in Churston and temporary traffic lights were once again in place. The hole in the road is full of Hi Tech Telecom equipment (or maybe a couple of computer games) and the engineers have been playing down there for about 6 weeks now, seems to be taking them a long time to get it right. I hope you haven't been trying to make a phone call in the Churston area. Information I have received suggests at least an other two weeks will be required before they move somewhere else and make lots of other drivers' lives a misery. Going into Brixham the queue at the lights is 100 yards long, coming out it can be a mile long. You know, the usual arrangment at temporary traffic lights. No attempt has ever been made to even things up a little. So buses run late through no fault of our's and we get shouted at, people would think we like running late. Well we don't, it makes life harder for us and we, like our passengers end up getting home late to dinners that have spent an hour going round in a microwave in a sad attempt to keep them warm and edible.
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Monday, 7 April 2008
The Clock Tower you can see, the Queens Hotel you can't. The Queens has been empty and the building deteriorating for some years now. The owner wants to turn it from a hotel to holiday apartments but the local council were reluctant to grant planing permission. So the owner did nothing and the building became an eyesore. Now it is covered with plastic sheeting, not to protect any builders from the weather or passers by from falling materials but to make it look nicer. If you come down on holiday it will look like building work is about to start but for those of us who live here it will look like this for months or even years yet. The nature of the eyesore has changed but is still there.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Lady owner did the responsible thing and waited for her dog to do what dogs have to do. I waited also. Just as lady owner finished collecting what the dog had done she noticed bus. I waved to indicate that what ever she was doing was more important than me getting to Newton Abbot. She looked sheepish but continued to clean the street up which was fine by me.
The weekly rate is £48.65. This is reduced by the amount of certain other benefits, including State Pension, that you receive. If you receive certain other benefits at £48.65 or more a week, Carer's Allowance cannot be paid to you as well.
Just so you know what a carer gets. This is paid to someone ( A Carer) who looks someone, usually a family member who is disabled to the point of being unable to look after themselves.
From my point of view as a bus driver a carer used to be someone who travelled on a bus with a person who was so disabled as to make it impossible for them to take a bus ride unattended. This disability could be either physical or mental. I say ‘used to be’ because now the Government has decided that carers do not come in the "Core Validity" of Concessionary Bus Passes. The core validity only covers people who are over 60 years of age or are disabled.
Most people who get on a bus and have a pass because they are disabled can do so with little or no problem, indeed many are on their way to or from work. But, and to quote just one example, the young lad who boards the bus in a wheel chair needs a carer with him as he is unable to propel his wheel chair and unable to communicate his needs. He does very much enjoy his trips out on the bus. However the carer who assists him on his trips no longer gets free travel and has to pay the bus fare. Bus fares are not exactly cheap especially if your total income is £48.65. For this carer, a return trip to the town centre is £2.40 which represents 5% of her income. That’s 5% of income spent on one short bus trip, a longer trip say to Brixham and back would be nearly 9%. So while the disabled person can make as many trips as they like for free the carer is severely restricted in the number she/he can. So there is little point in Central Government (the caring government) going to the expense of giving the severely disabled bus passes as they will not be able to use them.
Now as a bus driver I used to see carer passes very rarely, 2 a month would be a lot and I do know that up to February this year Torbay Council had issued less than 200 carer passes. Not because Torbay Council are mean, tight fisted, uncaring sods, it’s just that there are not that many people who need carer passes. Based on the figure of 200 carer passes out of a total of over 30 000 concessionary passes this means 0.7% of passes were carer passes. Out of the total cost for bus passes of one billion pounds carer passes would have cost Central Government an extra £7 million. Now £7 million sounds a lot, give me 7 million quid and this blog would be renamed ‘No longer Busdriving’ about 15 seconds later but to Central Government it is a less than a day in the War in Iran. To disabled people who can not make bus trips on their own it is a life time stuck indoors while life and the buses pass by without an apparent care, or carer, on board.
If you live in the UK please email your MP and ask him to speak to Gordon Brown about extending carer passes into the Core Validity of Concessionary Bus Passes.
Please note; Don't just copy this post and send it to your MP as it will simply get blocked.
Click here for your MP's name and email address
Also finds your local councilor.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Well, it's arrived, only 5 days late. So eager to try it out I went down to Fleet Street to catch a bus up to St Marychurch, The driver looked at my pass when I said Marychurch and looked at me and said,"You're having a laugh ain't you." and registered me as a Staff Pass. Failed at the first hurdle, still never mind I can try on the way back. So I waited with pass in hand for a 32 but when it came there were several people waiting and the driver looked busy so to save time I showed him my staff pass, no ticket to issue. So I still don't know if it works.
Friday, 4 April 2008
One little calculation I did do that definitely isn't rocket science was 11 million into £1 billion equals £90.90 . That is 11 million passes issued Nationwide and £1 billion cash per year to fund the scheme. The £90.90 is the spend per pass per year, that's £1.75 per week. That's one return trip out for an OAP every eight days. OK I know not everyone over 60 will use their pass, I don't expect Liz and Phil will do much travelling by bus but there are determined people out there who will make up for the Queen's failure to enjoy her free bus travel.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
OK; if that isn't bad enough then those with long enough memories will also have heard of Selnec the bus company with the worst ever colour scheme. I personally believe they bought ten thousand tins of different coloured paint and mixed to lot and got a new colour; Vomit.
Anyway I digress. I have taken less money than today's effort but only when I have spent about half the duty broken down ( back in the old days when we did occasionally break down). It seemed everyone decided to come out and try out their new passes, even those who hadn't actually got their new pass, which was most of them. A council official told me that the new passes were, "in the post." A couple of discrete coughs from me and he added, "or will be any day now."
Actually the delay in the passes is due to Central Government. Instead of letting each local authority produce their own passes, I know Torbay council have the technology to do this so others probably can as well, they insisted that the passes were made at only Authorized Pass Producers and there are only 6 names on the list. Eleven million passes divided by 6 equals 1.84 million passes per printer. That would be like the government saying we could only have six toilet paper suppliers for the whole country. Think about it. Well no, perhaps not.
Anyway, I will only mention bus passes again to let you know when mine does arrive and of course in passing. Oh yeah, I will also have a rant at Central Government any day now about Carers passes when I can find the energy.
Most of the conversations with passengers yesterday (Mon 31 March) were about concessionary passes. The first took place while I was waiting to catch a bus to work. One lady was worried that her pass was due to run out on the 31st (which all Around Torbay passes were) and she wouldn't be able to travel the next day. I reassured her that we weren't heartless down at the bus company and we would accept the passes until September. Several other passengers were given the same information during the course of the morning. Then at lunch time a new notice had been prepared in response to the millions of fax messages that had been flying round the country about the rules and regulations and last minute decisions being made due to the fact that almost no one had a proper pass (problems at the printers). We would honor the passes only until 13th April, after that they would have to be accompanied by the cardboard temp pass, and of course the person using the pass for us to honor. But I have been reassured that by then everyone will either have the new pass or a temp pass. As yet I have neither.
Passes from outside Devon will have to be either the new pass or an old pass plus cardboard temp pass. Then a couple got on the bus and the husband told me that just before they left the house to catch the train down for a weeks holiday in Torquay the post had arrived with his wife's new pass but not his. So she can have free bus rides around the Bay but he will have to pay. Sad.
PS Please disregard previous post. I have no idea how it got there. Nothing to do with me. Honest.
PPS And if you are at a loss about what to do with your new bus pass here is an idea.