Thursday, 31 December 2009

Christmas Week

I've been working hard the last couple of weeks. The hotel was full to the brim and we have needed two coaches full time to cope. So on Sunday 20 Dec I went up empty to Walsall and stayed overnight. Because I got there fairly early I had plenty of time in the hotel so I got a bus into Walsall town. Snow covered, cold and damp and Sunday evening. I don't think I saw Walsall at it's best. Next day I was up at 6:30 to pick up in Leicester. The car park at the hotel was very slippy and a memo came up on the dash, "Danger. Black Ice." No problem once I got on the motorway. Clear all the way back down to Torquay. Tuesday a morning tour to Teignmouth and Dawlish then to Trago Mills in the afternoon. Very cold. Wednesday should have been a trip to Dartmouth, only been there once and didn't know my way around. A trip up the river was an optional extra. In the afternoon we were going to go over to Brixham which I am familiar with. The lack of knowledge of the Dartmouth tour wasn't a problem, all I had to do was follow the other coach. But the other coach didn't run. The driver couldn't get his car out of the road he lives in due to ice. It had been minus 3C overnight and now it was raining on top of icy roads. Not everyone in the hotel wanted to go out for the day, I didn't blame them, cold and wet weather suggested that it wouldn't be pleasant. However enough of then decided to go so I set off wishing I was back home, safe in bed. The road to Totnes was blocked due to an accident so a quick change of plan. Into Brixham first.

Brixham was damp, it stopped raining just as I got there and started rain an hour and a half later just as I was leaving. It was quiet as well, the visable population went from 3 to 33 when my passengers got of the coach. After Brixham I headed for the higher ferry across the River Dart, While on the ferry it started sleeting. Then the coach grounded coming off the ferry and for a minute or two I couldn’t move. I had a mad idea we would be stuck there for ever. But the ferryman told me to turn the wheel and it just gave me a bit of height and we cleared the ferry. Still sleeting when I pulled up next to the River Link booth and was approached by a guy trying to sell the boat trip up the river. The sleet was so bad that Kingswear on the other side of the river had vanished. No one fancied a river trip. In fact it was so bad no one even fancied getting off the coach. So we went back to the hotel and had an early day. Probably a good idea. Listening to Radio Devon was boring in the end, nothing but roads closed due to accidents. The A38 was closed for two hours in both directions then opened the closed again. The A380 Exeter to Torquay road was closed for 3 hours in both directions and several minor roads were closed, nationally it was the same. Not a good day to be driving.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Please Don't Steal Buses, You Could Kill Someone.

And on a completely different topic this short cut takes you to a video shot from a Police helicopter over Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Shane Oldroyd had been drinking and had no money to get home so he stole a bus. A quarter of a million pounds was the cost of his bus ride and he was jailed for at least 3 and a half years today. His driving was described by the judge as 'wicked, dangerous and reckless'. He drove with as much care as the average litter lout drops cigarette butts on the pavement.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Good News From Copenhagen

I'm not going to call it Global Warming anymore. In case it is summer where you live I would mention that it is cold here, -1C last night and 0C today; plus a wind chill factor of -6C. Now I know there are places where that would be regarded as a balmy spring day but not here on the south coast of England. Not until the Gulf Stream stops anyway. Even though it was bitterly cold we made it down to the Irish pub on the Harbour at lunch time. There another hardy drinker poured cold water on the idea of Global Warming and wondered at the point of all the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen. At first I thought he was joking, using the most important meeting in the history of the world, to add weight to his comment about how cold it was. But he wasn't, he really did think that the planet wasn't getting hotter, how could it be given that this was the coldest day in living memory. Some peoples living memory is shorter than others.

But I wasn't despondent, he was in a pub in Torquay, not in the conference in Copenhagen. The people in the conference, world leaders must be well informed, responsible people with the best interests of their people and their peoples’ children uppermost in their hearts and minds. A steely determination to do the right thing. To go down in history as the group the saved the world. They have known this get together was important. They would have spoken to scientists and advisors learned in their fields who would have been able to explain in detail the effects of the rise of more than 2C on weather patterns around the world and how these changes would effect the world's ability to provide enough food and water to keep the population nourished and what steps are needed to keep the rise in temperature below 2C. They wouldn’t, like me have listened to “the man in the pub”. Optimism will shine through even when there are no logical or even illogical reasons to suggest it is the right frame of mind to switch the evening news on to find out what steps our courageous world leaders had decided on to save the planet or to be a little more accurate, all the living creatures on the planet. (Those bigger than single cell organisms at least).

So this group of people, with all the facts at their finger tips, all the graphs showing this and that, all the projections of what would happen if they did nothing, all got round a very big table and decide that nothing needed to be done. I can not think the side meeting between India, China, S. Africa and that other country will have any effect other than to really, really upset at least 50% of the other countries on the planet. Big Brother putting his foot down again. So Global Warming isn’t happening. Terrible things aren’t going to happen to the weather. People will not starve or die of thirst in their hundreds of millions or even billions later on in this or any other century. A large proportion of plant and animal species aren’t heading for extinction.

Well thank God for that.

BA & Unite

In a recent post I suggested that it was most unlikely that the ballot held by the union Unite to strike was anything but completely legal and above board. Sometimes even I get things wrong.

Now I am not suggesting that the union deliberately used tactics to alter the outcome of the voting but it would have been better if they had taken a lot more care to ensure they would not find themselves in the position they are in now. Like telling their members in advance that they would be on strike for 12 days over Christmas and not spring it on them after they had voted to strike. The public reaction to this as well as cabin crews writing on the net and the failure of Flyglobespan should make the cabin crew think more carefully before putting their cross in the square marked " Do you want to be hated by a million people?" in the next ballot, if the union are stupid enough to have one that is.
Mind you the whole thing could be solved quite simply, sell BA to Virgin and have done with it.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bus on it's Side

Not often you see a double decker on it's side. The driver of the red truck was arrested after this incident in London. The bus, a C3, was hit as it drove along a main road. Three people were injured in the accident including the driver of the bus. None of the injuries are life threatening thank goodness. A video, (available here) taken a hour or so later showed the front of the bus and someone had changed the destination blind to read "Sorry, not in service." A nice touch. The driver has since been released from hospital but the two passengers injured are still detained in a serious but stable condition.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Public Transport Over Christmas (Not just in Torquay)

As you can see there are, as usual, no buses on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day and reduced services on other days. The curtailment of services on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve at 20:00 also continues. Plan your journeys with care.

If you were planing to fly somewhere this Christmas by British Airways, the peoples favorite airlines then I regret you wont be able to unless something dramatic turns up. The vote by 9 to 1 to strike leads one to a choice of 3 conclusions. One, the vote was rigged. Two, given BA's desperate financial situation, the cabin crews are all, well 90% of them, off their heads. Three BA really are treating their cabin crews very badly indeed. Choice one is the least likely in this day and age. It is hard to rig votes now a days given the scrutiny
that such a ballot would be under. Two I also find unlikely, there are just too many of them for all of them to have switched their brains off all at the same time. So maybe they have a justifiable grievance against management in which case lets hope, possibly forlornly, that this strike doesn't actually happen other wise in the short term there will be a million very upset people about this Christmas. In the long term; will BA stay the peoples favorite airline and more worryingly, will BA stay an airline.
At least there is one slight consolation if the strike does go ahead. It will put back the impact of global warming a few days with all these planes sat on the ground over Christmas.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

What Are You Doing To Save The Planet?

I was watching the news the other day and the Copenhagen conference came up. Seems to me we need drastic measures to be taken soon if the world isn't going to be come a pretty grim place in a generation or two. Now if it the weather patterns change to the point being suggested and people begin to starve or their homes get washed away some time after 2050 then it really doesn’t concern me as I probably wont be around then. But future generations are going to say some nasty things about me, like why didn’t I do something to stop emitting all the greenhouses gases entering the atmosphere and making life more or less intolerable for those who manage to be born any time after 2050. I mean it isn’t as if I didn’t know it was going to happen, back in 1347 no one knew the Black Death was about to enter Europe and kill half the people living there and even if the did there was not much they could have done about other than pray. But I can do something about the present problem. And I do, I switch the TV off at night, no stand by for me. I only fill the kettle up with just enough water, saves on the fuel bill as well as saves the planet. I take a bag with me to the shops, no free plastic bag for me. I don’t drive a car 2 miles to the shops and back when I could walk, I haven’t got a car that‘s why.

Thinking about cars I remember something suggested in the 70s when we all believed petrol was about to run out. Each car would have a number, between 1 and 5, displayed prominently front and back. Monday would be Day 1 Tuesday Day 2 through to Friday Day 5 Saturday would be Day 1 Sunday Day 2 Monday Day 3 and so on for ever. If you had 3 on your car you couldn’t drive it on any Day 3. If you did it would go in the crusher. Your driving licence would be stamped with the same Day number as your car and if you bought an other car it would have the same Day number. This would reduce the greenhouse gases produced by the car by 20%. That sounds pretty good to me. But there is a snag. There always is. Can you see Gordon Brown or Berack Obarma or that nice Mr Rudd or any other world leader going on their National TV and explaining this to the car driving public? And wining the next election.

Now there was an other TV program later on that evening dealing with the same subject which mention that car emissions only amounted to 15% of all greenhouse gases. So the drastic measure I have outlined here, that of giving up the use of your car for 2 days a week would only reduce the total carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere by 5%. It would do nothing to actually reduce the CO2 that is already there. Now I know there is new technology on it’s way that will produce cars that don’t have internal combustion engines. How long will it take until every internal combustion engine in the world is switch off for ever? Ten years?

But that isn’t the point, if a draconian measure like the one I suggested with the disruption to the western world’s life style would have such a negligible effect then what sort of effect would any conceivable effective measure have on us? And would we be prepared to put up with it to save a world that many of us wont be around to see?

There has been talk of emails that have been passed between scientists that global warming sceptics are saying prove that it's all big a lie. I hope it is but some how I doubt it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Gas Leak In Union St

This was the Union St, the main shopping street in Torquay this morning. A small gas leak in one of the shops and the road was closed. Amongst the fire engines and gas board truck sits the Land Train. A case of being in the right place at the right time.
Here crowds of people wait for the all clear so they can get about their shopping.

And a number 12 caught up in the traffic mayhem that always accompanies such incidents. The whole thing started at 10:30 and the road was opened just after 12.

Knock On Effects

I am not too worried about finding myself persona non gratia for taking photos from a bus I’m not driving. As opposed to taking photos from a bus I am driving. In this instance I am on the side of Stagecoach here. This delay caused by the woodcarver is clear and does interfere with bus timetables. I know this from personal experience from my time as a 12 driver and from my experience on Saturday. On my way up to Newton the traffic was clear and we made good time all the way to Newton. The only time we dropped below about 35 mph was when we stopped at bus stops. As the bus went past the lay-by the wood carver was just setting up. On the way back traffic from Pen Inn was slowed right down until we passed the carvings. I then watched the traffic going the other way, an hour before it was travelling briskly all the way to Newton, now it was a very slow crawl all the way from Scott’s Bridge. What had happened since I went up to Newton to cause this change? The carvings had arrived, that’s what.

As to only a small delay, I do know from experience that 10 minutes is not an unusual length of time to be added going up to Newton and the same added coming back. If this is only a single journey between Newton and Torquay it wouldn’t be too bad but on an average shift a bus driver will make this trip 3 or maybe 4 times. Each time he will get later and later so instead of getting into the terminus at Newton and Brixham and having the 5 minute scheduled rest break he has to unload, load and pull straight off. Then when it comes to his meal break which may be scheduled for 45 minutes he is late and has to rush his meal and have his break reduced to the bare minimum of 30 minutes, not to good for the digestion. On top of that, because he is late some passengers will be moaning at him, not good for anything. Then he may be tempted to rush and end up driving like a another driver mentioned recently. But he resists and then he ends up finishing late and getting home late and his wife will have a go at him and the children will wonder who this strange man is, not good for the marriage. Little knock on effects spreading out like ripples in a pond. Who knows where they end up?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Trouble on the Newton Road. Again

This video was shot out of a window on the top deck of a number 12 coming from Newton down to Torquay. It shows the bus travelling fairly slowly along the road. It isn't travelling slowly because there is a lot of traffic on the road but because some drivers are slowing down to look at something by the side of the road. This is a repeat problem at this time of year when a woodcarver sets up his carvings by the side of the road. It can add 20 minutes to the travelling time between Newton and Torquay which at the end of the day can add up to a lot of people waiting a long time for a bus. The police say there is nothing they can do about it as it would be difficult to prove his carvings were the reason for the traffic being held up. Actually all they need to do is put a parking ticket on his Land Rover because there is a parking restriction of two hours with no return within 24 hrs. So if he comes back the next day he gets an other parking ticket. Two times £60 would knock any profit in the head. The video shows the bus going slowly but speeding up the moment it goes past the carvings. Point proved I think.

The Wood Carver is Back Slowing the Traffic Down on the Newton Road

The police, the last time I spoke to them about the problems and delays caused by the Woodcarver displaying his some what crude carving, I think he uses a chainsaw, said there was no evidence that he was disrupting the flow of traffic. He will be there next week and the week after that.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

66 To Day.

Last Sunday I went up to Walsall as usual. One little incident on the way up happened just before Bristol as it was getting dark. A car in the left lane travelling at 50 mph was showing no rear lights. It really was dark enough for then to be on and several drivers had flashed their lights as they pulled out to pass the car. I joined in the fun but as I went past the car I noticed something that passing car drivers would not be able to see. The dash board lights were on even though the rear lights and front lights weren't. So the driver of this dark car would be wondering why everyone was flashing lights at him. I hope he got home safely.

Later on as I pulled away from Michealwoods Service area it started to rain. I still had 75 miles to go and it rained all 75 miles. Driving along a crowded, rain drenched motorway is not my idea of fun.

The next day on the way home I was 10 miles down the M5 when one of those little incident happened that I still don't understand. I was following an other coach at 60 mph ( a safe distance behind) in the centre lane. In the left lane were several HGVs travelling at 55 mph. I could see there was a white transit van in front of the other coach also in the centre lane but doing 55 mph. It continued doing 55 mph in the centre lane along side a tanker which was in the left lane. me and the other coach followed the white van for 10 miles, stuck in the centre lane. Eventually the tanker slowed down slightly to allow the van to move in. What did the white van do? Yes go it in one. It also slowed down. Another 5 miles passed before the van finally pulled in to the left lane. Me and the other coach stayed in the centre lane to pass the white van. Remember it had been doing 55 mph. But as the other coach drew level with the white van it increased it's speed to 60 mph leaving us still stuck in the centre lane. We stayed like this for another 5 miles before white van left the motorway, hopefully never to return.

Couple of days later I watched on the news a 25 metre long HGV attempt to take to the road from a depot in Lincoln. It was stopped by the police who said it is too long, legally, to drive on British roads. The developer of this vehicle is going to take the Department of Transport to court in an attempt to change the law. It seems that if a HGV is carrying light items like corn flakes the vehicle volume is full well before it’s maximum weight is reached. I await the outcome with baited breath but not too baited.

It’s still raining more often than not and one of my gutters is dribbling water down the wall and it’s coming into the house decidedly uninvited. All I need is a dry day and I can fix the problem but every time I look at a weather forecast there is a big blue cloud centred over Torquay,

I took a trip up to Newton Abbot today, at least on a bus you are out of the rain. Waited for the number 12 then two turned up together. Should I get on the first or second bus. Two together means one must be running late. Usually in this circumstance I get the one that’s running 5 minutes early and spend 5 minutes waiting time while the other bus hurtles off to Newton Abbot. It’s bit like the old days when there were spertrate queues in banks, I would always end up behind the guy paying in £6000 in pennies. I still have the same luck. My driver set of like Jason Button only slightly quicker. Every set of red traffic lights were approached at top speed with brakes applied only at the last minute and with much shuddering. Bus stops the same, it was as if the driver hoped the passengers would exit through the front window. Except at one stop where he didn’t even bother to stop even though someone had rung the bell. Actually he forgot someone had rung the bell he was too busy getting upset by an incident of his own making. We went round a corner and there was a stationary car blocking the road. The door was open and an elderly gent was struggling to get out. Our hero drove a bout a centimetre from the back of the car and blew the horn. Several times. Now I knew exactly what was now going to happen; and it did. The struggling elderly gent ceased struggling and took his time getting out of the car. He then discussed the world situation with the driver of the car, in depth. Eat your heart out Jeremy Paxman. By the time all this was over and the car set off the bus drivers memory had failed and he went straight passed the next bus stop even though someone had rung the bell. We did stop at the next stop and two people both much older than me got off and had an uphill walk back to where they had hoped to have got off.

I would point out that the reason I mention this well below expected standards ride is because such rides are rare, it’s a long time since I’ve been on a bus driven so badly.

The journey back from Newton Abbot wasn’t without it’s little problem but more on that tomorrow. Also I am not working tomorrow (Sunday) so I might go and watch some rugby. If it isn’t raining.