Friday, 27 May 2011

Driving a Bus Can Be Interesting.

I don't seem to blog as much as I used to. Maybe it's because driving for Devonian Motor Services isn't quite as interesting as driving a number 12. To give you a couple of examples of interesting things that have happen today will illustrate this completely. First incident, if I can give it the tag of incident, came as I drove along the Esplanade. A white van had stopped some distance ahead of me and the driver jumped out, ran round the back of the van and opened the doors. He extracted a package, closed the door and ran across the road to one of the hotels. There was a car towing a caravan coming the other way and years of driving experience lead me to believe that a) the van, the bus and the caravan would all be lined up across the road and b) there was enough room for the bus and the caravan to pass safely provided nobody sneezed at the wrong moment. Just as I drew level with the van and concentrating on missing the caravan the driver of the white van's dog decided I was getting a bit too close to his master's wing mirror and threw himself at the driver's window and barked fit to wake, if not the dead then anyone still asleep within a radius of several hundred metres. A slight tightening of my grip on the steering wheel, a few extra unexpected heart beats and a couple of muttered nasty words about dogs and the 'incident' was over without a mark on either the bus, van or caravan. So much excitement. Then later in the day I arrived in Cockington Village and having a minute or two to wait I glanced at the village notice board which contained the announcement I reproduce below. It is about the Cockington Village Residents Association AGM. And we get a mention in the agenda, item number 6. The meeting was last Tuesday, had I know before hand I might have popped in and found out what the villagers had to say about us. I expect it was something nice.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Torbay Public Transport Guide

The Torbay Public Transport Guide came out today and will shortly be available at Information Centres, Stagecoach Travel Shops and other outlets. It contains a complete set of timetables for all bus and train services that serve Torbay. It also has detailed maps of the service and where to catch the bus you want. Plus other bits of information any determined bus traveller might need. One photo shows the front cover so you know what to look for and the second photo shows who has pride of place on the inside of the front cover. Eat your heart out Stagecoach, Dial a bus, Riverlink and Country bus. Oh yes and Firstbus.

Parking is a Pain and Visitors from Wales, bless them.

More people than ever seem to think that parking on a bus stop or in a loading bay is a good idea. Well it isn't. It either means we have to stop away from the bus stop or park in the middle of the road and block the second most busy road in the town.

On a lighter note. A special group of old age pensioners got on the bus today. Now I haven't anything against OAPs, I am one myself and many of our passengers fall into this age bracket. A lot of them, especially the visitors approach and ask can they use their bus pass. The answer I always give them is, "Yes provided it is an English one." Nothing against visitors from other parts of the UK of course but from personal experience I know I can not use my bus pass in Wales or Scotland. I've never been to Northern Ireland but I have a feeling their bus drivers don't accept English passes, so we don't accept theirs. The group of OAPs that boarded the bus today were special because they came from Wales and had to pay with real money and we make a bigger profit when that happens. I love the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irelanders, especially the OAP kind. Please come and visit beautiful Torbay and come for a ride, or two or even three on Devonian Motor Services. We run from Torbay Rd Paignton to Cockington Village, (mentioned in Doomsday) service 50 and a circular trip round some of the Bays best views on service 500.

Click here for our web site

Incidentally, yesterday I took a bus full (almost) of visitors to Cockington and as I pulled up announced we had arrived by saying "Cockington Village as mentioned in Doomsday." One of the departing passengers then asked if the bus had also been mentioned in Doomsday. Cheek.

And finally, check this out for scary. It's about a hero bus driver who saved his 40 passengers from a fiery end.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Problems with Trucks

Couple of parking problems today. First time I drove up Torbay Rd at about 10 to ten the service 50 bus was on the stop but could not get to the front of the stop because some white van had encroached in to the bus stop by a couple feet. To make matters worse there was a big truck double parked on the right hand side of the road across from the bus stop. If I tried to get on the stop I would block Torbay Rd, not the busiest road in Paignton but probably number two. So I stopped short and didn't hold up all those rushing motorists. When the 50 moved away I Pulled forward and picked up a few passengers that were waiting patiently for the trip round Beautiful Paignton. 45 Minutes later when I got back there was a truck parked on the bus stop, more parking in the roadway, getting to be a habit. next time round I made it onto the bus stop no problem and then 5 seconds later an other truck parked in the roadway right next to me. As there were two vans in the loading bay in front of me I was effectively blocked in. Before I could draw breath and think of something nasty to say the truck driver stuck his head in the door and said he would be gone in two minutes, and he was.

The rest of the day went quite well despite the continuing problems at Tweenaway Cross. The road works there are due to end sometime in June and we are all hoping this estimate by the council is accurate.

The photo is of the new bus service run by Country Bus Services, the 149. It started running between Torquay and Totnes via Maldon and Berry Pomeroy when Stagecoach withdrew the 111 service. It's not as frequent as the 111 and doesn't run all the way to Dartmouth, FirstBus seem to have cornered that market. This bus set off empty.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sofa Gone

The sofa has gone. Went this morning on a TOR2 truck and no, I never got through on the phone. I have had a look at my phone bill and it cost me about 2 quid listening to god awful music and an answering machine telling me how important my call was to the people I was trying to contact. Not so important that they could go out and get a few more people to answer the bloody telephone. In the bad old days when you rang someone like the council or the bank, if the phone was busy you got the engaged tone and you hung up and tried later. This didn't cost anything no matter how many time you tried. Now you get put through and have to listen to the music and are actually paying for the privilege of sitting there gradually losing the will to live. In the end I sent an email and got a reply in about ten minutes which told me that Monday and Thursday were collection days in my area of Torquay so I emailed right back and said Monday would be fine. Fifteen minutes later and email informed me that the sofa would be gone on Monday. The whole email transaction took less time than hanging on to the phone being told I was important. What would have happen if I wasn't a computer user. Would I have spent thousands trying to get through on the phone or probably have just wait till the street lights go out (they are some time this month) and drag the bloody thing round the corner under cover of pitch darkness.

Friday, 13 May 2011

I've Been Here Before

In case you missed it, we the tax payers have been fined £3 million for something we didn't do. This country prides it's self on it's sense of fair play but still allows this sort of thing to happen. We should be able to go to the European Court of Human Rights but we can't. At least I don't think we can. In the meanwhile we should all write to our MP and ask him/her to do all they can to stop this injustice happening again.

If you aren't sure what I am on about then I will give you a clue. Potters Bar rail crash. It happen nine years ago because a company called Jarvis, working as contractors for Railtrack couldn't be bothered with Health & Safety regulations. Because the rail maintenance section of Jarvis, which has since gone into administration were working for Railtrack, who were actually in administration at the time it's the company who took over from them when Railtrack went bust, Network Rail  who get the blame (I can't quiet work that one out) for not overseeing the work Railtrack's contractors were doing and have been fined the 3 million quid. So what has it got to do with us tax payers. Well Network Rail is basically kept going by tax payers money so on one hand the government are taking money from us and giving it to Network Rail who will use £3 million of that money to pay the fine. Surely the people who didn't do their jobs properly should be the ones who end up paying the fine, not you and me.

Write to your MP and ask him/her to end this nonsense ASAP.

A quote from the BBC news,

"It's offensive that I pay a fine for something that killed my father"

Perdita Kark,.

Daughter of crash victim

Oh My God

Couple of days ago I was stranding outside the bus, there was 10 minutes before I was due off so I was having a stretch. I was approached by a member of the Stagecoach Travel Shop staff who wanted some of our timetables which we keep in a nearby shop. After I had given him the timetables we chatted for a minute or two and then he went back to the travel shop. I then got back on the bus ready to go. One of my passengers, a regular traveller with us asked what the Stagecoach man wanted. I explained that Stagecoach had put in a bid to take us over and we had been engaged in a little last minute negotiations. Horror greeted this up to date and unexpected news item. I then quickly explained that all he actually wanted were a few timetables and we weren't about to be swallowed up by Stagecoach. Gasps of relief all round.

So you can imaging how I felt when I got back to our depot to find this Volvo B6 parked there. Had we really been taken over, had many a true word been spoken in jest?

I'm glad to say NO. Turns out the B6 has been bought by a bus enthusiast and he is just parking it at our depot for the time being.

Just a mention, when I started at Stagecoach Torquay we used B6s (of which this was one of them) on the 12 route and we, the drivers, were all very sad when they were taken away from us an sent to Exeter because they were very nice to drive. The engineering staff however all went out for a celebratory drink, you'll have to work out why for yourselves.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Bit Frustrating Today.

Wasn't working today so decided to do a bit of spring cleaning, it is spring after all. One of the things I decided on was to get rid of an old sofa that has been cluttering up the bedroom for years and years. So first thing this morning I looked up the phone number for Torbay's bulk refuse disposal team, 01803 207205, try it if your name is Job and would like to practice your patience skills. My name isn't Job but I thought I would try anyway.So I dialled hopefully and got an answering machine, "All our operators are really, really busy right now but your phone call is the most important thing that has happened to Torbay Council in the last 10 000 years so please go and make yourself a cup of coffee, get the morning paper or maybe your copy of War And Peace, make your self comfortable, hang onto the phone and we hope you don't mind a huge phone bill as it could be ages, if ever, before one of our highly trained assistants can get back to you." Then the music started. Please don't play music, play the speaking clock or Radio Devon or even part one of Teach Yourself Polish in 697 easy lessons while you wait.

Five minutes later I decided to try again later. May as well get the sofa down stairs and at the front door just in case. Well after pushing, shoving, twisting, lifting, crying and praying to an old Anglo-Saxon god I managed to get stuck half way down the stairs. Time for an other cup of coffee and try the phone number again. Coffee was nice, phone call wasn't. Same message, same music. I know in these days of spending cuts it is unlikely Torbay Council can afford more than one assistant, but only one music track is cutting things a bit too much. Back to the sofa and more grunting, groaning and repeated praying to the Anglo Saxon god I finally made the hall with sofa. Bit of a squeeze to get out the front door but once I get through to the town hall and make arrangements for collection it in a handy spot, it'll be the work of 10 seconds to get it on to the front door step. If I don't get through to a highly trained TOR2 operative than I could be squeezing past that sofa for the next 20 years because it isn't going back upstairs again. I've used up my years quota of Anglo Saxon just getting the damn(not Anglo Saxon) thing down.

I made several more attempts to get through to the town hall during the day with the same success as a duck trying to find a duck pond here in Torquay.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Oak Tree and a Level Crossing

Not much happened to day, I made the 6 round trips without major incident as usual. Tweenaway was it's usual ununderstandable mess. A road improvement scheme has been in progress there for seemingly ever. When the Universe was created Tweenaway Cross Roads were already a gleam in some body's eye. Some vengeful god I imagine. The problem is with the traffic management, or lack of it I should say, at the road works. I don't think enough care is taken to make sure everyone knows what to do. At the moment there is ane lane until 15 metres before the lights which turn into two lanes as you approach from the Zoo. The right lane is for turning right only and the traffic light for that traffic is on green only long enough for about 5 cars to turn right. The left lane is for turning left or straight on. Problem is there is no sign explaining which lane motorists should be in. It is tricky getting into the left lane so most motorist stay in the right lane and when the light turns red they stop and block the left lane which still has a green light for an other 20 seconds. The queue of traffic stretches back several hundred metres at time and I go that way seven times a day. Gives me chance to relax but I wish the contractors or Torbay council would take 10 minutes to look at the problem and sort it out. Trouble is the only ones who care are us poor sods who drive that way.

Apart from the above the only other moment of excitement was the car stopping on Torbay Rd. Well he had to stop, the car in front had also stopped in the usual queue of traffic that builds up while the barriers were down at the level crossing. After the train had gone and the barriers gone up the first 6 cars drove on to the crossing but there is only room for 5 cars to clear the danger area that the trains use. I was almost begging the barriers to come down but they didn't. There is no real danger of being hit by a train here. Trains coming from the left will be leaving Paignton Station which is only 10 yards away and trains coming from the right will be stopping in the station and have several hundred metres clear view of the crossing in which to stop. Would have been embarrassing for the driver of the car though.

Anyway here is a photo of a 600 year old oak tree to calm anyone who needs calming.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Save the 111.

Torbay Bus Routes are organising a petition to get Stagecoach to change their minds about scrapping to 111 service later this month. This service used to run from Torquay to Dartmouth Via Torbay Hospital, Marldon, Berry Pomeroy and Totnes. Now it runs between Paignton, Totnes and Dartmouth but even that service is going to end 23 May.

Click here to go to TBR's blog and read more and sign the petition.

Torbay Bus Routes provide information on buses in The Bay and can be found on Twitter and Facebook and the main Web Page here

Friday, 6 May 2011

OK, So I Was Wrong.

Well Nick didn't win, he came a useless 2nd to Conservative Gordon Oliver. If you don't live here in Torbay you probably wouldn't know that the election for Mayor wasn't a first past the post job but was a practice run for AV. What ever that is. Gordon Oliver had 10600 votes and Nick Bye had 7900 votes after the first count. As Gordon didn't have over 50% of the votes cast there was a count taking in everyone's second preference just like AV supporters wanted us to vote in our MPs. After the second votes were counted Gordon had 12716 to Nick's 9631 so nothing changed using AV. Now I know a sample of one isn't scientifically sound but from speaking to many people in Australia the person who gets most votes first time round almost always gets through in the end. AV just prolongs the agony and costs loads of money, our money. The 3rd person in the election was the LibDem Dennis Brewer with 6905 votes, labour came 4th, 3793. The Green party came last, 1918 votes, 166 votes behind Voice 4 Torbay.

The council is now a very clear conservative council 22 councillors compared to LibDems 9, three independent, and one each for Lab and UKIP. What exactly a UKIP councillor is going to do to foster his party's aims, that is get us out of Europe from Torbay Town Hall I'm not too sure. There will be a bye election soon because Gordon Oliver also stood for and won a council seat and one cannot be elected mayor and a councillor at the same time. More council tax money down the drain.

Big day for Torquay United to morrow. The are away to Rotherham and need the same or a better result as Gillingham and Stevenage to make it into the Division Two Play offs. There are 4 teams in the play off position with only 1 game each left to play. Shrewsbury, Accrington, Torquay and Stevenage and only Accrington are certain to still be there after tomorrows games. Shrewsbury could move up into a promotion place with Wycombe dropping down to the play off slot and Torquay or Stevenage could drop out of the play off slot to be replaced by Gillingham. Going to be a long 90 minutes for the fans of all 5 clubs tomorrow afternoon.

And Finally. Will Nick Clegg do the decent thing and fall on his sword? Go on Nick, a bit of bloodshed will go someway toward cheering up all those Lib Dem ex councillors up and down the country.

The Weather Will Get Better by Sunday.

I was on the Cockington Clipper today instead of the open top. Started by running out to Galmpton, just past Windy Corner off the Brixham Rd. Picked up a good number in the village for Paignton. Bit tricky getting round to day as there were quiet a few parked cars near the village school which was acting as a Polling Station.Back in Paignton a couple came up and asked if they could use their concessionary bus passes. I asked if they were issued in England and they said yes so I said yes so they decided to travel with me and have a look at Cockington. On the Paignton Sea front several other people, visitors, boarded the bus and asked the same question regarding their passes. If its a bus service and it is after 9:30 or any time Saturday and Sunday then the passes are acceptable.

Talking of bus passes I read an item in The Evening Times , Scotland's top selling evening paper that a bus firm in Scotland will no long accept bus passes and everyone has to pay. I didn't know bus companies could do that, or maybe they have different rules in Scotland.

Anyway back to Paignton Sea Front and an almost full seated load of visitors heading for a few hours wandering round Cockington (mentioned in the Doomsday Book). It wasn't exactly sunny when they all got on but didn't look to nasty. However by the time I made to Cockington the heavens had opened. Sorry but we seem to have been catching some really cold and damp weather at the moment while the rest of the country isn't doing too bad. It did clear up later, that is it stopped raining but is has been disappointing after the glorious weather we had over Easter. Never mind the 5 day forecast shows it is going to get better. If it doesn't the who ever was elected mayor today will get a strong letter from me asking him/her what he/she intends to do about it. Nick Bye will win. (I do like sticking my neck out from time to time.)

After work the boss asked me if I could work on Sunday instead of Saturday and I agreed, no problem. Then I remembered that this Sunday is Race for Life Day here in Torbay and the route of the race and the 500 meet in a couple of places. Could be a few minor problems come Sunday but I expect I be able to get through alright; I hope.

Still no sign of any water in the Duck Pond in Torre Abbey gardens, nor any duck for that matter.

And finally, if you had problems coming out of Paignton towards Brixham this evening, I know I did, there was a stationary car at Quaywest in the right turn lane to go up Penwill Way with a couple of firemen pouring water on it's engine. No photo, sorry.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Vote, who me?

It's 11:00 on Wednesday evening. Which means in 8 hours the voting starts. Here in Torbay we have 3 elections tomorrow, actually it's two elections and a referendum. The elections are for the local council and for our elected mayor. The referendum is for or against the alternative vote which I believe to be a pale and ineffectual cover up for a proper vote on proportional representation which is why I have vote NO. Get it right or don't bother.


Now I have lived through lots of elections, local and parliamentary and one referendum (should we stay in the EEC) and this has got to be the quietest election ever. So far we have had no door to door canvassers and only one election pamphlet pushed through the door and that looked like it was written by a 7 year old child who had just discovered there is life outside the Wendy House. Driving round I have only seen a couple of posters with vote for me on then stuck in someone's front garden. With our politicians showing this kind of interest it isn't really surprising that we, the voters show even less.


It will be interesting to see what the turn out is tomorrow. And before you ask I have already voted. Postal votes are wonderful, saves all that walking down to the polling station and getting by the party members who want to know if you voted for their man/woman. If you want to get a postal vote in future elections you have only to for fill one condition. And that condition is that you want a postal vote so why not apply for a postal vote now, saves the rush to go and vote at the last minute and maybe miss voting due to the crowds waiting like you to vote. Go for it.  

Monday, 2 May 2011

Open Top Buses

Yesterday, May 1st, there was an Open Top Running Day. Eleven old open top buses were on display between 10:30 and 11 at Quaywest in Paignton. After that they all set off on journeys round the Bay, giving free rides to all and sundry. The star of the show for me was a 1934 AEG, reg OD 7497. This bus is so old that in 23 years it will be due a telegram from Buckingham Palace and I hope it is still around to get one, even if it is from Charles III.

Doesn't look all that easy to drive, I have to say.

Many of the other buses can be seen here on my Flickr page,

Torquay Trivia