Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Paignton Level Crossing

Work continues on the crossing despite the cold, down to 3C in my back garden this afternoon. Coldest day so far this winter. So cold that when I went for my afternoon walk I ended up getting on a bus instead; sorry Torbay Council, wasting rate payers money like that.

More Photos of Enviro

A few more photos showing the CCTV images the driver can get and other bits and pieces.

Enviro 400 WA61KLF 15784

I had a ride on one of the new Enviro 400 Scanias today. WA61KLF 15784. Nice ride, not too sure about the seat covering, black vinyl leatherette. Don't think it will last all that long before it needs to be replaced by some thing a bit more hard wearing. Other features include 16 CCTV cameras doted about the bus, I spotted 4 upstairs, a similar number downstairs plus cameras showing both sides, the rear and in front of the bus. The rear view camera comes on when the bus is put in reverse. It'll come in handy when reversing off Paignton Bus Station. That garage is beginning to look like it really has been in a war zone. If there is an accident and the normal means of escaping from the bus are blocked then there are 9 emergency hammers for breaking the nearest available window, but I am sure with our safe drivers here in Stagecoach South West they will never be needed. The buses can carry 92 passengers. Enjoy.

Monday, 30 January 2012

A few more photos of the Enviro 400

Seat not looking good on first day out.
Back of the bus upstairs.
CCTV camera and emergency hammer.

Paignton Level Crossing

I went down to Paignton yesterday to have a look at how the work on the new level crossing gates was going. The crossing had been closed at 22:00 on Saturday night and all the barriers and barrier posts had been removed but there was no work going on at the site. It was a Sunday so maybe all the workers were christians and refused to work on a Sunday. As this crossing is going to be closed for over two weeks this seemed to me and other people I spoke to a ridiculous waste of time.

Two other problems I noticed; first the number of people using the footbridge. I a 5 minutes period I counted 125 people going over the bridge and this was a quiet, dull, wet Sunday afternoon. That's 1500 people an hour and the bridge isn't exactly wide. What it will be like on a busy weekday, well think of getting into a football match, say Man U v Man City, would give you some idea. The second problem could be more serious. Traffic coming along Hyde Road has no advanced warning that Torbay Rd is closed, no notices saying "Diversion. No left Turn Ahead". The first any driver would know about the road closure would be going round the bend in the photo and seeing barriers across Torbay Rd. Yesterday when it was quiet there were one or two sudden application of brakes as drivers discovered at the last minute that they couldn't take the left turn they were expecting to make followed by a couple of seconds of hesitation while they worked out what to do next. So watch out if you are driving along Hyde Road for the next two weeks.

If you are looking for one of the new Enviro 400s on the 12 route I have been told by a usually reliable source that there will be at least one out to day, maybe more.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

RNLI were in town today

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution were in town to day collecting funds for new lifejackets. The Lifeboat crew (some of them) rowed across from Brixham where the lifeboat is stationed in a very old lifeboat which looked like hard work. The shinny newer lifeboat you can see in the photo came over under it's own power. 17-28 came into operation in 2002 and more info about the boat and the lifeboat station can be found here.
Also at the lifeboat station is a D Class Inshore Lifeboat which was also brought over to Torquay. This time it was the ladies of the lifeboatmen who provided the power, pulling it all the way from Brixham. Lots of effort today from people who give up their time to save lives around our coast. They don't take a penny from central government, relying instead on our generosity to donate what we can. Events like this are designed to remind us next time we have a pint and see a RNLI collection box on the pub counter to drop some of our change in it, even all the change if the mood takes you.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Something you don't see every day

 I went to Paignton Green to day on my daily walk and came across this gentleman with a bird on his arm. It's a female Harris's Hawk, a raptor native to South America. The gentleman in question is from a company called  Stef Peers Falconry and Hawking and for a small fee, as outlined in the bottom photo you can enjoy the thrill of holding and flying this bird. Raptor Rescue, a charitable organisation benefit from this deal. I am not sure if you just turn up or if you need to give then a ring first.
 Nice bird, could do with one in the back garden to get rid of the pigeons.
I did try and find a web page with something about Stef but all I got was a Facebook page with nothing on it, yet.

Bus in Paignton Bus Station Enviro 400 Scania WA61KLE

Bus in Paignton Bus Station Enviro 400 Scania WA61KLE . This bus and 22 like it will enter service starting on 29 Jan on the 12 route.

NB Date is from an unconfirmed source so if it doesn't appear on Sunday don't blame me.

Problems in Paignton for Two Weeks

If you are thinking of driving along Hyde Rd in Paignton and turning left into Torbay Rd to go down to the sea front the please do it before 10pm Saturday evening, similarly if you are thinking of coming up Torbay Rd to sample the delights of Paignton Town Centre you haven't got much time left to do this trip either because on Saturday evening the level crossing barriers  will come down but will not go up again until 5am on Monday 13 Feb.
The barriers are being replaced and it will take two weeks to replace 4 barriers which works out at one barrier per 3 and a half days.
Should be interesting but it wont be fun. Stagecoach X46, River Link 100 and Devonian 50 services will be effected as well as all the traders in Torbay Rd. The only way over the railway line will be by the footbridge shown in the photo. Go on, give it a try. It will keep you fit. 

Friday, 20 January 2012

How to hack voice mail

In the past, many mobile phones came with 'default' PINs for accessing voicemails - the idea being that people would change the default PIN to something unique. If they didn't, the default PIN was all someone would need to get into a voicemail inbox. Needless to say, hacking used to be shockingly simple.

All you needed was the phone number of the person who's voice mail you wanted to hack and two phones of your own. Then you ring the number and while the person is on the phone you ring the same number with your second phone. This will put you through to their voice mail. Then you entered the correct PIN number and listen to the voice mail. The question you are asking is, "How do I know the PIN number?" I checked my land line, my mobile and my partners mobile and all three had a default PIN number of "0000". Piece of cake. I should note that I did change them all within a day or two of getting the phones.

The reason why I am posting this is because today we have heard about people who had their voice mail hacked all seem to be getting large sums of money because the didn't change their PIN numbers. That actually doesn't seem completely right to me. The user manual that came with the 3 phones mention above all warned me to change the PIN number so I would expect all the celebs getting large sums of money would have had the same warning in their phone's user manual.

A few years ago a friend of a friend's second cousin who had a mate at work who knew someone who had his car stolen. He was insured so wasn't too worried until the insurance company discovered he had parked it in the street unlocked and with the keys in the ignition and a laptop and camera lying on the back seat in full view. The insurance company quite rightly refused to pay out saying it was his own fault the car had been stolen.

OK, the thief and the phone hackers were the bad guys here but we all have a duty to go someway to protect our belongings and make it at least a little bit difficult for the bad guys to do the wrong thing.

PS I should point out that mobile phone service providers have taken steps to do away with the default PIN numbers. Now when you set up remote access to your voice mail most providers make you input a new PIN number and wont let you use "0000" or "1234"

PPS. Have you set up remote access to you voice mail? Did you change the PIN number? If you didn't, are you going to change it now?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Concessionary Bus Passes

BUS fares in Torbay could rise and services be axed from April if planned cuts to funding go ahead.

Torbay Council is looking to reduce the amount of money it pays to Stagecoach and other bus firms to support the concessionary bus fare scheme for over-60s.

It is understood the payments could be reduced by as much as a third but the council says negotiations are ongoing and would not confirm any figures.

Stagecoach has said if cuts go ahead, together with a rise in fuel costs, then there would be an 'impact on fares and services for all bus users'.


The above is from the Herald Express . A reader(me) has posted this comment:-

When Gordon Brown as chancellor brought in the concessionary bus passes he said there would be no winners and no losers. By this he meant the bus companies would not make massive profits and local councils would not be out of pocket funding the scheme. Now we have council unable to fund the scheme, bus companies putting fares up and cutting services and people waiting longer or for ever for a bus. He got that seriously wrong didn't he?

It should go back to the original idea of free rides only in the pass holders local area before we lose too many of our bus services. Write to your MP and tell him/her to do something before it's too late.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Apologises all round.

After having a go at the Highways department re getting and answer within 10 working days I am pleased to announce that I received a full reply to my email at 14:07 today. That's less than one working day so apologises all round. The email is reproduced in part (the important part) below.

Dear Mr Banks

Re Cockington lane Torquay

Cockington Lane will be closed in the One Way Section from Cockington Square where the horse and carriages pick up and drop off up to Nut Bush Lane.

The closure is due to essential drainage works and resurfacing of the highway and will take affect from February 8th-17th 2012.

Traffic will be diverted up Vicarage Hill and onto Herbert Road and then onto Nut Bush Lane.

I hope this answers the question raised.

Yours sincerely

Highways Development Engineer

This is going to affect the Local Link service 62 which goes into Cockington every half hour Monday to Friday from the sea front but leaves along Cockington Lane to Nut Bush Lane. Should be fun on the diversion, Vicarage Lane is very a narrow road.

Couldn't to use the phone so I emailed instead.

Dear Sir/Madam
We acknowledge receipt of your email.
This has now been passed to the Highways Department for Torbay Council, who will be dealing with your enquiry and will provide you with a full response within 10 working days.
Yours faithfully
Highways Department

Above is an email I received at 16:38 this afternoon which is not bad since I only emailed Torbay Highways Department at 16:37.

So why am I a little unhappy? Well first of all, I sent the email to the Highways Department in the first place so there is no need for it to be passed to them, who's doing the passing. Or is it like passing the buck.

 Second; In the email it says I will receive a full response within 10 working days. Ten working days? I only asked them about some forthcoming road works in Cockington Lane, not how come it's been 5 years since the Banjo was shut, any idea when it might open and how much will it cost and could you please hurry up as I'd like to see it open in my life time.  

How can it take so long to answer a simple email? Maybe this explains why people get a bit fed up with our local council. OK, they did also provide me with a phone number but the last time I tried ringing the town hall I spent over two quid for the privilege of being told every 30 seconds that my call was important in-between some crap music. And still didn't get through.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Great RedBall coming to Torquay

Executive Lead for Tourism and Environment, Cllr Jeanette Richards, said: "I am delighted that Kurt Perschke has agreed to exhibit his world famous RedBall here in Torbay. It is hugely exciting and really helps to put Torbay on the map as one of the most influential, cultural destinations in the UK.

The above is a quote from the web site Creative Torbay.

The world famous RedBall will be in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham from Sat 2 June till Tue 5 June. Cllr Richards went on to say, "whilst I am aware that art, in whatever form is not everyone's cup of tea I would encourage residents and visitors to take this opportunity to witness a worldwide phenomenon."

So now you know.
Actually until 5 minutes before I saw a reference to this world famous RedBall on Twitter I had never heard of it. Shows that I am culturally deficient I suppose. And thank goodness for twitter letting me know about it. And it isn't as big as the great white ball that used to sit on the sea front.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Ann Harvey in Fleet St

I just walked up Fleet St at lunch time and the Ann Harvey shop appears to be closed, in know it usually opens on a Sunday but there are notices in the window headed "Shop Closure" about returning items. It doesn't exactly make it clear where to return any thing though.

If your sail boat tips over it's nice to have someone handy to offer words of encouragement and advice whilst you struggle to get it upright. Seen in Torbay Sunday lunch time.

Don't forget,

on Channel 4 Episode 2 "The Hotel" at 8PM tonight, Sunday. Tell me what you think of it.

New Buses Coming This Week?

Several sources told me that 23 Scania bodied Enviro 400s were coming to Torbay sometime soon to replace the present fleet of Dennis Tridents that are running on the 12 route. The Tridents came into service in March 2004 which makes them almost 7 years old. A bus on the 12 service does 50 000 miles a year so these buses have done almost 350 000miles. When they came into service they all started on the same day but the Enviro are apparently coming in dribs and drabs. Word is that 3 will be here by the middle of next week.

These sources were unofficial and as yet unconfirmed so we will just have to wait and see.

The photo is of Dennis Trident 18065, WA04CRK leaving Paignton Bus Station for the first time on 1 March 2004. Doesn't it look good.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Balloon and a Chanal Four TV Program

I've just been for a walk along the sea front here in Torquay as I did yesterday. I took one of these photos on yesterday's walk and the other today. In between taking these two walks and photos Torquay and the whole of the South West had been battered by gale force winds and heavy rain. The weather and the view have both improved. As you can see the Balloon didn't make it through the night. The 3rd photo below shows the balloon as it is now and is a nice photo with the rainbow.
The balloon will have been insured against this sort of thing so I imagine it will be only a matter of time before it is up and floating once again. I expect the people who work at the site will be hoping for it's speedy return even if lots of Torquayians aren't.
While I was at the crash site taking photos a couple of visitors, a man and his wife, Paul and Chris from Coventry also stopped to take some photos and we got talking. Paul and Chris are staying at the Grosvenor Hotel in Belgrave Rd. In case you missed it The Grosvenor Hotel is the star in a Channel 4 fly on the wall documentary ( described elsewhere as a comedy documentary). The first part was on New Year's Day ( available still on iPlayer) and has upset some people who think it does Torquay down by reminding everyone who saw it of a certain hotel in Torquay run by Basil Fawlty and his almost as mad wife Cybil. I have worked in the hotel industry(briefly) and thought the whole thing hilarious and fairly true to life. The program did start by describing Torquay and said," Torquay had many attractions to entice the visitors and many fine hotels." ......... dramatic pause , "And this hotel"
People here in Torquay seem to think it did Torquay down but personally I think the person it did down was one of the two people getting married in the hotel. It was her big day and she made sure everyone knew it.
Anyway, Paul and Chris from Coventry who I mentioned a while back both love the hotel, good food, nice rooms, friendly, helpful staff and handy for Torquay and all it's varied attractions as well as the X46 for a trip to Exeter.
So don't belive everything you see on the telly is the absolute truth,....... dramatic pause, or even anything like it.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Day 2012

So Manchester United decide to ruin their supporters New Year's eve by losing to bottom club Blackburn giving arch rivals Manchester City the chance to go 3 points clear by beating Sunderland on New Years Day. So what did Man City do? They remembered that very old song," Anything you can do, we can do better"' and lost one nil in the dying seconds of the game.
Don't they know in Manchester that football is a serious business.
On New Year's Eve I posted a little reminder on my twitter site telling anyone going home that the street lights in the minor roads go out at 12:30 and to take a torch if they were walking home from the fireworks so they didn't bump into anything on the way home. A couple of kind people retweeted my tweet so hundreds would have read it. Anyway at 12:45 when I went to bed the street lights were still on, giving everyone the impression I am a bit of a div. Torbay Council must have altered the switch off time some how just to annoy me. Thanks very much Torbay. The lights were out by 3:00am when I got up to go to the loo. Seriously though; well done the council for keeping the lights burning so everyone could get home safely. A rare example of our council actually doing something.
From the local paper
“DEMOLITON experts have completed work at the fire-ravaged Conway Court Hotel.
Nick Gambles, director at Gilpin Demolition of Heathfield, said the project was one of the most challenging he had dealt with.”
I personally think Gilpin Demolition did a great job under difficult conditions to pull the building down and get Torbay Rd open as quickly as they did. A good example to our wonderful council who normally don’t seem to be able to do anything quickly.

There is a Met Office warning of high winds here in the South West for Tuesday morning so if you are thinking of going for a stroll across Dartmoor it might be a good idea to stay in and have a nice cup of coffee instead.
And finally a photo of Union Street on New Year's Day.