Sunday Night

As I have said before on here one of my favorite shows is Top Gear and this week they have come up with something that is very close to home…

 

Bus Racing!

 

Yup they are going to race buses. It should be good for a laugh I know that I will be watching I hope you are as well. Sunday night at 8pm BBC2.

(Full Details HERE)

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Brummie of the Year 2008

Over at BiNS it is the time of the year when everyone gets chance to vote on who they think deserves the title of “Brummie of the Year”

I have been nominated and it has come as a bit of a shock but I am deeply honoured. Thank you everyone that suggested me. Lets see what the results bring

Please go and vote here

In My Pocket

I can’t remember where I got this idea from but I thought that it would be interesting to put down what I carry about on me during my duty.

 

Vest chest pocket: Mobile for tweeting with while on breaks. List of blind numbers for when I am not on a bus with computer powered displays and a fold out, very battered, card that lists every fare and ticket the machine does along with the regulations for driver’s hours, two pens (you can never have too many being a bus driver).

 

Vest left hand pocket. Not much in here just a headset for my phone, sometimes some money for snacks and a cloth to clean my glasses with.

 

Vest right hand pocket. Again nothing much here just my driving gloves that are now looking a bit battered and my ticket machine keys.

 

Inside pocket: In here is a lot of information that I need, my diary that has all of my duties up to the end of the year all ready written in and the rota that I work from. A couple of blank report forms just in case I need to fill one out and an assortment of timetables including the route I work on (required) along with ones for almost every route that goes near mine (very useful)

 

Rucksack: In here is a lot more stuff that I couldn’t do without. My PDA lives in here and I find it very useful as I can write up posts for later spell checking and publishing during my breaks. There is also a two liter bottle of squash, a book for reading when I don’t feel like writing. My sunglasses for the rare times that I need them and finally the fare table for my route. This lists all the stages along the route and how much is costs to get from one to another.

 

So that is what I carry about with me on a daily basis. When you look at it like that I carry around a lot of stuff every day but most of it is needed.

 

What do you have in your pocket?



The 11-11-11 Day Out

On the 11th November 2008 a group of people from Birmingham decided to celebrate the uniqueness of the number 11 route as it goes around Birmingham. The event was organized by Jon Bounds who was brave enough to actually stay on for the full 11 hours. He asked for everyone to document their time so that a picture of this great city could be created. This is my side of the trip that I took.

 

Because of my shift pattern I was only able to make one loop but that was enough. I met up with bounder and catnip as they were close to completing their first circuit and rode with them to Kings Heath. As we travelled through Acocks Green we were treated to a little local history from catnip that used to live in one of the flats above the shops. We were also joined by bounder’s parents. The ride was fairly smooth so I can only assume that the driver actually knew what he was doing. As we travelled through some parts of the city that I hadn’t seen for several years I noticed just how much and how quickly things had changed. Old buildings had been pulled down and new ones had sprung up in their places. The one thing that struck me, and others taking part, was just how green it was. Despite it being November almost everywhere you looked there was something that was green. We passed through Hall Green and drove past Sarehole Mill the birth place of JRR Tolkien writer of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings before arriving at Kings Heath. This marked the end of bounder and catnip’s first circuit and we all jumped off for refreshments at a wonderful place called The Kitchen Garden Cafe where we were joined by citizensheep. As we refueled we took stock of what had been seen so far and again the greenness of the city came up. The other thing that I had noticed while riding was that a lot of the roads were very narrow. I had never taken the time to actually look at the width of roads that I drive down on a daily basis. I guess that I just take it as a fact that the bus will fit through and only really notice if the gap has been blocked for some reason. Having spent some time watching the driving on the 11route and the width of those roads I now take things a little easier through some of the gaps n my route so the passengers don’t feel as nervous.

Suitably refreshed we rejoined the route and met up with a photographer Alicja Rogalska who was doing a study on Art and Public transport. Some more information can be found HERE she shot some interesting images through a fisheye lens and hopefully we were helpful to her. The strange thing was that through most of the trip we had not smelled any smoke nor heard any tinny music. If it was my route the reverse would be true this just shows how different the routes are. The further around the route we got the more interesting the places appeared. Going through Bourneville it was interesting to see the Cadbury works where they make possibly the best chocolate. Shortly after this I spotted in the distance a building that was being constructed next to something that I couldn’t quite place. It rang bells but I wasn’t sure.

“That is the new QE Hospital.” Bounder informed me.

This amazed me. Normally when I see new buildings appear on the landscape they tend to be blocks of white that don’t seem to fit in with the area and while this building was obviously very new it still seemed very elegant. It was very curvy and had a definite good presence about it. You could tell just by looking at it that once it was fully finished and open good things will be done there. And so we move through Winston Green and pass the gigantic brick wall that is the boundary of the prison. Interesting to notice, however, that the visitors centre is on the opposite side of the road to the prison. I would have thought that it would be inside. Onwards we went through Handsworth and Perry Barr passing one of my old workplaces, Past the home of Aston Villa and on towards Erdington. This caused yet more discussion, the island is known as six ways yet there are only five exits. Some say that they count the duel carriageway twice other say that the missing exit has been blocked off and replaced with a bus stop for the 11A. If anyone can tell me which is correct feel free to leave a comment. Onwards went the 11 round its route the wheels turning evermore. Unlike most of the other routes that TWM operate the 11 does not have any terminal points. This makes life interesting for the drivers as they have to take their brakes with passengers on board. One other observation that I made is that driver changes are not always in the same place. Our bus for this leg had two driver changes that I noticed and I was only on for one complete trip. The 11 trundled onwards passing by the Fort shopping park, a wonderful place to do your Christmas shopping if you can find a parking spot that is, and further down is Fort Dunlop, now home to the The Birmingham Post. Now heading through Bromford I spot another missing landmark. It took me a few moments to realize it but there used to be a wholesale butcher that always had a gigantic Christmas tree outside and the entire building had been flattened to make room for retirement apartments. Sadly our trusty steed then arrived back where I got on and I had to leave the bus. I did have to work the following day and needed to get a bit of sleep. I had a wonderful day an enjoyed myself a lot. I saw parts of Birmingham that I didn’t even know existed, saw sights both new and old that amazed me. I was able to expand m y understanding of being a passenger on a bus and I hope that it will help me to be a better driver.

 

Let’s hope this event becomes a lot more popular in the coming years as the 11 route is a unique thing. It touches and links so many different parts of the city and each has its own story to tell. I invite you to ride it some day if you haven’t already and take a few moments to look around and imagine what sort of stories the buildings could tell you.

 

Happy travelling.

Ask The Driver Birthday Special

 

Thank you all for the questions that you sent in over the last couple of weeks. Thank you very much for them and I hope that you enjoy reading my answers.

 

editorialgirl What exactly was “Give Us A Smile”?

The “Give us a smile” campaign was as star_one said a campaign to get passengers to text in when they had a good or bad trip on a bus. Posters were put up all over the buses with a dedicated number to text in on. The other side of it was in the garages. All of the drivers that booked on early in the morning were given a huge badge and sticker with the “Give us a smile” logo on in an attempt to make us smile while we were out on the road. I must admit it was a little weird but if a smile brightened up a passengers day then I am all for it.

 

Bounder Tell us about your development as a blogger and writer, aren’t you bored of buses yet?

No I am not bored of buses yet. When I started out I had no idea how to go about writing the blog so I just read a few and saw what they were writing about. My wife had already suggested that I write about what I tell her when I get home so I did. It was very hard at first, I couldn’t think about what I wanted to write and thought that no one would want to read about my days on the road. I had a long struggle with every post, how to write it and what to write about. As I got into the swing of it the writing became easier although thinking about what to write about is still a problem sometimes. Once I have the idea for a post it usually gets written fairly quickly but there are times when I still struggle but then I suppose that’s true for most writers. Since starting the blog I have also started to write a book on my life as a bus driver and this is something that I never thought that I could ever do and yet here I am writing it. I feel that I have come a long way since starting and I hope to continue to learn more.

 

NXWM PR What exactly is that beeping sound coming from the drivers cab?

There are several beeps that come from the cab during a normal day, the indicators which are just beep beep beep, and then there is a quieter but constant beep beep beep. That is the onboard CCTV machine saying it has a problem. A constant loud beeeeeeep is a fault with the bus.

 

editorialgirl What do you think of this blog post: http://randomreality.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2008/10/29/3952362.html? Do you shake people awake, or do you call an ambulance?

I have never called an ambulance out for someone who is asleep on my bus. Usually I can wake them with a shout or a prod with my boot. I have heard of other drivers not even bothering to do that and just calling but I will always try first and only if I can’t wake them will I call for assistance.

 

supercoolkp Do you feel different since starting the blog? Have you learnt anything from commenter’s? Are you the best driver?!

I do feel a little different. It’s a good feeling though I am doing something that I enjoy and other people enjoy reading the results. Yes it may be hard work for me but the rewards are there for everyone to read. I don’t get that many comments but I have learned a few things from them. I shouldn’t be afraid to speak my mind and I do need to be a little careful about what I write about the company. As for being the best driver, there is an annual competition to decide that.

 

strix_aluco How would you prefer to be addressed by a passenger: “mate”, “chief”, “driver” or “skipper”? Personally I prefer driver. I have never been addresses by chief or skipper and I am not a fan of mate. There are other unprintable ways of address that have been used to describe me but those only seem to occur when I refuse to take someone for not paying or the bus is late.

 

star_one off peak isn’t meant to start until 6pm, so how come by 5 you (on Bristol road at least) start seeing loads of not in service? The only reason I can think of is that they may have been delayed at some point during the afternoon and are now heading for a point where they can return to service on time. Perhaps they have just finished a school bus run and are now returning to normal service.

 

Urbanfox: Up until a few months ago, on the buses with the digital destination board, the number used to be on the left hand side, with the destinations to the left of it. It suddenly changed overnight to the number being on the right hand side of the display any idea why?

I have no idea why it was suddenly changed. It took me by surprise as well I checked the bus as normal when I arrived at the garage in the morning and it took me a couple of minutes to notice that there was something different about the display. I think that it is better for the passengers, as you said, because the number is closer to the kirb and a little easier to read but I have noticed that there are some that haven’t changed and there is at least one bus where the number jumps from left to right.

Happy Birthday Blog

One year ago I started writing this blog not thinking that it would go anywhere and, like the others that I have started, I would forget about it and stop writing. Now look at it!

 

I am amazed, I have written 88 posts, this one will make it 89, and I have told many stories. Although I don’t get many comments I still enjoy reading them and welcome the feedback.

 

During this year I will have driven an amazing 24,240 miles going past over 70,000 bus stops and actually stopping at some to pick up sand set down passengers.

 

I have had several articles written about me and my blog and been on the radio and really enjoyed both experiences.

 

I have no idea how long this blog will continue for but I want to thank each and every one of you, my readers, for sticking with me this last year. Here’s to the next one.

Happy Sunday

Ahh today (2nd November 2008) one of my all time favorite shows returns to our screens.

Top Gear is back and looking at the trailer (link) there is something that looks like bus racing on a dirt track in one of the shows. Sadly i am not the driver so I cant tell you any more than that.