Sunday, 3 January 2010

How to cheer up a bus driver...

Turned out to be another of "those" shifts again, today. Saturday, of course, is normally when everyone and their pet cat decides to go shopping. All at the same time. Just, again as normal, as I'm starting my first round of duty. Reading this, you might be forgiven for thinking that someone's trying to tell me something.

Not so.

Fate merely has a truly and repeatedly twisted sense of humour.

Anyhow, back to today. So, right out of the gate... Well... Halfway to the end of the first trip really... things had been going swimmingly, light traffic, hardly any passengers, sunny, a veritable joy to be a bus driver. Then I got to Croydon. Oh ye bleeding gods. I hit traffic the like of which you normally only see just before Christmas, not just after New Year! as usual, it was the tail back for one of the shopping centre car parks, and as usual, people were blocking yellow box junctions, roads, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. It was, in fact, one hell of a mess... as usual. By the time I got through there, I was ten minutes late...

Then we hit the roadworks at a particularly annoying choke point on the route. Controlled by three way traffic lights (single alternating way working), the queues really build up there. Today was no exception; you can normally get through fairly easily going one way... Coming back, you tend to get royally stuffed. I managed to only lose a couple of minutes this time, and knew what that meant on the way back. And not only because I'd seen the massive queue going the other way!

When I got to the end of the route, I was going in and out of the stand like a duck mating - scribble arrival & departure times on my log card, spin the destination blinds, reprogram the ETM (Electronic Ticket Machine, in other words), and metaphorically stand on the accelerator to try to get back on schedule.

Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.

And as you can see from the photo, I did, indeed, get royally stuffed by the roadworks. That's the queue for it. It was a third of a mile long when I got to it. By the time I got to the other side of them, I was twenty minutes down (what we call "Being WELL late" on the buses, of course).

By the time I managed to squeeze through Croydon, I was half an hour late - and amazed that I wasn't even more late.

However, fate must've decided that I'd suffered enough as, when I got back to the start point, the Controller held me back ten minutes, and curtailed* me just short of the choke point roadworks - very nice

And just to affirm that there weren't any hard feelings, after I got there (with 15 minutes to spin the bus around, what luxury!), the radio controller called me up on the radio and told me to run ten minutes early to my meal break! YES! Picture a VERY happy bus driver punching the air - we normally get rapped firmly across the sensitive parts with a ruler (the knuckles - what did you think I meant?!) if we're more than two minutes early!

Folks, THAT'S the way to cheer up a driver - give him more time to stuff his face at lunchtime!

Curtailing a bus:

The practice of running a bus short of the normal end point of a route, in order to attempt to get the bus back on schedule coming back.

In essence, you're chopping the route short for that bus, in the hope that you'll slot it back in the right place in the running order, at the right time, so as to restore the route to normal running. Doesn't always work out that way, but it's one of the more useful tools in the box of a route controller.

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