Hello and welcome to my Blog, my name is Chris, a bus driver for First Mendip based in Wells, Somerset. Married to Fiona, we live in Midsomer Norton near Bath, with Harvey the dog and Boots the cat. My main hobby is Amateur Radio and I hold the call sign G4KVI. I am the repeater keeper for GB3UB and MB7UB. I have a fascination for the weather and all things to do with nature and science. I am a biker and currently ride a Honda CBfF600. As a Christian I worship, when shifts allow at St. Nicolas Church in Radstock. These are my observations on my life, both at work and at home.

20 Sep 2010

Crossing the road

To the lady who shouted that I should read my highway code in Bath today. I have, and I draw your attention to.

'Zebra crossings. Give traffic plenty of time to see you and to stop before you start to cross. Vehicles will need more time when the road is slippery. Wait until traffic has stopped from both directions or the road is clear before crossing. Remember that traffic does not have to stop until someone has moved onto the crossing. Keep looking both ways, and listening, in case a driver or rider has not seen you and attempts to overtake a vehicle that has stopped'

16 Sep 2010

Branch Closure

Both Fiona and I have banked with Nationwide for over 20 years. In Slough the branch was across the road. When we moved to Coleford there was a branch in Trowbridge where I worked. Few years ago a agent opened up in Midsomer Norton. This now meant we cold open some accounts which we could pay money into via the internet but only take it out at the branch. This was also handy if we had cheques to pay in. We have now been informed that Nationwide are stopping their agent network. The letter helpfully told us about Internet banking and that we could still pay money in at their cash machines, which are located in their branches. It is not too bad for us as I work in Bath. However some of the accounts are in Fiona's name which means a 15min round trip on foot will now become a two hour trip by car or bus! I am a great fan of on-line banking as it keeps you in control. However, I am still looking for the slot to pay money in! First job next week is a trip in to the Halifax.

Is that you blowing your horn?

The photo above shows the traffic lights by Bath railway station. Today I was on the 6/7 and was approaching from Manvers Street. You can see the light on the right is just turning green, there is also another light just behind the silver car. The car in front of me moved off when these lights went green. However as the driver went round in to Dorchester Street she saw the light which you can just see on the right. This light has blinkers on to stop it being seen from Manvers Street. There is also no white line on the road which further reinforces the fact this light is not for right turning traffic. This driver however stopped at this point. I gave a quick blast on the horn and the passenger pointed at the red light, I was in the middle of the junction still with a green light and a line of traffic behind me wondering why the stupid bus was not moving. I gave another blast and this time a well dressed gent sprinted across the road and said 'is that you sounding your horn?' I replied yes and before I could explain he shouted something along the lines of 'I say old man can you not see the red light?' By this time the lights had changed, I was now at a red light and the lady was at a 'green' light and moved off.  This is just another example of the Southgate fiasco and until some one is killed I can not see it changing soon. If you fancy a day out come to Bath and watch the traffic. it all ways entertains me!!!

14 Sep 2010

Drive Green

Drive Green is a piece of technology that has been installed in all of our buses to improve driving standards and improve fuel efficiency. Each driving logs on each time they drive a bus. They, and the company can then see how good a driver they are by the number of 'events' that have occurred during their driving.I am a great fan of this and it would seem my style of driving suits the system as I am usually 'in the green' However my love of the system is quickly turning to hate. The last three days the system has shown me as driving when I have been tucked up in bed! This may seem funny and in part it is. Until you realise that all drivers scores are printed out for all to see. We are told that no action will be taken over the scores, but if I was running the company I would! The problem I can see is that once drivers like me see the system is fundamentally flawed they will have no faith in it and discontinue using it. The company will 'advise' drivers to use it and they, like me will produce each day proof the system is not working. I really hope the system can be made to work reliably as it is an exceptionally good tool to reduce company costs. However, given my observations the system is rapidly becoming a joke. After all this ranting it may be that my key is faulty, we shall see.

12 Sep 2010

Midnight Walk

Last night was the Dorothy House midnight walk. Bath Raynet was asked to provide communications for the organiser and for the local council. Our role was to report on the progress of the walk and also to be on hand should a major incident occur. Bath is a difficult place for communications and normally we run a Talk Tru unit or relay station, this enables stations to use hand-held radio's without the need for complex set ups. We usually use a members house which has a clear view over the city. However he is currently in the RUH after some problems with his back. I hope he recovers soon. We were left with two options, one was to use simplex/direct comms or use GB3UB. Given the locations and the buildings it was decided to us GB3UB. Despite some problems within the South gate centre this worked very well. Myself and Fiona were in control and thankfully it was a very quite evening. There were no incidents, the first walker was in within an hour and a we were stood down at 0230. So what lessons have we learned from this exercise?

1. Even 'line of site' locations can still suffer problems.
2. Use of headphones a must.
3. GB3UB has proven it's use in 'emergency' situations. Though it would be good to have remote control of the logic.
4. Care must be taken at night in the city due to Pub and club users.
5. The car park is 30 feet under ground with no comms cover.

Bottom line though the event went very well and everyone performed well and I believe over £7000 was raised on the night. Well done to everyone.

8 Sep 2010

Out of area driving

One of the problems of bus driving is that you drive in areas you are unfamiliar with. You know all the routes and maybe some of the sites/landmarks, but if someone asks 'do you know where ..... street is?' you have no idea. You do your best and if possible ask other passengers, but a lot of the time you end up not being much help, which is not what a passenger wants.
Today I was doing the 337/318 to Cribbs Causeway This is a 'driver breaker'. It is, at least a four hour round trip and like today full of traffic hold ups. (how do people commute?) However when I arrived at UWE a lady came up to me and said she had something for me. My mind raced a bit and then she returned with a little old lady in tow! A very pleasant lady but somewhat confused. It appears she had got on the wrong bus and the lady had taken her for a cup of tea and kept her company until I arrived. (there are still people like that) She said she knew where she was going so off we went. When we arrived at Cribbs the lady was still on the bus! I sat with her to try and find out exactly where she lived. With the help of another passenger it turned out she lived near Ikea in Eastville. Now, as I have said the problem of driving in an unfamiliar area is that you may know where things are but do not know what buses go where. Again with the help of the passenger and a local driver we worked out how she could get home. I felt bad having to leave her there so to make sure I gave her a note to give to the driver. I just hope she managed to get home but if you see a little old lady riding buses in Bristol, do me a favour and take her home.

7 Sep 2010

Street Lights

Had a chance to watch BBC Breakfast today and there was a very interesting bit on councils switching off street lights. Now I can see no problem with this as working the times I do I can often travel the 12 miles to work and I am the only person about, yet for a lot of that journey the road is illuminated by lots of street lights. Perhaps roads could do with illumination but not every 100m especially as vehicle lighting is so good. My opinion is that the safer you try and make things the more risks people seem to take. My first car, a Morris Marina , although would go about 80mph you had no hope of stopping, so you didn't go 80mph! Most modern cars will go at least 100mph and do have the brakes etc to stop and be controlled. However, most motorists do not have the reactions/skills to travel safely at that speed but still take risks, seeming to believe that having an Air bag etc will protect them. So back to the original question. I am sure when I was young that street lights were turned off at about 0100, can anyone confirm this? Also would it not make sence to turn off traffic lights between 0100 and 0500 or replace them with a 'flashing amber' system.
If you missed the programme you can view it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11210497

5 Sep 2010

Quiet Road

A few weeks ago the road outside the house was resurfaced. It was resurfaced with Micro Asphalt. This seems to be the new way around the BANES are and results in a very nice smooth surface. It means the road noise is reduced by about 50%, that makes a previously noisy area now at times deadly quiet which is very welcome. However I have discovered a rather nasty side affect of this. That is you can not always hear vehicles approaching! I wonder how long it will be before someone gets run over?

1 Sep 2010

Early Running

This seems to have become a major issue (as it should) with both VOSA and the Traffic Commissioner becoming involved running a covert operation to check if buses are leaving stops early. This is the Traffic Commissioner view on the subject.

6. It should be the overriding aim of operators to run their registered services to their published times. Nevertheless it is accepted that traffic and other hazards, such as road works, can cause short-term problems, and Commissioners therefore accept that a bus may be delayed in these circumstances. But they can see no justification for a bus to run early.

7. Whilst operators state that passengers, once aboard, do not like to be kept waiting if an early-running bus has to slow down to conform to the timetable, Commissioners believe that this is preferable to prospective passengers either missing an early-running bus or being kept waiting for a
late-running one, particularly in inclement weather and at the many stops where no shelter is provided, and represents the better option whereby the passenger should be reassured by timetable information that the destination will be reached on time.

This makes perfect sense and most of the time there are no problems. Most drivers do their best to keep to  the timetable and do not intentional run early. However we are all human and once in a while you make a mistake reading the running card and suddenly find you are early. The common sense view is to stop as soon as you notice, however at present we seem to in a situation where it appears drivers have been sacked for this without any apparent right of appeal. I now find that I spend a lot of the time checking times (as I should) but also not leaving a stop until the exact time. Most people would say 'and so it should be' But some of the timing points are in some difficult places. Common sense states that if you find you are blocking a road or blocking a stop from other buses you move off. With the prospect of a disciplinary hearing possibly leading to dismissal I have found myself 'getting in the way' on more than one occasion. Timing is always an issue due to variations, in weather, school times etc. I would not like to be a scheduler! The bottom line of this is that all buses should run on time but will sometimes run late. However, they should never, never run early. Meanwhile back in the real world.

Bath hybrid launch

Some of you may have seen the 'new' Park and Ride bus running around Bath. I am very much in favour of electric vehicles but it is a real challenge to use them in Bath where almost every route takes in a hill. Still it is a start and means people are beginning to think beyond the internal combustion engine.

This link is a bit of PR.

and this link shows how they work

My weather data