The first from our man in the North about his everyday life working in public transport.
In his opening gambit, he tells us just how Blakey has been shrunken into a small plastic box with just a mere handful of wires… but reams of paperwork.
Having been in the bus industry for over 30 years (only a stop gap I might add), both as a driver and currently as a Driving Instructor, it is always nice to see new and innovative ideas being brought into the Industry, some things work but some work as well as 1970’s Fiat electrics. My career started with the local municipal bus company known to many of you old fogies simply as The Corporation Transport.
Once bus de-regulation act came into effect in 1986 (ask your elders) I jumped ship for better pay and conditions working as a “Mini-Bus Captain” for a former National Bus Company operation – even if I was just driving a bread van with seats. The biggest difference was that we now gave change for your bus fare, unlike my days with the “corpy” where you threw your money into a red chute where it whirred, clinked and clanked and was gone forever – our mini-bus change machines known as pendamatics were as modern as it came back then.
Technology is a wonderful thing (so they tell me) and whereas bus drivers once had a Philips two-way radio system or a GPO phone box to report a breakdown ( the bus or its driver) we then moved on to mobile phones and now, the most feared of all – Global Positioning Satellites. Drivers can no longer run ten minutes early for a sneaky smoke at the terminus as big brother is watching you. Stan Butler will be turning in his grave knowing that the office is aware exactly when your number 11 has arrived at the cemetery gates. Forget warming your chips on the exhaust manifold or whipping out your No6 Players.
Anyway… more about the present. One idea that has been brought in that is supposed to create – ahem “healthy rivalry” between drivers, is a league table to show who is on time, who is early (God forbid) and who is late. With the new electronic ticket machines, they are tracked real time with GPS, so every bus stop is a timing point, not just fare stages and terminal points. No longer can you dawdle when you are running early or go like the clappers when running behind. If you do, they’ll be tea and biscuits with your manager upon your return as he goes through your driving statistics like a bad pint!
An assistant operations manager, new to the business also coming into the industry from a financial background and graduate trainee, came up with this beauty. During quiet periods I was helping out driving at this particular depot on the driving rota rather than instruction, after two weeks I asked the manager if I had been assigned a number and my position in this league table. As we both looked at the scores on the doors I finally found my number, which was 179 out of 179. The manager said to me; “not very good is it… what with you being an Instructor”.
I then asked him; “what should I do”? The manager stopped himself just before finished the phrase; “you are going to have to……” I looked at him and quipped; “I hope you are not asking me to speed because I am over 50% late” Continuing I stated; “All the timings should be set to my scores, because that’s what you get when you drive properly”. The manger then turned about heel and walked away, after speaking to a lot of drivers, its apparent that not one takes any notice of the league table, which is basically a complete waste of paper.