Sunday 14 February 2016

The Only Way Is Loooong!

Saturday was not the first time I have travelled down to Kent by bus. It is, however, the first time I have travelled down to Kent by bus in mid February. It will also probably be the last time I travel down to Kent by bus in mid February. I don't suffer from travel fatigue. It's not a good thing for a bus driver or railway guard to suffer from but yesterday wiped me out..

The first 75% went vey well though. schedule wise at least I dragged Jackie the wonderful Loes Link driver out of her bed early on a Saturday morning to take me to Framlingham, where my early morning fragility was sorely tested by Galloway's Solo SR with minimal seat padding  YJ14 BGE. Nothing wrong with the bus, and it was warm but those seats are ridiculously hard.

Galloways Solo SR YJ14 BGE at Old Catle Market Ipswich
One of my favourite routes is the 93 from Ipswich to Colchester. right through Constable country and you can see into some wonderful gardens. If you have a double decker. I didn't. Carters only have one single decker in the fleet now, a perfectly acceptable MCV Evolution that was comfortable if chilly, but no good whatsoever for looking into gardens!

Carters MCV Evolution AY60 BVD sandwiched between 2 perfect garden voyeurism buses!
On arrival at Colchester I was in need of a decker fix. Normally I catch the 71 to Chelmsford as it's quicker, and the 70 used to survive on a diet of Presidents. But the 71 is operated by single deckers, and since Braintree depot closed to become an outstation the 70 has been operated by ex Norwich B7tl ALX400's. Sure enough waiting on the stand at Colchester was 32478 AU53 HJO still showing signs of its former 61/62 university branding. It was a good journey if again rather cold.

32478 at Colchester
I was not looking forward to the next bit. I have mentioned before I am not a fan of the Volvo 7600. They vibrate badly, half the seats are uncomfortable and the electric motor is a gimick and nothing more. They do look good though! I had time to get a spot of lunch and let 2 go, hoping against hope a B7rle would be on the route but alas no. So a pretty unpleasant couple of hours ensued on the journey to Lakeside.

First 69909 Volvo 7600 BV13 ZBO at Lakeside
After bumping into an ex Konect driver now working for Ensignbus and having a natter it was time to catch Ensignbus' X80 across the Dartford Bridge to Bluewater. It is always pot luck what you get on there so a B5lLH Gemini2 was very acceptable.

Ensignbus Volvo B5LH EU62 BVD seen at Bluewater.

I was expecting one of Arriva's usual B7tl's on the 700 to Medway but got a surprise to see a 101 Platinum branded E400 waiting. I have to say Platinum isn't up to much. Certainly not a patch on Stagecoach Gold and no improvement on First Excel. However the E400 gave a fairly decent ride. But it was at this point my troubles really started. I'm struggling to think why there is a shopping frenzy at the moment but half of the South East decided to go shopping in Bluewater yesterday. Not only that but they all decided to leave just before my 700 did causing absolute log jam. This meant we were 25 mins late getting to Medway and I missed my final connection.

Arriva Platinum E400 YY14 WFX at Bluewater.
As I had well over an hour to wait before my final bus I decided to get a taxi the last couple of miles. However it would appear taxi companies in Kent can't find bus shelters on main roads so I ended up having to get the bus anyway.

I will not mention the operator of this final service as it appears they don't like being talked about or having pics of their buses published. But I would like to mention to the manager of said operator that instead on insisting perfectly reasonable posts that revealed nothing not in the public domain are taken down, you should pay attention to the sort of people you have driving your buses. The bloke driving yesterday greeted me with the sort of scowl I haven't seen in ages, as if stopping to pick me up was a personal insult, and we then had the following conversation.

Me: Hello mate, does this bus go round the village?
Driver : I don't know - does it?
Me: Well I hoped you would be able to tell me.
Driver: This isn't my usual route.

As it turns out he should have gone round the village. He didn't. Presumably it said on his duty card if he should or sholdn't. I assume he just didn't want to. That is a tendered route. It is not what I either wanted or needed after 10 hours of travelling in the cold and wet. Very poor indeed. Think I might get the train home when the time comes.


  1. We've all been there: easy to say that once he invited you to, you should have taken up the invitation and told him where to go; but these days you can't tell anyone anything since you can't be sure how they'll take it. My experience too, is that long, convoluted journeys can be made with remarkable success, but there's always one so-and-so who'll ruin it (and usually at the back end of the day)! Perhaps though it justifies letting the County Council know so they can earn their keep? It does matter, but just the facts.

    Seriously though traffic is the big problem as it always has been. I've long suspected that most passenger complaints are because of companies trying to deal with the consequences: short running and missing stops to make up time, combined with trying to "make up" for it with frequent services. I'm not sure it works, you have to find a way of telling the passengers too. The old adage that the technology changes, but the humans don't. Add in a few awkward sods, and you've got the icing on the cake.

  2. You wondered why there was such a shopping frenzy at Bluewater. I think the answer can possibly be summed up in a couple of words: "half term".

  3. I hope you've written or emailed the company in question with an official complaint? but by the sounds if it they'd probably just chuck it in the bin or mark it as spam rather than reply or resolve the problem. I never knew you went down there by bus! Thats one epic voyage. Good read.

    1. Thanks Zak - it is a journey you'll never find on Traveline! No I'm not going to bother as they'll probably just consider it sour grapes after other problems between myself and that operator. However if there's a repeat of that I'll be straight onto Kent County Council.

      Having said that the chap driving on the same route this morning was the complete opposite and a credit to the job.

  4. Most drivers got no idea about public relations.Even if a bus is late and the driver is cheerful no worries but some look at you like a hawk.

    1. Driving isn't a social activity. I'd guess that most good drivers, in any walk of life, aren't good company.

      But talk about taking a problem and making it worse: I suspect that most bus driver training consists of an ever increasing list of dos and don'ts, with modern ecological awareness and political correctness added in. Just look at the 1950s (yes, still) Driver and Passenger Regulations for a start. It's as though the last half century never happened.

      Treat anyone like a robot, and they'll turn into one.