If it all seems to have gone rather quiet recently for Busman John, that’s because the opposite is true. Life has been extremely busy with bus movements, private hire duties and new responsibilities.
One of the more unusual private hire duties is pictured above – a day spent with a film crew from BBC Bristol ‘Points West’. This was another ‘get up at silly o’clock’ day, when I had to travel up from Paignton, prepare my rostered bus and get myself in position at BBC Bristol in Whiteladies Road by 08:30.
The people from Points West, the local BBC News programme, were interviewing the six candidates for Mayor and I spent the day with the Bristol VRT open top bus taking the film crew to six locations in the Bristol area to meet and interview the candidates.
Our first stop was the duck pond in Winterbourne, just to the north of the city, then on to Kingswood where we drove along the busy shopping streets while the filming took place on the top deck.
From there we went south to Chew Valley Lake for another interview and a lunch break. Getting there however was a bit fraught because I had only been rostered for the job the day before and hadn’t had a chance to do my normal route research. Planning our route was a bit of a team effort – not ideal. The inevitable happened, we chose a route that included a narrow, weight restricted bridge! I had to turn the bus around in a very small space and go back the way we’d come. How embarrassing!
The other stops included the very elegant Royal Avenue in Bath (pictured at the top of this post), just below the famous Royal Crescent. The footage was aired during the local news programme a few days later and was also published on the BBC Points West Facebook page in six short segments.
My links with Crosville Motor Services Ltd of Weston-super-Mare suddenly became much closer a couple of weeks ago when I was appointed as its new Heritage Operations Manager. This new role will see me take on responsibility for the commercial operation of the company’s excellent fleet of heritage buses. Most of them have often featured on this blog and now I’m faced with the daunting task of handling enquiries, bookings and driver rosters as well as continuing to drive on private hire duties.
Another rather vital job is to help recruit and train new heritage bus drivers. We can always do with more of them to handle the volume of bookings but most essential is that they should have experience with crash gearbox vehicles. If you know of someone who would love to drive one of these wonderful old ladies in commercial service, let me know!
Pre-season bus movements have continued and it was a case of one in, one out recently when I took our open top Bristol FSF6G up to Stoke-on-Trent for mechanical work and a fresh Class 6 MOT. Coming back the other way after similar work was our slightly newer open top Bristol VRT. Both have now entered service on private hire duties back in Somerset.
In another long-haul swap movement, I took another hybrid decker up to Yorkshire to be converted to open top format and brought another freshly converted one back to Weston-super-Mare. Although these are very comfortable to drive, they are neither fast nor powerful. Give me a gutsy half cab bus every time. They may be a bit pedestrian by today’s standards but they know how to climb hills!
I travelled north to Manchester to collect a 1998 Volvo B10M bus, which has been added to the Crosville fleet for mainly schools contract work. On this journey I learned a very valuable lesson. If someone you don’t know tells you that the fuel tank is almost full, don’t believe them. I ran the tank dry, arriving at a motorway service station on the last drops in the feed pipe. By the grace of God, I had parked the bus a few metres away from the fuel pumps on a slight downhill gradient so, when the bus wouldn’t restart after my lunch break, I had merely to take the parking brake off and roll the bus down to a vacant pump. Getting the fresh fuel up the pipe to the engine was another matter though and I had to phone a friend to get me out of that pickle because cranking the engine had drained the batteries!
In other news, I have a few turns on the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus starting from tomorrow. Of particular interest is one of the four surviving Bournemouth Corporation Leyland Tiger PS2 coaches, which has joined the regular open top Leyland PD2 this year. The bright yellow single deck coach will add flexibility to the fleet, being very handy for when the weather is wet.