Furlough ends, back to school

During what most people in the UK hope is the last period of national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I have done no bus or coach driving work whatsoever. But that is due to end tomorrow.

It goes without saying that all heritage bus driving work has been on hold throughout the pandemic as well, but that is due to change and more on that later.

Although I have often envied the hedgehog in my garden, who has been in hibernation during the winter, I have kept up with developments in the heritage bus and coach world by reading Bus & Coach Preservation magazine, checking in with bus groups on social media and joining other preservationists on Facebook and Zoom, courtesy of the excellent Revivist community.

All schools in England are due to re-open to all pupils tomorrow so all the Bakers Dolphin school routes will recommence with a full complement of drivers. According to my instructions, I’m due to operate a route from Weston-super-Mare to Churchill Academy, a distance of about 8 miles. However, due to the fact that the students have a staggered start to their school day, I will need to return to Weston and operate the route again for a second set of students. Once I’m back at the depot I have a driving assessment to carry out, so it’s back down to earth with a bump for me. During my period of furlough I’ve got rather used to what it feels like to be retired!

As for heritage driving, I haven’t done any since I took an RT across to Kent for its new owner (see previous post). But I have been offered a few driving dates (mostly weddings) by Crosville Vintage from May onwards, when hopefully the current restrictions will be eased. There must be a huge backlog of couples desperate to go ahead with wedding plans that have been put on hold for so long!

If you are interested in the vehicle pictured above, it is a 2006 Volvo B12M with a Van Hool Alizee T9 body. UKZ2923 (fleet no 34) was originally new as RB06JSB for Punjab Coaches, Slough. It is pictured here on one of my last school contract duties in January before the current lockdown began. Although far from new, it’s one of my favourite T9 coaches. It has a 6-speed manual gearbox, which I enjoy using but also has a larger engine than most in the fleet (12 litres I think) which gives it a very throaty exhaust note and plenty of power.

While thinking about what else to write about I did wonder if it might be entertaining to bring you a few stories of bus and coach journeys that didn’t go to plan. Although hiccups and breakdowns are not the kind of thing I would normally shout about, they do still occur – even to modern coaches. It’s something that every driver should be prepared for and once or twice that driver has been me!