I got back from my holiday yesterday to find that two of the Sightseeing buses had been sold and this replacement MCW Metrobus was already in service! The open top Metrobus known as ‘Big Bertha’ (
) and a closed top Volvo Olympian ( ) have moved on to pastures new.
The 1947 Leyland PD2/3 will remain for the forseeable future but was unserviceable yesterday morning so I had to jump straight into this machine and take it on the two tours of the day. Fortunately the cab layout is very similar to the previous Metrobus so it all felt very familiar.
Previously used by Harrods in London for a City Sightseeing Tour, this bus is fitted with tables and comes complete with a kitchen at the back of the lower saloon!
Our tour route takes us ‘off piste’, away from normal bus routes, including the pretty Ilsham Green and Meadfoot Beach. Having a full height roof at the front means that we have to pass under low branches very carefully. Behind the bus in the photo is a low railway bridge at Preston Sands and clearance is down to the proverbial ‘fag paper’! Only joking, it’s a few inches but still quite tight.
In other news, I’ve been invited to drive a VERY historic bus soon. It dates from between the wars and is just coming to the end of a thorough restoration. Watch this space!
In my continuing search for employment I sent an on-spec enquiry to Local Link, (also known as Dial-a-Bus) one of my local bus service operators.
The photo above shows one of their buses in Paignton Bus Station today. It so happened that they were planning to recruit some more drivers so I was asked to come in for an interview. Of interest to the manager who interviewed me was the fact that I’d already been working for Rail River Link and it seems their Transport Manager had given me a good reference.
The interview went well but I had a few misgivings about the hours I would be required to work. They had no part time work available, only full time, which meant using up nearly all the driving hours that the VOSA rules allow. Putting that aside, all other aspects of the job seemed to be favourable. The Local Link depot is quite close to where I live and they use the same ticketing system as Rail River Link so I wouldn’t have had to learn a whole new system. A bonus: they employ a cleaner so drivers don’t have to wash their own buses before clocking off!
I went for an assessment drive in one of their Optare Solos. It’s a simple machine – you just point and shoot. In other words, it had automatic transmission in common with most modern buses designed for local service work. I found it a lot narrower than the Volvo Olympians I had driven in the summer and the interviewer commented that I’d probably get around much more quickly when I’d got used to the smaller size of the vehicle! I think he was trying to say that I was being more cautious than necessary.
Back at the depot, we talked about routes, hours and duties. The Transport Manager told me he wanted to start me the following Monday with a week of route training. I thanked him before I left to think it over.
Checking back over the duration of my recent Crosville duties, it turned out that there wouldn’t be enough driving hours available to drive for both Local Link and Crosville with a sufficiently comfortable margin. I didn’t want to curtail my heritage driving nor inconvenience either company if I was liable to run out of driving hours. I called the next day to decline the job offer.
I learned later that the Rail River Link manager (the one who had given me a glowing reference) had punched the air when he was told that I hadn’t accepted the job. We spoke recently and he wants me to drive for them next season. He also dangled a particularly juicy carrot before me, in the form of an ex-Devon General Bristol VRT which has been ‘repatriated’ from Yorkshire!