Sunday 19 November 2023

Just Another Day on the Buses...

Bus driving can be a very rewarding job, especially if you prefer not to work in an office or factory and you like getting out and about and meeting people; but it can also come with many frustrations, as one of our local bus drivers explains. After reading this you might realise that when your bus is late, or even doesn't show up at all, it's not necessarily the driver's fault!

Monday on the buses

The school run

Sign on at 0730, get bus ready and run empty to start of school run, involves going through temporary traffic lights (slight delay) then doing a three point turn to face the right way, illegally parked builders van makes the turn difficult and requires a bit of shunting to get round.

School run, back through the roadworks, otherwise all OK except for cars parked
in the bus layby as usual

Run empty to Milnthorpe, then as service 552 to Arnside, all OK today, last Monday
Smithy Lane was shut for roadworks so I had to miss some bus stops out.

Morning Shoppers Diversion?

Service 552 at 0930 Arnside to Kendal.  I like doing this run as I know the friendly
passengers. At a road junction in Sedgwick, normally I go straight on to Natland, 
but I know that road is due to be closed about now (probably in connection with
new housing development). I can go right via Crosscrake as a diversion if necessary.
At the junction there is a ‘Road Closed’ sign clearly visible, but lying down. Is that
deliberate and mean the roads are open, or has it blown down and one (or both) of
the roads is closed?  If so, I have no way of knowing which road is closed.
I realise that once on either road there is no way of turning a bus round if it is shut.
I decide to divert via Crosscrake, the longer journey making the bus a few minutes
late into Kendal, despite not having to go via the hospital as nobody requests the 
stop there.

Whilst the passengers go off and do their shopping I  enjoy a nice break in Kendal, 
have a bit of a stroll and lunch, homemade vegetable broth from my food flask.

The return from Kendal to Arnside is a problem free pleasant run and I discover
that both of the roads mentioned earlier were open: I arrive on time. 
However, I did spot signs in Arnside saying the road past the railway station will be
closed Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday next week.  That is going to cause difficulties
for people in Arnside as the bus will not be able to get to the two stops on the Prom
and it's a huge hill that people will have to walk up to the nearest stop that the bus
can get to.  Plus next week, the Sedgwick-Natland road is closed according to signs,
so that’s two diversions on one journey; no chance of running to time.

The afternoon school run

Empty to Carnforth High School, no problem.

There is a lay-by outside the school which is marked with zig-zags and ‘keep clear’ 
so the four school buses can pick up safely.  As usual, there are cars parked in the
lay-by. The red car pictured earlier when I dropped the schoolchildren off in the 
morning is still there and has probably been there all day.  The cars are right in the
way and two of the four school buses can't get into the lay-by to pick up the children.
This is a problem we have virtually every day as the parking restrictions are never 

Afternoon school run: the last of the school children get off just before the 
roadworks in Brookhouse which saves me having to go through the roadworks
twice, as I can turn right instead.  But it takes two shunts to turn, as a car is parked
on the junction, with driver in it who just sits there while everyone gets held up as
I shunt the bus back and forward to get round.

Back into Lancaster's traffic

Empty into Lancaster for a break and a little stroll for exercise, after which the fun
begins. Our scheduled running times do have a bit of leeway built into them to allow
for traffic congestion, which in Lancaster can happen at any time of day or night, but
it's not always enough 

On the Ryelands Estate (service 8) the locals normally allow enough space for the
buses to get through - but only just. Other drivers are no so considerate. Service 9
to Farmdale Road goes through  areas of housing where residents are not so 
considerate in parking and the Bowerham Road/St Oswald Street junction often
has cars parked on the double yellow lines forcing the bus to miss out part of the 
route causing great inconvenience to passengers, who are, of course, neighbours
of those causing the problem.


The 1645 Ryelands/St Chads circular on the 8 is always a challenge.  Today, on the
very last turn there are five vehicles parked on the junction. ( it is an offence to
park within 10 meters of a road, although no car drivers seem to know this).  
Despite my best endeavours I am stuck. The bus is delayed 5 minutes while the 
car owner is found to move the car.  I give a wry smile when a child walking past 
also tells the car driver that she shouldn’t park there. 
The photo was taken just after the car with lights on had moved slightly.

Straight into the bus station, I should have  6 minutes layover before the next trip, 
but unload, load up and depart 2 minutes late because of the illegally parked car.

More challenges and more delays.

The 1710 to Farmdale Road on service 9.  Having set off late I then get held up by 
worse than normal congestion, which is caused by roadworks on a road I don’t use
forcing more traffic onto the A6.  At the top of St Oswald Street there is a car 
parked very close to the corner, on double yellow lines and with its driver on the
'phone, making it very difficult to get the bus through. The car engine is running,
so that driver could, and should, have got 6 points on their licence for commiting an 
offence.. I also notice cars parked on the Clarence Street/St Martins Road corner 
which could make it difficult or even impossible to get the bus through on the way
back.  Eight minutes late arriving at the terminus.

1729 back to Lancaster bus station. Set off 8 minutes late and still 8 minutes late 
arriving at the bus station. On that journey a car in front of me goes through a red
traffic light by the cathedral, while a different car goes straight through
the ‘Buses and Access only’ sign at Spring Garden Street; this restriction is never

No time for a break

My next run is back on service 8 and the 1745  Ryelands/St Chads Circular. 
Departed 8 minutes late due to arriving late from Farmdale Road.  
Unbelievably, I get stuck on the same corner as last time on Ryelands, 
this time by a different car.  

The driver is still in it and moves it to a vacant space two car lengths forward - why
didn’t it park there in the first place?  Light traffic results in my arrival back in the 
bus station being only 5 minutes late.  By now I am in need of a P and a brew.  
Both the ladies and the  gents toilets in the bus station are out of order.

 I should have  a 15 minute break at this point, where I try and eat my sandwiches;
no time for that today.

Last run

The last run of the day is the 1820 service 81 to Kirkby Lonsdale. I have difficulty 
getting through Newton Estate (yet again) by a 4x4 parked on the Langdale Road 
junction and blocking the bus stop with another car parked opposite.  
Just squeeze my bus through.  Through the Brookhouse roadworks yet again. 
These roadworks are gradually moving towards Lancaster and closing off bus stops
to passengers, resulting in some having long distances to walk.  I let a passenger 
off at a bus stop no longer affected by the roadworks, but it still had a ‘bus stop out
of use’ sign up. (This is a common problem, although fortunately most drivers and
 passengers use their common sense and ignore the signs.Ed) Fortunately, the
running time for this route is generous and I arrive at Kirkby on time.

Empty run back to depot.  Checked live traffic maps before deciding which way to 
go: choose A65 and M6. It is dark and very wet on this twisting and undulating 
road.  A red van overtakes me on a blind bend, approaching a blind summit on a
’no overtaking’ section.  Totally reckless. No wonder there are so many accidents
on the A65.

At the depot it's fuel the bus, take it through the washing plant and park it up.  
But spare a though for the lady who cleans the inside of the buses, she gets soaked
pushing her trolley to each bus in the torrential rain.

So excluding the school runs, 8 passenger carrying journeys, 5 delayed by 
congestion and illegally parked vehicles, no delays due to the driver or the bus

A bus driver's plea

"Hopefully now you’ve read this you will appreciate that for buses to be able to 
provide a good service for passengers, what is needed is for the appropriate 
bodies to sort out the congestion, roadworks and illegal parking that means the
buses are unable to run on time". 

A long day

The Editor adds:
 Our driver doesn't make the point, but observant readers will have noted that the 
day began at 07.30, whilst the last run of the day doesn't arrive at Kirkby Lonsdale
until 19.28 after which the bus still has to be taken back to the depot in Lancaster. 
Whilst there will have been plenty of break time during this period and the actual
driving time won't have exceeded the ten hours limit, nevertheless almost thirteen
hours will have elapsed between the driver starting work and booking off. 
This is quite legal, in fact the working day can be spread over sixteen hours
and such conditions of work are common throughout the bus industry.