Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our county was grinding to a halt and why?

What is going on in our country? Okay, so the weather is a little cooler and there has been a smattering of snow. That does not explain why roads have become gridlocked and telephones unanswered. It is not rocket science, you know. Send the gritting lorries out and put enough monkeys in front of telephones to answer them. You could even route your telephone calls to India, at least they would be answered.

I left London in my coach yesterday afternoon at 16.30 - a regular scheduled service for a nationwide company that was due to arrive in Cardiff at 19.50 It was a fairly average journey out of London onto the M4 motorway with the usual slowdown of traffic just past junction 4B. But then the traffic stopped for a minute, then crawled, then stopped again for a minute or so and then crawled again for hours on end. Eventually I got to junction 10 where the traffic was stacked from the exit road all along the motorway in lane 1. I passed this traffic and progress was better but not fast. I continued driving until I got the motorway service area but by this time I had exceeded my 4 hour 30 driving limit, the 10 hour daily driving limit and the 15 hour daily duty spread over limit.

I telephoned my employer but could get no response. I telephoned the nationwide company but I could get no response from them either. I had my 45 minute rest break and had only 2 options. I could have told the passengers that it was "no go" for another 8 hours 15 minutes until I had my minimum daily rest period of 9 hours OR I could use the VOSA guidelines regarding unforeseen circumstances, that only for the safety of my passengers, I could continue driving until the nearest location where I could discharge my passengers.

There is a problem in the passenger transport industry of staff being physically assaulted by passengers, so I thought it was best for me to continue driving. I am not a fearful person and you will never read about me claiming to be verbally abused or assaulted. If somebody has a sharp word with me, I am simply not bothered. I tried later to get a telephone response from both my employer and the nationwide company but although both companies claim a 24/7 customer focused service, nobody answered my calls. This was very frustrating as there were passengers on my coach for Swansea and I was sure there would not be a relief driver waiting for me in Cardiff. I looked at the company phone again and found an obscure 07 number. I rang this number and got an answer, although the guy did not say who he was. I challenged him to admit that he was a member of my company and then told him that by this time I had a gusts full of his office AND the office of the nationwide company who where not responding to my telephone calls. He claimed that our company could not get the nationwide company to respond either and that he, with others were rescuing stranded drivers and passengers. Okay, I told him, I am over my hours and have helped you guys out, what I will do now is continue to Treforest depot with the passengers for Swansea on board and dump them in your traffic office before I go home. Thanks Stephen, the guy replied, there will be a driver there waiting for you.

I pulled into Cardiff Central Station at 03.08 - some 7 hours 18 minutes later than advertised. A London to Cardiff journey time of over 10 hours 30 minutes with just a 45 minute rest break - that is disgusting. But there was no need for this to happen, there was not a problem that simple salt gritting with lorries would avoid. I continued to our Treforest depot and sure enough there was a driver waiting to take the passengers onto Swansea! But look at my digital driver tachograph chart and what does it show? 13 hours and 37 minutes driving all because Berkshire County Council could not get it's act together and grit the major roads in it's area. Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said he would be "asking questions" about the difficulties in Basingstoke, Hampshire, and Reading, Berkshire, where up to 2,000 motorists were trapped last night and many cars were abandoned. Mr Khan said local authorities had enough grit and the issue was why the grit had not been applied. The Royal Berkshire Hospital, in Reading, cancelled all operations and appointments - treating emergencies only.

So, I think that Sadiq ought to start kicking some backsides in Berkshire. His dad used to be a bus driver and how would he feel if his dad had to consider driving for 13 hours and 37 minutes in one day OR face the risk of physical assault? As for my employer and the nationwide company not responding to telephone calls, well - forget the public relations stuff, there is no profit in responding to telephone calls and you are both obsessed with saving costs and do not want to pay for the increased operating costs of providing a truly professional service.
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