Friday, 19 June 2009

Chapter 12 Depot Inspectors and Paying in

Ron Wright was a very dedicated Inspector, even to the extent of booking me for running four minutes early into the garage at midnight. Most inspectors would have gone home hours earlier, not Ron. One time the schedules had been misprinted and rather than have us work the incorrect schedules Ron stayed at the garage into the early hours writing all our schedules out by hand for the next morning.
When I started at Tring the Depot Manager was Charlie Hall and the Depot Inspectors were Dave Davis and Vic Cooper. Dave was once a coach driver who was promoted to Depot Inspector. I still enjoyed driving and asked Dave why he had come off the road. His reply was that when I had been driving as long as he had I’d want to come into the office. Well after forty years I still enjoy driving.
Charlie the Depot Manager was always nice to you if he wanted you to do overtime or come in on your day off to work your rest day. Other than that if you wanted Charlie he was likely to shut the window between the office and the conductors room and ignore you.
All money paid in at the end of a duty had to tally with the read out on your ticket machine. In the case of crew operation the ticket machine was the Gibson whereas the coach drivers machine was a six band Almex. This had six rows of levers the first two were green for the fare stage a yellow band for the pounds and two more green bands for the pence and a final red band for the ticket type. Leaving Tring early one morning for Aylesbury and being half asleep I started of by setting up the fare band as the Tring fare stage 68 and then proceeded to sell passengers 68p tickets instead of the correct fare which to Aylesbury was 30p. Fortunately by the time I’d got to Aston Clinton I realised what I had been doing and had to withdraw a lot of tickets valued at 68p and reissue ones of the correct fare. That could have cost me quite a bit when it came to paying in had I not noticed my mistake.
Even to this day the travelling public still believe the company issue us with a float. They never had and never will do. ( A year ago in 2005 Hemel coach drivers were given the option of accepting a £20:00 float on the condition that failure to pay in the exact amount of takings shown on the ticket machine would result in discipline being taken against the driver. Needless to say I refused this offer and continue to carry my own float). It is often a constant battle to find change for passengers who so often do not bother to find the correct fare. In the days of London Transport and even later if a passenger did not have the correct fare and if the driver did not have change the passenger could elect to send their fare into the bus garage by filling in an unpaid fare form. This procedure was always avoided if possible because of the time required to fill in the form one half given to the passenger with details of the fare due and journey undertaken the other portion filled in by the driver and given in to the garage at the end of the duty.
However after a week with the same passengers boarding at Bushey Heath and not having the correct fare I had had enough. On one particular morning every one received an unpaid fare form. Needless to say there were plenty of moans and groans and we were of course quite late getting to Stanmore and all points to Victoria, but low and behold next week they all turned up with the correct fare.
Some times of course the tables are turned and the passengers not only have the correct fare but it will be in lots of pennies or five pence coins. It was often the custom therefore to bag up lots of small coins in small paper bags, blue ones for fifty pence of copper and beige bags for silver. I had the habit of also putting fifty pence pieces in copper bags and putting them in my ticket machine box already to pay in quickly at the end of my duty. One afternoon I was due to finish at Tring garage. I pulled up at Tring Rose and Crown and a young girl got on with a pound note for a 25p fare. Thinking I’ll teach you, I gave her all small change including what I thought was a blue bag containing fifty pence of copper. Imagine how I felt when I went to pay in to find I had given her a bag of fifty pence pieces instead, £10:00 worth. I told the other drivers what I’d just done and one of them, Kenny Edmonds ran out to his car and chased after the coach and waited for the passengers to alight at Bedgrove where the young girl had asked for. Unfortunately for me it would appear she had got off earlier. I’d learnt the hard way, don’t try to be clever and keep a careful eye on the companies money. Charlie Hall the Depot Manager was full of sympathy and said I could soon make up the loss by doing extra overtime. Ten pound may not seem a lot to day but in 1975 my take home pay was about £50:00 so I had just given away 20% of my earnings. I felt really sick and was dreading what Annette would say when I got home. However she realised how bad I felt and was very sympathetic and said we would manage somehow, I knew we would have to cut back on food that week. Charlie true to his word did find me plenty of overtime and I managed to restore the £10:00 to the housekeeping. In fact I did earn a bit more than that and gave the extra to Annette as a thank you for her understanding.
With some of our regular passengers if we didn’t have the change they would either tell us to keep the change or say they will collect it the next day. One of our regulars an elderly lady known only to us as ‘aunty handbag’ travelled regularly from Tring to Marble Arch. So as not to forget her change I wrote on her ticket the amount of change I owed her. It was not until a few weeks later that I was called in to see our Chief Inspector Reg Goodchild. Reg was in charge of both Hemel Hempstead and Tring and would come over to Tring every couple of weeks to hold disciplinary hearings. Reg asked me if I remembered writing on a ticket. When I replied that I did he said “well lad you better go and pay that change in as I’ve just had to pay Mrs **** out of my own pocket.” Apparently on the way home from work ‘aunty handbag’ had asked a driver for her change. He told her he couldn’t do that and she had better call into Hemel and see the Chief Inspector with her ticket and this she did.
Sometimes our passengers were much more appreciative of our efforts. One such was Olive Pepperdine. Olive used to travel every day from Berkhampstead to London. Many passengers were by now buying weekly tickets. These were issued to the drivers by the depot inspector to be sold to the individual passenger. Every Monday Olive would purchase her ticket from the driver at Berkhampstead. One morning I had Olive’s ticket but no coach, a rare mechanical failure. Knowing Olive would be waiting for her coach I caught a 312 bus from Tring to Hemel Hempstead and on arriving at Berkhampstead called out to Olive to board the 312 were I gave Olive her weekly ticket and advised her to travel on the 312 to Hemel Hempstead and then transfer to the 708 Greenline coach to London. Olive always remembered that little bit of help and would always ask after my family even into retirement when I would occasionally see her in Berkhampstead.
Earlier I had mentioned that the Chief Inspector who controlled both Hemel Hempstead and Tring was Reg Godchild. Reg was a somewhat fatherly figure who kept an eye on both his drivers and his garages. One wintery morning we were told the snow was so heavy that we had to terminate at Victoria. Approaching Berkhampstead with a full load of passengers and by now running quite late because of the snow we came to a halt outside the Yeovil café. After some time having ceased to move, one of the passengers asked if we would all like some hot coffee, to which the passenger got off the coach and went into the café and bought all the passengers and myself coffee. After another hour we passed Hemel Hempstead and much to my surprise there was Reg clearing away snow from the forecourt of the garage with a large shovel. I have never seen any other Chief Inspector (now known as Garage Manager) before or since clearing snow.

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