Saturday, 17 October 2009

Chapter 29 New Managers same Drivers

My work as union Garage Representative and Health and Safety Representative allowed me to meet with all our different garage managers all of whom have their own ways of running things.
In my early days with LT I rarely came into contact with garage managers except on disciplines of which were very rare. I was unfortunate to have had an accident whilst at Edgware garage where a woman driver pulled across into Cricklewood Broadway and collided with the side of my RT bus on route 142 to Kilburn Park Station. I pulled up at the side of the road and went back to see my conductor who was about to disappear into the betting shop calling back to me "you handle it mate it was her fault". I then took the driving particulars of the lady driver and put in my report to the depot inspector expecting to hear no more about it as I was clearly not to blame. Ok I was young and naive. According to all other road users if there is an accident involving a bus then the bus driver must be at fault. In this case I was called in to see the Garage Manager who said he’d received a letter from the lady’s insurance company and she was claiming I was doing over 30mph. I explained to the manager that had she witnessed me travelling at over 30mph why on earth did she pull across into the path of the bus and as it was she didn’t hit the front of the bus but hit it in the middle off side. I was told to put it in writing and hand it in. Fortunately my standard of English was good (no spell checker in those days) and I heard no more about the incident.
No accidents occurred during my spell at Uxbridge garage so no visits to the garage manager.
I’ve mentioned how upon my return to the UK how Reg Goodchild the GM or Chief Inspector as he was known then was more like a father figure always keeping his drivers out of harms way. One afternoon I was coming back from Chelsham on the 706 when I saw they were resurfacing the road on the approach to Tring. I thought I could just squeeze between the stone laying machine and the kerb, unfortunately I couldn’t. Looking in my mirror I saw I had spun the machine around, but continued driving to the garage. Whilst paying in I heard a commotion going on outside the next minute Reg appeared and called me into his office. “Did you hit that road laying machine?”
The truth seemed the best answer, “yes I think I may have”
“Well next time you do that make sure you’ve got the bloody room to get by” and I heard no more about it, Reg must have placated the irate road crew.
Upon my move to Amersham I was to encounter yet another fatherly figure in ‘Gerry’ Coe. Gerry was very good to all his staff and although I had no reason to meet him in a disciplinary manner he was always willing to enquire after my well being.
After Amersham it was back to Hemel Hempstead and a new breed of Garage Manager. While I was working at Amersham Reg Goodchild had retired and his position as Chief Depot Inspector was taken over by George Holby. George as I have mentioned earlier was a wonderful man, very kind, jovial and helpful. Sadly George died before I came back to Hemel Hempstead.
I received no welcome from the new Chief Inspector Arthur Harris and it was not until my first discipline that I met Arthur. I pointed out to him it would have been nice to have been welcomed back to Hemel Hempstead, but it fell upon deaf ears. Arthur spent a lot of time shouting at people. When Luton & District took over, a new set up was put in place. Keen to replace all semblance of London Transport they set about systematically replacing all things LT and that included Arthur and the system of Inspectors. In London and the provinces in the 60s one could tell who you worked for by the colour of the stripe on your uniform trousers and your rank within the company by ones cap badge.
Postmen, a red stripe, LT Underground staff, a yellow stripe, LT Central Bus staff, a blue stripe and LT Country Area, a green stripe. Rank within LT buses was as follows:
Drivers and Conductors a white cap badge
Uniformed Inspectors, a Red badge, then Silver and finally Gold
Driving Instructors had a Blue cap badge
Depot Inspectors did not have a uniform or a badge.
Senior Officials of the London Transport Board had neither uniform nor cap badge but they did have a key fob which if it was shown to you it usually meant you were in trouble (see chapter 4).
All things LT were soon to be swept away including those LT Inspectors who had seen many years service. Inspectors became Depot Managers and were requires to not only work within the depot (Depot Inspectors) but were required to go out checking buses and drivers (Road Inspectors).
The Chief Depot Inspector became the Operations Manager and a further tier of management was added by introducing a Garage Manager responsible for both drivers and engineers. After Arthur Harris moved on we were to have one of the best, in my opinion, Operations Managers I've ever worked with. Luton and District hadn't taken over when 'Bill' Bailey took up his post.
I've already mentioned Bill in chapter 22 as having an uncanny knowledge of when drivers were trying to pull the wool over his eyes. If you had to see Bill on a discipline and you were guilty of the offence Bill knew the moment you entered his office. As the union rep it was my job to accompany drivers on disciplines to put their cases forward and to make sure the correct disciplinary procedures were followed. Now Bill was fair even to the extent of trying to get drivers to find any mitigating circumstances for their actions or omissions.
There was one driver who had allegedly stolen another driver's module (this is a personalised plastic module which slots into a ticket machine and records all the tickets sold). It appeared that this driver would change their own module for the stolen one during their shift and pocket the money taken. Now before I took the driver in to see Bill I asked the driver had they had in fact used the others driver's module and the driver assured me they hadn't. I said to Bill that there must be some explanation and Bill told me how an Inspector had checked the driver's bus and withdrawn tickets from two different machines; one set from the stolen module, Bill even showed me photo copies of the withdrawn tickets. Bill was good enough not to spring this on me during the hearing. There was nothing I could do for the driver except to plead that they keeps their job. The driver was dismissed and the stolen module returned to its rightful owner.
When drivers had claimed that they had hit road signs that over hung the road Bill would always send out an Inspector to check if the road sign was in fact protruding onto the road and if it was the case then the driver was held not to blame and the local council contacted to rectify the road sign.
Above Bill was the Garage Manager and during Bills reign the person in overall charge of the garage was Neil Instrall. Now Bill had this wonderful feeling for being right, never mind what anyone else felt. If Neil decreed something should be done and Bill felt it wrong he would always challenge Neil. If a driver is seen by an official to commit an offence then that same official cannot be part of the disciplinary hearing. On one occasion Neil had spotted a driver driving out of service without permission and duly tried to discipline the driver. Upon hearing this Bill immediately sprung to the driver defence saying although the driver was in the wrong so was Neil in over riding procedure. Another time Bill sprung to the defence of his staff was when a member of the public called into the office to complain and became very offensive to our two female enquiry staff, Bill came rushing out of his office and chased the complainant down the steps and off the premises.
One day sitting in Neil’s office at a union meeting we were discussing which way buses should travel around the depot, the majority, Neil included said the buses should travel in a clockwise direction. No said Bill they will travel anti clockwise. What about democracy one of the union reps said. “I’m in charge of this garage and if I say they go anti clockwise then that’s the way they’ll go.” Although Neil Instrall was in charge Bill got his way.

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