Friday, 18 October 2013

Day 4 Part 2: Cambridge to Derby

Now, where was I. Oh yes. Margaret guarding our seats at the top/front of the decker to travel along the busway, whilst Michael did his ‘dad’ bit on the radio interview. I must say that it was odd – Michael was being asked about Cariad and I was being asked for the finer points of bus travel. We were given a song request and, needless to say, it was “I would walk 500 miles” by the Proclaimers… no idea why – we tried to choose One Direction in honour of Cariad (although I do confess I have no idea what any of their ‘songs’ are called).

Route B - The Busway, Stagecoach

Cambridge Busway
I do not wish to go into the finer points of the Cambridge Busway, for fear of political debate raging. However, this busway is the longest guided bus track in the UK (currently). A guided bus track is just that – the bus is adapted with wheelie bits on the side (not unlike my all-terrain case:-) and there are ridges/curbs that guide the bus along. No steering, no traffic in the way; just 20km of speed… James May eat your heart out.

That may be overstating things a bit. But I did like the ‘car traps’; ditches that essentially trap a car to stop it from driving along the bus way. I will bet a trapped car does nothing for the timeliness of the service, and it did look a bit severe… but I understand the principle.

Seats taken – Alison joined us for this bit – off we went and soon found ourselves in the middle of the countryside on the busway. It was actually great fun… if you like that kind of thing. I guess this was all the more because any time the bus went anywhere near anything, Alison squeeked – perhaps giving away that she is as unused to being a bus passenger as I was. At Histon, we had our photo taken by Jamie Armstrong; he had prewarned us he would be there and we were on the look out…..hence the need for the front seats…. That was our excuse anyway.

There was a lot of this going on
As with all nearly all our trips to date, we eventually reached our destination and, once again, walked off the bus to clicks of a camera. This time, the clicks were owned by Mel Holley of Route One magazine (a trade journal). This was another of Alisons arrangements – so we went for more coffee (Jez)…beer (Michael) in Wetherspoons   (must be worth a donation from them for another plug)… I could almost feel the caffeine levels rising to ‘normal’. We chatted through the journey – our hiccups and our plans for the next day. We discussed the short trip to our hotel in the evening… would it still be a free service or would we be charged. We promised the scoop. And soon enough it was time to go.

This is where our trip had to alter once again. We were planning to travel to Oakham and make a 5 minute connection on to Nottingham. We were a bit more wary of this now, and Michael had been scheming a credible alternative that would take us out to Uppingham (in Rutland), across to Leicester and then up to Derby. It had more margin in it, more buses and more scope for changing things (the original plan via Oakham hinged on making the one connection). However, as there had been talk of meeting up with Trent Barton Buses we felt we should stick to the schedule if we could.

The Oakham bus (Centrebus 9) arrived and was loading late. At 5 minutes late we stood back… and as it departed 7 minutes late we felt that we had to let it go and set about the safer plan B. We hadn’t heard from Trent in any case.

Centrebus R47 to Uppingham
Plan B was to take the school bus (Centrebus R47), which went to Oakham (but we were getting off at Uppingham). This service is just one journey a day so finding which stand in the bus station it left from was a challenge… it did not appear on any “Where to catch your bus from” posters.  We were directed to a stop which did have a timetable for the service shown…but it was dated 2007 with a totally different operator than now.  It didn’t give too much confidence but all went well, it was on time and I have to say with the most well behaved school children I have seen so far on this journey. They read books (I know, right!!!), they talked about our trip and even sang country and western songs together (yes, I know, right?!?!?).

At Uppingham we boarded the Centrebus 747 for Leicester. This was perfect for all the usual comments about ‘flying to Leicester’ and ‘when we land’ etc. (I think you have to be a dad to like that sort of thing!) I didn’t fly, but was fairly quick and we soared out of Rutland and into Leicestershire (I was informed by Michael later that the bus ran 2 minutes behind throughout… but who was counting – asides Michael). We arrived in Leicester and went for a coffee; where the barista donated the change in his pocket…

Centrebus 747 - Uppingham to Leicester
Sadly, once again our changes caught up with us as I received an email from Trent Barton saying that Mr Mango had been waiting at Nottingham. Damn! This was my turn to think of a solution, so I offered our spare time in the morning at Derby; Trent run into Derby and as we have an hour to spare (technically) we could do something… though I thought Mr Meilton was very gracious to let go of his much needed lie in!

Back on the road, this time on the Kinchbus Skyline – which takes in the Airport as well as Loughborough and Derby. We were on our last bus to our chosen destination and it was home and dry.

Kinch 'Skyline' to Derby
No it wasn’t.

As we approached Loughborough, a loud and annoying continuous beep emitted from the drivers cab. The reason is was loud and annoying was, I suspect for a reason. The bus was seriously sick – overheating as it turns out. We limped through Loughborough and drew to a stop; the driver had already been in touch with the depot so we hoped things were in hand. This wasn’t the last bus to our destination… and very sadly, I considered the lost and gained mileage and how this driver would record his late running docket. Too much OmniDAS depot allocations I think… or maybe it was that I hadn’t thought about it this week!!!

Replacement 'Skyline' to Derby
To Kinchs’ credit, not 10 minutes past before the replacement turned up. Very professional. The driver continued with us and we left an engineer behind. One snippet of an exchange that I did get was the engineer observing; “We have a yard of broken vehicles at the moment”… to which the driver replied (quite correctly), “Well, now you’ve got one more mate”. Excellent. I couldn’t have done better.

We finished our journey on the new bus and then had dinner (cue another plug from Wetherspoons) and blogged, Michael removing the libellous and unrepeatables as usual. And finally to our last trip to the hotel (I had booked it a little out of town). Now, to include this trip in the journey or not? It is in service – we took it – it was for a purpose to do with the trip. I have included it, but for any pedants please choose to ignore as you wish.

Arriva 45 - as far as Pride Park, Derby

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