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Your help is needed to name new buses
ADVER readers are about to be called upon to help name six very special buses.
Thamesdown Transport has sent the brand new Wrightbus StreetLite single deckers to London, where they’ll be in service for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics, helping to transport members of the global media to and from venues.
Once they return in mid-October, they’ll be named in honour of Star Class locomotives, which were built in Swindon between 1907 and 1923.
Thamesdown Transport’s managing director Paul Jenkins said: “We’re inviting readers of the Swindon Advertiser to help us choose the names we give to our new buses.
“Just like Thamesdown, the locomotives that these six buses will be named after have their roots in Swindon.
“As we are Swindon’s bus company, we thought it fitting to have the people of the town involved in this decision, and we look forward to naming these vehicles when they return from London in October.”
Of more than 70 Star Class engines built at the Railway Works, 40 were named after British kings, queens, princes and princesses. The bus company wants the names of its six buses to be drawn from those 40, giving a theme to the names and paying tribute to Swindon’s engineering history and Thamesdown’s role during the Games.
And that’s where you, our readers, come in. Starting next week and for two weeks afterwards, we’ll tell you about the most interesting royals to have Star Class locos named after them. You’ll be invited to vote for the ones you’d like to have the StreetLites named after.
Look out next week for the first of our three pieces about the stories behind the Star Class.
Behind the wheel
TO mark its Olympic bus honour, Thamesdown Transport invited me to try my hand behind the wheel of one.
I have to say that driving a 41-seater Wrightbus StreetLite couldn’t be easier.
There are two pedals, one to make it go and the other to make it stop and, instead of a gear lever, there are three buttons in a side panel, marked D for “Drive”, N for “Neutral” and R for
Obviously, a Thamesdown bus driver has one or two other duties, apart from making the machine go and stop.
Chief among these is venturing out of the depot at Barnfield and negotiating streets and roads for about 1,500 miles a week, with cars and pedestrians everywhere.
I didn’t get to do that, you’ll be glad to hear. The thing is 11.5 metres long and nearly 2.5 metres wide, or “the size of a bus” in old measurements.
Driving one among actual cars and actual people must be like riding an elephant through a china shop, except that the china is rather squishy and the very devil to glue back together if something goes wrong.
And that’s before we add the extra challenges of issuing tickets, keeping to a rigid schedule and answering questions from the public.
I was guided by Paul Banham, 54, who has been a bus driver for 34 years and is one of a trio of Thamesdown driving instructors which also includes Phil Bailey and John Clavery.
Thanks to him, I can now add reverse parking a bus to my list of accomplishments.
His best advice? “The bus driver is typically sitting on an overhang of eight to 10 feet in front of the front wheels and there’s another overhang behind the rear wheels. When you turn, always make sure you know where that tail is.”
The front overhang means turning the wheel later than you otherwise would – a counter-intuitive and nervewracking proposition even when there’s nothing nearby to break.
My other adviser was Tabela “‘Tab” Buyanga, one of 20 drivers whose duties include overseeing newly-qualified recruits.
Originally from Harare in Zimbabwe, 50-year-old Tab became a driver five years ago.
I asked him what skills a driver needed beyond driving.
“To be a bus driver,” he said, “you need to be an accepting person.
“You need to be a person who can work with the public, a person who is calm.
“If you are that sort of person it is a very enjoyable job.”
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