Sunday, 30 September 2012
KEEPING THINGS MOVING! ~IB~ INTERVIEW WITH: GARY MORGAN~ARRIVA
Its Braap spoke with Gary Morgan recently as part of the Everybody Dreams initiative which has been running throughout the summer- Everybody Dreams being a high profile campaign by Gladesmore school pupils (Tottenham) in response to last year’s riots. Gary Morgan has spent most of his working life with bus company Arriva and is Performance Manager at Tottenham Garage.
Can you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself & the bus driving industry?
I have been with the bus company for just over 30 years. I was here for 15 years as a driver, moved on to become a controller for 10 years and am currently a performance manager- for nearly 6 years.
What was it about driving buses that really appealed to you?
When I was driving buses nearly 15 years ago it was the actual community. People of all nationalities boarded the bus and I liked dealing with the public. It was just an enjoyable job to do at the time.
Can you tell us about some of the major challenges in your job?
My biggest challenge in line with my title is route performance. We are given targets we need to perform to so that we continue to run a good service. In doing so, the challenge is ensuring the controllers who supervise the routes for us perform to a high level. Getting the headways on high frequency buses ‘even’ is a big part of it and this is affected by road closures and various other incidents; but we have to keep the buses running as near to time as possible.
Hence, ‘the destination on this bus has now changed?!!'
Yes, it happens for various reasons. Normally the traffic on the road has made the bus late and there is another bus behind it so the bus can be curtailed to put it on time in the opposite direction. The bus behind can pick up the passengers and take them to the end of their journey. That is how it should work.
Do you think that the job has actually changed in the last few years?
Yes. When I first started with the company there were not so many nationalities in the area. This has increased, not for the worst but it has actually altered the vision of the people so the staff we employ within the company come from many nationalities.
Out of interest, why have we gone back to seeing open back buses?
The open back bus NB4L came back on route 38. This initiative came as Boris didn’t like the bendy bus and wanted to re-instate the old style hop on/off bus back in London. Due to protocol and regulations, now there are certain things buses have to have- like a ramp for disabled people which the NB4L bus has, and doors that can close on the back platform. It’s a very expensive bus but they are looking at bringing more into service so we will see what the challenges are ahead!
As we are looking at the Tottenham Riots today and everything that has stemmed from the riots, have you noticed any increase in aggression on the buses or has it remained much the same?
It has been much the same- if anything it has probably lowered somewhat in this actual area. Not only hasn’t there been an increase, it has actually become very quiet over the last 12 months and I hope it continues.
Do you think that the majority of people in the area are more upset and disturbed by the riots than we tend to imagine?
People in the area, they remember it well and that’s the trouble. The majority of them don’t want to see it again. We have various people who have been affected by it in the company; being local people who lived around here when the riots started. The people not only remember but it will take a long time for them to forget, if ever, but they are trying to put it to the backs of their minds and move forwards- which is where we all want to go.
Could you give us an example of how Ken Bowen, one of your employees I was speaking with recently, was affected by the riots?
I haven’t known Ken for all that long but I was aware at the time that his flat was above Carpetright and it was actually burnt out. He lost everything except the clothes he was actually standing up in. It is only just recently that the council and insurance company have decided that they are going to rebuild and his flat will be new but all his memories and that will be gone. The start of the rebuilding was planned to coincide with the anniversary of the riots. Hopefully Ken will be moving back into the premises in September 2013, but it’s a night he won’t forget because he lost everything; all his memories and all his possessions went, just like that, so it’s hard for him.
At the same time, Ken just loves the area doesn’t he and has absolutely no wish to live anywhere else.
Yes, Ken’s a Tottenham man through and through. He’s had to move into temporary accommodation while this is going on but he wants to come back and take up residence where he was before. Likewise with many of the people here, they don’t want to move out because they are all Tottenham people. If you’re born and bred in an area you generally want to stay unless you emigrate abroad.
Is that the same way most of your drivers have reacted- and have you lost any staff due to the riots?
Yes it is and we haven’t lost any of our drivers.
Were you on duty the first nights of the riots?
The actual night of the first riot, no I wasn’t. I learnt about it from the news that evening. I then made a phone call, being a manager, as I was concerned and as part of my duty. I called the night controller and we had an area controller who was on the scene at the time called Peter Middleton who became an MBE because of his actions that night. I asked if there was anything I could help with and he said no not really due to the fact that it was now coming to the end of the incident.
What did Peter Middleton do to be awarded the CBE?
Peter worked throughout the evening and well into the night. There was a demonstration at Tottenham Police Station which disrupted the local bus services which is why Peter was present. When the riot started Peter got pushed to the ground landing on his hand and he broke his wrist, which he was not aware of at the time. He continued working throughout the night and it wasn’t until the following day that he went to the hospital where it was discovered. Peter’s wrist didn’t heal correctly and he underwent an operation to have it pinned.
What happened in the next couple of days?
The following morning all managers received a call from our general managers to ask if anyone could come into work because they were expecting further trouble that day so I voluntereed. We received a tip off that there were going to be problems in the Enfield Town area, so I went to Enfield Town on the Sunday evening and we were confronted by another riot taking place there. This spread through to the retail park at Enfield on the A10 and then down to the Hertford Road. This continued for a couple more nights, so I worked every day and night that incorporated the riots. I was at the frontline diverting the buses away from the incidents as they occurred along the roads.
What are the major concerns for bus drivers in relation to passenger safety?
The safety of the passengers is the drivers’ main responsibility. If there is anything unsafe, especially with regard to the rioting aspect, the driver calls in a code red to inform CentreComm of what’s happening and CentreComm will divert the buses away from the area as soon as they know about it. As we were being tipped off, we were very upfront and able to divert our vehicles quickly and save them from being involved.
Did most of your buses come out of it unscathed?
No. Unfortunately on the first night of the rioting in Tottenham we did lose a bus that was burnt to the ground and in South London a couple of buses had windows broken in attacks that we didn’t know anything about beforehand. That was the only damage suffered by the company.
Out of interest what is the cost of a new bus?
It depends upon the type of bus but anything up to a hundred & eighty thousand pounds.
Moving on to Gladesmore School...
Had you heard of Gladesmore School before the riots?
No I hadn’t.
Were you surprised when Mark Galloway approached you to discuss the Everybody Dreams campaign with you?
Yes I was quite surprised. Obviously, due to company protocol, I had to get permission to be involved with it. The company was willing to back anything that it believed would help improve the area, help the schools and try to get the community back together. We play a big part in the community by actually moving people around the boroughs; so it was a big surprise when Gladesmore approached us. We first found out about it from our local ATC (Area Traffic Controller) who works for CentreComm saying that there was an NOE (notice of event), about a short road hold as a video was going to be made by the school. Two days after this I was approached by the school to see if we would like to be involved as well; that’s how we came to meet.
You attended the flashmob live video event... what did you think about the song Everybody Dreams?
I thought it was good. The thing that actually appealed to me greatly was that the children gave their own time up to perform this in their school holidays- to perform this and to get together and rehearse it. That shows they really want to be involved and help the community. The song was very good. It was well done and there were some interesting people that turned up for the video. The Police Commissioner came. There was a police officer as well and also what appeared to be a Tottenham player doing ball tricks there- various people of all nationalities got involved. It was good to see everyone together wanting to get involved.
What do you think you would like to see come from the Everybody Dreams project in the long term?
More commitment and more gatherings of schools and companies. People getting together to put the community back together. It’s probably a long time overdue in many boroughs and it’s good to see that Tottenham has taken the approach; the lead in it, especially a school taking the lead role and trying to get this together. That is unusual from a school’s point of view and an example to many schools in many boroughs. I don’t think it’s been done before.
Following discussions, what is the offer that your company has made to Gladesmore?
We have said that we will support anything Gladesmore wish and in particular will supply a bus for any of their engagements for this event. Anything they want they can ask for and we will put it by our directors for approval. Arriva is a company that is very good at supporting the community and ventures of this nature are right for us.
Is there anything else you wish to mention?
On behalf of Arriva I would like to congratulate Gladesmore on their hard work and hope they achieve everything they set out to do.
Its Braap would like to thank Gary for taking the time out of his busy schedule to enlighten us a little about Arriva and to share his views on the Everybody Dreams campaign.
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