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News Report Page 12 of 12
Publication Date:-
News reports located on this page = 3.

Submitted to the Editor:- "The last 300 to Southport."

WE do not often do this, but this story was submitted to Editor by reader David Hughes...

The last 300 to Southport

Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. "Hello" I answered the phone call in a slow drawled tone as you would after being awoken from a siesta.

"Sorry Dave, guessed you were having a nap." I recognised the voice . It was Paul from the garage. "Any chance you could come in a couple of hours earlier today and help us out on the Maghull Circular before you start your shift? We are 2 drivers down with this pesky Flu bug that has hit the garage.

I've been a driver for the Ribble, on their stage carriage services, for over 12 months now and before that a year on their Sandpiper coach tours, but deregulation of bus services brought that job to an end and I was placed on the normal bus routes, working from their depot based in the old railway Station on Lord Street Southport.

Although it has a new name since deregulation, [North Western Bus Services] we still called it by it's old name and all this week I have been driving the late 300/302 services between Liverpool Skelhorne Street and Southport.

It had been a quiet week and I was looking forward to a week-end off.

"Ok, What time do you want me?" "Just come in and take a bus from the garage and start from Maghull Central Square at 4."

That gave me a good hour to make myself respectable and pick up the bus, but as I commute to work on a motorbike and it was not the best of days to be on 2 wheels, the rain was torrential and windy as well, so it was just a quick wash and shave, uniform on, covered by waterproofs and off.

Luckily I live just 10 minutes from the Depot on Ormskirk Road as I had been transfered to the Aintree garage a month or 2 earlier. After a quick shake getting out of my biking gear, I was able to drive the single decker out into the wild weather with time to spare.

I gulped when I saw the length of the queue at the shopping centre, I knew straight away that I was going to be getting a mouthful of verbal abuse in a few moments. Sure enough, it started as soon as the doors opened.

"Where the hell have you been? I've been waiting nearly an hour for you," were more of the polite questions. I tried my best to tell them about the flu epidemic that had hit the garage, but in the end I gave up, and just packed the bus with as many as I could. I kept shouting at them to move along, because the queue didn't seem to be getting any shorter. In the end, I had to close the doors and sadly leave a few behind. At least they were under cover, because the rain was getting heavier.

When you have a full bus of drenched passengers, the windows steam up and it became difficult for me to see where I was going. In the end I had a passenger standing next to me cleaning my windscreen with his sleeve and this system worked well for the 10 minute trip to Maghull Station.

Thinking the return from the station to Lydiate would at least be a bit easier were quickly dispelled when I saw the length of the queue waiting for me.

As the last passengers disembarked, the same routine started all over again. "Late again, Ribble, couldn't organise a kiddies tea party. Look at us we're soaked. Where have you been? Where is the 3.30?" Once again I tried to explain and at the same time cramming them as best as I could down the bus.

I managed to sqeeze all of them on, but I knew it would start again when I got to the Square. And it did.

I was able to stretch my legs and have a 'breather,' at the routes end, Lydiate's Weld Blundell pub.

The times were all at sea, so were the takings, I was just filling up and driving away, most, if not all had passes anyway, but at least now it will be fare paying, as the concessions end at 4.30pm.

The last circular was thankfully a whole lot better and finally I sat down for a well earned break in the canteen and telling my good chum Bill Jarvis about the last couple of hours.

"You look worn out before you start your lates, and you have got the 300 through Shirdley Hill later as well. Just be very careful. This wind can play havoc with double deckers through there. Shirdley Hill is in West Lancashire and is very flat countryside and there is no shelter from a strong North Westerly wind like the 1 we have at the moment." "I'll be thinking of you as I relax in my posh hotel break in the Lake District tonight"

"Are you going on holiday then" "No," Bill answered, "Just for the week-end. Back Sunday afternoon." "Lucky you" I envied him. It was nearly 6 weeks into the New Year and I could do with a short break myself. "Were did you find this break and more importantly, what did it cost?" "It cost me ₤100 for the 2 of us, 2 nights full board and I got the brochure from the Travel Agents by our Black Bull stop. Why don't you nip up there now and get one, they are open 'til 7"

Looking at my watch this left me with 30 minutes to jump a bus the few stops to the shop before it shuts and then another 30 minutes before I changeover with the 302 driver and take the bus to Southport and start my lates.

It worked a treat.

"Can I help you?" the pretty assistant in the travel agency asked. I told her what I was looking for and she pointed me to the right shelf.

I selected 2 which may be suitable, after all, the wife will have the last say, but something took my eye as I was leaving. It was a brochure for coach tours and they were using a Ribble coach and driver on the cover. It must have been an old photograph, because the drivers uniform was changed years ago and he was wearing, what we called then, a 3 penny piece shaped hat. I picked that up too and jumped on a depot bound bus as it was pulling into the stop.

The 300 route to Southport differs from the 302 in that it goes via Shirdly Hill, Turning Lane and comes onto Scarisbrick New Road near the Crematorium,whilst the 302 keeps on the main road past the Morris Dancers. On the return to Liverpool they join together at Haskayne Post Office.

Luckily I was on the safer 302 for the 1st 2 hours or so, but my last service is the 300, which leaves Skelhorne Street Bus Station at Midnight.

It's midnight and not a sole is in town. The streets are deserted and who would blame them. It's many a year since I have seen wind and rain as severe as this and certainly the City is not the place to be seen enjoying ones self in this weather. The only passengers waiting for the off are City Centre workers. Some I have got to know this past week and I know once past Lydiate I will be empty.

I give it, as usual, a good 5 minutes before I pull out, just in case a straggler turns up, but no 1 does. I leave.

I wait at the Weld Blundell, not for passengers, because I must leave on time. There would be hell to play if a passenger turned up at the correct time and I had left early.

I stop in the bus halt at Mairscough Bridge a few yards past St. Thomas' church. I do it automatically, because I'm supposed to check that there are no passengers going any further. The reason is that this part of the route to Southport is paid for by West Lancs Council and not Merseytravel and they insist on having a double decker, when a single decker is more suitable, certainly would have been on such a night as this. People in West Lancs are given tokens for their fares, but I know that there is no 1 left. Quick check of the upstairs saloon via the built in periscope reveals that, so off I go.

I can feel the bus lurching to starboard as the wind hits me broadside and then back upright as the road meanders. At on point even the passenger door blew open then shuts just as quickly. At Haskayne Post Office I stop, bag my takings, fill in the day sheet and boxed everything up, because I know there will be no more passengers waiting for me. This will save me time when I get back to the depot.

This part of the route is well sheltered by trees, houses etc and I made reasonable progress, but when I turned into Renacres Lane the gale hit me right on the nose. The bus shuddered nearly to a stop. It was just as if I had braked in an emergency. Wow!! this was hard going and driving into Shirdley Hill I was at such an angle that I was stupidly driving standing up and leaning to port thinking my weight would help.

But then, a few yards past the Village Hall, she went too far over and I heard the sound of breaking glass. As if to prove a window had been smashed, it went bitterly cold and the wind made a whistling noise as it rushed down the stairs.

I must have stopped as soon as I heard the crash, but couldn't remember, anyway the bus came back upright. It was pitch black, the only lights were from the bus. Luckily I had the forethought to drive in my heavy uniform coat, which offered me protection from the elements as I climbed up the stairs to the top deck.

There was a huge branch lying across the top of the staircase and jammed over the front offside seat and the 1st window . There was about a foot or so hanging outside. I struggled to even get the slightest movement from the aisle, so I climbed onto the passenger seat and gave it a huge heave and it moved clear of the window. But what I saw then shook me rigid. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was the body of a passenger. I could clearly see, even to my untrained eye that he was dead. Oh! my God!! What do I do now? I was panicking, I must phone the Police and Ambulance Services and I then remembered there was a phone box by the stop in the village. I rushed to it and found it was out of service.

"How come there was a passenger on the bus. I should have checked at Mairscough Bridge. Hell I'm in real trouble now" talking to myself as I ran back to the bus.

The road was totally blocked but no other vehicle was around to help me. All I could think off was to drive the bus to Southport General Hospital. It's only a couple of miles away, but 1st I had to drive on possibly the worst part of the route. Open land to both sides and a deep ditch to 1 side as well. This is going to be hairy. And it was.

I was shaking with fear as the bus literally got a bashing. Side to side we went, like a yacht at anchor on a stormy sea. I was once again driving standing up, if it was going to be blown over, I want to get out quick and standing is the best way to do it. I'm yelling at myself, urging me further on. And as each little land mark disappeared, I congratulated myself and once into Turning Lane and Scarisbrick New Road I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could relax now and make haste to the Southport General.

I parked up as near as I could to the entrance and rushed in and shouted for assistance and told them about the dead passenger. A Dctor and 2 big Nurse orderly's came with me as we rushed to the bus. "Be careful, the top of the stairs is blocked with part of a tree?." I looked at my watch. I hadn't realised that it was getting so late. "Hello! I shouted, can I use your phone please? I must let my depot know what is happening." "Yes, go on, we can handle things up here."

I called the garage. The phone was answered immediately. "It's Dave," was as far as I got. "Where the hell are you? it's 2.30 in the morning. Your misses has been on the phone 3 times, she is worried sick"

I tried to explain all that had happened to me and I where I was now and what the Hospital was doing to help. "I'll get the bus back as quick as possible, because no doubt the Police will be here soon too." "Stay there. I will come and get you in the van. I will phone your misses and put her mind at ease. But just stay there. Give me 30 minutes."

Jim Broadbent is 1 genuine guy and I couldn't be in a better hands. So I was a bit happier as I walked back to the bus. But I couldn't stop thinking about the body. There was something strangely familiar about him and it was niggling me.

The paramedic team were waiting for me. "Thanks for letting me use your phone. I'm so very late. Finding that body has shaken me somewhat."

"What body?"

This puzzled me at 1st, what a strange thing to say, "The 1 under the branch." "There is no body, it is a bit dark up there, but we couldn't find 1 and we looked all over.

"You must be mistaken. I've seen him, I've even touched him." I moved abruptly between them and dashed up the stairs. I felt the cold begin to penetrate my heavy coat. Maybe it was tiredness catching up with me or the eerie scene of destruction I was staring at, but the medics were right, there was no body. It was hard to comprehend. I kept saying "I saw it" over and over again. I came down the steps numb. "There was a body, I assure you. I saw it. I moved the branch away from him." "Driver, come and have a cup of tea with us. You look done in." I accepted, beside I had to wait for John.

I didn't have to wait long. John turned up about 5 minutes later. I explained to him about the dead body and all that had happened before he took the bus back to the depot. I drove the van.

I was feeling physically sick and tiredness didn't help. My head was going over and over the events of the past night. To me it made no sense. I had seen a body, yet no 1 believed me. It's not there now, so what happened to it. I opened my locker and got my gear out. My box with the takings was in the safe and I was putting my biking gear on when I heard John say something. "Sorry John didn't catch that."

"I said they are still using Frank Taylor on the cover of this holiday brochure of yours" "Frank Taylor" I quizzed. "Yeh!, he used to work from this depot many years ago. Lovely fella. Sad really" I'd finished dressing and walked over to the table and took a look at what John was reading.

I nearly choked. I had to hold my throbbing head in my hands and my words came out in a shrill perhaps a sheik even, "It's him! It's him." I can't remember the times I said that, but it was definitely him. The picture on the coach tour brochure of the Ribble driver was the man I had seen. I knew I had seen him before. I had by this time sat down. Is this nightmare ever going to end?

"You said he worked here and you knew him?"

"All a bit sad really, he repeated. Are you ok for time?" John enquired I nodded. "Frank was a widower, in his sixties and looking forward to retirement. He was courting Christine who looked after the canteen for the day men. She was a widow and they were getting married on Valentines Day. Most of the garage were going to the evening reception. They made a lovely caring couple. The Friday night before the wedding we had no driver for the 300 Southport route. As you know we get fined heavily by West Lancs and Merseytravel if we don't supply a bus for this because it is a contract route and Frank volunteered to cover. His theory was that he has had 1 stag night for his 1st marriage and anyway the wedding ceremony is not until 3 0'clock, so he will ample time to recover. That's the kind of guy he was."

"You keep saying was John. When did he die?" This time it was John's turn to sit down. He went quiet and definitely a bit paler.

"Tell me Dave, where was your crash tonight, exactly?" "Outside the Shirdley Hill Village Hall, I said" 

"Frank was found dead outside the Village Hall. He had a heart attack whist driving and the bus ended up crashing into the tree opposite." "OH! my God. The same tree I fell onto. OH! this is the paranormal. Are you saying I saw a ghost? The ghost of Frank Taylor"? I was trembling. This is unreal. I don't believe in ghosts. Never have done. But why tonight?" It was John who new the answer.

"What's the date Dave?" "Friday, 13 February." I answered.

"It's not. Not now, it's Saturday, 14 February...,  VALENTINES DAY."

Broudie Jackson Canter offers tenants free housing advice

BROUDIE Jackson Canter, a North West based law firm, has launched a drop in service for tenants who are experiencing difficulties with private or social Landlords. As part of the new scheme, which is based at The Brink in Liverpool City Centre, tenants will have the opportunity to receive free expert advice on matters relating to their tenancy agreement. The sessions, which launched in January and will now take place every other Friday, will offer guidance and support to tenants on issues such as:- rent arrears, deposit issues, disrepairs (which can include damp and mould), anti social behaviour, eviction notices and homelessness. The next drop session will take place, from 10am until 12pm, on Friday 14 February 2020, at The Brink, 15 to 21 Parr Street, Liverpool, L1 4JN. Andy Tyrer, housing specialist at Broudie Jackson Canter who led the 1st session, said:- "Making sense of your rights as a tenant can be a minefield, especially if you receive eviction notices or if a Landlord doesn't respond appropriately to a tenant's complaints about various problems in the property. We usually find that tenants have a number of other related issues, such as welfare benefits, care and support, issues with the Police or other family related issues that ultimately may lead to be at risk of losing their home. It is important that tenants fully understand how to take action when required and know what their Landlord is legally obliged to do, whether they are a private or social Landlord. We're hoping that these new sessions will offer some support to tenants living across Merseyside. With the wide range of expertise within the business, we can make a positive difference directly to tenants or signpost them to the appropriate agencies, if needed and give them expert, unbiased advice."

KP finds that people in the North West spend 73 hours a year dwelling on regrets

RESEARCH reveals we are a Region full of regrets as 39% of those from the North West believe their lives would be happier if they took more risks. The research, commissioned by KP Nuts, is part of the brands aim to inspire the nation to Grab Life By The Nuts, do something different this leap year and make regrets a thing of the past. On average, Brits in the North West spend 73 hours each year dwelling on regrets; with most thinking they'd be better off and happier if they'd take more risks. The research by KP Nuts shows decisions we typically rue include choosing the wrong career and splitting with our 1st love.

KP has uncovered that 9% are convinced they'd be better off in life if they'd had the courage to take more risks, with 33% believing they'd be wealthier now. 25% believe they'd be happier, 29% say they'd be more fulfilled and 19% suspect they'd have their dream job now.

Kevin McNair, Marketing Director at KP Snacks who commissioned the study said:- "Our research reveals that taking risks and challenging yourself leads to fewer regrets and a happier more fulfilling life. With 2020 being a leap year, we are encouraging everyone to use that extra day to do something outside of their comfort zone or something they've always regretted not doing. KP Nuts are the perfect snack to help fuel these activities because they provide energy, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Whether it's taking up a new hobby or researching a new career; it's time to Grab Life By The Nuts."

Interestingly, the study revealed that romantic regrets are also common, with 19% of those from the North West wishing they'd made it work with a past love and 16% of men regretting splitting from their 1st love.

When it comes to money, those from the North West tend to take less risks when it comes to money, with 46% admitting that they'd rather be safe than sorry with their finances. Work wise, 11% would prefer to be doing something else, despite them finding their job OK and 16% wish they'd followed their heart and pursued a career they were more passionate about instead.

It seems fear is often what holds us back from taking the plunge and fulfilling our potential. The KP Nuts study found that 40% admit they are crippled by a fear of failure which prevents them trying stuff outside their comfort zone and 27% say they worry about being judged or humiliating themselves should something go wrong.

Outspoken former English Rugby flanker who starred in I'm A Celeb 2019 is campaigning for Brits to get outside their comfort zone alongside KP Nuts. James Haskell said:- "2020 is a leap year; so why not take a leap into some adventure. I'm working with KP Nuts to encourage the nation to Grab Life By The Nuts in 2020, by revealing that taking regular risks and challenging yourself leads to less regrets and a more fulfilling life. Forget your fears and take on a new challenge this year. Follow KP Nuts on Facebook to get my top tips and a chance to win some inspirational 'go nuts' activities for 29 February."

Peanuts are packed with fibre and provide a host of other nutrients like protein, B vitamins and minerals, so they are the perfect snack to help fuel you to take on life's greatest challenges head on.

North West's Top 20 Regrets:-

► Money, I wish I had saved more when I was younger (32%)

► Friends, not keeping in touch with more friends from the past (24%)

► Travel, I wish I travelled more when I had less responsibilities (24%)

► Money, I wish I had opted for a job/career with a better salary which paid better (19%)

► Romance, I wish I had taken the plunge and made it work with someone in the past (19%)

► Health, I wish I exercised more as I got older (19%)

► Education, I wish I had tried harder at School and got better grades (18%)

► Education, I wish I had learned a foreign language (18%)

► Work, I wish I had followed my heart and pursued a career I was more passionate about (16%)

► Romance, not dating more (and/or having more sex) before I settled down (13%)

► Not standing up to a bully (12%)

► Hobbies, I wish I had learnt an instrument when I was younger (12%)

► Health, I wish I drank less alcohol and ate healthier growing up (11%)

► Family, not telling a relative who's now dead that I loved them (11%)

► Family, not asking my grandparents more about their lives before they died (11%)

► Romance, splitting with my 1st love (10%)

► Education, choosing the wrong subject/s at School or University (9%)

► Family, I wish I could change the way things ended with a family member who is no longer around (8%)

► Family, not spending more time with my children when they were young (e.g. instead working too hard) (7%)

► Romance, being unfaithful (6%)

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