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Driving duo celebrate 85 years service between them

07 Aug 2018

Local bus operator Stagecoach North East has recognised employees that have demonstrated loyalty and dedication to the company in its annual long service awards, and driving duo David McHaddan and Martin Foster from Newcastle are celebrating 85 years service between them.

McHaddan and Foster 2This year, 96 long-serving staff were acknowledged after accumulating an impressive 2,655 years of service between them, and each one was recognised for their prolonged hard work and commitment over the years at a celebration dinner and awards ceremony at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead hotel. 

Amongst the employees are bus drivers, engineers, administration and management staff based at Stagecoach North East’s depots across Teesside, Hartlepool, Newcastle, Sunderland and South Shields. 

64-year-old David, a bus driver at the Walkergate depot in Newcastle, has achieved his 45 year milestone and after joining the bus company on 11 September 1972, will be retiring on the exact same day in September this year, 46 years on.

David, who has lived in Byker with his wife and son for the past 40 years, worked as a mechanic and an engraver after he left school at 14 but decided it wasn’t for him. After three years working at Roland Burgess manufacturer and wholesaler in the gents dept, a fellow colleague who had recently left suggested he apply to work on the buses at Newcastle Corporation, as it was then.

The Benwell-born driver, who now works part-time on a variety of shifts and routes across Newcastle, said: “I thought I wouldn’t pass the interview as I was hopeless at maths! But I passed and was given my uniform straight away. I spent four years conducting until 1976 then I took my driving test and have driven ever since.”

Driving is in the family, as David’s two brothers have both worked for Stagecoach, one at Walkergate and the other in Scotland. He continued: “Buses have changed so much over the years and are really updated now. There was no power steering in 70s and 80s and sometimes we had to steer standing up if the bus was full!  I enjoy driving, especially the 22 route from Throckley to Cobalt and the majority of people are lovely and I get along really well with them. 

“But on a weekend I deliberately leave car at home and head out with my wife, and I’m looking forward to travelling more when I retire and when we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this month. We had a brilliant night at the awards dinner, and even delayed our holiday so we wouldn’t miss it.”

Over the years David has also taken part in charity events, dressing up as Santa to raise funds for the children’s ward on ward 23 at the General Hospital.

Fellow driver Martin Foster from Cruddas Park in the West End of Newcastle is immensely proud to be celebrating 40 years service. 

After a brief stint at Thornes student bookshop, Martin went to the Co-op Dairy on Ponteland Road, which served the whole north east, as a driver on the school runs for five years.

The 62-year-old joined Newcastle Corporation in March 1978, starting off as a conductor as part of a dual crew, a role he carried out for a year before a one-person operation was introduced on the buses. He then got his license to become a driver, and has worked at the bus depot ever since. 

Martin, who is also a union and health and safety representative and the depot’s ‘eco champion’, said: “I originally only thought about staying for around a month or so, as in those days you could change jobs very easily, and have now been here 40 years. I get on great with the public as I do the same routes, seeing my regular customers from the 991 West End to Tyneview service, and they even do a Christmas collection and card for me!”

“The extra roles keep me going and I really enjoy it. I’m very keen at being ‘green’ at home, and was always nagging my son to turn the TV off!  So when I was asked to become an Eco Champion around 10 years ago, I was delighted to say yes.”

Stagecoach North East was the first regional operations for the Stagecoach Group to launch the Eco Champions initiative and teams from other regions came to Walkergate to learn from Martin and his colleagues, and the depot has been recognised as top in the North East for its environmental performance.  

Last year Martin was rewarded for his achievements in promoting environmental initiatives across the depot when he received the Gold Award in the Stagecoach Group Champions Awards Environment Champion category, beating off stiff competition from Stagecoach’s worldwide operations, including the UK and USA.

Martin also regularly visit schools across Newcastle to talk to the pupils about green issues which may affect them and how they can do their bit, no matter how small, a community role he loves doing.

Recalling how the job has changed over the years, he added: “Sundays are very busy now but night times are much quieter due to the later licensing laws. The buses are now like Rolls Royces to drive, years ago I used to have to scrape the ice inside and outside by hand! The technology is also much for passengers, with contactless payments and topping up facility using a StagecoachSmart card.

“It is a great team here at Walkergate and it’s been a fantastic 40 years which has flown over. It was lovely to have the long service acknowledged with a thank you.”

Steve Walker, Managing Director, Stagecoach North East, commented: “The long service awards provide us with an opportunity to celebrate our loyal and committed members of staff. This is an impressive number of people reaching milestones from 20 to 45 years and we are proud that they have helped us to shape and develop the company during this time.

“That so many people choose to work for us for such long periods - in some cases their entire working life – is testament to the strong and supportive team at Stagecoach North East. I would like to extend my thanks to all our employees and especially those who have achieved such impressive service records in 2018.”