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 trio Peter French, David Fleming and Stephen Martin from South Shields are celebrating 110 years service between them.
64-year-old bus driver Peter French has achieved his 45 year milestone after joining the bus company in March 1973. Peter, from Brockley Whins in South Shields, worked in a garage and at a factory before joining the company when it was Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive.
Bus driving runs in the family, as Peter’s dad and brother also worked at the depot. He said: “A driver who used to live across from me asked if I had thought about getting a job here, so I went to see the boss and was asked to start the following Monday! I started as a conductor at 18, as back then you couldn’t drive until you were 21, I passed test and have never looked back.”
Peter, who met his wife whilst working on the buses, added: “I love driving, be it buses or cars. We have great banter with the lads in the depot and also the very nice customers who appreciate you, even if you are running late. I did have the chance to take early retirement but didn’t want to because I love it so much.”
Fellow driver David Fleming from Biddick Hall is immensely proud to be celebrating 30 years of service after joining Busways in January 1988, before Stagecoach took over in 1994.
Prior to joining the bus company, David served his time as a pipefitter and welder, working away until he reached the age of 38 and decided for a change. After catching up with a lad he knew as a mini bus driver who suggested enquiring about a job, David began as a driver.
But it could have been very different, as 61-year-old David explains: “I also went for a job as a lecturer at a local college in my trade and I came second due to my age, as the other person was a few years older than me. However, he didn’t work out and I was asked for second interview but I then couldn’t see myself doing it so I went straight to driving.”
Talking about the role he has had for thirty years, David said: “I find it very easy to talk to people! When I was on the tools you were watched over quite a bit with people checking your work. But in this job you are alone for hours and therefore it is what you make it. Some passengers you could call friends, and when I pull up to the bus stop and we have a bit of banter from regulars, it is really nice to hear.”
He added: “I also met my wife on the bus, as she had a green pass which was out of date so I took it off her, and then I took her out the following weekend!”
South Shields bus driver Stephen Martin, 54, is delighted to reach the 25-year milestone and loves meeting the general public and providing a valuable service as part of his role.
The former butcher and electrician said: “As I work on different routes, I meet people from all walks of life, which keeps the job really varied and interesting. Buses have improved so much over the years too, with CCTV for the safety and comfort of passengers and us drivers, as well as disabled access.
“I feel very proud, and a little old, to have achieved my 25 years service!”
This 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.
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.”