I was having a meander across Faceache yesterday when I came across a comment from a chap who I had known from the early nineties. When I first met him he was a young, well educated, and articulate man who had a passion for the bus industry. He was a self confessed bus spotter and enthusiast who as a hobby would publish fleet lists from buses that had once upon a time been in service for different bus Companies, fleet lists, depots, photos, it was in fairness a labour of love.
I liked the man, and always thought that he had potential to make a good career, maybe even climbing the managerial ladder. It was however not to be, and he devoted the rest of his career to being a driver at one of the very few depots that was left from what was the old Midland Red West Bus Company, and then it went on to become part of the mighty First UK Bus. The post that he left was actually somewhat poignant, and a little bit sad. He simply said that after all these years he was finally leaving his employment as a bus driver, as he longer felt valued and was going to move onto a new role.
This prompted a volley of comments from people who all basically said the same thing. Namely that these days no one valued the job of being a bus driver. The big groups did not care about the individual employee at all, the public did not value them either, and that the old ways and days of the Mighty Red were long gone and buried. I found this all rather sad if I am honest, and in some ways a little ironic, the irony being that when I first joined MRW back in 1986, I was regularly reminded by the older drivers that the glory days of the original Mighty Midland Red, the “friendly” Red as they lovingly known were long since dead and buried, and that the upstart new Midland Red West, would not last five minutes.
This got me thinking about how today’s modern bus drivers perceive themselves, do they still relate to the concept of doing a job that is a public service? Or, are they merely cogs in a mechanical world of employee indifference, who are not valued by those who employ them or indeed those that they serve.
As I reflected on this it got me thinking about what today’s generation of youngsters think about the concept of public service. Do they see the job of the bus driver as being that of a public serpent, or do they see the job of an Uber driver, or indeed a deliveroo driver as being a public service. In truth I obviously cannot answer that question, as I am far too old and have been brought up in an utterly changed world from that which I was born into in 1960.
However,I was raised to believe that the glass is always half full, never half empty, and that public service was a noble role that back in the day was respected and appreciated by society at large. And as I considered the comments that I had read I then thought back to November last year and the UK Bus Awards ceremony in London where the best of the best were recognised and rewarded. I have been involved in these awards since they were launched back in 1066. And the big thing that I have observed is this, the people who have always been the happiest recipients of all the categories are without doubt the drivers. Those who turn up, day in, day out and seem to really enjoy, indeed love the jobs that they do. And the passengers love them back, as is proven from the testimonies that are submitted with the nominations. They are also tested by mystery shoppers who watch them in action, it is a really positive and inspiring process which as a judge for a number of years I have been privaliged to observe.
So, on reflection I have to say that maybe history and memory combine to give the impression that the old days were the best days. Will it be the case that in twenty years the most recent crop of new bus drivers might look back and say that the best days by far were in the days of the mighty groups. Or maybe I am looking at life through those famous rose coloured spectacles. I do not know, but this I do know, that anyone who has spent their professional life serving passengers has not been a career without purpose or value. Far from it, it has been a vital job that has kept communities alive come rain, hail, or shine. That I believe has been time well spent.