Stagecoach’s Michael Evans from the Rhondda was recently crowned UK Bus Driver of the Year 2022 – and says that meeting local people and knowing he’s making a difference to their lives is the most rewarding part of his job.
Michael, who is based in the Stagecoach’s Porth depot, had worked as a car salesman for more than 30 years before changing career in 2018. He entered the prestigious competition after it was mentioned to him by one of his colleagues, and he went on to qualify for the national finals having won the local heats. The finals took place in Blackpool in October 2022, in which he had to complete a theory exam and a driving test along Blackpool promenade.
Michael says that being a bus driver has provided him with many exciting opportunities – ranging from his day-to-day job interacting with members of the community, to one-off opportunities such as the competition, and driving spectators for Stagecoach at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. He is also currently training to qualify as a bus driving instructor with the operator.
Speaking about changing career to become a bus driver, Michael said: “I noticed that Stagecoach offered paid training at my local depot in Porth, so I took the opportunity and have never looked back! I love driving, I love meeting people, I love travelling around and having a different view every day, and I get paid to do it – it couldn’t be better. My favourite thing about the job is meeting people, not only in the community but in the workplace too.
“It isn’t just meeting people but knowing that I’m making a difference to their lives that makes this job special. Many of our buses are communities within communities where people meet friends, old and new, many to avoid isolation – and for some passengers it may be the only form of communication they have all day. There is a feel-good atmosphere on our buses, and I feel honoured to be part of it. To hear a passenger thank me and say that this bus is a lifeline, it makes me feel like I’m contributing to the community.”
Michael was one of 89 bus drivers from across the country in the UK Bus Driver of the Year finals, with representation from 35 operators. He said he has received great support, particularly from his family and from Stagecoach.
He added: “The Assistant Operations Manager for Porth depot, Darren Moyle, suggested I enter Bus Driver Of The Year. I hadn’t even considered it before then. I knew I had driven well in the final, but as a first-time competitor I never expected to walk away with the title. I often joke with my young grandchildren that I’m the best bus driver, so coming away without the title wasn’t an option!”
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Investment, added: “I’d like to congratulate Michael for winning the competition, and we can now officially say that the UK’s best bus driver is based here in Rhondda Cynon Taf! Bus drivers and operators play an invaluable role in providing vital public transport which, in many cases, is a lifeline preventing residents from being isolated.
“We know that there is currently a national shortage of bus drivers which is being felt right across the country, having an adverse effect on the ability of bus operators to fulfil their services. There is no exception to this shortage locally, and bus operators like Stagecoach continue with their recruitment drive for a number of roles. It’s fantastic to hear Michael’s enthusiasm for the profession, and his experience shows what a rewarding job it can be.”