Abdul is crowned top driver

indigo and skylink bus driver Abdul Jabar has been crowned as Driver of the Year at trentbarton’s Really Good Service Awards, less than four years after switching careers to get behind the wheel.

Abdul, 48, who lives in Nottingham, was chosen by a mystery assessor as the best of the best – beating all the other winners of trentbarton’s driver of the month competitions. He received a trophy, £1,000 to spend on a holiday and an extra day off work every year from celebrity guest Shaun Williamson – of TV’s EastEnders and Extras – at a ceremony at Derby’s Silk Mill Museum.

Abdul pipped second place driver Keeley Baker and third placed Carole Hind – last year’s winner and the reigning and first ever female UK Bus Driver of the Year. The mystery passenger said: “Abdul was immaculate. You could see he takes great pride in his work. All the drivers I watched were really good but he had that bit extra. He had a passenger, a lady who was struggling to walk, and he was amazing with her – so much so that all the other passengers were chatting about how nice he had been to her.”

Abdul said: “Being recognised with this award is absolutely amazing. The people I work alongside are phenomenal, there is so much team work and team effort. I was previously in management jobs and decided to try something completely different. I’m a people person, so this was the perfect move. I enjoy it so much.”

Fellow skylink and indigo driver Tom Holmes was named Hero of the Year after receiving a string of commendations from passengers and their families. Tom, who is just 23 and lives in Long Eaton, only joined trentbarton in 2014. Since then:

  • A customer received terrible news on New Year’s Day. Her father was rushed to hospital and she needed to get to the QMC as soon as possible. She flagged down Tom’s indigo in Draycott but in her panic forgot her purse and had no time to turn back. Tom told her to forget about the fare and he would do his best to get her to the hospital quickly. Her father passed away shortly after her arrival at the hospital. The customer wrote to express her sincere gratitude to Tom for those precious last moments she got with her father.
  • One Sunday his indigo bus broke down on the way to Derby. It was late and the next indigo wasn’t due for another hour. So Tom paid for all his passengers to get home on another service run by a rival company.

Tom said: “I’ve always done what any good human being would do. Winning this award is a surprise. I really love the job, it’s really gratifying and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Runners-up for Hero of the Year were Richard Barton, who helped a distressed young girl who was trying to hitchhike to London, and Anthony ‘Spike’ Steeples, who gave a lift home to a man who boarded the wrong bus at night.

Passengers voted for the Customer Choice Award to go to H1 driver Tom Smedley – known to them as ‘Scouse’. Tom, 53, lives in Eastwood and drives the Alfreton-Heanor-Derby route. Customers describe him as cheery, warm and the highlight of their day. Runners-up were Mick Smith and Andy Salmon.

Colleague’s Choice, voted for by trentbarton staff, went to Andy Berry from the Sutton traffic office. Andy, 31, who lives in Mansfield and has been at the company for 12 years, said: “I’m elated – over the moon.” He won ahead of Heanor-based Jamie Blount and Kayley Parkin.

Brand of the Year was the rainbow one, the important transport link for towns such as Heanor, Ripley, Eastwood and Alfreton, taking customers right in to the heart of Nottingham. Fellow finalists were the allestree and the ilkeston flyer.

The Unsung Hero Award went to Kylie Smart – the ‘Star of the Stop’ – who helps customers at the bus stop and beyond. Kylie, 28, from Long Eaton, said: “It’s all about the people.”

Apprentice of the Year is Jordan Riddings, 19, from Chaddesden. Jordan, two years into his apprenticeship, said: “It’s nice to have been noticed in such a way and to know that the work, which I really enjoy, is appreciated and that you make a difference.” His fellow nominated apprentices were Matt Booth and Sam Cooper. Also invited on stage to be applauded was trentbarton engineer Jason Williams who won first prize for his bodywork at a national engineering challenge for all UK bus and coach operators.

trentbarton managing director Jeff Counsell told staff: “You do an amazing job, day after day, helping the public. Well done to each and every one of you.”