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Why I do what I do: One of Britain's youngest bus drivers says job is much more than just driving a bus

Poppy Bilderbeck

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Why I do what I do: One of Britain's youngest bus drivers says job is much more than just driving a bus

A 20-year-old bus driver has opened up about why he became one of the youngest bus drivers in the UK after starting his career at just 18 years old.

Jamie Jackson, from Wigan, was 'always set' on becoming a bus driver and following in the footsteps of his dad, grandad and uncle, having spent his childhood riding around on buses.

Two years into the job, the Stagecoach employee tells LADbible why he's always wanted to get into the profession, what his best and worst experiences have been, and whether he would ever change career in the future.

Jamie became a bus driver as soon as he turned 18. Credit: Handout
Jamie became a bus driver as soon as he turned 18. Credit: Handout

Resolute in his decision to follow in his family's footsteps, as soon as he left school Jamie didn't go to college, instead working in McDonald's until he turned 18 before starting bus driving 'literally 10 days after' his birthday.

However, qualifying as a bus driver was no easy feat.

Jamie explains there was an 'six week training process' including several theory tests and, of course, driving the bus itself.

"It was very much focused on concentration on the road - which sounds mad as you should be concentrating anyway - but driving a bus you have to plan ahead more," Jamie explains.

Jamie has had to learn 13 different routes for driving around Wigan. Credit: Handout
Jamie has had to learn 13 different routes for driving around Wigan. Credit: Handout

Jamie recalls his first day as a bus driver: "It was strange because I'd been on them so much and always wanted to do it. Just to be out there on your own driving, you feel a massive sense of achievement."

Jamie's hometown depot is in Wigan, which has 'about 13 different routes'. Every driver has to learn each route like the back of their hand so they can be flexible - their designated route changing every day.

The shifts are down to the minute too. Jamie explains: "It could be a 4:59 sign on, finishing at 12:11. There's no actual pattern."

This may seem hard to keep track of, but Jamie notes: "You get very used to it and the outcome is worth it."

There's no 'actual pattern' to the bus timetables, but Jamie reassures you get 'very used to it'. Credit: Rawpixel Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo
There's no 'actual pattern' to the bus timetables, but Jamie reassures you get 'very used to it'. Credit: Rawpixel Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

Not only has his family's reaction made being a bus driver worth it - they were 'over the moon' - but it's Jamie's day-to-day interactions with customers which mean the most to the 20-year-old.

From customers' surprise at seeing someone so young behind the wheel - Jamie joking to them he's back to school tomorrow - and getting on a one-to-one name basis with regulars, Jamie explained how you never know who's 'lonely' and could do with a chat.

"That one time you say 'good morning' to someone could be a big thing for them. We've got a regular who lives a very lonely life so gets on buses and just rides around all day. She just wants a chat and bit of freedom.

"In Wigan, we've also got a few blind people so it's about helping them cross the road when they get off the bus," Jamie says.

Jamie's job subsequently isn't just about driving a bus, but also 'making people feel safe,' which in turn makes sure people come back to use the buses.

When I ask him what one of his favourite memories has been so far in his role, Jamie tells me about a time a homeless man came onto his bus and paid the fare.

"When he was getting off, he was talking and telling me about his life. I felt awful. So I gave him £10," Jamie recalls. "And then a few months later he got back on and had changed his life around. It's things like that. That's got to be one of my best memories."

One of Jamie's favourite memories is an encounter he had with a homeless man. Credit: Handout
One of Jamie's favourite memories is an encounter he had with a homeless man. Credit: Handout

A part of the job Jamie isn't so keen on, or is concerned about? The national shortage of bus drivers leading to some services not running.

The 20-year-old explains: "Obviously you're picking up passengers who've not had their bus turn up and you're getting the backwash off them. It's more disappointing seeing them upset through there not being enough drivers.

"It's not their fault, but it's not our fault at the same time."

Bus drivers are reportedly the most thanked profession in the UK. Credit: @tonyparmesan1/ Twitter
Bus drivers are reportedly the most thanked profession in the UK. Credit: @tonyparmesan1/ Twitter

However, overall, Jamie's experiences with passengers have been really positive, from his notable memories and moments to the wave of appreciation during the coronavirus pandemic - the 20-year-old having qualified just before it first began.

Jamie also tells me bus drivers are actually the 'most thanked profession in the UK'.

Research by the UK's Confederation of Passenger Transport proves Jamie's claim, noting drivers are actually thanked a whole 'five times more than the UK’s average worker' which nine in 10 drivers says positively boosts their mental wellbeing.

One of Jamie's favourite parts of the job is the relationships he builds with passengers. Credit: Confederation of Passenger Transport
One of Jamie's favourite parts of the job is the relationships he builds with passengers. Credit: Confederation of Passenger Transport

Jamie hopes his experiences encourage more people to become bus drivers at a young age.

He resolves: "It's definitely better to start younger. There's always opportunities to work your way up to the management side of things."

The 20-year-old even now owns his own bus - a single deck 16-year-old vehicle - which he proudly tells me he takes to rallies.

Jamie has no plans to change career any time soon, resolving being a bus driver is a 'job for life'. Credit: Handout
Jamie has no plans to change career any time soon, resolving being a bus driver is a 'job for life'. Credit: Handout

My final question to Jamie is one I feel like I already know the answer to: Would you ever change careers?

"No. This will be it for me. It's a job for life. It really is."

Featured Image Credit: Handout

Topics: UK News, World News, Travel, Mental Health

Poppy Bilderbeck
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