All aboard for 21st century buses

GONE are the days when bus driving was a straightforward profession – today there is a new breed of multi-skilled professionals trained to navigate Suffolk streets.

GONE are the days when bus driving was a straightforward profession – today there is a new breed of multi-skilled professionals trained to navigate Suffolk streets.

Coming to terms with the new one-way system around Ipswich is just one aspect they have been forced to deal with in recent times, but there are plenty of others that also need grasping.

Computerised ticket machines, catering for the disabled and improved levels of customer care now form part of everyday life for bus drivers.

To help steer them through the potential pitfalls, a new tailor-made NVQ in Road Passenger Transport has been designed to put their road skills and manners to the test.


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So far, more than 200 workers in Suffolk and Norfolk have joined the 12-week course, which includes classroom-based and practical exercises.

John Taylor, training manager for bus company First and the NVQ scheme co-ordinator, said: "The days are gone when the job of driving a bus was simply that.

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"We have to ensure all our staff have the requisite skills to handle the many and varied situations which confront them everyday."

In June 2001, the Star featured bus drivers' battle with traffic after driver Richard Simmons complained, and Felixstowe driver John Fletcher's retirement after nearly 40 years on the buses was reported in January last year .

Malcolm Robson, of Ipswich Buses, agreed: "Bus driving is not just about pointing it in the correct direction and sitting behind the wheel. They have to deal with traffic and driving hour regulations among other things and they're driving buses worth £100,000.

"It's important staff are up to date with the developments in the industry and there's a lot of things they need to be aware of so training is important."

The new training has also been backed by the RAC, who said they welcome anything that encourages people to use public transport.

A spokeswoman said: "One in five care journeys are unnecessary and could be taken on public transport. If bus drivers being more courteous and aware of safety issues would encourage more usage, we would support that."

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