Leon's the top driver

IT IS not everyday you get the chance to be driven around town by the best bus driver in Britain.But now that First Eastern Counties driver Leon Wells has scooped that crown, bus users in the region are in with a rare treat.

IT IS not everyday you get the chance to be driven around town by the best bus driver in Britain.

But now that First Eastern Counties driver Leon Wells has scooped that crown, bus users in the region are in with a rare treat.

Mr Wells from Ipswich today spoke about his joy at receiving the impressive accolade at the annual Bus Driver of the Year finals after two previous attempts.

The 32-year-old, who has been driving for First Eastern Counties for the last five years, won the award for both his driving skills and top customer service.

He has loved the job ever since he qualified as a bus driver in 1998 and claims everyday is different.

He said: “My favourite route is the number 78 to Grundisburgh because of the people. You get to know the customers by name and it is nice to see a friendly face.

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“I have been to the national final for the past three years so I knew what to expect. The first time round I came 49th, and the second time I came 41st, but this time I came first so I'm over the moon.

“It was always an ambition of mine to drive buses. I like the fact that you can just get on a bus and drive off and not be stuck in an office all day. The only drawbacks are the traffic and unruly customers.”

Mr Wells applied to take part in the competition and after getting through the first round, went through to the national final where he clinched the title and walked away with £2,000. He hopes to eventually progress into the management sector.

First Eastern Counties final, which took place in Norwich, involved a Highways Code test as well as a driving test around the area. The national final stepped up a gear with a more difficult driving test, a visit from a mystery passenger, and more complicated theory test.

He added: “The competition this year was difficult, particularly trying to manoeuvre the bus around tight corners to pull up close to the bus stops, but it went well for me.”

Have you received an award for something special you have done? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Mr Wells competed against 123 other professional drivers from around the UK. For the national final he completed a written theory test and a 20-minute driving exam in which he and the other finalists, had to drive a bus around a specially designed course.

The route, which was peppered with a series of normal hazards, including tram tracks, culminated in a test to see how well the drivers were able to position their buses.

All the drivers taking part were marked on their overall driving skills and their accuracy in positioning the bus correctly at stops.

Robert Smith from First Eastern Counties came 51st

Stuart Chenery, from Ipswich Buses, came 27th

David Williams from Ipswich Buses came 11th and was also awarded best competitor in the mechanical test section