Peter's career on the buses ends

FOR more than 40 years he was a smiling face behind the wheel of Suffolk's buses.In fact he had such a welcoming smile some passengers insisted Peter Groom was the friendliest bus driver in the county.

FOR more than 40 years he was a smiling face behind the wheel of Suffolk's buses.

In fact he had such a welcoming smile some passengers insisted Peter Groom was the friendliest bus driver in the county.

Others were so impressed by his punctuality and customer service they wrote to his bosses suggesting he be given a commendation.

Each time one of the letters arrived his proud boss at Ipswich Buses wrote to him passing on the praise and thanking him for his high standard of work and love for his job.

Such was the admiration felt for him by his passengers that when he swapped routes two years ago they lined the road holding a banner saying 'goodbye' and 'good luck'.

But today Mr Groom, 63, of Foxglove Avenue, Needham Market, is the one saying farewell as he begins his retirement, meaning he now has more use for a bus pass than his bus licence.

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He said: “This is goodbye to buses in a way.

“Retiring felt nice to know that I never had to get up at 4.30am again and worry about time but I do miss it.

“I used to whistle my way along and always had a smile. I was always cheery and would say 'thank you very much' and 'good morning'. I liked to try and brighten people's day.”

The grandfather-of-two began driving buses in his early 20s and has clocked up more than a million miles in his career.

He became best known for driving the Hitcham to Ipswich route for 30 years, first for Squirrels, then for Ipswich Buses.

When the company lost the contract for that route in 2005 he shifted to a route which took him from Bawdsey to Ipswich each day. But when that route went to another company the prospect of driving around the comparatively busy Ipswich town centre was not one Mr Groom found enticing - so he took early retirement in February and is now relishing his new life at home with wife Jane, 60.

Reflecting on his four decades in the job, Mr Groom said he had many fond memories of life behind the wheel - including once being pulled over by the police.

He said: “One afternoon I had a police car follow me all the way from Ipswich to Woodbridge.

“At one point the police car pulled in front of me and put his blue lights on. I pulled over and thought 'what have I done?'.

“The officer put his foot on my step and I thought 'oh no'. Then he told me he was well impressed with my driving and wrote me a certificate for good driving.”

Were you one of Peter Groom's adoring passengers? Do you know someone who deserves special praise? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

On the buses: Peter Groom's career

PETER Groom first developed a love for buses when he was eight when he would sit beside his local bus driver on a stool and be allowed to change the gears for him.

More than 43 years ago he took up his first job as a driver with Combs Coaches in their trademark yellow and orange buses.

Later he worked for Squirrels in Stowmarket and then moved on to Ipswich Buses in the late 1980s.

He said it was the job he was born to do and became particularly well known for sticking to his timetable.

“Passengers used to say they could set their clocks by me,” he said.

“I liked getting to know the people. You knew what days each person was going to go to town.”

And over the years he has seen buses change from heavy old double deckers to the modern versions currently on the streets.

“The big ones were something different - you knew you'd done a day's work on them. Now you just press a button and it kneels down toward the kerb,” he said.

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