• London’s Happiest Bus Driver

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    • London’s Happiest Bus Driver
    • by Lawrence Wilson
      Director of London, HCT Group & CTA Trustee

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    I’d like to tell you a story about a bus driver.

    Patrick Lawson joined CT Plus – the main operating arm of transport social enterprise HCT Group – in March 2017. He drives mostly on Transport for London (TfL) red bus route 26, which runs between Hackney Wick and Waterloo. It was obvious from the beginning that his enthusiasm for the role and his customer service were exemplary – actively greeting passengers and making everyone feel welcome.

    Since he joined us, he has received a huge number of commendations from the travelling public for his customer service – at 66, more than the rest of the depot combined. In July this year, Patrick won the Hello London Award for Outstanding Customer Service at TfL’s annual London Bus Awards. In October, he was shortlisted for the Top London Bus Driver prize at the UK Bus Awards.

    He’s not just a character, but also a brilliant bus driver – braking and accelerating smoothly to give a safe, comfortable ride, assisting disabled passengers, giving travel information and updating passengers using the intercom. We are very proud of him and he is a great colleague to have; a real asset to any bus operator.

    And yet, this is only half of the story. Patrick has spent a significant part of his life struggling with homelessness, offending and substance misuse. When he hit rock bottom and made a profound decision that he needed to change, the third sector was there for him, helping him to turn his life around. One of these organisations was the Single Homeless Project (SHP), a London-wide charity working to prevent homelessness.  SHP provided support with housing, mentoring and support, helping him to get his life back together.

    When he was ready, SHP referred him to the HCT Group’s own Learning Centre, which trains long term unemployed people with the skills and confidence to get and keep a job. Patrick was supported to re-establish his licence and pursue a job application with our own red bus service.

    Patrick was convinced that his record would rule him out from being a productive member of society, that no one would take a chance on him, even though he’d turned his life around. In many bus operators across the UK that would be the case. But not with us. The rest, as they say, is history. Patrick’ story has been all over the media this January – on TV, in newspapers and online – just google ‘London’s happiest bus driver’.

    Patrick and HCT Group may have been in the news, but we also know this: we know that all across the community transport movement, CTOs are taking chances on people, finding ways into work for people, providing opportunities to grow and develop for people. Even though Patrick is driving a London red bus rather than a minibus, our faith in Patrick comes from our values – the values and ethos of community transport – and that faith has been well rewarded.

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