Loyal employees on Wearside have been honoured for their decades of service to a North East transport company.
More than 60 long-serving staff have been acknowledged after accumulating an impressive 2,290 years’ service between them at bus firm Stagecoach North East.
Among the employees heralded at a celebration event at Gateshead’s Hilton Hotel were bus drivers, engineers, administration and management staff.
Billy Martin, based at the Sunderland depot, has clocked up an impressive 40 years of service, most of it as a driver.
He said: “I was a conductor for the first six months and have been a driver ever since.
“I love it - the job itself and also having a good laugh and a joke with customers.
“I work on various routes now, but on days off I do see people from the bus and say hello.”
Billy has seen lots of changes over the years and added: “There is lots of traffic now, but buses are so much nicer to drive nowadays with power steering.”
After leaving school Billy worked at the shipyards for six months.
He explained: “I was too young to join the Navy at that point, but eventually I joined up for seven and a half years.
“When I left in 1975 at the age of 23 I was shocked to be told I was too old for work. Too old at 23.
“My dad used to work on the buses so I thought I would give it a try and I’ve been here ever since.
“My official retirement date is in January but my licence runs for another year so I’ll continue until then.
“I enjoy the job so much and I’m really pleased to reach 40 years.”
Chris McCormick, duty manager at the Sunderland depot, has marked 25 years of service after only expecting to stay in the job for a year.
“I joined as a driver and thought I’d see how it went, but it has been great.
“I was a driver for the first 15 years and then relief duty manager.
He added: “I enjoy everything about the job and being busy.
“I get great job satisfaction from the smooth running of the operations and service, and every day is different.
“It can be quiet or hectic.
“The awards evening was a great night and very enjoyable.
“It was nice to meet people face to face.”
Laura Smith, operations manager of Stagecoach North East’s Sunderland depot, said: “The fact that staff still thrive on the challenges that their jobs give them after so many years of working for the company is a wonderful endorsement of the efforts they have made, and continue to make, to help shape and develop the company.”