12 Oct 2020
A bus driver, scheduler and supervisor have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020 for their services to the community during the early months of lockdown. All three members of staff have been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for providing selfless services to others. Their achievements included cooking hundreds of meals for key worker colleagues, doing over 80 shopping trips for vulnerable people and ensuring reliable lockdown transport services continued for local NHS workers.
In York, Chris Koksal who works on the York Park & Ride, responded immediately to the call for NHS volunteers when on furlough, and was signed up as soon as the scheme was launched. It proved to be the beginning of hundreds of hours’ availability and volunteering throughout the pandemic. After a week logging on to the ‘GoodSAM’ volunteer responder app he decided to leave it ‘on’ permanently, rather than limit his time to a few slots during the day. “I decided I might as well leave the app on as I’d go to bed but I wasn’t that tired,” recalls Chris, who has worked at First York for 22 years. “I don’t sleep much, so if they needed me to go somewhere, I’d be happy to.”
As Covid-19 hit, all canteens which had previously served hot meals to staff across First Eastern Counties’ depots, had to close and Simon Taylor, a driver from Great Yarmouth
had a cunning plan. He enrolled himself, at his own cost, on a Food & Hygiene Diploma Course to provide meals, free of charge, which could be heated up on Company premises for all the staff at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft depots. On his ‘rest’ day, he set himself the task to prepare 80 meals of curry – both chicken and vegetarian options with rice. This ongoing venture proved so popular with staff that Simon set up a JustGiving page for donations to the local air ambulance service, enabling grateful eaters to give back to a service which had helped a number of staff in the past.
First Wessex implemented no less than 13 pandemic-related schedule changes across its Dorset network at the height of national lockdown – an unprecedented figure within such a short timescale. In normal circumstances, a major timetable change such as this would take weeks of preplanning, followed by a two-week rollout period. Aaron Sparks, a First Bus scheduler, pulled out all the stops to ensure these last-minute changes were done properly and met the needs of the local hospital and its staff. He made sure that everyone – drivers, hospital and customers had the latest timetables and even visited bus stops himself to make sure customer information was up to date.
Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus said, “I am really delighted that Aaron, Chris and Simon have been honoured in this way for their outstanding dedication to others; delivering Covid-critical services to their communities and colleagues. This fantastic recognition also shines a well-deserved spotlight on the role played by all our bus workers throughout the ongoing pandemic. We are so proud of their collective commitment and hard work and extend our thanks to all our staff.”
Notes to editors
First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators. Making journeys easier for our customers, we were the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all of our services and our First Bus app is voted ‘best in class’ amongst UK bus operators. Our most recent investments are in new, state-of-the-art buses across our key networks. We work proactively with our local authority partners, making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion and improving customer experience. We also operate the Aircoach network in Ireland.
To find out more about ongoing safety precautions being carried out by First Bus, please visit https://www.firstgroup.com/help-and-support/coronavirus-information