Stagecoach in Cumbria has staged a unique tribute to the NHS – with buses.
Eight buses and a maintenance truck were used to spell out the letters NHS at Stagecoach’s depot in Carlisle and staff lined up to applaud health and other key workers.
Stagecoach Cumbria’s operations director Tom Waterhouse said staff wanted to show their appreciation for the heroes of the NHS.
“We all know how difficult things have been for NHS staff during this crisis and this is our small tribute in recognition of all the amazing work they’re doing to fight coronavirus,” he said.
Bus drivers are key workers too and have been playing their own frontline role in the fight against coronavirus – keeping essential services running and going the extra mile for their passengers.
One of them is Yvonne Mease, 50, from Argyle Street in Barrow. She has just won Stagecoach’s heroes award for her dedication.
Yvonne, who has been a driver in Barrow for 14 years, has stayed at the wheel of her bus throughout the crisis, as well as doing the shopping for local people including six of her passengers.
“To me it’s just the normal thing to do,” she says.
“I’m doing the shopping for six of my passengers, three neighbours and an ex-colleague who is in Blackburn hospital with coronavirus and I’m getting the shopping for his wife.
“I have known some of my passengers for the whole 14 years I’ve been driving.
“When it came to the shutdown, they are elderly people that are struggling to get about normally. I have always been in touch with them and they have come to me in the past if they needed help.
“I knew a couple of them had health problems, and they have got friends who are regulars too – and it just escalated from there!”
Yvonne says she is never considered quitting her bus during lockdown.
“We are not taking a lot of passengers at the moment but there are pensioners who need to get shopping and NHS staff who need to get to the hospital,” she said.
“We are getting quite a lot of people saying, thank you for staying in your job and keeping us going.
“The drivers who are working now have all volunteered. I didn’t think twice. I enjoy the job and the thought of staying at home didn’t enter my head.
“We have a few passengers who come out to go shopping and they live on their own. It’s hard when you are on lockdown and you don’t have anyone around you at all. They know they can talk to us and some want a bit of reassurance at the moment.”
She says: “We are here to provide a service and why should that stop now? People need us more than ever.
“Staff morale is fantastic. We are here together, and we are all there serving the public that need us. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Yvonne is married to bus driver Barry, and has four grown-up sons, the youngest also a frontline worker at Morrisons in Barrow.
She went to Alfred Barrow School and wanted to be a bus driver ever since she was a child.
“My dad said the first time I mentioned it I was about three and they all laughed at me because women didn’t drive back then, we were just clippies, doing the tickets,” laughs Yvonne.
“I’m just doing my job.”