A driver at Stockport bus and coach hire firm Belle Vue Manchester has been crowned the best in the UK.
Miguel González was named top UK coach driver at the 2019 UK Coach Awards.
He was among a clutch of Belle Vue winners at the 11th annual awards, a national scheme which recognises and rewards excellence in the industry.
Miguel, 44, a married father-of-two who hails from Tenerife, joined Belle Vue in 2016.
He mainly drives on school and college routes and has become hugely popular with pupils and students. He plays their favourite music radio channel and allows them soft drinks and snacks. In return, the youngsters help him clear up their coach at the end of their journeys.
On one occasion, when Miguel switched routes, students successfully organised a petition demanding he be reinstated as their driver.
Phil Hitchen, managing director of Belle Vue, said: “Miguel is a great asset to the team and we are thrilled for him in winning this accolade.
“He has a friendly, helpful and professional attitude and receives numerous commendations from customers for his punctual, efficient and safe driving performance.”
The judges said: “School contracts are the bread and butter for many coach operators, so to find a driver who is able to keep unruly pupils under control assuring a safe and well-behaved journey while also becoming the children’s most popular driver is quite exceptional.”
Miguel was a coach driver in Tenerife until tourism waned and work became more difficult to come by. He contacted Phil on Facebook, saying he found Belle Vue appealing because of its ethos of caring about teamwork.
Phil was impressed and invited him over for a trial. Miguel studied online to get to know the main routes across Manchester and the motorway network and, after a successful trial, landed a full-time job.
Miguel said: “Just being chosen from more than 60 drivers to represent Belle Vue at the awards made me extremely proud.
“I’m so happy that everyone has welcomed me to the business and the area, and to win the award is a tremendous honour.
“I’m so very grateful to the company, and especially to Phil Hitchen, for giving me the chance to work here. Without his belief in me, my dream could never have come true.”
Belle Vue’s other winners at the awards included transport supervisor George Docherty, who won gold in the unsung heroes category.
Contracts manager Mike Mitchell won silver and mechanic Adam Tailby took bronze in the customer service and support staff category. Maintenance manager Jason Cotgrave won silver in the engineer of the year category and Belle Vue picked up silver in the innovation category for its use of the iMA teambuilding and management programme.
Phil said: “It’s great to see so many of our staff recognised in this way, demonstrating the strength in depth of our entire team.”
George, 56, was praised for literally going the extra mile in his role. He looks after route planning, co-ordinates vehicle repairs, driving assessments and training, is a fire marshal and health and safety team member, and helps out as a driver at a moment’s notice when required.
He works six days a week and organises charity events, as well as co-ordinating transport for large events, including the One Love Manchester concert in 2017.
The judges said: “George is shown to be someone who is happy to get stuck into whatever job is needed. He has a good eye for detail, even for tasks that he’s given at short notice. He regularly goes above and beyond and is a true unsung hero.”