Michael Leech Halifax driver1

First Bus driver from Halifax takes top spot in annual driving contest

A driver with First Bus in Halifax has been named the best from some 9,000 colleagues across the country.

Michael Leech finished in first place among First Bus finalists in the Bus Driver of the Year (BDOY) competition held in Blackpool this week. Runner-up was Paul Leppington, a driver based at the operator’s Hunslet Park depot in Leeds.

Michael and his colleague made it to the finals after competing in a series of regional heats through this year involving drivers from 53 First Bus depots vying to reach the event, which was staged for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic.

Michael, who has driven for First Bus for 23 years, said: “We were all there doing what we do every day but when you know there are people watching, it does put the pressure on. It was a great day and we had a few laughs and jokes with each other, but it was serious when it came to driving the course. I’m delighted to have won.”

Paul, a driver for 32 years, said: “To get to the finals has been a real challenge in itself and to finish second from all my colleagues who took part feels amazing. It puts a smile on your face to know you’ve done well.”  

Drivers compete on a 3-mile course staged along the Promenade and Middle Walk on Blackpool’s seafront. This includes a series of manoeuvres and driving in traffic. Marshals at stops on the route judge the positioning the bus, driver signals and technique in addition to an 8-point list of customer service attributes. There is also a written theory test.

First Bus also collected an award for the Best New Bus, given for a vehicle that has yet to enter service and is assessed on the flawless condition of the bodywork and interior and quality and display of livery.

Fourteen bus operators were represented at the BDOY finals with some 90 the drivers battling it out during the day.