Salford’s ‘coach driver to the stars’ wins UK’s top bus driver award

Pat Douglas has driven some famous faces around during his career at the wheel, from Manchester City footballers to soap stars.

<p>Pat Douglas, who drives for Belle Vue Manchester</p>

Pat Douglas, who drives for Belle Vue Manchester

A Manchester firm’s coach driver who has driven some famous faces around in his time behind the wheel has been named the best in the country.

Pat Douglas, who is from Salford and works for Belle Vue Manchester, was crowned the top driver in the country at the UK Bus and Coach Awards 2021.

The company heaped praise on Pat for his work ethic and his ability to take anything that comes his way in his stride.

A popular driver whose work ranges from school runs to celebrities

Popular Pat joined Belle Vue in 2009 and his work ranges from school runs and pensioners’ day trips to European tours and corporate outings.

In his 13 years at the company he has also piloted his fair share of famous faces.

He has counted funk and soul band Commodores, Manchester City football stars and Coronation Street soap cast members among his passengers.

The award judges praised dad-of-three Pat for his quiet, calm and collected demeanour, adding that nothing fazes him and that he always goes the extra mile to exceed customers’ expectations.

What has been said about his award win?

Belle Vue managing director Phil Hitchen said: “Pat is the hardest-working driver we have ever employed. He puts in more hours than anyone and turns his hand to any job. He’s our Mr Dependable and a real superstar.

“He’s a lovely guy with a positive, friendly attitude, and his passengers always take to him. We get excellent feedback from them about his manner.

“He always ensures they have a great time with us, and groups constantly request for him to be their driver again.

“Pat takes everything in his stride, whether he is going out at short notice to cover someone’s shift, taking a tour around Europe, or co-ordinating a multi-vehicle event.

“He prepares superbly for every job and just gets on with it, never moans, and is always in full uniform and looking smart.

“We are all delighted he has been recognised with this award – no-one deserves it more.”

A Belle Vue Manchester bus

Pat, 52, said he was thrilled to win the accolade and to be part of the Belle Vue team.

He said: “We all work as a team here and I love it. During my time with Belle Vue I have learned a lot and travelled across Europe. My job enables me to visit new places and scenery, and to travel to new horizons.

“I try to exceed my passengers’ expectations every time, and always go the extra mile. I’m thrilled to receive the award – it’s truly a great honour to be named as the UK’s top coach driver.”

Pat had a few words of advice for other drivers. “Work hard, always research your journey, and plan your day and route. Communicate with your passengers, understand their requirements and deliver them,” he said.

A double celebration for Belle Vue Manchester

Pat’s was one of two awards scooped by the Stockport-based company on the night, with Belle Vue Manchester also taking the coach sector category in the Build Back Better award, which aimed to recognise and reward initiatives that have helped operators to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, respond to market changes and plan for the future.

The judges highlighted the ‘real team effort’ from Belle Vue’s management and staff as the company had to integrate a raft of school bus contracts acquired just as the pandemic struck.

Phil Hitchen, managing director of Belle Vue Manchester

Mr Hitchen said: “The pandemic has tested us, not to show our weaknesses but to discover our strengths.

“Covid-19 could have destroyed our company last year. However, it brought out the best in our team.

“Once we communicated the devastation it caused, the options available and a new game plan meaning ongoing job security, our team excelled in pivoting, innovating and streamlining the operation and maximising opportunities.

“The accounts and operations team excelled during these challenging times and preserved jobs and maintained services despite the health risks. 

“Anyone can measure a person or a company in the best of times. But put that individual or that business under severe pressure, and you find out what they are really made of. From top to bottom, we built a new game plan and executed it superbly.”