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Meet Nottingham’s smiley NCT bus driver loved by passengers for his ‘Hilton-style’ service

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Bus driver Jonathan Smallman was this week named Nottingham City Transport’s Driver of the Year after being described as “100 per cent perfection” by a mystery traveller. In light of his win, Nottinghamshire Live hopped on his 35 route from Nottingham to Bulwell to see what made him so special.

Whether people were stepping on the bus with a smile or a scowl, wearing earphones or on the phone, Jonathan peppered his passengers with pleasantries throughout his near two-hour roundtrip to Bulwell from Nottingham city centre. He greeted people with a warm ‘hello’ and an equally warm ‘bye’ or ‘take care’.

This had a notable effect on a number of the passengers who were trickling onto the longest bus in the NCT fleet (some 40 feet). Whilst many were not regular enough to recognise Jonathan, they’re initial impressions were positive. “He’s smiley and said ‘hello how are you?'” said one student, who catches the bus from Wollaton Vale. “It makes your day a little bit in a way”.

Read more: Nottingham bus drivers honoured after going the extra mile

Elaine Shaw, who uses the bus to get to Queen’s Medical Centre, said that Jonathan was “like all NCT drivers, very good”. The 66-year-old, of Vale of Belvoir, added: “Services like this are so important, I talk to people from all over – Gainsborough, Rutland, Grantham.”

Others who were more familiar with Jonathan on his 35/36 route had higher praise. Emma Louise, of Aspley, catches 12 buses a day in order to take her children to school in Beeston.

“I get the 35 every day, it’s easier for me. The driver is very friendly, he waits for you to put the pushchair in the bay before he drives off,” said the 33-year-old. “Some drivers can’t be so friendly. I see him a few times a week.”

Jonathan, who lives in Long Eaton, was crowned driver of the year for 2022, despite only joining in 2019 after seeing an advert for a driving position whilst “stuck in a rut”. The 35-year-old puts much of his good customer service down to his previous job in catering at the Hilton hotel at East Midlands Airport.

“I did that when I left school. I picked it up fast and it develops and develops,” he told Nottinghamshire Live. “I was quite shy at school and that brought me out of my shell – and now I’ve brought it into this job. This is a customer service job, you’re in a front-facing role.



Jonathan driving through Wollaton Vale on the 35 route
Jonathan driving through Wollaton Vale on the 35 route

“It’s just that personal touch that brings the job to another level, it’s not just driving a piece of metal from A to B. A lady in Wollaton didn’t quite make it to the bus stop but I recognised her and pulled over. It’s just those little touches and it makes people’s days – she’ll go home happy that she managed to catch the bus.”

Recognising the ‘grumpy bus driver’ stereotype, Jonathan said he hoped that he was “breaking the mould”, but said the friendly ethos was shared amongst his NCT colleagues. “There’s a perception that you’re just sat there with a scowl, maybe I’m breaking the mould a little bit,” he said.

“People say ‘you’re very friendly, you’re happy, we like to come on your bus’ and that makes me feel really good as well. It makes your shift easier and you go home with a smile on your face. Each driver I’ve come across is, we’re all trained the same way. We’ve each got our own quirks but it’s true for us all, it’s customer service at the end of the day and we want to give people the best service possible.”

Written by: thehitnetwork

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