Driver of the Year Aaron Johnson with his award.

Nottingham City Transport has announced 2017’s Bus Driver of the Year at their annual awards at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Winner Aaron Johnson, who drives the Purple Line 89 service between the city centre and Rise Park, has been an NCT driver for nearly 21 years and qualified for the award after winning a Seasonal Driver Award during 2017.

Receiving his award from “Ugly Sisters”, Bella and Donna (aka John Elkington and Darren Southworth) who are appearing in this year’s pantomime, a shocked Aaron said: “After nearly 21 years of service at NCT, I’m in total shock that this has happened because I’m not used to winning things.

“I’m very proud, humbled and honoured to win such an award against such strong competition, so congratulations to all drivers.

“Thank you to every one of my passengers on service 89 for your support and friendship and others I’ve picked up over the years. It’s very much appreciated.”

Passengers on Aaron’s Purple Line service have expressed their delight with one of their drivers being given the award.

Lucy Bunniss, who is a 16-year-old student from The Meadows studying at Clarendon College, said: “I think it’s great. I get the bus to college every day and the service is always good, so it’s nice to see our driver getting some recognition for his work.”

Jack Warral agreed.

The 41-year-old shop-worker from Daybrook, added: “It is great that Nottingham City Transport have acknowledged their drivers for the work and hours they put in.

“I feel honoured that I take the service of the winner to and from work every day, Aaron is always a very friendly driver.”

Aaron’s Purple 89 service

Along with his fellow finalists – Badar Sheikh, Amanpreet Singh and Ian Neal – Aaron was rigorously assessed by mystery travellers several times and demonstrated exceptional customer service and driving skills in busy pre-Christmas traffic.

The mystery traveller summed up Aaron by saying: “This driver has a smile, a greeting and a kind word for all of his passengers from young children to pensioners.

“He is very observant of the road and is 100 per cennt focused, carefully planning ahead to avoid potential issues.

“He is very helpful towards passengers, putting them at ease and answering any questions they have without hesitation.”

Alongside Aaron, six bus drivers were awarded for going ‘above and beyond’ in helping their customers, and NCT managing director Mark Fowles described the night as a “great way to recognise and celebrate the people that keep Nottingham moving.”