A day in the life of a First Leeds bus driver

Ivan Timofejev.
Ivan Timofejev.
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Daily commuters may see them as often as their own colleagues, but are likely to know little about the work lives of the people who get them where they need to be.

So as part of a series on transport this week, the YEP travelled alongside a First Bus driver to hear what being on the ‘front line’ of the company’s busy services is really like.

Buses travelling along The Headrow, Leeds city centre.

Buses travelling along The Headrow, Leeds city centre.

Joining employee of nine years Ivan Timofejev for one of his first journeys on the firm’s new “ultra-low emission” Euro VI services between Leeds City Bus Station and Adel today, he spoke about the pros and cons of his profession.

The Russian native enjoys his job – even if he does have to keep his own cash handy to stave off complaints from customers paying with big notes who expect the correct change.

The family man, who lives in the Richmond Hill area, said: “It’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life.

“I used to work in a nuclear power plant, engineering.

“I like [being a bus driver] because there are lots of people you can talk to, you can chat and it’s nice and friendly.

“Before, when I was in engineering, I worked with metal – and metal cannot talk to you!

“Here, every day is a different situation, sometimes good, sometimes bad. That’s life.”

Mr Timofejev, 50, added: “Sometimes grandmothers can tell you everything about their grand kids. It’s interesting.”

However, some aspects of the job are more challenging.

“Sometimes people get on in the early morning with £20 and ask for £1.20, and I have to say ‘No, I can’t’.”

He said drivers can be given as little as £3 in change at the beginning of morning shifts. First Bus told the YEP this was to help keep employees safe from crime, but could not disclose how much is currently given.

But Mr Timofejev keeps some of his personal cash close by to give to customers as change – which is reimbursed by the company after his shift – so that passengers do not go without, also making his life easier.

Drivers face the brunt of customer complaints when problems with services occur because of situations often out of staff control. Mr Timofejev said: “I try to smile and explain the situation. People don’t always care what’s happened, they just tell you what they think about the bus company.”

After Mr Timofejev told the YEP that staff can start the day with little change to give to customers, First Bus said its new cashless payments option has a “huge impact” which can help reduce journey times

The company said it is encouraging people to switch to methods such as contactless – and said “for safety reasons, we are unable to disclose how much change a bus carries”.

A spokesperson added: “The switch from cash has a huge impact on boarding times; helping in the longer term, to speed up bus journey times.”